The Artsweek pre-show coverage of Extravaganza was harsh and unreasonable in its criticism of the A.S. Program Board’s hard work (Daily Nexus, “Extravawhat?” May 15, 2003). It also painfully demonstrates Artsweek’s naivete in its knowledge of the music industry and the logistics of one of UCSB’s most successful student groups.

Staff writers Jessica Jardine and Drew Mackie accuse the members of A.S. Program Board of purposely creating an Extravaganza with a lineup that students won’t like while patting themselves on the back for being the supposed trendsetters of UCSB. Both accusations are completely absurd. Being a former special events coordinator, concerts coordinator and commissioner of A.S. Program Board, I know what it takes to make Extravaganza happen. First off, ASPB has to wrestle with the needs of the students, the bureaucracy and politics of the university and a swaying music industry. ASPB has successfully done this for years and has earned itself a reputation for being one of the most professional and efficient student concert boards in the country. That is how ASPB has been able to promote events that feature artists like A Perfect Circle, Bob Dylan, Ben Harper and Beck, all of whom have performed on campus over the past five years. As college promoters, ASPB had to pass some of the toughest tests to earn this reputation. As an ASPB concert coordinator I have fond memories of being contacted by talent agents representing such high-end artists with interest in playing on the campus.

It is Artsweek reporters like Jardine and Mackie who fail at the research aspect of their journalistic duties. I would think that the Arts and Entertainment section of the Nexus would take into account the large setbacks the music industry has experienced over the past 18 months. Retail chains Sam Goody, Wherehouse and Tower Records have all filed for bankruptcy. Major record companies (like Sony) have had huge cutbacks and layoffs due to a decline in record sales. This summer, audiences will be introduced to multi-headliner bills (like Vans Warped Tour, Lollapalooza and Ozzfest) with high ticket prices. More groups are tied up for the summer. An entertainment journalist should know that it is an industry standard that when a performer plays a certain city, he cannot play that city or return for at least two to three months before and after the day of the show. That means the availability of artists for a May concert declines. It is ridiculous to deny that these things affect college concert bookers.

Artsweek also fails to mention that many of the bigger names that have played past Extravaganzas were on the brink of stardom at the time of the performance. This means members of ASPB had to book these acts just before they were too pricey for a campus budget. A perfect example is No Doubt, who played Extravaganza in 1992. This year, some of the less recognized performers like Dredg and Ankore may be heard all over major radio in the coming months. They sure as hell put on a great performance Saturday. Other performers like Jurassic 5, Jimmy Eat World, Blackalicious and the Smashing Pumpkins all played our campus before the brink of their popularity. With a track record like that, I would say that it is ASPB who have been the real trendsetters on campus.

There are very few student groups who have gained the trust of many campus and concert industry elements. They are the student organization that has inspired other similar groups on other campuses to follow its model and should be an example for student organizations on its own campus.

I would also like to note that during my time at Extravaganza 2003 I noticed an audience with smiles and cheers as Dilated Peoples, Dredg, Nerf Herder and more entertained the 5,000-plus attendees with incredible energy and excitement. Program Board put together a great day of fun for the students of UCSB during one of the most volatile years the music industry has faced. I applaud them for their hard work and suggest that the reporters at Artsweek spend more time researching and reporting than sensationalizing and accusing.

Greg Nielsen is a UCSB alumnus.