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When Music Festival Artists go AWOL.

Andy Robertson

With meticulous planning months in advance the last thing any music festival organiser wants is a performance artist that goes AWOL (Absent Without Leave) hours or minutes before their scheduled set. Unfortunately, it does happen so what can festival organisers do to mitigate such circumstances occurring. 


Performance artists can be fickle and highly strung for a variety of reasons, perhaps they suffer from mental health issues or dependency problems that can lead to mood swings for example. While the vast majority of performance artists are consummate professionals in every way there are always some who need careful management. Larger music festivals may be curating and booking hundreds of artists, what steps should Talent Managers and Artistic Directors take in selecting and booking performance artists to avoid a no-show situation?

Research. 
When considering a particular artist conduct some research and check if that artist has gone AWOL before at previous events. Most information can be found in the public domain but it’s probably worth checking with the artist’s manager to see if they have a tendency for such behaviour or any related issues.

Artist Advancing and Riders. 
When completing the artist advance and riders ensure that sufficient warnings and notes are made concerning any potential problems. It is not uncommon to document that a particular artist needs constant supervision an hour before their set to keep them away from alcohol for example and to keep them calm to avoid unnecessary stress.

Artist Liaison.
The festival’s artist liaison manager should be fully informed about any artists that have a propensity to disappear before their set, run late or have dependency issues. Having this information prior to an artist’s performance allows the liaison team to manage any potential situations that may arise.

Contingency Planning. 
Ensure that sufficient contingency plans are put in place during the scheduling of shows and sets so that producers know what action is to be taken in the event of an artist going AWOL. In the event of a no-show will other artist’s sets be brought forward and the missing artist be re-scheduled for a later time assuming they can be found? Alternatively, can artists who have completed their set earlier in the day on another stage be asked to standby for another performance?

As with any planning exercise it will pay to plan for the unexpected and when it comes to artists booked for a music festival this is no exception. An AWOL artist will disappoint festival-goers so ensure that all steps are taken to avoid this situation ever arising. It will also be prudent to ensure that any contract with an artist who subsequently goes AWOL has solid terms and conditions incorporated to avoid paying unnecessary fees. 

For organisers planning their music festival using a software management platform like
Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics including comprehensive artist management. 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, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering.

Photo by Dayvison de Oliveira Silva from Pexels

Andy Robertson
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