Talking Tickets–8 May 2020: Refunds! Social Seating! Strategy! More!

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Hey There! 

Thanks for being here again this week. If you are enjoying this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues to sign up by visiting this link.

What a week?!

How’s everyone doing?

Everyone hanging in there?

Let me know. I read a piece on the mental health crisis that is developing in tandem with the public health crisis and it shakes me to consider how much pain folks might be facing, alone.

Join me and my buddy, Ken Troupe, for a happy hour this evening at 5 PM EDT. We’ve switched our platform and protocol to make sure folks can get in and to add a layer of security in case we have anybody try and disrupt the meeting.

If you haven’t had the chance to check out our Slack Community yet…do it!

To the tickets!


1. Are We Thinking About What Comes Next In The Right Way? 

This week, the big news has been coming up about plans to return and what events will look like in the future.

I don’t know about you, but if I see one more far fetched social distance seating plan…

This week I’ve been reading a book called A More Beautiful Question and it talks about questions being more valuable than ever in modern life. If you’ve had the chance to work with me or hear me speak, you know that I love to talk about my questions and that I often use questions to reframe and reflect on the ideas that “everyone knows to be true” or to rethink “the way we’ve always done it.”

Of course, I link to a piece I wrote at the top and I don’t usually do that, but in this case, as I’ve been watching things shake out around the world, I continue to be struck by the idea that if we aren’t careful, the industry comes out of this mess worse off, not better off, than when we went into it.

If you look at the history of pandemics and financial crises, you’ll see that more things stay the same than things that change. I’ve been following along with Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher on their podcast, Pivot. Scott and Kara have been consistently talking about the way that this crisis is not going to radically change things but will accelerate trends that were already taking place in the market.

Hey…they didn’t steal the idea from me, I stole it from Peter Drucker.

But that’s the reality of what we are dealing with. In rushing to get things back to normal, we are likely setting ourselves up for longer-term pain because we aren’t addressing the underlying issues that were already evident before the pandemic like poor marketing, pricing that priced out huge segments of the population, technology that doesn’t always meet the demands of modern consumers, and many more.

So when I started thinking on that topic this week, I came around to the idea that maybe we aren’t asking the right questions and I don’t know how much bigger a crisis you need to get you to approach your business from a new angle?!

The truth is that we don’t really know when we will be able to readily get back to holding events because the science behind what needs to be in place to safely open isn’t certain. The idea that Congress is going to give folks a waiver to protect businesses from people getting sick is pretty sick in its own way.

I understand there are psychological aspects to the desire to plow ahead with ideas on reopening, but I just hope that folks aren’t using these ideas to hide from a more balanced and thoughtful approach to what comes next.

Maybe I’m wrong, but let me know what y’all are thinking.

2. Refunds and Such Only Get More Attention:

Some screenshots started popping up this week, showing that StubHub has been locking folks’ accounts if they initiated chargebacks for tickets to events that were delayed, canceled, or postponed.

Well! Well! Well!

Bold move! I guess you can do whatever you want, but this isn’t a move I would make.

StubHub isn’t alone in catching heat either with Ticketmaster getting pushback, SeatGeek having a lawsuit filed against them, and pretty much folks all over the place complaining about refund and exchange policies.

To put my personal experience into play here, I have tickets to some Wilco shows and some Pearl Jam shows that have either been postponed or are iffy. I’m cool with the tickets to the new shows unless I’m traveling for business.

But I’ve been talking to a lot of folks inside and outside of the industry, and the way some folks are approaching this is: We will do the least required and other folks are taking the tact that “our fans and customers need the money more than we do right now.”

This whole scenario as it plays out highlights a few things that we should be conscious of and are also part of the reason I led with asking the right question:

1. Are we in business to build long-term relationships with our fans and customers?
2. If we hold people’s money now, what’s the long-term impact on our ability to have customers trust us in the future?
3. How can we do a better job of risk management and financial management in the future to help cover unexpected events?

I could go on all day with these questions…but the reality is that the refund and exchange policies that are being rolled out aren’t doing folks a lot of favors, minus the NFL.

If this were a PR battle alone, I think we could all figure out a way to overcome the messaging war.

But the larger issue it highlights is how fragile the business of tickets, sports, and entertainment is and it should elevate a lot of these core discussions because it doesn’t seem wise to just rush back to the same 0ld, same old…in fact, it seems downright dangerous. 

3. Bailing out the arts and entertainment:

In the UK, members of the House of Lords are calling for a bailout of the performing arts.

When we were early in the pandemic, the NATB was one of the organizations calling for some support to folks in the world of tickets.

And, the Australian government pledged money to support the entertainment industry.

