Entertainment Management students at The University of Montana are teaming up with Eric Clapton’s 2013 Crossroads Guitar Festival once again to promote the two-night festival slated for April 12-13 in Madison Square Garden in New York City.
UM students have been charged with spearheading the online communications for the festival. Together with Gate6, a Web-marketing company that provides technical support, UMEM students designed and built the website, http://crossroadsguitarfestival.com/, from the ground up. The students also manage the festival’s social networks and will assist with major event-sponsor promotions.
“The students are responsible for communicating this event to the world,” said Maria Brunner, UMEM instructor and one of the founders of the program. “It’s a great learning opportunity for the students because they are working with international leaders on a high-profile project.”
Brunner, entertainment-marketing specialist and owner of Phoenix-based Insight Management, helped to bring this opportunity to UM students. She has worked with Clapton since 1982 and originally approached UMEM Director Scott Douglas with the opportunity in 2004 when the Crossroads Guitar Festival was born. Under Douglas’ oversight and management, the students began working on the website. The first year, students were involved in collecting content for the website, reaching out to the artists’ management companies and collecting biographical information.
In 2007, the festival moved from Dallas to Chicago and Crossroads once again brought on UMEM students to help spread the word. Then-student, now UM alum, Jamal Calhoon spearheaded building the website and led a group of students who designed the pages and hosted the content.
In 2010, students were asked to build a Facebook audience, continue to manage the site built by Calhoon, and with a scholarship gifted by Dirk Visser, president of Allegiance Benefit Plan Management, two students traveled to Chicago to gain hands-on experience during the two-day festival.
This year, in addition to their former roles in the festival, the students were presented with the opportunity to market two promotions related to the festival. The first is titled “Play Crossroads,” which is an Ernie Ball-sponsored YouTube contest for undiscovered musicians to submit a clip for the chance to play live on the main stage. The students will roll out and promote this opportunity.
The second promotion is titled “Road to Crossroads,” and will give students the opportunity to secure national radio promotions for Guitar Center, a national chain of music stores. Under the guidance of Clapton’s label, students will approach stations, write and make a pitch, confirm sponsorships and follow through in getting the station everything they need for the promotion to be successful.
“Eric Clapton’s camp continues to allow students to be involved at an increased capacity,” said Sonja Grimmsmann, UMEM program coordinator. “I believe that is a true testament for what our students have been able to build.”
According to Brunner, the process has not been without mistakes and oversights.
“Failure and mistakes are a wonderful learning opportunity,” Brunner said. “The group working on the project this year has become tighter and has had more fun because they learned how to bounce back from those mistakes.”
Ultimately, Brunner says she continues to involve UMEM students because Douglas has worked with the students to lay a foundation of knowledge — and more importantly to Brunner — accountability.
“I’m a huge proponent of the students being involved,” Brunner said. “Great learning can happen when the professors step out of the way and let the students dive in.”
General-public tickets for the 2013 Crossroads Guitar Festival presented by Chase go on sale Friday, Nov. 30, and organizers estimate they will sell out in fewer than 10 minutes.
This year’s artist lineup includes Albert Lee, Allan Holdsworth, Allman Brothers Band, Andy Fairweather Low, BB King, Blake Mills, Booker T, Brad Paisley, Buddy Guy, Citizen Cope, Dave Biller, Doyle Bramhall II, Earl Klugh, Eric Clapton, Gary Clark Jr., Jeff Beck, Jimmie Vaughan, John Mayer, John Scofield, Jonny Lang, Keb Mo, Keith Urban, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Los Lobos, Quinn Sullivan, Robbie Robertson, Robert Cray, Robert Randolph, Sonny Landreth, Taj Mahal and Vince Gill.
“The Crossroads Festival is the realization of a dream for me, to gather a group of amazingly talented musicians to perform on one stage,” said Clapton. “The Crossroads performers are all musicians I admire and respect.
All proceeds from the event support Crossroads Centre Antigua, a treatment and education facility founded by Clapton for chemically dependent people. The festival is presented by Chase. Other sponsors include Gibson, Fender, Martin and Co., Guitar Center and Erine Ball.