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Knowing When to Cancel a Music Festival.

Andy Robertson

With much uncertainty still hanging over the music festival sector because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic around the world it is essential that festival organisers make timely decisions on whether their event should go ahead or be cancelled. What are the critical factors that organisers should consider when making these decisions?

The majority of music festival organisers plan their events between 18 months and 2 years before the dates so an enormous amount of time, effort and money is invested in making their festival happen. Part of the planning process should include contingency plans for unforeseen eventualities which now includes restrictions and event cancellations imposed by local authorities responsible for considering the health and safety of festival-goers. The situation regarding cancellations due to coronavirus will vary around the world with some governments keen to implement strict lockdowns at short notice and others have removed almost all potential restrictions. 

The coronavirus event cancellation insurance underwritten by the UK government will only be available for a given period and does not guarantee to reimburse organisers with all sunk costs. Cancellation insurance due to inclement weather has not really changed and has always been available to festival organisers. The availability of various insurance products varies from country to country and organisers should ensure that they obtain insurance to cover as much of their festival as they can. For any organisers considering cancellation they should be fully familiar with the terms and conditions of insurance to make sure they are covered.

There is never a great time to announce cancellation or postponement of a music festival but organisers should have processes and procedures set up that clearly define the decision-making process for cancellation. The earlier a decision can be made the better for all concerned including suppliers, artists, vendors, sponsors and of course festival-goers. An early decision means that all concerned can make alternative plans and negate any financial loss. If there is any uncertainty about event dates organisers should consider moving dates or if this is not possible set a deadline date for any decision.

However a decision is arrived at organisers must communicate with all concerned even if there is only a possibility of cancellation. There is nothing worse than silence form organisers when dates may be in question. Aside from staff, suppliers and artists the festival-goers who have purchased tickets should be notified early in the cancellation process along with as much information as possible using email, SMS and social media. Any communication should also specify what ticket buyers can do about obtaining refunds or transferring ticket validity to a postponed date. By providing detailed information and ‘next steps’ organisers can cut down on the number of customer enquiries and reduce any potential negative feedback.

For festival organisers planning their events using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics. 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.  

Andy Robertson
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