The response of governments around the world has been varied, understandably. Because even in normal times, the support that the arts and entertainment receive varies depending on many factors.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been keeping an eye on the conversation around Rugby Australia.

Right now, we are seeing the struggles to get Broadway reopened. The Bundesliga’s return was pushed back to May 22 after originally being slated for 15 May.

The thing is that concerts, events, and a whole summer is likely to be wiped out, if not completely, almost completely.

The We Will Recover initiative put together by the folks at Activity Stream, along with efforts like Rescue Meet being organized by Eric Fuller, and several other trade efforts are all being designed as industry efforts to help rescue and rebuild the industry, but when a vital part of the economy, social and mental part of the economy, and spiritual wellbeing of the community is under such dire threat, government support and intervention is likely warranted.

The form of that assistance is likely to vary from country to country, but if any organization or group is looking to lobby their government for assistance, let me know. I’d be grateful to use my experience organizing political campaigns in NYC and messaging in a presidential election to this effort.

4. How will we deal with the financial impact of the loss of events is a serious concern: 

ESPN reported that the loss of revenue due to the shutdown of sports could reach $12B in the United States. To quote my friend, Derek Palmer, “that’s a number.”

No one is immune. 

Everyone is struggling with how to get games and events going again. I’m looking at what is going on in Israel where they are going to restart on May 30 with isolation for teams at home between matches. The Israeli league recognizes that there are dangers with starting up and that there is a distinct possibility that the league could find itself shutting down again due to a fresh outbreak of the disease.

The reality is that the financial impact on the industry, globally, is going to be massive…even in a best-case scenario.

There are various plans and ideas about getting some semblance of a season going for a lot of sports due to the need for clubs and leagues to collect their TV rights monies.

But the realization is coming into focus that even with the TV money, a lot of sports businesses are still going to be in trouble.

The challenge of revenues is going to touch buildings and businesses around the globe as concerts and productions are pushed into 2021 and 2022, for now. This is before we even know what could happen with a Wave 2 of the coronavirus or what needs and demands are put in place to ensure that people’s health is protected.

As we see with the AFL’s strong media numbers from the past month, attention is great, but the bigger question isn’t whether or not folks are giving you their eyeballs because in this situation….it is much more important that people give you their money.

So we have to think through ways to help generate revenue due to the attention that folks are giving us.

Megan Maurice wrote about how these events bind us together and give us a common touchpoint, a sense of identity. She’s absolutely right. I think back on the Capitals run to the Stanley Cup two seasons back and how I’d never really felt a real strong connection to anything DC until that point…coming out of the pandemic, my hope is that we all find ways to come together like that around sports and entertainment again.

And, that this coming together leads to better ways of connecting with fans, growing a sustainable fan base, and generating money.

Impressions, engagement, likes, and the lot have always been BS measures of success.

Coming out of such a huge challenge to our business models, the only path forward is going to be more creative, more customer-focused, and more focused on the meaningful over the easily measured.

5. Some random things that didn’t fit into a story but are fun to share:

The New Jersey Devils are starting up healthcare workers plan to get tickets to healthcare workers at a nearby medical facility. This is great and I hope that healthcare workers aren’t easily forgotten at the end of this pandemic.

In Australia, it is interesting to watch the NRL and the AFL take different approaches to return to action. A few things that stand out for attention is the power of money, how having controllable assets is helpful, and to think about how this will play out with a potential second wave of the coronavirus in North America in the fall since the southern hemisphere is in fall and heading to winter.

Tom Cruise is going to space! I mean, I love the Mission: Impossible movies. But if one goes to space! OMG! I’m going to the theatres ASAP for that!

Y’all know I went to the University of Alabama, right? Here’s a great interview with Alabama men’s basketball coach, Nate Oats talking about his day shadowing Nick Saban. 

One of the publications I definitely want to write for at some point is The Stage. And, the importance of the publication is more pronounced in the times of the coronavirus.

I don’t know if A-Rod and JLo are really serious about buying the Mets, but as a Mets’ fan, the idea is interesting to think about. I mean, I have documents and plans for how to regrow the Mets’ fan base and business that I jot down and play around with all the time.

Finally, a downturn is a great time to start something new.

Check out my website daily. I’ve been making sure to add a little something to my blog every day. Also, I should have a few new things dropping this week in regards to events I’ll be a part of, webinars, classes, and a few other things.

You can download some old podcast episodes and now that I’ve fixed my internet, I’m going to get back to the podcasting game.

Sign up for my masterclass on the We Will Recover website with my friend, Frederic Aouad. We are going to cover how to turn your event into a revenue-generating experience using the power of curation. We are doing 2 sessions so that if you live in Europe, you can get a session mid-day on your end and one in the North American mid-day time period as well

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