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An Unexpected Show Cancellation

By Sound Girls

As production people, we spend a lot of time planning how the show is going to run, sound and look, as well as creating an environment that is safe so the audience will enjoy themselves. Just last month, I was working on one of our largest shows of the year, 2,500 tickets sold. We would be converting our recreational space into a concert hall. 

After a month of planning, the day of the show finally arrives. Surprisingly, everything is going according to plan, contractors are arriving on time, the volunteers are showing up, even the artist’s advance team has arrived. We are a couple hours from doors, heading into the calm before the storm. Dinner is being served to the production and entry team, then a call comes over the radio. A quick unplanned meeting, nothing new, this happens all the time as logistics change, it’s part of the job.

However, the message I received during this meeting was not expected at all. I was met with somber faces and one simple sentence. “They’re not coming.”

The headliner never got on the plane. Thirty minutes before 2,500 guests come through the doors and there will be no show. I’m sure you can imagine the curse words that came out of my mouth at that time. I’m now in my 6th year of being a production professional, but I have never had a show cancelled. I’ve heard of shows being cancelled before, seen it happen around town; just never expected that it would happen to me.

Back to the situation at hand; at this point my mind is racing as I try to develop a checklist of how to solve this problem and come up with the best possible outcome. Our first step becomes identifying and telling our key players about the situation. We inform our campus police chief, head of security, the facilities manager, and our ticket manager to break the news. Everyone is emotional and reacting differently. Once the shock of the cancellation begins to fade we started to put together action plans.

First, draft an email to send to students (a majority of the ticket holders), the radio station, and to post on social media providing notice of the cancellation, the reason, and to hold on to tickets. Getting this information out was critical considering the event was scheduled to begin in just minutes. Once the communication was out, we could determine if we would reschedule or refund tickets.

Second, tell the rest of our teams about the cancellation, and ask them to patiently wait for further direction. Additionally, request their professionalism when posting messages on social media or texting friends.

We needed to ensure a clear and complete message had a chance to circulate before the rumors flew.

Third, we determined that we would not open the venue for the evening, but would post people at the entrance doors to communicate the cancellation. This was a preventive step to ensure that a potentially angry crowd would disperse without incident. This allowed us to move onto our fourth step, taking the set-up down.

The students, the team and myself learned a lot from this experience. We learned that an angry crowd will take their frustrations out quickly. Crowds get rowdy. Customers will be disappointed and confused. We must take this into consideration when making the cancellation announcement, and dispelling the crowd gathered at the entrances. Safety and crowd control becomes the priority.

We finished our jobs for the night and took the rest of the weekend off. Nothing more could be figured out until Monday morning. After all that surprise, emotion, and expense, we decided to see if we could re-negotiate with the artist. As a result, we will be holding the same show next month, this time with a cancellation plan in mind.

Article by Sound Girl: Heather Holm

Published in cooperation with Soundgirls.org

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