Students at the University of Montana are the only university group in the nation to promote Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, which will be held at Madison Square Garden on April 12 and 13. Though thousands of miles from New York, the UM Entertainment Management program is using social media to close the gap.

“The students have a learning experience that includes developing the Crossroads website, establishing a Facebook and Twitter address and having a marketing campaign for all of it,” said Maria Brunner, owner of marketing firm InSight Management and guest instructor at UM.

Though managing an event that will take place in New York from Montana comes with difficulties, the use of social media has allowed UMEM to stretch across borders. 

This month, the program’s Crossroads Facebook page reached more than 11,000 likes. This story of management from afar is similar to many others unfolding globally. 

“Even if we’re six or seven years into the big social media age, I feel like its still the Wild West,” Darah Fogarty, a UMEM student, said. “There’s a lot of noise and clutter as the world is still figuring out how to use it but I do think social media will be a component for all major promotions.” 

The two-day collaborative festival will follow Clapton’s month-long U.S. tour. The event is a fundraiser for Crossroads Centre, which treats people with alcoholic or drug dependencies on the Caribbean island of Antigua. 

Sandi Nelson, a UM graduate and adviser in the School of Business Administration and alongside the UMEM students, said this project has been a more demanding than she expected.  

“I’ve realized sometimes people need things now,” Nelson said, laughing. “People think that pressure is always negative but honestly it’s helped us really come up with a great product.” 

Nelson said while fans and followers wait for the festival, UMEM is finding ways to connect the online world with something tangible and draw more people to their sites.  

After clicking ‘like’ on the Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 Facebook page, one becomes eligible to win a Hard Rock Café shirt made to celebrate the festival, before it’s even available to the public. 

“It’s always great when you can walk away from something as simple as clicking ‘like’ and end up with a really exclusive prize,” Nelson said. 

The UMEM team is leaving Montana’s mark on this New York event. Since the event is a fundraiser, musicians are not paid. However, the UMEM team has put together gift bags unique to each musician — and to New York, considering the items are from Montana. 

Another UM student and UMEM worker, Becca Gairrett, said this was a fun way to share their experience with Montana. 

“There’s such an appreciation for a sense of community in Montana, and it was on everyone’s mind to try and translate that to the big-city minds and to artists who can buy anything they want but are getting something special from Montana,” she said.  

About seven UMEM students, including Nelson, Fogarty and Gairret, will attend the event in New York City and continue to lend a hand. 

The UMEM team said while the online world has been a great way to draw in all ages and reach people nationwide, social media can’t be everything.

“I think social media will be relevant as long as everyone lives on Facebook, but I really feel like there’s this personal thing missing,” Gairrett said as her teammates nodded in agreement. “Whatever you’re trying to sell, there’s this human thing about experiencing it for yourself.”

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