November 10th, 2020
florida man hosts a 6 month festival
Today's read...6 minutes
All aboard the fried food drive-thru! In this week’s issue of Back of House, food and beverage keeps fans full and their revenue fuller, squirrel smuggling runs rampant in Florida, and how to enjoy live music without bursting the social distancing “bubble.” Plus, Jen Caruso teaches us about reinventing ourselves.
Food and beverage is at the heart of many state fairs and festivals. That’s why many events are hosting fair food drive-thru’s to keep audiences engaged and collect revenue during this time.
Similarly, in sports venues, food and beverage sales have helped drive revenue during limited capacity events. By switching to cashless transactions, venues can speed up concession wait times and increase the sales tax revenue.
Orlando, FL, will launch a 6-month outdoor festival starting this December! The Front Yard Festival will feature 400 elevated pods to promote social distancing; artist announcements are coming soon. The festival was inspired by UK’s Virgin Money Unity Arena - mentioned in issue #04.
As research continues to discover how COVID-19 spreads, check out the many developments for events considering to reopen their doors to fans.
Tax breaks for live events communities are starting to appear across the world! Both in Germany and San Francisco, taxes are being waived or lessened significantly, helping venues with financial hardships.
In the Netherlands, venues receive grants between €5,000–€100,000 to help implement to help implement COVID-19 safety protocols, including increased hygiene measures, cashless payments, and additional seating. And in Ireland, $5.9 million is being granted to “de-risk the costs of running productions.”
To protect live entertainment jobs, the UK has extended their furlough policies allowing employees to receive up to 80% of their salaries through March 2021.
If you are still producing events that include travel, check out the latest updates in airline policies that coordinate ground transportation and manage movement onsite after testing.
If you don’t like something, you can just...turn it into a tree! Life is all about happy little accidents, after all. Guests can now view never-before-seen Bob Ross canvasses and paint some themself at the “Bob Ross Experience” in the same studio he filmed at for over a decade.
Getting Down in the Dome
K-pop fans recently enjoyed an outdoor concert in Seoul that featured a new concept. Three hundred dome-shaped tents allowed fans to enjoy live music without bursting the social distancing “bubble.” The event also featured thermal temperature-checking, distancing fences, and an ‘air shower’ gate that sprayed disinfecting mist at each entrance. It was organized by the government to provide comfort to those tired of the pandemic restrictions and aims to offer a blueprint for how events can continue in South Korea.
Rebuilding Fan Confidence
Communication has been essential to ensure fan safety and rebuild confidence to attend large gatherings. Simple pleasures like enjoying a film now require more thought and planning before attending. Nearly 10,000 Indian movie theatres have closed as a result of the pandemic. With theatres now opening to 50% capacity, BookMyShow's 'safety shield tag' will be displayed at cinemas that follow safety standards. In addition, a short feature will begin and end each movie theatre experience. This feature will include safety measures that have been taken to earn the 'safety shield tag.' Some of the highlighted safety precautions include alternate seating, thermal screening, and contactless security checks. Guests will also be informed about how they can help uphold safety regulations during their experience. Clear communication on how the theatre is committed to guest safety offers a piece of mind to the viewers.
Sports Venues Find New Purpose
The Columbia Speedway in South Carolina will start presenting 3,500 capacity shows. The shows will be produced by newly formed Cola Concerts, a collaboration of event production companies Innovation Arts & Entertainment and The Roberts Group. Some of the roster names so far include Wynonna, Shovel & Rope, and St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Space will consist of a state of the art 40-foot screen to optimize the experience for some of the largest events since March in SC. Health guidelines will be met through pods that will section off guests. It will also bring jobs! One hundred local employees and ten local food vendors will operate the shows.
Another sports venue gets a makeover as golf courses become the new stage for Seltzerland. The event allows guests to stroll the fairways while safely sampling over 50 hard seltzer brands. This concept by Kate Levenstien, CEO of New York-based Cannonball Productions, was re-invented after COVID-19 interrupted their plans. Seltzerland started its tour at Chicago’s Cog Hill Golf Club and will also travel to Minneapolis, Denver, Tampa, and Phoenix. They plan to keep guests safe through color-coding systems, time restrictions, and health screenings.
Jen Caruso has been in the live event industry almost 10 years, working with all departments from Site Ops to Sponsorship. Caruso’s love for her craft has taken her on the road for the last 5 years. She spent several years pursuing every facet of the industry: Site Ops, Festival Director, RFID Consultant, Beverage Director, Visual Design Manager—you name it. Caruso’s real forte is a creative melding of productions, operations, and onsite activations. This self-proclaimed happen-maker lives by her conviction that we are all lost without being a part of something greater than ourselves. She sat down and talked to us about how her (and all of our) unique skill set will be what is needed in the reinvention of a new brand and the reemergence of ourselves in the industry.
Where we are and where we can go from here is as much about perspective as it is a transformation of skill set. Many people are still out of work and feeling stuck, this is not something people in our industry are used to. We are problem solvers, firefighters, and sometimes magicians. We carry a tool bag of ingenuity that is not commonly found in the workforce. We can use this strength for good, however, there is still a high level of reimagining involved. Basically, we know how to make something out of nothing and the best of the worst.
That is exactly what we are being called to do now, dig deep and put our various skills together to see how we can parlay the highly sought after expertise we have gained in the field into the next chapter.
