We talk to TicketSellers’ Mo Jones about creating a community indemnity pledge, an alternative to Covid cancellation insurance.
What is a community indemnity pledge?
Events tend to run on very tight budgets, requiring money to be spent throughout the year in order to give customers a wonderful weekend experience. Pre-Covid, events would have invested in cancellation insurance to cover these costs, should the event be faced with cancellation due to adverse weather conditions near the time.
Not having insurance is simply too risky. Imagine paying all those costs throughout the year only to have your event cancelled last minute due to a new outbreak of Covid. This risk is what led nearly all events to postpone from 2020 to 2021 and many events not to even attempt an event in 2021.
The community indemnity pledge is a way for events to ask their audience a very honest question: ‘If you want us to host the event that you love coming to, are you prepared to share some of the financial risk?’
Happily, the answer in many cases, is yes. Customers make a commitment at purchase that a certain percentage or amount of money per ticket would not be refunded should the event be cancelled due to Covid.
Where did the idea come from?
Brainchild Festival was the trailblazer here. Having sold out their event, but at the critical point of having to make essential payments, they were faced with the very real scenario of either postponing again or asking their customers that critical question: ‘We’ll go for it, but we need you to share the financial risk with us’. Happily, their committed audience were well in favour of risking a fairly significant chunk of their ticket cost in order to get the event they wanted to attend.
What’s wrong with the Live Events Reinsurance Scheme?
We haven’t ploughed through the many pages of text for this but, anecdotally, this government initiative is all bluster and little use. It only covers certain costs (mainly artists’ deposits, which are already refundable or would roll over should events have to cancel) and it is prohibitively expensive.
How has TicketSellers helped to create the mechanics of the pledge?
With Brainchild, the pledge was automatically added as an additional ticket at basket stage, so it was super clear to customers that they were buying a refundable entry ticket and a non-refundable element. The message was backed up with a pop-up warning, to ensure all customers were fully aware of the commitment they were making before purchase.
What part does the festival audience play?
The audience commitment is paramount. Without their agreement and sale of tickets, the event simply wouldn’t happen.
How have festivals communicated this to them?
The message generally comes from the event. Towersey Festival is using the pledge this year and on its website event director Joe Heap has actually recorded a message to make sure things are super clear to customers.
It’s tantamount to the great relationships that often exist between passionate, dedicated independent festival organisers and their loyal audiences, that customers would rather forgo some cash and help the organiser actually put on the event, than demand a full refund or indeed, fail to buy a ticket altogether.
What has been the feedback?
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The choice is clear and well explained, so if any customer should not be comfortable, they will simply choose not to buy and wait until tickets are on sale for a future event with no need for a pledge.
Would this work on a wider scale? An industry movement?
Absolutely. Another factor we haven’t mentioned here is how this also benefits customers in terms of cost saving. If an insurance policy has a fee of 8%, for a budget of £100,000 the event is spending £8,000 on a premium that isn’t likely to cover the key costs even if they did need to claim. By sharing the risk, that budget can be spent on the event instead – more artists or other audience benefits. So customer money isn’t spent on insurance unless absolutely necessary.
Taken from the Towersey Festival ticketing page…
“With TicketSellers, we have developed an idea which means together we can futureproof the festival through a radical, collective, community solution – a Community Indemnity Pledge.
“The good news is that this pledge is all rolled into your ticket cost, not added on, so has no effect on the cost of your Towersey experience (the pledge will be automatically added in your basket to all adult tickets). And even better news than that, your agreement to this pledge will ensure the future of Towersey Festival is more certain, even if the worst should happen and we are forced to cancel.
“What this means for you – it means that you will be contributing to the viability and future of Towersey Festival! If we deem it unsafe or unviable to go ahead with the festival due to risks or restrictions caused by a pandemic which are not insurable, the pledge portion of your purchase (less than 25% on adult tickets) would not be refunded. Your pledge will go towards the costs required to keep Towersey thriving for years to come.”
About the Author
Mo Jones is a director and co-founder of TicketSellers. Starting way back in 1998 promoting rave events in Birmingham, TicketSellers kept innovating and became the first company to launch e-ticketing in 1999, paving the way for other ticket agents to join the industry. Today it remains fiercely independent and brings a wealth of experience and a technological edge to everything it does, making life easier both for event organisers and their customers. www.theticketsellers.co.uk