Quality Over Quantity: Invite One Lawnparties Headliner a Year

Last Sunday, Princeton held its Fall Lawnparties, featuring Tinashe, Awkwafina, and widespread student enjoyment. The Princeton Editorial Board commends the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), in particular the Social Committee, for its hard work and creativity in continuing to make Lawnparties a highlight of the Princeton calendar. Food trucks with delicious food lined Prospect Avenue, and beverage stations helped students rehydrate and stay safe throughout the day. Logistics such as wristband and ticket pickup also ran smoothly. And the individual eating clubs deserve recognition for the enjoyable performances they hosted on their lawns, open to all. For underclassmen in particular, these performances offered a great opportunity to visit and explore eating clubs with which they may not have interacted before.

Yet, as in previous years, the day was a long one: many students met friends for brunch or dorm parties as early as 10 AM, while the headliner Tinashe did not take the stage at Quadrangle Club until after 4 PM. As a result, many students did not attend the headliner event, whether due to being tired from a long day or from being unfamiliar with the performer.

To address this recurring Lawnparties challenge, the Board proposes that USG, rather than inviting a headliner for Fall Lawnparties, consolidate its annual funds such that more money can be spent to host a better-known headliner for Spring Lawnparties. We believe this proposal would improve the overall Lawnparties experience. It would maintain other enjoyable aspects of Fall Lawnparties, such as the food and eating club acts, while greatly improving Spring Lawnparties by including a more popular main act that a larger budget would facilitate. As a further improvement to Spring Lawnparties, we also urge USG to encourage the opening and headlining acts to better coordinate to shorten what is often a long waiting period between the two performances.  

USG works with the individual eating clubs to organize Lawnparties twice a year. Most eating clubs hire a musical act and open their lawns for all students to watch the performances, dance, and socialize. These performances are earlier in the day and very well-attended. Following the acts at the individual clubs, USG organizes a large scale performance by two artists in Quad’s backyard. While this main performance should be the highlight of Lawnparties, students are often disappointed when the performers are artists they did not previously know. The USG Social Committee has done a commendable job soliciting student suggestions for performers, as well as input on the music genres students like most, in order to invite the best performers possible. Yet there is only so much that can be done with a limited budget.

Comparing Princeton’s Lawnparties budget to budgets for similar events at our peer colleges highlights the budgetary challenges the Social Committee faces. During the 2015-2016 academic year, USG spent a total of $161,000 on Lawnparties: $79,000 in the fall and $82,000 in the spring. By contrast, the University of Pennsylvania spent $185,000 for its 2017 Spring Fling and Yale University spent $298,633 for its 2017 Spring Fling. These higher budgets have enabled UPenn and Yale to bring arguably more well-known headliners to campus over the past several years: at UPenn, DJ Zedd in 2017 and Chance the Rapper in 2016 and at Yale, JoJo in 2017 and Janelle Monáe in 2016. Princeton should follow UPenn and Yale’s model and consolidate its budget to host one main act in the spring, while continuing to work with the eating clubs to support Fall Lawnparties. Because so many students already only attend Lawnparties early in the day for the individual club performances and food trucks, Fall Lawnparties would largely be just as fun without a headliner. Then students would have much to look forward to throughout the year for an exciting headliner at Spring Lawnparties.

Additionally, to improve students’ experience at the main act in the spring, the Board suggests that USG encourage the opening and headline performers to better coordinate to shorten the waiting period between their performances. In recent years, there has sometimes been a long wait between the opener and headliner that has left tired Princetonians crowded in Quad’s backyard or deciding to leave before the headliner performs. We recognize USG may have less influence over the performance logistics, but believe Princetonians would welcome any efforts by USG to the extent it can work with the artists to make the main act a more cohesive performance.

We believe these two suggestions of organizing Fall Lawnparties without a headliner such that Spring Lawnparties could host a more expensive, well-known headliner, as well as working with artists to shorten the wait time for the spring main act, would generate more campus enthusiasm about Lawnparties, encourage higher turnout for the main act in the spring, and increase overall performance quality. Princeton students are incredibly lucky to have a USG Social Committee that organizes not one, but two all-campus music festivals, as well as smaller social events throughout the year. We believe the already fun and uniquely ‘Princeton’ tradition of Lawnparties could be made even better by implementing our suggestions, and we urge USG to do so.