Guest Blog by: Ryan Kintz, Founder & CEO of Afton Tickets
We are in unprecedented times. The corona virus (COVID-19) is decimating the live events industry. Talent agencies such as Paradigm and UTA have reported layoffs in the hundreds. Live Nation and AEG have postponed all concerts indefinitely. The effects of this crisis have rippled through our industry and are not only affecting event planners, but all of the other players: vendors, event spaces, sound and light companies, artists, tour managers, security companies, and more.
Despite all of this, now is not the time to lose our heads. As event planners, we cannot let fear creep in and control us or paralyze us. I know it’s hard (and I know that’s an understatement) but the people we lead within our organizations are counting on us more than ever. While we may feel helpless in many ways, there are steps we can take right now to help ensure the long-term survival of our events and our businesses.
ACTION STEP CHECKLIST
#1. SHOULD EVENT PLANNERS CANCEL OR POSTPONE EVENTS?
Depending on when your events take place, you need to weigh the risk and reward of rescheduling your event versus completely canceling it. A few factors to consider:
- How much money have you already paid out in deposits? How many of those deposits are your vendors, artists, event rental space, etc. are refundable or transferrable to a later date?
- How much money have you already spent on marketing?
- How much of your contracted sponsorship revenues (or promised sponsor revenues) are still safe? Teresa Stas from Green Cactus wrote a great article on how to handle sponsors during COVID-19: https://www.greencactusca.com/post/how-are-sponsors-responding-to-live-events-amongst-covid-19-crisis
- Will canceling the event save you money and ensure that subsequent years’ events can take place? Or will canceling and issuing mass refunds hurt you more than rescheduling the event and honoring all of the tickets already sold?
- What does your refund policy and your ticket provider’s refund policy say about an Act of God like COVID-19? Is there a no refund policy with the only option the customer has is an honored ticket to the rescheduled event? Are you able to keep ticket funds and give them a credit or another ticket to oneo f your other events later in the year?
- Is your event dependent on weather? If so, rescheduling to the fall or winter may not be a wise option unless you can find an indoor venue space to hold the event.
#2. HOW WILL YOU FINANCIALLY SURVIVE?
There are many tactics and strategies you can implement right now to cut your expenses, suspend loan payments, and cut your payroll without laying off all of your employees completely. There are also SBA Disaster Relief Loans available right now, and a new CARES Act that is supposed to be passed soon. These are on a 1st come 1st serve basis, so the sooner you apply, the better. I wrote an article specifically about these programs here:
The CARES Act is supposed to provide 2.5x your payroll as a 10 year loan at 4.00% interest. However, it looks like the plan is to completely forgive any portion of this loan that is used directly on payroll, utilities, and office rent/lease! This is an additional program that could turn out to be free money if you use the funds on payroll, utilities, and office lease/rent. Contact your bank about this program so you can get on the list to be notified first once it’s officially passed.
#3. WHAT DO YOU TELL EMPLOYEES?
The hardest thing a business owner has to do is tell their employees about a layoff. The best route seems to be honest and empathetic. Let your employees know you are here to help and support them as much as you can. At least in this crisis, employees will understand that this is out of your control. Being honest about the impact of COVID-19 on your revenues may help show them that this is a decision the business has to make in order to survive.
Most states have an equivalent program to the Oregon Work Share that we have in Oregon. This allows you to cut employee hours down by up to 40%, and the employer only pays 60% of the employees normal wages. This saves you a lot of payroll expense and could help avoid complete layoffs. The best part is, for Oregon Work Share, the Oregon Employment Department will pay the employee 40% of their full unemployment benefit (if you cut their wages by 40%) and help subsidize their decreased income. The employer must sign up for this program.
This article can help your employees take advantage of current relief programs, cut their expenses, and suspend or delay loan payments. You can share this with employees to let them know you have their back during this crisis:
#4. WHICH VENDORS DO EVENT PLANNERS RELY ON?
Many businesses are suffering right now, and unfortunately some of them have already closed up shop permanently or have a sense that they “won’t make it” through this. It’s important that you directly contact any vendors or companies that your organization relies heavily on so that you have a heads up if they don’t think they will be in business after this is over. For example, my concert company Afton Shows produces concerts at 200+ music venues in the U.S. so we are keeping tabs on our venues and talking to them regularly so that we know ahead of if any of them are not going to make it. If you make a list of vendors that are vital to your operations and you can get some type of status update from them, it may allow you to shop for other vendors or find backup vendors if they are not likely to be around by the time your event happens. If a fair is relying on a carnival company that can’t make it through this, they’re going to be in a bad spot if the fair goes forward and they have to shop last minute for a replacement carnival. My other company, Afton Tickets, reached out to all of our clients to let them know we have taken all necessary steps to ensure our survival. I felt that it was important to give our clients that piece of mind. If any key vendors have not reached out to you in this same manner, it might indicate that they are in trouble and it’s a good idea to check-in with them.
#5. WHAT DO EVENT PLANNERS DO DURING THIS DOWNTIME?
There is a lot of damage control and precautionary measures to put in place. But, once you get through all of that, there may not be much to do other than just “wait and see” how long the live events ban lasts. My primary goal this past two weeks has been to get through everything on my checklist related to the COVID-19 crisis. Once that’s all completed, I plan to prioritize projects, initiatives, software development projects, and business development tasks so that when this is over my companies can come right out of the gate firing at 1,000%. Many business owners I’ve talked to feel deflated, defeated, and don’t even want to get up in the morning to work. Honestly, I’ve had to fight these feelings as well. It’s tempting to just avoid work and sit on the couch watching Netflix in my pajamas.
But if we keep a level head and motivate ourselves to stay ambitious, we can use this time to work projects that we’ve been putting off. I believe we can get a lot done during this downtime. Remember, the most important thing other than surviving this, is that we come out on the other end of it ready to forge ahead and become even stronger than we already are.
We are all in this together, and when this is all over I anticipate people will be dying to get out of their house and attend our live events. Live events bring people together, and that will be needed more than ever. I hope this checklist can help to get your juices flowing and helps you think outside of the box. Please leave a comment about which tactics helped you the most – and as always, please leave a comment with any other great ideas you’ve come up with!
About the Author: Ryan Kintz, Founder & CEO, Afton Tickets
Ryan Kintz is founder and CEO of Afton Tickets and Afton LLC. Ryan is an event organizer, event producer, concert promoter, and business owner. Afton Tickets clientele includes fairs, festivals, beer/wine/food festival, and concerts and events that range from 500 to 100,000+ attendees. Ryan has worked with hundreds of event organizers and event planners, over 800 music venues, and tens of thousands of music artists.