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The damage from cancelled concerts

Concert cancellation at the eleventh hour is fairly common, to the chagrin of organisers. For example, in Malaysia, the authorities cancelled American pop star Ke$ha’s concert late in October while the One World Music Festival in Singapore got axed abruptly.

For Fatfish Entertainment, the cancellation of its K-pop concert, MBC Korean Musicwave, hit the organiser badly, causing it to fold.

In a shocking announcement on its Facebook page last Friday, it said it was closing the company to distribute the company’s assets to its creditors and ticket buyers.

We apologise once again for disappointing the fans and are truly disheartened by these recent events.” Fatfish Entertainment could not be reached at the time of publishing for comments.

Its presenting sponsor StarHub expressed extreme disappointment, in an interview with Today. Wang Li-Na, head of consumer marketing, StarHub, told Today: “We were very disappointed to learn this evening, from the concert promoter, Fatfish Entertainment, that the MBC Korean Music Wave concert has been cancelled. We are currently in talks with them to find out more.”

However, while sponsors are inevitably disappointed, it is clear the hardest hit are the organisers.

Livescape, the organiser of the Ke$ha concert in Malaysia also claimed it had lost over RM1.1million overnight from its cancellation.

Marketing Events spoke with other concert organisers for their take on the matter. Mae Ng, co-founder of Upsurge Productions said that concert cancellations happen fairly often, with the most common reasons being weather delaying travel, personal reasons such as family issues or illness and poor ticket sales.

Upsurge Productions had to cancel its first concert in Southeast Asia a week prior to the show due to a snowstorm in America. Ng said that the first thing that it tried to do was to re-route the flights, but the snowstorm was predicted to last for several days. While fans were supportive, it had to recover the situation by quickly communicating with an official statement furnished with crucial details such as when refunds can be expected, how the refund process will be like and more.

Major damage for organisers

However, she conceded that there is much to lose for the organiser, including the loss of the artist fee. Concert organisers also have to contend with the loss of money, which hits concert organisers the hardest. Besides that, the time and effort spent in organising the show goes down the drain as well.

The company’s reputation with the fans, the affected artists, and their suppliers and vendors are also at stake. “Concert cancellations need to be handled with delicate care in order to avoid a public relations disaster. Music fans are not to be messed with,” Ng said.

Steven Woodward, director of events for Midas Promotions, said that however, fans have been forgiving. While they get upset and promoters get blamed, in the long term, they move on.

“People understand that no one wants to do that (cancel concerts). Shows do get cancelled and there are risks involved in this line. You win some and then you lose some,” Woodward added.

But Woodward agrees the most damaging thing is managing the budgets. If budgets are not met, the organisers will suffer losses. Insurance policies, hotels, catering and transportation were some costs cited in planning for a concert.

He added that artists fees, production, venue and transport costs were the brunt borne by the concert organisers when concerts are cancelled. Midas Promotions was the organiser for the cancelled concert for Namie Amuro earlier this April. He shared that the company lost close to SG$1 million dollars for that cancellation.

Keeping the damage down

For Upsurge Productions, it has switched to an online e-ticketing system that provides a master sheet of contact details, which makes it easier for them to contact all ticket purchasers in the case of any emergency.

“Our number one priority is the fans, and we always make sure that there’s two-way communication, even before the concert happens. If you build and maintain a positive relationship with your fans, chances are they’ll be more likely to trust that you can fix the issue,” said Ng.

Woodward added that as an alternative, the promoters should reschedule a concert before attempting to cancel the show.

He added that in the contract, if sponsors were involved, then organisers should normally compensate sponsors, or pay a pro-rated fee according to the refund policy.

Ultimately, organising concerts is a big risk.

“Anything and everything can go wrong without warning. Sometimes you just have to be ready to take on whatever that comes your way,” said Ng.

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