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Don’t overlook that email from university police about “campus event traffic and amplified sound notification” — somewhere in that routine letter is the announcement that a top country band is playing on campus this week.
Love and Theft, whose hits have landed in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot Country songs, will perform outside Campus Market on April 3. The duo is composed of Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson.
Love and Theft has opened for several of Grammy-winning recording artist Taylor Swift’s shows. Liles is even the guy Swift sings about in her 2008 song “Hey Stephen.”
Associated Students, Inc. (ASI), which is hosting the concert, learned this past Friday the duo would be coming to Cal Poly. With the clock ticking to draw bodies to the show, ASI is preparing for an advertising blitz focused heavily on social engagement to promote the concert.
“Word of mouth is the No. 1 way people find out about things,” ASI events director Missi Bullock said. “I’m pretty confident this band is well-known enough people will be talking about it.”
Bullock’s assumption could just be enough to bring in Cal Poly’s country fans: The band’s hits include “Runaway,” which spent two weeks at No. 10 on the Billboard country rankings, and “Angel Eyes,” a No. 1 hit played regularly at local club The Graduate during Thursday night line dancing.
In the hour after the campus-wide email yesterday, students took to social media to tweet and post on Facebook about the show, playing into ASI’s goal to get people talking before the show. Social media is among the channels ASI will be using to promote the concert. Electronic advertisements, text message and email blasts and word-of-mouth communication will also be part of their strategy.
But the campus-wide email, Bullock said, “dropped a bomb” by going to so many people.
“That’s just an added bonus that a lot more people are getting that email,” she said. “Our social media is opt-in, so all 19,000 people aren’t on that, obviously.”
ASI has used the area outside Campus Market to host concerts before, mostly during the Julian A. McPhee University Union (UU) Plaza’s construction in 2010. They decided to take advantage of it again because of its proximity to the nearby agricultural buildings and fields.
“It’s a country duo, and, you know, we try to bring diversity,” Bullock said. “And this one just seemed to fit.”
Student demand for country acts is consistently high at Cal Poly, Bullock said, but the cost of country performers can be a challenge. ASI brought in Austin-based Reckless Kelly in the UU Plaza in 2011, but hasn’t hosted a country artist since.
Thursday’s sunset show is free and is slated to start at 5 p.m.