Opinion: To save Block Party, AMS Events should pander to the indie rock community

Tova Gaster is the Science Editor for The Ubyssey. Elena Massing is the Culture Editor for The Ubyssey.

Every April, the courtyard outside the Nest transforms into an EDM music festival, complete with a confusing maze of chain link fences, an ear-splitting sound system and frat guys vomiting in the corners. It costs $89. 

This is Block Party, and it's been consistently losing the AMS money for the past seven years.

Last year, Block Party ticket sales brought in an estimated $250,000 less than anticipated, and we’re paying for it out of our student fees. The year before was a similar story. Even pre-pandemic, Block Party was criticized for charging too much for tickets to see artists that most students don’t know or care about

Who are they marketing to that would pay upwards of $60 to see French Montana? (If that’s you, congratulations! Genuinely, happy for you. But, surely you can appreciate that you’re in the minority).

The current Block Party scene is dominated by first-years and guys in fraternities — which leaves out a lot of campus.

But how many girls in Doc Martens do you see everyday? Hanging from their shoulders are tote bags covered in Lord Huron and Phoebe Bridgers pins, and in these bags are wads of cash just waiting to be spent on concert tickets.

The current Block Party model isn’t working. To revive student life, AMS Events can do two simple things: reduce ticket costs, and start booking local acts that more people actually want to see. 

It may seem like a paradox that to make money, you have to become indie. But, in Vancouver, on a college campus, this is what you must do. 

Vancouver has a thriving music scene that UBC students are central to. Rather than flying out artists with little or no connection to this city or this campus, why not support better-loved (and probably cheaper) local talent? These local acts prove, year after year, that they actually can draw in a full house.

Case in point: Goosehunt, Blank Vinyl Project’s annual concert, sells out in minutes.

This year, Goosehunt early bird tickets were $17 — general admission was only about $10 more than that. If finances are a barrier to students wanting to get in on the fun, BVP is also willing to help out by offering a limited number of pay-what-you-can tickets.

Block Party tickets this year are $89 to see Don Toliver. Don Toliver is cool and people like him, but $89 for tickets? For an audience of students? In this economy? 

CiTR hosts a similar annual initiative called Shindig, which is set up as a battle of the bands, rewarding the winner with a label, publicity and studio access.

Block Party shouldn’t compete with existing music initiatives, but it could learn from them.  

This isn’t to endorse the epidemic of every Vancouver band being four white guys with three guitars, two brain cells and one Strokes cover between them. But, it’s clear that, despite its shortcomings (a lot of bands that basically look and sound the same), the local model sells. Block Party could build on it by spotlighting a wider array of genres and bands. 

Local also doesn’t just mean indie rock — why not highlight local EDM DJs that the frat crowd, or even the bisexual docs crowd, will like?  

UBC students are hungry for connection, culture, a sense of pride in our community and an accessible way to get fired up on the last day of classes to good live music. Block Party doesn’t provide that, but it could.

This is an opinion article. It reflects only the author's views and does not reflect the views of The Ubyssey as a whole. Have something to say about what you just read? Contribute to the conversation and send a letter to the editor in response or your own submission at ubyssey.ca/pages/submit-an-opinion.