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How To Handle Trainwrecks

Posted on the 21 March 2017 by Indiemusicpromo @urbandisavirus

Sometimes shit totally falls apart. Sometimes you find yourself watching a trainweck, sometimes you’re at the head of a trainwreck. These are the sort of things that cause me a lot of anxiety and that leave you struggling in the face of a world that is utterly punishing. This week I had to deal with a friend undergoing one such trainwreck and I learned a lot from the experience. A lot of this was derived from what he told me but a lot also was from my own observations. It was a reminder that planning for the worst is not necessarily the best option and that there are certain rules you need to follow when things fall apart in order to hopefully grind up your lemons in order to make them into lemonade. When things go south there is always time to save them and no matter how dark the future may seem remember that we can always build from past mistakes moving onwards and upwards with every lasting scar reminding us who we are.

The event in question was a severely underattended SXSW event, one that had unexpected competition at the last minute and which was just a tad too far outside of the beaten path to be truly successful. It didn’t help that it was a little overpriced for the lineup either. Any one or even two of these factors might not have hurt the event that much, but when only a thin trickle of people showed up for the first day of the event after Facebook predicted hundreds of attendees the guys at the fest knew that they had to figure out ways to fix things. They did. In the end even though they didn’t have the attendance they needed they were able to work out a solution with a combination of free entry before a certain time, drink tickets for fans and heavy word of mouth promotion they were able to get enough bodies in that the guys were discussing possibilities for a second edition of the festival in 2018 – making it not a total loss.

Now there’s a lot to be aware of with how this went down. Going in no one thought it was going to have any issues. There were 600 people listed as going and several thousand listed as interested on Facebook. At a normal show that would probably mean that at least 500-600 people would show up. Even if that was split equally over the weekend the festival would have made money. They only needed the venue at 40% capacity after all. They hoped to have a similar number of walkups as they did ticket sales – usually a decent rule of thumb, this didn’t happen, almost at all. That was when the guys started doing damage control. When it comes down to it, even though they thought they were planning extremely conservatively they were not planning for the absolute worst. Remember that music is a bullshit industry and you should never count your eggs before they are hatched. That’s something I still struggle with and something that I think every promoter needs to keep in mind before a show they think is about to do very well.

But let’s say your trainwreck still is happening even though you planned for the absolute worst case scenario. At that point you need to try and strip down the economics of the situation to the barest minimum. You need to consider the best way to maximize funds and to get at least some of your money back. I already went over how these guys did it – they gave away drink tickets and free entry with the knowledge that they could start to make money off the bar. You need to be able to think critically, chalk things up as a loss and look at how you can maximize the total income of your situation. I’ve done the same on tours, we saw people weren’t showing up and we had invested a ton of money so we slashed the price on merch and did a bunch of giveaways. Sometimes things don’t go the way they were planned so you need to reevaluate how you want to make money and remember that you just need to try to cut your losses as much as possible.

The most important thing to do though when facing that nightmare situation is seeing what you can learn from it. Maybe it’s that you shouldn’t place your tours so close together or that you need a new agent. Maybe it’s that your product is priced to high or it simply doesn’t have the value that you thought it did. Maybe your product simply doesn’t meet the cost that it needs to meet. You need to do a breakdown of all of that and then determine how to fix it down the line. I know the sort of people who go out on big tours, put together massive events and generally get their fingers down and dirty in the music industry – they don’t give up after a few setbacks or even a bunch of setbacks. Even if they decide to take a break for a few years they will always come back – it’s a drug that none of us can get away from and one that is stupidly addictive. It’s the path forward for dudes like us who sold their souls for rock and roll.

So embrace your trainwreck. Remember that any failure is merely another one on the long road of life. As humiliating and frustrating as they might be they are also key steps forward in the name of a future that we can all build together. It’s a question of finding the people who show you compassion even in your darkest and most painful moments and then working with them on a better tomorrow. It’s a question of closing your eyes and remembering that if we didn’t fail all the time we wouldn’t have the drive to succeed that makes us human. This entire thing is bullshit and going to make you hurt yourself, but as dark as the night might get remember that there is usually going to be a dawn and that if you look at how your life fell apart a little critical thinking can save you a lot of tears.

Independent Music Promotions’ (www.independentmusicpromotions.com) revolutionary music PR campaigns are the most effective in the industry. Submit your music to us today.

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