Free Weezer concert part of an online contest trend

By Julie Percha

When students open their Facebook pages, they are barraged with the usual notifications: friend… When students open their Facebook pages, they are barraged with the usual notifications: friend requests, event invitations, gifts of hay bales on FarmVille.

And now, possibly an invitation to a free Weezer concert.

The offer was too good for Pitt junior Ben Dickinson to ignore.

“I grew up on Weezer, and I’d love to see them play some of their old songs,” he said.

Dickinson is one of more than 4,300 people listed as “attending” in the “Bring Weezer to Pitt for Free! BY VOTING” Facebook group, which encourages members to vote for Pitt in the Motorola CLIQ Challenge.

The contest pits 1,807 U.S. colleges against one another in a month-long online voting competition. The school receiving the most votes will win a free Weezer concert and cash award of one dollar per vote up to $25,000, compliments of T-Mobile.

Pitt has held the No. 13 position, since sliding from the No. 8 spot in the contest’s first week.

Despite the slip in the rankings, Dickinson remains confident Pitt can win.

“If everyone keeps voting, then [Pitt can win],” he said. “But it needs to be an effort on everyone’s part.”

Because the contest requires people to vote through Facebook, each person only gets one vote per account, unlike other online contests that allowed people to vote multiple times.

The Motorola CLIQ Challenge isn’t the first time Pitt students have waged multt-campus Facebook battles to attract celebrity gigs.

In 2007, AT&T launched its Loudest Pep Rally promotion, a collegiate competition in which fans texted their votes in hopes of winning a free Dave Matthews Band concert on campus.

With the aid of a Facebook group called “Dave Matthews Band, COME TO U PITT!,” Pitt students voted their way to the top three of 120 competing schools at one point.

But by the time the competition closed in October, Pitt fell from the rankings, giving way to the ultimate winner, the U.S. Military Academy, which was followed by the Air Force Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy in second and third places, respectively.

Pitt also fell short of a 2007 promotion to bring comedian Dane Cook to campus, although the Facebook group “Bring Dane Cook to Pitt!” still has 993 members. In this competition, people could text votes up to 50 times each day.

Despite the tough track record for winning celebrity contest appearances, junior Alex Smith is convinced that Pitt is a contending school for the free Weezer concert.

As a college representative for promotions and marketing firm Mr. Youth, Smith co-founded the Facebook group with fellow Pitt business student Zachary Adams to promote both the new T-Mobile Motorola CLIQ phone and the newest Weezer album, Ratitude.

Though he received four promotional CLIQ cell phones to use during the contest, Smith admits that his motivation doesn’t stem from the phone’s new features.

“We don’t really care about the phone,” he said. “We just want the free concert!”

If Pitt wins the voting contest, T-Mobile representatives will decide where and when to hold the Weezer concert on campus.

Since the online voting system records participants’ names, Smith said, “Everyone who voted for the winning team gets the first shot at tickets.”

Pitt spokesman John Fedele said the University attracts various performances even without online voting.

“Speakers, artists and musicians can come to Pitt through any number of different means,” he wrote in an e-mail. “The main way is through being sponsored by an organization, anything from a student organization to a school, a department or a center.”

Fedele added that he has no memory of Pitt winning a celebrity promotional appearance, but since the University does not keep track, it “doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened” in the past.

Smith said Facebook allows students from across the Pittsburgh region to participate in the vote — which could provide a major advantage.

“If we could pull together people from Duquesne and Carnegie Mellon … we could pull together Pittsburgh and have the concert here,” he said, adding that he’s sent Facebook invitations to students at Pittsburgh-area colleges and high schools alike.

The promotion is set up as a Facebook event, which allows Smith, Adams and attendees to continually invite people.

Pitt currently boasts more than 2,640 votes in the contest — less than half the number of listed attendees in the Facebook event.

It’s a daunting statistic for Pitt senior AnuPriya Tuli, who said she typically ignores promotional Facebook invites.

She received an invitation to the Weezer promotional group but declined the offer because she didn’t think it would be effective.

“I don’t think it actually does anything,” she said. “It’s just a bunch of kids in a group — it’s not actually getting to the Pitt Program Council to bring anyone here.”

While it’s not meant as a reflection of her musical preferences, Tuli said she is so conditioned to receiving Facebook “spam” that she usually ignores invitations before even reading them.

“Don’t get me wrong, I think Weezer is chill, but they’re not gonna come here,” she said.

Still, Dickinson maintains that he’d rather vote than miss the chance for a free concert.

“It took five seconds, plus I get to see Weezer for free,” he said. “Spending five seconds of my life voting is no big deal.”