HOW TO CANCEL A CONCERT IN A PANDEMIC
HOW TO CANCEL A CONCERT IN A PANDEMIC
March 28, 2020
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As of March 23rd, 2020, many government officials in the United States have enforced the mandatory shelter in place order.
Today, Saturday March 28th, sources report a total of 664,103 Coronavirus cases, 30,883 deaths and 142,361 recoveries worldwide. At this point, the entertainment industry has come screeching to a halt.
With this many people affected nearly all tribal casinos, entertainment venues and industry professionals are canceling or rescheduling events for the foreseeable future.
Canceling or rescheduling an awards ceremony, concert or music festival due to a pandemic is no easy task, nor is it a decision that is taken lightly. If you want to have any chance of surviving as a venue operator or casino talent buyer, try to be strategic and composed throughout the entire process and have a gameplan for the post-pandemic butterfly effect.
Some entertainment agencies, casino talent buyers, tours, venues and tribal casinos immediately canceled every one of their shows for the next 6 months. To the masses, this may be the best decision, to others, it may be an overreaction.
STEP 1. OPERATION GAME PLAN
If you are a venue owner or operator you cannot afford to be reactive. When you see an outbreak on the horizon as we did in China, for example, formulate a game plan ahead of time so when the dust settles you are not left with an empty venue, bank account and entertainment calendar. If it is advantageous, move some shows further into the year or cancel them all together when appropriate.
Before you do anything, decide when you want to make a decision to reschedule or cancel each show for the 2 to 3 months following the formal announcement of a pandemic.
If the pandemic is announced on 3/1/2020 and you have a show on 5/19/2020, you will need to determine a deadline that is roughly 2-4 weeks out from the show and use that as your baseline and do a gut check as things get closer. Your patrons will understand if your venue is waiting to make a decision until the date gets closer.
The artist’s agent may also have their own plans and want to reschedule. Work with them to find the best solution.
If your casino talent buyer or the artist’s agent reaches out, start the discussion with step 1 completed and a 30-day timeline in the back of your mind.
Any casino talent buyer or entertainment group will tell you that there is no perfect time to cancel a show. Should you need to cancel or reschedule a concert, be proactive but also give yourself a cushion. Avoid canceling or rescheduling all of your shows too soon, or too late. A notification 2-4 weeks out from the show is perfectly acceptable. It is certainly better than the day of.
STEP 2. CUSTOMER SERVICE
In general, the public will be more worried about the pandemic than the $300 pair of front row tickets they bought to see Chevy Chase at the Microsoft Theatre in LA.
Use your patron’s delayed response to your advantage. Take some time to review your options and work with your team internally, then make your guest service decisions.
As you plot the correct time to cancel or reschedule with the agency or talent buyer, keep in mind that you should also decide when you plan to have your marketing team make calls and messages for any dates your venue has decided to cancel or reschedule.
If you have decided to reschedule a show that has already been rescheduled previously, be prepared to do some damage control. From a guest service perspective, if your guest has to wait an entire year to see their favorite Hollywood Medium, they may not be excited to have hundreds or in some cases, thousands of dollars tied up.
You know your patron better than anyone (especially if you are a tribal or non-tribal casino venue). Something as simple as offering a M+G to someone who does not want their $1,235 in tickets to be in limbo while waiting for the new date may help to promote a shareable lifelong impression. Try to use all of your resources to create a sense of hope when guiding your patrons to a more promising future. Your patrons will remember you for it, and they will ultimately trust you more in the long run.
STEP 3. COMMUNICATION
Assuming you have followed step one and step two, you will at some point also need to communicate any changes to your production vendors, hospitality partner, and ushers.
It is important to do this while they are still in operation, and after-hours or while they are temporarily shut down.
As things continue to progress or digress, you will want your venue to be first in line to get the backline, support, hotel rooms, limos and manpower you will need to be operationally sound when the world returns to normal.
Use this downtime to prepare for the re-launch of your entertainment program and advertising campaigns. You will inevitably have some event announcements or on sale deadlines that were delayed by the pandemic. Work with your casino entertainment buyer and local vendors to preplan your re-entry to the marketplace while the competition is in limbo or doing the same thing.
Below are a few more suggestions to consider should you encounter another Coronavirus pandemic in 2021 or anytime in the future:
Balance your external messaging and marketing efforts. Since most venues will go dark outside of social media, be mindful of the content you are sending out. Ideally, it should maintain a blend of positive and informative messaging. Too much bad news all at once will make your property or venue look skittish, and not enough good news will further incite an already hysterical population.
Prepare for regional concert saturation. You are not the only casino talent buyer or venue operator with the wise idea to move an event to later in the year. Reschedule and cancel according to your core business objectives. Remember the area you live in will be teeming with entertainment options again in the not so distant future.
Also, avoid blanket emails to your entire database (where applicable). If your patron decides to opt-in when buying tickets that does not usually mean they also want to know about canceled shows that they didn’t buy tickets to. An email to 6,000 patrons announcing 8 shows have been canceled could send the wrong message (especially if you only care about 1 show), even in a pandemic. In times like this, it is best to assemble a group of people to make individual phone calls. Every guest appreciates a personal touch, even if it is while receiving bad news. The good news is if you‘re using any cloud-based ticketing platform other than Ticketmaster, your patron’s email, phone number, and pertinent order information are readily available