March 2020 hit us all with harrowing tales of lost contracts, months of work dissolved, uncertainty, fear, and grief. Hopes for a better year disintegrated week after week, sometimes slowly and painfully, as events tried to make sense of what we could still do. It was painful to watch and even more painful to hold on to hope that any of the events this year could be salvaged.
As perspectives shifted and dynamics changed, we have all taken a forced step back and reevaluated what it was we were chasing, where that was going and collectively mourn that loss, albeit separately. Letting go of the 2020 we thought we were going to have (and trust me, this was EVERYONE’S year) and embracing what we DO have. We are a resilient bunch, we have held positions that control utter chaos and make it look like an orchestrated symphony. Many times the results had me in awe of how exactly we pulled all of this off so very well.
Collectively, we are being called on to apply these very skills that made us jump to action as we were thrust into unpredictable situations. Memories of radio calls that had us reworking a stand-alone structure the fire marshall seemingly out of the blue decided did NOT in fact have enough exits to be up to code, a mere 4 hours before gates opened. OR the Code Red weather full evacuations that left entire stages, equipment, tents, and art structures in jeopardy, product unmanned and security MIA and patrons at risk. Not to mention the box offices scrambling to figure out how to get everyone back in, eventually. The path of the treacherous weather completely out of our hands is not unlike our situation now. We persevered, we made that extra exit in time, we put boots on and salvaged the event from the mud and 65 mph winds. We will do it again, it just looks different now.
We have all been in a position where we had to pivot on a dime and reevaluate what made the most sense at the moment to carry us through the show, event, or festival for our safety and the safety of everyone participating. These are not new notions for our industry and ourselves as professionals. Many of us have been full-time freelancers for years, the hustle, in and of itself is a dance. Being in the right place at the right time helped, but more so we are a group of do’ers that ‘make it happen’ and work incredibly long hours to create experiences that will live with us for life. These highly sought after skills are not to be slept on. This period of transition is not on our terms, we didn’t choose to opt-out of a gig, we no longer were afforded that opportunity to hustle and flow. It is “sink or swim” and no one is holding a raft for us. This time we have to build one with whatever materials we have around us. We have to become our own Rescue Squad.
Our biggest asset will be how confidently we can pivot with our very diverse skill set and apply it to fields of work that we never entertained before. There is great beauty in our tenacity and very few industries are called on to make something out of nothing. It takes gumption, and an inner drive to examine deeply and concoct what I like to call a ‘Skill Stew.’ By reevaluating all of our strengths we have used onsite. Whether building a city out of a cow field or a VIP section on a pile of ant filled dirt, we need to apply those gifts to our next undertaking. Many of us are currently out of work, but naturally many of us also have a side hustle that has taken shape. “Working” for ourselves is part of the dance, there is room for real growth in this moment.
The first steps are the hardest, I get it, so start small if you must...but start. First, we have to let go. This is just as much an actionable item as the doing part of the work. I for one had a hard time with taking the first step and still do, mostly because it is not tangible and you likely will not always see the results immediately. Letting go of what we thought this would look like and embrace what it actually looks like. The sooner we walk away from the what if’s and look at the what now’s, the faster we can bounce back. There is grief in the mourning of what is gone, if you haven’t felt it yet, I implore you to let it happen. We are here now and we must keep going.
The next viable step is volunteering! It is a great way to give back, it is also a valuable way to measure and reevaluate your skills by applying them in another capacity. Your local food banks more than likely set up drive-thru food distribution areas weekly. It is a mini event! Many pop-up COVID-19 centers are happening as well, several of which will pay you a day rate to help. The result feels very much like a box office, you have a pop-up tent, people’s info being collected, Wi-Fi needed. Set up and breakdown of tables, chairs and supplies, someone directing traffic to the appropriate spot. Usually, there is a box truck and at the least a pallet jack to make us feel at home again. Other great options to give back are homeless shelters, animal shelters, or local farms. The most important part is that you choose something you enjoy and do more of that. The more you give back the better you will feel, you will meet people in your community already serving a purpose AND get the creative juices flowing.
As event professionals, we wouldn’t walk away from a smoking generator or an unmanned security gate onsite. We would radio the issue to dispatch, contact site ops, or try and help remedy the situation to the best of our ability. The same fortitude applies to how we traverse our next career hurdles.
Call in backup if you need, reach out to a former colleague or mentor, chances are they are as much in need of a good brainstorming session as you are.
As we approach the next chapter we have the time to ask questions that we never stopped long enough or had the energy to reflect on. Where can I be the most useful with the skills I have? What did I want to finish or learn but never had the time to do? Those little callings that have been swirling around in the background are ready to take a spin in the real world. The more we focus on what we DO have, the more we will create what we need to feel satisfied moving forward. Never stop being curious.
November 10: This powerhouse panel will share secrets on how they've pushed the boundaries and stepped up their experiences, tips for getting executive buy-in, how media has transformed live events, and everything in between.
November 10: The three-day online series from Symphonic Distribution features fireside chats and engaging panels from fearless marketers and business executives pushing boundaries and setting new standards.
November 11: From the record-breaking phenomenon of K-Pop to international music festivals, from renowned music institutes to a rich live music offer, we'll learn all about Seoul's plans and strategies as well as other global initiatives and case studies.
November 12: Let's Talk About…Sustainable Events: Designing New Initiatives is a new free Q+A series from event industry climate leader and consultant Chris Johnson.
November 12: This webinar will present a proof-of-concept tool for data-informed crowd management and decision support, highlighting the collection, analysis, visualization, and reporting of crowd movement to inform near real-time crowd management strategies.