Alyssa Washington

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Canadian singer and songwriter Alessia Cara, who won a Grammy Award in 2018 for Best New Artist, was scheduled to perform at the Winthrop University Coliseum Oct. 4, but the show was canceled due to a lack of ticket sales.

Neal Miller, executive director of University Events, told the Palmetto Report, via email, that it’s “advantageous” to book an artist who is already on tour.

“You can often book these artists for a lower rate,” said Miller. “Alessia Cara was one of the biggest artists already going on tour in fall 2019. She was also available on Oct. 4, a target date for a concert on campus given that it was Family Day weekend.”

There were many incentives designed to draw students to the show including a discount ticket code, ticket giveaways and chances to win an opportunity to meet Cara. The concert was also designated as an official university cultural event, but students still failed to turnout.

“Our university really tried to give us an awesome event and we ruined it,” said Taylor Evans, a mass communication and theatre major.

Oriana Gilmore, a senior mass communication major, said she was also disappointed the show was cancelled.

“I just thought this was a good opportunity,” she said. “I got a floor seat and it was only around $42 before tax and also I wouldn’t have to worry about the commute to Charlotte or Columbia, which I thought that was also a plus.”

However, Evans said she didn’t have a ticket to the show due to prior commitments, which may have been an issue for other students.

Emily Lynne Krull, a theatre education major, said she didn’t purchase a ticket to the concert, because it was scheduled on the same night as one of the Department of Theatre and Dance’s performances of “The Addams Family: A New Comedy Musical.”

Krull said she felt the concert amounted to Winthrop “overlooking a school arts function,” even though the play featured five different performances from Oct. 2-6.

“WU Theatre shows are scheduled almost the same weekend every year and discussions for (the) Addams Family began way back in February. Even though the musical hadn’t been fully decided, the scheduled weekend was already decided,” she said.

Shannon Bradley, a musical theatre major, said she felt the situation demonstrated the “theatre program doesn’t really matter,” because of the scheduling conflict.

“There is no way they would have scheduled this on the same day as an athletic event,” said Bradley.

“Furthermore, the school had the audacity to ask the musical theatre students if we would sing Alessia Cara songs on Scholars Walk to promote the show,” she said. “This felt like a complete slap in the face. The time slot for our show was scheduled last year, so way before the concert was scheduled. Ultimately the concert was canceled and Addams Family sold out every night.”

Bradley also said ticket prices, which ranged from $36 to $70, for the Cara concert seemed outrageous.

“It should’ve went cheaper because she is only known for two songs,” said junior Morgan Alexander.

Neely Pritchett, a psychology major, agreed that Winthrop could have done “better scheduling,” but she also said the school could have found a more interesting performer for the show.

“I don’t really listen to Alessia Cara. Now, if they booked Post Malone or someone popular, I would’ve made the splurge,” said Pritchett.

“I think it’s just simply her, (is) why I didn’t purchase a ticket. I just don’t listen to her music and no problem with her, I just don’t listen to her music,” said senior Alyia Brown.

“I don’t think it was a good time, personally. As you know there is a lot of commotion going on (around campus) about homecoming and things like that currently and I feel like they could may have saved her for a homecoming event,” said Briona Millidge, a Winthrop junior.

Information about the cancellation was sent to students, via email, just two days prior to the show. The email stated the concert was “canceled due to lack of ticket sales” and students who purchased tickets would receive an automatic refund.

Rumors the show would be canceled spread across campus early in the week, prior to the official announcement, after promotional videos for the concert were removed from social media and ticket information was pulled from the university website.

However, there were a number of ticket holders who didn’t receive advance notice that the concert was canceled.

door sign
Ticket holders, who failed to hear the Alessia Cara concert was canceled in advance, found this sign on the doors of the Coliseum when they arrived for the show (photo: Emma McNamara).

“We drove three hours to the concert only to find a simple paper (announcement) taped to the doors of the venue,” said Emma McNamara.

“We had not received any sort of warning, no email, no apology on Alessia’s Instagram, nothing. While we were there many people arrived, saw the paper and had to leave,” she said.

“We had driven so far and there was no warning at all that it had been canceled. We felt really disrespected and I’m still upset about it.”

Nicole Chisari, Winthrop communications manager, told the Johnsonian the university delayed the cancellation announcement, because it had to first be confirmed by Cara’s management team.

“Honestly, I think the whole thing was really shady and totally unacceptable. Not at all how something like this should be handled,” said McNamara.

Cara was supposed to perform at two other colleges in October, but her show scheduled for Oct. 7 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was also canceled.

“My best friend and I wanted to see her but as long as I got a refund, I guess it’s alright. I was pretty bummed,” said Ria Shah, a student at Illinois.

She performed at Marquette University in Milwaukee on Oct. 5, but that show was free for students and coincided with the school’s homecoming.

“I only knew a couple of songs from her, but the concert was free, so my friends and I decided to go,” said Nathan Yuan, a student at Marquette, who described the show as an awesome experience.

Miller said Winthrop “plans on hosting future events” at the 6,100-seat Coliseum.

“A survey will be sent out to gather information on the types of artists that students would like to see, acceptable ticket prices for our students and overall student interest in hosting concerts at Winthrop,” said Miller.

He declined to say how many tickets were actually sold for the Cara concert, but one university employee, who didn’t want to be identified, estimated the number at fewer than 500 tickets.