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Knowing When to call it Quits for a Music Festival.

Andy Robertson

There have been numerous cancellations in the music festival sector this year with a variety of reasons cited by organisers. Some have been postponed for the future whilst other entities have ceased trading altogether. What should organisers look for when considering their options for event cancellation or closure of their business.

The timing of announcements is critical to the reputation of an entity with some organisers announcing cancellation months in advance whilst others leave it to the last minute, sometimes just days before the event dates. The broad causes for so many cancellations this year may well be economic with rising costs, falling demand in an increasingly overcrowded market there could be a finite number of viable festivals. What are the key indicators that organisers should be looking for when considering their own events. 

Cost Control and Cash Flow. 
Assuming that organisers have completed robust financial planning for their festival constant monitoring will indicate at any stage if they are on track or not. Key to this is the cash flow which is an indicator of revenue against costs. If suppliers and contractors are increasing costs over what has been previously agreed this can have a detrimental impact on funds available. A trend of pre-payment demands from some suppliers post-pandemic has added to the requirement for organisers to hold sufficient funds. If revenue from sponsors, vendors and ticket sales when compared to historical data and expected sales is low it will be an early sign of problems ahead. 

Audience and Ticket Sales. 
Increased competition from newer festivals entering the sector will draw audiences away from an established event. If the festival has a focus on music genres that are falling out of favour it will further dent demand from potential ticket buyers. Most festival organisers will use historical ticket sales data to compare against current sales. If this is constantly monitored it is an early indicator that insufficient revenue will be generated to cover costs. 

Pulling the Trigger. 
From a financial perspective there is little point continuing with an event if early indicators demonstrate that the festival is going to make a loss. Sometimes a push on marketing activity and other incentives can increase ticket sales but can these be maintained or is it just a blip in sales. If organisers are considering cancellation they should consult with key stakeholders before pulling the trigger on a cancellation. Talking investors, sponsors, staff and artists can bring a sense of reality to all involved but may also open alternative paths for the festival like scaling down the size or changing the dates for example. 

Timing and Communication. 
If a decision is made to postpone or close the festival it should be done in a timely manner to allow artists to find alternative gigs and staff to seek employment elsewhere. A transparent announcement for ticket holders should be made at the earliest opportunity to allow festival-goers to claim refunds and book alternative events. The worst-case scenario would be an organiser that holds out too long in the hope that they get a last-minute rush on ticket sales. This will frustrate all involved and lead to negative publicity for the organisers and reputational damage for the entity that may be planning future events. 

Planning for Survival. 
If a music festival is well planned in advance with accurate financial forecasts any decision making about a potential cancellation will be straightforward. This requires plans to be constantly monitored, analysed and changed in a dynamic way. Analysis of why a festival is not looking like it will be profitable can help planning for future events and organisers can consider new concepts, genres and formats. 

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.

Image by scratsmacker via Pixabay

Andy Robertson
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