Coronavirus COVID-19 and Performing Arts Organizations

The intent of this post is to provide resources to help performing arts organizations deal with the Coronavirus COVID-19 situation.

What Are TicketPeak Clients Doing?

As we are in touch with our TicketPeak clients, we are seeing a number of ways that performing arts organizations are dealing with the Coronavirus situation. Here are examples:

  • No clients have cancelled events that are several weeks in the future, opting to assess the situation closer to the date of the event.
  • Few clients have outright cancelled near-term events – preferring to reschedule them at some point in time.
  • A small number of clients have in fact cancelled events. With respect to the ticket revenue associated with cancelled events, they are offering patrons options, such as refunds, holding the value of the tickets as credit, and inviting the patron to donate the value of the ticket to offset the significant financial burden to the organization.
  • For organizations that offer classes or workshops, those are mostly continuing on a remote basis leveraging video conference tools such as zoom.us or gotomeeting.com.

CDC and WHO Guidance

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a webpage dedicated to event gatherings. You can access it here. It provides and updates guidance with respect to event gatherings. The World Health Organization has published a guide entitled “Key planning recommendations for Mass Gatherings in the context of the current COVID-19 outbreak.” You can access it here.

Financial Relief

Some musical theater and performing arts organizations have proactively and voluntarily cancelled or postponed near-term performances and other events in the interest of public safety. Such cancellations cause significant financial burden. Significant ticket revenue is foregone or refunded, even though costs of the events may have already been incurred and employees and contractors should still be paid.

Bill H.R. 6201 provides much needed sick leave, food aid, and free COVID-19 testing financial relief for the nation. However, it does not have anything to help performing arts organizations. Congress will be formulating and passing additional relief measures, although the discussion so far appears to be on helping industries such as airlines, cruise lines, and hotels, not performing arts organizations.

I encourage everyone in performing arts in the US to email and call your federal government representatives and ask them to consider providing some relief to this industry. You can find your representatives by going to this site: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members. Enter your address, and the site will identify your Representative and Senators and their websites and phone numbers. Clicking on their website provides an opportunity to contact them by email. Here is a draft email you can consider using. Just copy and paste it and replace items in < > with text specific to you.

Dear <Representative name>, I appreciate your hard work in helping the nation deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. I also appreciate the effort of Congress to provide much needed financial relief. The industry I work in is directly and significantly impacted. I am the <general manager> for a performing arts organization. While it is small, my living and the living of our employees and contractors depend on it. We pay employees and contractors such as musicians, actors, choreographers, set designers, teachers, stage hands, and box office staff. In the interest of public safety, we proactively and voluntarily cancelled performances, which required us to refund the ticket revenue associated with those events. As the cancellations were sudden, we were not in a position to stop the majority of costs, most of which were already incurred.

I realize that Bill H.R. 6201 provides much needed food aid, sick leave, and free testing for the nation. I don’t believe it includes any relief for the significant losses incurred by small organizations like mine in performing arts. As your constituent, I hope you’ll consider additional legislation that would provide some relief to organizations like us.

TicketPeak Assistance

If you cancel an event as a result of the Coronavirus, and you use TicketPeak Payment processing (TicketPeak collects the money for ticket sales), here is how refunds can work:

  • If you desire, TicketPeak will look after issuing refunds for transactions where the money has not yet been remitted to you. For the Coronavirus situation, we will not charge for the labor required to issue the refund. (However, If the credit card processor charges a fee to us, we would need to pass that along. We are in discussions with our credit card processor to attempt to avoid such fees.)
  • If we have already sent the money to you, refunds to ticket buyers would need to be done by you since you have the money.
  • Please be sure to communicate to your customers that a refund is coming and to not dispute the original credit card charge. Our payment processing company charges a $25 fee for each dispute.

We wish all of our clients and everyone in the performing arts industry safety and health. As we hear other useful information, we will add it to this post. If you have a best practice to share, please email it to me at louis@ticketpeak.com.