Basically every festival or event from early March through August (in some cases even September) is effectively cancelled or postponed — and if it’s not yet, it probably will be. Each of these events finds itself in a similar situation: when money from ticket sales comes into an event, it is immediately spent on artists, staff, vendors, staging, medical, etc. As such, festivals don’t really ever have what you might consider “liquid” assets.

This puts them in a difficult situation in the face of cancellation due to a pandemic, for which 99% of events didn’t have insurance. Independent festivals have it even worse, like Lightning in a Bottle, run by Do Lab, a family-owned company.

When Lightning in a Bottle cancelled a month ago, the lack of an option for refunds angered many fans like it did with other festivals like Ultra and Tomorrowland.

A new update sent out to ticketholders explains the festival’s situation further, in clear terms.

As big as LIB may seem, it operates with a lot of risk and very small margins. We work to keep ticket prices affordable, and ticket revenue alone does not usually cover all of the festival’s expenses. As soon as one LIB ends, production and spending for the next festival begins. As ticket revenue comes in it generally goes out just as fast to pay our vendors, put down deposits for talent, pay out substantial staff, build stages and sets, pay for permits, location fees, etc. Producing LIB requires twelve months’ collaboration with a huge ecosystem of producers, managers, artists and creators. Many of these folks have been working for 6 months or more on our 2020 festival.

The statement goes on to state that many artists are even giving back their deposits, many of whom already spent it on non-refundable expenses.

LIB offers three options to ticket holders now: “support the future of LIB with a gift,” i.e., donate the cost of your ticket; transfer your ticket to 2021 or 2022; or join a pool to receive a refund that will be evaluated once the festival determines how many full refunds they can afford to give.

This situation is good for no one, but LIB’s transparency in this issue should help to shine a light on its own troubles and hopefully garner a sympathetic response from attendees.

Read the full statement below.


Dear LIB Community,

As you know, government mandates in response to COVID-19 forced us to cancel Lightning in a Bottle. Several weeks ago, under immense pressure, we presented you with a plan to move forward, a plan that fell short of our standards and your expectations. Please accept our apologies; we aim to create joy and human connection, and never want to disappoint anyone–especially all of you.

This is by far the most difficult predicament we have experienced since we started LIB almost 20 years ago. For the first time, we are challenged to find a clear path forward.

Thank you for your patience with us as we work through potential solutions. The festival industry is in a time of crisis. Many great independent companies will go out of business and cherished festivals and events will disappear. We are committed to LIB not being one of them, but we need your help to meet that commitment. As discussed below, the collective reaction from our community moving forward will be a significant factor in whether we are able to weather this storm.

As big as LIB may seem, it operates with a lot of risk and very small margins. We work to keep ticket prices affordable, and ticket revenue alone does not usually cover all of the festival’s expenses. As soon as one LIB ends, production and spending for the next festival begins. As ticket revenue comes in it generally goes out just as fast to pay our vendors, put down deposits for talent, pay out substantial staff, build stages and sets, pay for permits, location fees, etc. Producing LIB requires twelve months’ collaboration with a huge ecosystem of producers, managers, artists and creators. Many of these folks have been working for 6 months or more on our 2020 festival.

All of this is just to say that ticket sales, in a good year, cover the festival’s bills and we rely on other sales at our festival to make our profit. Profitability of the event, or whether or not we break even, is determined in the final weeks of sales right before the festival starts.

When it became clear to us that the event was going to be canceled, we were mid-production and had spent nearly all of the ticket money on LIB. We faced a heartbreaking truth: we do not have enough money to issue full refunds to all of you. We therefore announced that there would be no refunds.

Notwithstanding our prior announcement, we remain committed to getting a full refund to everyone who wants one. We have worked together with the music agents and artists, and are thankful to announce that a vast majority of the artists, despite having incurred their own non-refundable expenses in planning for their LIB performances, are returning their deposits in an effort to help us in this time of crisis. Our goal is to build the largest pool of money possible so that we can then use it to help refund ticket purchasers. However, we need you to understand the situation, and that is if the majority of our community request refunds, it may mean the end of Do LaB because the pool will be far too small to refund everyone, and that debt will be crushing.

If your life has been touched or changed in an unforgettable way by Lightning in a Bottle, please help us make it through to the other side.

Specifically, we ask that you either:

1. Support the Future of LIB With a Gift.
If you want our organization to continue to exist and you are able to, please gift your 2020 purchase to our shared future. If you can choose this option we would be forever grateful. Click Here to Select Option 1

Or,

2. Transfer Your 2020 Ticket to a Ticket for 2021 or 2022.
If you can transfer your 2020 ticket to either 2021 or 2022, please do so. If you are able and willing, please consider choosing 2022 instead of 2021. As an incentive to choose 2022, you will receive a free VIP upgrade for each 2020 festival pass. If the majority of you choose 2021, it will create an extremely challenging set of financial circumstances for us next year. Your understanding and willingness to work with us on this is appreciated beyond measure. Thank you. Click Here to Select Option 2

3. Join the Pool to Receive a Refund.
If you truly cannot do either option 1 or 2, please sign up for a refund by April 29th at 12pm. Once the refund registration window closes, we will understand how many full refunds we can pay, and whether we need to offer partial refunds. Refunds will not be immediate. We cannot give an estimate as to when, but will communicate as we get clarity. Click Here to Select Option 3

We understand that this is a big request of all of you, and far from a perfect resolution. But we also know that you care about LIB as much as we do, and that we likely cannot keep it afloat without your cooperation. We want to support you, and are asking you to support us. And, if you have any other creative ideas or solutions that we might have missed, please let us know at: questions2020@lightninginabottle.org

It takes a community to create the magic of a festival and it is a community that can help all of us get through this together. It is our hope and vision that we will be together for all of the love, joy, and connection offered by LIB next year, but we need your help to fulfill that vision.

In Solidarity,
Do LaB

Photo via Jessica Bernstein Photography

This article was first published on Your EDM. Source: Lightning In A Bottle Shares Refund Update, Precarious State Of Festival

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