By Kahfeel Buchanan
The future of Ryerson’s Battle of the Bands is uncertain, after attendance dropped at this year’s event and with organizers unsure about how much funding they will receive in the 2019-2020 school year.
The judged concert-style battle that featured six Ryerson bands was held on March 29 for the seventh year at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. The Ryersonian estimated the crowd at about 100 people. Spokespeople for Musicians@Ryerson, which organized the event, say they sold 269 tickets and had 70 people on their guest list.
Last year, more than 500 people attended the event.
Akash Chhabria, the event organizer, said putting together Battle of the Bands takes “nine months of work, 30 volunteers and $20,000.”
“It doesn’t have to happen every year. We have to be realistic when it costs this much money,” Chhabria said in an interview at the event.
According to RSU receipts, total expenses of this year’s Battle of the Bands totalled $22,607.63. The cost of renting the MAC for Battle of the Bands this year was $10,735.
RSU president Maklane DeWever said the RSU can’t tell student groups what they can and can’t do, but said the RSU did suggest Musicians@Ryerson choose a different venue this year.
“Based on the amount of promotion they had done, we suggested on several occasions it would be best to explore alternative venues,” DeWever said.
According to DeWever, Musicians@Ryerson started promoting the event on March 10. Chhabria said in hindsight, the organizers “could have started earlier.”
Nicky Nivi, president of Musicians@Ryerson, said they chose the venue because of the proximity to campus and the MAC’s history.
“The Beatles played here and it’s on campus as well, so we hoped it would convince students to come because it’s close,” Nivi said.
Chhabria didn’t rule out the possibility of Musicians@Ryerson hosting the event next year. “The decision will be on the discretion of whoever is running things next year,” Chhabria said.
Nivi said she hopes to run Battle of the Bands next year but she is not making any guarantees.
That’s because the provincial government has introduced new rules that will permit post-secondary students to opt out of paying certain ancillary fees, including those that go to the RSU and the groups it supports.
“If the new OSAP bill goes into effect and opt-out changes happen it will be tough,” Nivi said.
The RSU provided Musicians@Ryerson with two grants this school year. The first grant was for $3,000 in the first semester and the second grant was $2,000 for the second semester. DeWever said based on the OSAP changes, it will be harder to fund Musicians@Ryerson events in the future.
“We got the policy directive last Friday from the Ontario Ministry of Education for policy on Sept. 1. The RSU won’t be able to collect the same amount of money; it will be dependent on who opts out and opts in.”
Chhabria said in addition to paying with grant money, Musicians@Ryerson had sponsors and fundraising to run the event.
“We usually break even. Whatever profit we get goes to Musicians@Ryerson and next year’s event,” he said.
Nivi is unsure if Musicians@Ryerson will have enough money to cover all the expenses for next year’s Battle of the Bands.
According to Nivi, expenses include “contacting [the] venue, broadcasters, staging and lighting equipment, ticketing [and] audio.” DeWever said the RSU wants to promote student life and will continue to provide financial support for Musicians@Ryerson events.
Kevin Pinto, a spectator at Battle of the Bands, suggested a more extensive effort to promote the event.
“Advertise on Ryerson radio, put out more flyers, word of mouth. Maybe the university should be promoting,” Pinto said.
Nivi said Musicians@Ryerson advertised on multiple platforms. “We advertised on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and had newsletters,” she said.
Noah Monckton, a member of one of the performing bands The High Loves, said a smaller venue would be a good idea for Battle of the Bands next year.
“We’re used to playing in bars. A smaller venue would be great; this is such a big room,” Monckton said after his performance.
Jake Dichs, a member of the audience, said overpacking a small venue is always better than underfilling a larger venue.
“There are a lot of people here but if the room was one-fourth smaller it would feel packed,” Dichs said.
Nivi said if Musicians@Ryerson chooses a different venue next year, it will not be as close to campus.
She said Musicians@Ryerson will try to continue support for Battle of the Bands because of the opportunities it provides for aspiring musicians at Ryerson.
“[It’s an] opportunity for them to showcase their talent and potentially make connections,” Nivi said.
Performer Gavin McLeod said Battle of the Bands gives him the opportunity to get feedback on his music from people his age.
“Most shows we go to don’t have this type of crowd. It’s great to see how this demographic reacts to my music and have friends here to support us,” McLeod said.
This year’s Battle of the Bands winner was Tequila Nosedive, an emerging Ryerson-based rock group.
An earlier version of this story had an incorrect figure for the cost of renting the MAC for the event. This version of the story adds information from event organizers about how many tickets were sold. It removes two comments attributed to event organizers.