A quiet finale for QEA

History of crippling financial losses bring the end of Queen’s Entertainment despite this year’s efforts

Neil Martin, ArtSci ’08, is the last head manager of QEA as the AMS dissolves the service for next year because of past years’ significant losses.
Neil Martin, ArtSci ’08, is the last head manager of QEA as the AMS dissolves the service for next year because of past years’ significant losses.

If you’ve been wondering why the Queen’s Entertainment Agency has kept a low profile this year, it’s because the service has been taking a quiet bow out. After a series of gigantic financial losses for the past eleven years, the QEA mandate of providing students with on-campus cultural events will now be absorbed into other AMS services and commissions. The annual frosh concert will be taken up by the Campus Affairs Commission under a newly created coordinator position and on-campus entertainment bookings will fall under TAPS manager portfolios.

The AMS’s decision to dissolve the agency doesn’t come as a surprise since the QEA merged with Destinations this year in order to minimize QEA loss and phase out the service.

Neil Martin Artsci’08, the last QEA Head Manager and first Assistant Manager at Destinations in charge of QEA marketing, oversaw the service’s first year under the Destinations brand.

“QEA wasn’t officially supposed to be around this year and I guess the official reason it did stick around was the QEA staff this year and I wanted to see. … [The AMS] saw it as a dying service, so we had one more year trying to revitalize it,” Martin said.

Martin and his staff of eight organized and booked the Frosh concert this year that featured Metric, We Are Scientists and Liam and Me. The show made money for QEA as approximately 500 upper-years bought tickets. From there this year’s QEA decided to not put on any other large-scale music concerts that ran the risk of losing large sums of money—a cloud hanging over this year’s QEA members due to last year’s notorious Ben Folds concert. The Grant Hall show featuring the piano-man and his band lost the Agency $40,000 despite the high ticket cost to students, according to Vice President of Operations John Manning.

Despite this year’s QEA aversion to following in the footsteps of past year’s financial woes, the service won’t be continuing its brand any time soon.

“QEA has really become an obsolete brand and hasn’t had a whole lot of success in its last couple of years,” Manning said.

“When it was originally created I think the idea was to put on a lot of large scale concerts. … But we found it really difficult to put on big events and break even.”

Manning said the service in the past few years wasn’t fulfilling its mandate because the service was not providing relevant, affordable and well-attended events to students.

With Jock Harty Arena gone this year, both Manning and Martin pointed to inappropriate venues as a contributing factor to QEA’s downward spiral.

“The only place you can really do [large-scale concerts] is in Miller parking lot, and that limits it to the first couple of months of school,” Manning said.

This year QEA focused on small-scale events such as Alfie’s Black Out, a Saturday hip hop night featuring break dancers and black lights, as well as a Second City Comedy Troupe show. The hip hop nights at Aflie’s were well-attended, bringing in 500-700 people to the bar on a night Alfie’s isn’t typically open. A perk of working with Destinations mean the agency could branch out and put together travel packages such as a summer trip to Paramount Canada’s Wonderland and this weekend’s trip to Montreal for the Justice concert.

Although creative on the travel front, the QEA’s contribution to local music concerts was noticeably non-existent. In first semester QEA organized a concert with Roz Bell, which compared to the hip hop nights at Alfie’s, did not fair as well in attendance according to Martin.

“The goal has been the same but this year we tried to do things a little differently because there's been a few years—call it bad luck—with shows not making a lot of money. So we tried and took a different approach, which had its pros and cons,” Martin said.

“Our idea this year was to diversify and do smaller things.”

CFRC and even Exposure Arts Festival seemed to have picked up the tab for showcasing student bands on campus. QEA also faced competition with the Hub’s concerts and The Grad Clubs’ weekly, well-attended indie rock shows.

Virginia Clarke, the manager The Grad Club and who has been organizing shows for the non-profit organization for eight years said that putting on shows is a learning process from finances to marketing. She said she’s often let new QEA managers know she’s willing to pass on advice.

“It’s unfortunately because when they did shows they did amazing great shows,” Clarke said.

“It’s taken me many years to grasp how much things cost and expenditures versus charge for tickets. You don’t really want to charge too much for tickets and you’ve got a lot of expenditures for larger acts and hidden costs,” Clarke said.

“A lot of people don't realize how much work it is to constantly make people aware of what's happening.”

Clarke also said that’s it’s important for organizers to stay on top of what’s going on in music outside of the Queen’s bubble in order to select bands that could draw in the crowds. When the spoke to Clarke, she was on her way to the South by South West music festiva, where a considerable number of Canadian bands are being showcased.

With the removal of QEA, bookings on campus might be easier. Martin said it would take away another layer of bureaucracy in the process. Clubs on campus tend to organize a variety of events and TAPs is set to take on more bookings. However, with the removal of Alfie’s looming because of the Queen’s Centre, campus will lose yet another venue.

In the past QEA has been responsible for battle of the bands that have fostered Queen’s talent. Bands like Bedouin Soundclash and Jill Barber got their start playing on campus. However, the burdening financial losses combined with many active clubs on campus have rendered QEA redundant.

“It is the responsible thing to do. I think that there's the idea of TAPs doing their own event booking, while it is more responsibility for them, which they might not like the sound of, but it removes a layer of confusion,” Martin said.

—With files from Kerri McDonald

QEA Finances

YearTotal losses

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