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Contingency Planning for Music Festival Artist Cancellations.

Andy Robertson

From the smallest to the largest music festival one of the most difficult aspects to accurately plan is the unpredictable performance artist. A music festival invests large amounts in booking fees and marketing for their headline artists so what can organisers do to make contingency plans should something happen resulting in that artist cancelling.


There are a multitude of reasons why a booked artist may have to cancel their appearance at a music festival and in the worst-case scenarios just hours before they're due on stage. The most common cause for cancellation is illness ranging from throat infections for singers to food poisoning or even car accidents. This has been further compounded in modern times by the ever-present threat of a COVID-19 infection. Other reasons could be problems with immigration, being in police custody or the artist simply just not wanting to travel and perform.

Depending on the reason for cancellation it may or may not garner support form event goers who have paid money to see that particular artist. The benefit of the music festival format is that organisers should be able to substitute that artist with one that is just as popular but what contingency plans can be put in place to allow for such an occurrence?

Contingency Plans.
For a large music festival with hundreds of artists being booked the scheduling of set times, stages, dressing rooms and sound checks for example can take months to juggle and perfect. This involves meticulous coordination between artists, artist liaison mangers, stage managers, producers, stage backline crews and hospitality managers for example. Organisers should have draft plans in place in the unlikely event that a headliner cancels and a solid action plan. They should also make allowances for cancellation months prior to the festival dates up to and including cancellation on the day scheduled. It may be worth having a fall-back plan of potential headline artists that can be called on at short notice but this will really depend on the contacts and relationships that organisers have with available artists and their management companies.

Covering Financial Loss.
Artist contracts should contain specific clauses relating to cancellation by the artist and in most cases the artist will only receive the booking fee up front. The bulk of any appearance fee should be payable on completion of the performance. For event goers it is not unusual for them to demand refunds when a headline artist has pulled out but most festival organisers now include specific terms and conditions in their ticket sales stating that organisers reserve the right to change line-ups at any time before or during the event. The festival organisers should also look into any insurance policy that can cover them for headline act cancellations although the premiums may be cost prohibitive.

Dynamic Schedules.
Music festival organisers should use tools that allow for dynamic scheduling of artists that allow them to move acts around stages and change performance times in real time with notifications to all parties ensuring that any last-minute changes, cancellations and additions can be managed effectively.

For any event organiser planning their music festival using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their festival logistics including dynamic scheduling for artist performances. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors guestlists and ticketing.

Photo by Wendy Wei from Pexels

Andy Robertson
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