How Mayfest signed Common

    Correction appended

    The signing of rapper Common for Dillo Day 2008 was the culmination of more than three months of brainstorming, rejections from agents, and contract negotiations, Mayfest officials said Tuesday.

    Mayfest, the student group that plans Dillo Day, signed the rapper on Monday. The Chicago native has won two Grammys and hit gold status with his latest album, Finding Forever.

    Mayfest began planning its headline act this Winter Quarter, and had a preliminary offer — which specified the price, time and date — accepted in February. After going through Northwestern’s legal department, Mayfest sent the rapper’s management a detailed contract a few weeks later.

    “We actually got it confirmed pretty easily, without too many problems,” Mayfest co-chair Brendon Lavernia said Tuesday.

    Last year, when Motion City Soundtrack pulled out of the lineup less than a week before the show, signing The Roots as a replacement was “an absolutely one-day kind of thing,” Director of Concerts Diana Richter said.

    “For this, we had a lot of time, so we weren’t calling the agency every day being like, ‘Where’s the contract?’” she said.

    Lavernia and Stix, both Weinberg seniors, said they went for a hip-hop artist because they felt it would energize the crowd in the evening, and because recent concerts organized by A&O Productions did not feature a rap performance.

    “Especially since he’s from Chicago, that was a big motivating factor for us. We think he has a really big fan base here,” Richter added.

    Richter said the biggest challenge was finding a balance between popularity and price, the pursuit of which narrowed the field of available candidates significantly.

    “There are so many bands out there, but really, not that many that we can afford,” she said. “The most popular bands on campus cost millions of dollars.”

    Last year’s Student Activities Funding Board allocated $45,000 toward “artist expenses” for the headline band. While Lavernia, his co-chair Ben Stix and Richter declined to say how much they paid for Common, Richter said the cost is “always” in a similar price range to last year’s.

    Contract negotiations began after the initial offer was accepted in February. Unlike the preliminary offer, the official contract “has what he wants in his dressing room, what equipment he wants, the specifics of the microphone maybe that he needs to use. Those are the really nitty-gritty things,” Richter said.

    Richter, Stix and Lavernia declined to comment on Dillo Day’s other four acts, which have yet to be officially announced.

    Correction — April 23, 2008: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Mayfest’s funding allocation for its headline band last year.


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