Change or Die
I’ve been polite and deferential. I’ve written pieces laced with song lyrics and humor. I’ve tried to rally teams and boost spirits. We’re just not getting it. New revenue will be zero this year. Refund requests will mount in urgency and government mandates are coming. Get real fast. Get small. Hope is not a strategy. The reckoning is here.
I used to be such a sweet, sweet thing ’Til they got a hold of me I’d open doors for little old ladies I helped the blind to see
I got no friends ’cause they read the papers They can’t be seen With me and I’m gettin’ real shot down And I’m feelin’ mean
No more mister nice guy No more mister clean No more mister nice guy They say he’s sick, he’s obscene
I got no friends ’cause they read the papers They can’t be seen With me and I’m gettin’ real shot down And I’m gettin’ mean
No More Mr. Nice Guy — Alice Cooper
Here it is fast and simple: 50,000+ new Coronavirus cases were reported today across the U.S. 100,000 daily new cases are projected imminently, if not already here but unreported because of under testing. Businesses are closing again in California, Texas and Florida with more to follow. And, for the perfect storm, we’re now also watching the potential for the G4 virus, a new strain of H1N1 swine flu to go pandemic.
Sports will not play before live audiences this year. College campuses will not be open in the fall. BottleRock will throw in the towel like every other music festival and cancel. Concerts are delayed until at least April 2021. StubHub is creating an insurmountable debt obligation between the refunds it owes its customers, rising every day as they sell tickets for events which will cancel, and the money they are withholding from sellers who provided tickets. Venues will close or be sold to new owners. At the rate we’re going people may actually be forced to talk with one another or read for entertainment once they’ve exhausted the Netflix library.
Here are the dominoes falling:
After loudly proclaiming that classes would start in the fall, on Thursday July 2nd USC retreated.
Today, July 6th Harvard announced their entire 2020–2021 educational year will be online only.
NFL teams are putting tarps over the first 8 rows of seats, and beginning to acknowledge there may not be any fans in seats.
Bonnaro, Austin City Limits and Outside Lands all just canceled their 2020 fall festival dates.
PPP money is running out. Congress just passed a short extension to the program which will now expire on August 8, 2020. PPP money has allowed many companies to hold on while their business model falters. Without the money, the layoffs will come fast.
What is there to do? Think outside your usual boxes. Get advice from people who have no vested interest in how things used to be. Everything you learned prior to March 12, 2020 is upended. It’s time for new ideas. Ticket sales haven’t fundamentally changed in decades: we relied on demand from fans to create scarcity which allowed price manipulation and FOMO to be the driving price strategies. Now, there are winds of change. People don’t want to pay ridiculous prices to be in a crowd. They don’t want to be in a crowd at all while there’s a raging pandemic. Infections are surging, likely death rates will increase quickly next. Hospitals are again coming under pressure to handle the load. Bars are closed by governmental decree. Events reopen after the bars are deemed safe.
Where do I find these new ideas? This industry has lots of advisors available to it. Ask an expert. Spend a little money. Adjust your path before you discover your company is on the Thelma and Louise expressway. Pivot while you still have your legs. I’ve been inside the rooms of companies that simply have zero operating capital. There’s no coming back from that.
Sometimes, when you’ve got nothing to distract you except television because the world outside is closed, you find a lesson where you may not have expected it. I saw an old Shark Tank episode last week with my daughter. The idea presented wasn’t resonating. Kevin O’Leary — “Mr. Wonderful” proposed the following strategy. He said: “I have a wine cellar at my house with bottles worth up to $6,000. Come over. Pick any bottle you want. We’ll drink it together. Then, we’ll take your (proposed investment) outside behind the barn and shoot it.” It’s shooting time. Because of the Covid, it’s hard for us to drink together in person. But, I’ll propose something similar. Schedule a call with me to think through your current strategy. I’ll listen, and tell you what I think — no charge. Expect straight talk. There are no easy answers and the way things were are not the way things are. The music is playing and we have to face it. Wishing and hoping and thinking and praying is not a plan, it’s a Dusty Springfield song. It’s time for action. I want to see this industry survive, return and prosper. We’ve been running in place or retreating for 100 days. It’s time to change direction.
Let me know what you think.
I’m a consultant advising leading companies in the live event space. If you are an investor, artist, promoter, team, producer, venue operator, primary ticketer or secondary market of ticketed events please don’t hesitate to