After months of winter, warm weather finally began to emerge, music could be heard throughout campus and students delayed studying for exams to watch performances with up-and-coming bands and artists, try new food trucks and participate in a number of activities led by student organizations.
SpringFest, the sixth annual festival held on North University Avenue and Ingalls Mall, drew in a crowd of over 3,000 on Friday and showcased the work of MUSIC Matters, an organization aiming to bring innovative and exciting musical performances to the University of Michigan and give back to the community through sustainability.
Booths and displays at the event exhibited emerging ideas, products and works of art across the disciplines of the arts, entrepreneurship and sustainability. The event concluded with a nighttime concert featuring performers Desiigner, Lil Yachty and 2 Chainz.
Representatives from the Universal Music Group, the nation’s leading music production company, were also in attendance. In years past, UMG has supported the organization by sending artists to perform, but this year decided to send representatives from UMG to campus to host interviews and panels.
LSA senior Hannah Tanau, communications chair for MUSIC Matters, described how Sony, another supporter of the festival, and UMG recognized summer music festivals cater to college-aged students, but there aren’t similar events on college campuses.
“The summer festival business is really saturated,” Tanau said. “There's so many, and they’re not on college campuses, so (UMG and Sony) saw what we were doing at Michigan and thought it was really innovative and not being done anywhere else, so they wanted to come and add on to what we had here, and they’re hoping to take that and expand it across all Big Ten schools.”
Tanau also mentioned, unlike in the fall semester, when students can take advantage of the numerous campus-wide activities such as football games, there aren’t many traditions or events for students to participate in during the winter term.
“We feel like in the fall, we have events like Football Saturdays where everyone can come together and unite over school spirit, but in the spring there isn’t really any event like that,” Tanau said. “There’s so many people here and everyone has so many different passions and everyone is really involved in their own world during the year and there isn’t anywhere they can showcase that and share that with the rest of campus, so we really created SpringFest to unite our campus, show people what they care about.”
One of the most popular tents was the Sound Lounge, which was run by Sony and UMG. The tent hosted a variety of disc jockeys and panels with people who are part of the music industry. The up-and-coming band Ocean Park Standoff was part of the first panel, along with Cynthia Sexton, the UMG executive vice president of partnerships and content. The panel discussed the industry and the ways bands interact with the people behind the scenes.
Samantha Ronson, a member of Ocean Park Standoff, one of the music performances during the day, discussed the importance of one's dedication to their work, especially in music management. She advised students who aspire to become musicians to find people who want to succeed just as much as they do to support them.
“I have had all the best managers and fired all of them, because most managers don’t actually want to work,” Ronson said. “They just want to take a check. If I could give any advice to up and coming people, it would be this: I’ve had every big manager you could have. Don’t get that guy. Get the guy who is going to wake up in the morning and think about you first. You want a hustler. You want someone who believes in you.”
Members of the band also talked about how much work has to be done in order to even get a song on the radio, let alone make it big. Lead singer Ethan Thompson said the amount of work has given him a whole new appreciation for all artists.
“It’s a lot of work that has made me respect so many artists that have made it to the top,” Thompson said. “Even the superstars are still hustling on a day-to-day basis.”
Todd Goodwin, vice president of college and lifestyle marketing at UMG, led an interview with University students about the rebirth in popularity of vinyl records in the Sound Lounge and discussed where he sees the future of the industry heading with younger audiences.
Goodwin stressed music could be shared through experience and through events like SpringFest at the University.
“I just got to a point where I wanted to do something different with how record labels specifically reach out to college students,” Goodwin said. “I feel that it's so important you connect with people through experiences and not handing them products or selling them product, because at the end of the day you’re selling art and it’s someone’s passion project who put blood and tears into that. You don’t want to dissociate that, and what better way to bring that to people than through experiences.”
Goodwin also discussed how he wanted to make the event “college-centric” by bringing in college students from around the country who work for UMG, instead of people who have 15 to 20 years in the industry, to remain true to the festival.
“They’re doing all the work that you’d normally get a professional crew to do and they’re doing it because they love music and being a part of something that is inherently for them,” he said.
LSA junior Pratik Joshi enjoyed much of what the event had to offer, from the startup tent to the food trucks, appreciating how it brought the community together.
“I think it’s really good for just getting students engaged on campus, in that we get a chance to really explore some of the things we have to offer and it kind of allows us to connect with the outside community, like with the Detroit Barbeque place, we have a chance to see cool startups that we might not have heard about,” Joshi said.
Similarly, Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Cassie Nielsen came to SpringFest to see her friend’s band perform, but got to experience other parts of the event, such as the food trucks and some of the student startups.
"It brings a lot of the people from the school to the Diag, and you see a lot of the things people have been working on — like bands and everything — that are on campus,” Nielsen said. “So I think it’s interesting.”
Daily Staff Reporter Colin Beresford contributed to this article.