Pivoting in the Events Industry - the Case of Sofar Sounds, Boozi and T3 Expo

Case Study: Sofar Sounds launched online listening rooms to continue providing the same immersive experience and support the local artists.

According to Allied Market Research, in 2019, the global events industry was valued at $1.1 trillion and was expected to reach $1.6 trillion by 2028. Unfortunately, by March 2020, the industry had already lost $16.5 billion, with 90% of the event professionals reported losing their businesses and 2.75% unemployed, but by November, this number rose to 52%.

2020 saw the cancellation of many prominent festivals, concerts, exhibitions and the postpone of major international sporting events such as the Olympics and the European football tournament 'Euro 2020'. So after months of the crisis, how's the event industry responding and adapting to new trends?

According to Allied Market Research, in 2019, the global events industry was valued at $1.1 trillion and was expected to reach $1.6 trillion by 2028. Unfortunately, by March 2020, the industry had already lost $16.5 billion, with 90% of the event professionals reported losing their businesses and 2.75% unemployed, but by November, this number rose to 52%.

The good news is that the dynamic nature of the business and the type of services provided allowed many to quickly learn how to pivot. Some of the pivoting strategies included adopting digital tools, embracing catering, doing micro-events or hybrid-events and support other industries such as healthcare.

Into the Virtual World - Sofar Sounds

Despite COVID-19 putting a temporary stop on events, people are still interested in attending in-person events. A survey by Reed Exhibitions found that visitor belief in the value of face-to-face events hasn't changed, with three-quarters of visitors feel either positive or neutral about returning to events.

However, even though there's still a desire for in-person events, a significant number of consumers quickly accepted the adoption of digital events. Embracing the digital transformation was not only in terms of conferences and meetings but also in creating virtual platforms that would allow people to continue to experience certain products and services the same way as before.

In fact, a great number of businesses across industries adapted to the digital-only business model, requiring them to reimagine how to deliver their core services and products.

A great example of an event business adopting digital is Sofar Sounds. Founded in London, Sofar Sounds is a company that delivers intimate concerts by transforming everyday places like living rooms, retail locations and coffee shops into live shows spaces, working with 30,000 artists in over 400 cities around the world.

After all their upcoming shows were cancelled, they decided to launch online listening rooms to continue providing the same immersive experience and support the local artists, as 100% of donations from these online listening rooms go directly to these artists. The company also created the Sofar Sound Global Artist Fund to financially support all the artists that relied on Sofar and other local gigs for their income.

In April 2020, Sofar Sounds launched 'In Sessions', which is a free discussion and education series hosted every week about different topics that will help local and independent artists learn more about how to grow their music careers and improve their work.

Sofar is all about providing resources and support to the artist community, which has been equally affected as they depend on the event industry.Creating the online listening rooms was a great initiative to continuously support these artists while ensuring that the business continues to succeed.

Just recently, the company announced the reopening of their in-person shows in various cities across 13 countries and while it's not fully up and running as they expect to expand over the summer, the live music streaming will continue to be available on the platform.

With the rollout of vaccines and the relaxation of social distancing restrictions, companies providing virtual events are likely to adopt a hybrid event model, incorporating both live and virtual elements. This style of events allows people to participate either in-person or virtually; the flexibility of these hybrid events is what will make them more popular as many people are also accommodating this style in their work lifestyles.

From festivals to deliveries - Boozi

With people stuck at home and the closure of stores and dine-in restaurants, it was only natural that home deliveries were required. The shift in consumer behaviour into the adoption of eCommerce led to a boom in food and parcel delivery services.

According to Lumina Intelligence reports, the food delivery market in the U.K. grew by £3.7 billion in 2020 to reach £11.4 billion, and in Australia, the industry grew by $2 billion. Food delivery apps such as Uber Eats, Just Eat and Deliveroo, and the fast-food industry all saw an increase in users. Although grocery stores continued to be open throughout the pandemic, they also saw a growth in grocery delivery. Even drinks delivery was also part of this rise as online alcohol sales increased by 42% across different core markets such as Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, UK, and the U.S.

One events company in Australia decided to get its hands in the delivery business, more specifically, alcohol delivery.  Wats On Events is an events company that specialises in festival bar management, licensing and pop-up bars. Like many other businesses in the industry, Wat's On Event suffered the tragic misfortune of having their events cancelled after the COVID-19 hit. Before this, the company was thriving, with a busy season of six months fully booked and in the space of a week, it all changed as they lost every single event with nothing booked up until November.

Luckily, the company had a package liquor licence that they have been renewing for ten years despite not using it because this type of license was for online sales and delivery of alcohol, and they use a different licence for pop-up bars. This unused license gave Michael Watson, the founder of Wats On Events, the opportunity for pivoting his business and with this, Boozi was launched.

Boozi is an alcohol delivery service that offers a range of beers, wines, spirits, and mixers, delivered with a 15km radius of Sydney's Central Business District. It took them two and a half weeks to launch this new business, from the initial brainstorming to creating a new website and logistics plan. Although these circumstances are not ideal to start a new business, it was essential for the survival of the event business.

"It's not a way I would prefer to start a new arm of the business. But given the current climate and the pressure that we're under to make sure that we could pivot, I guess it was do or die." - Michael Watson, Founder of Wats on Events

According to Watson, the initial aim with the creation of Boozi was to keep his staff members on the books; it was essential to continue to support staff throughout these challenging times. Keeping the staff members through Boozi was also a way to ensure that Wats On Events could bounce back once the crisis has passed.

As expected, considering the immense growth of the delivery business during the pandemic, the company has been highly successful. In the first three operational days, Boozi made about 87 deliveries. The business became so busy that the founder had to leave his office from where he was coordinating logistics and being hands-on by doing the deliveries.

This could easily be considered a case of luck as hadn't they kept their package liquor licence renovated over the years, it would have been more challenging to launch Boozi, considering it takes six to nine months for the license to come through, and in 6 months, Wats On Events would possibly be closed and people would have lost their jobs. However, the fact that they quickly took action and built a whole new business to pivot is impressive and it demonstrates how adaptable and creative companies can be, especially in the events industry.

Supporting Healthcare - T3 Expo

The events industry used to thrive on urgent situations, complex problems and to come up with fast solutions; it is also home to various experts across different areas such as design, logistics, lighting and cabling, and more. Many of these people can use their transferrable skills to develop new service offerings. This is why events companies were able to adapt faster than other industries and pivot their services to other sectors.

A significant number of businesses in the event industry shifted their services to the healthcare sector because of their ability to quickly and efficiently set up testing sites. This work is not the only way the events industry supported the other during the pandemic, as companies also provided services in food donations, discounted technology and transportation services. The dynamic and diverse nature of the events industry certainly gives them a competitive advantage in pivoting opportunities.

One great example of this situation is with the trade show and corporate events company T3 Expo who started to provide its services to various healthcare-related organisations and firms. Despite seeing a revenue decline of about 75% with the cancellation of its physical events, this Massachusetts-based company wasn't entirely unprepared for these new circumstances. When COVID-19 started to spread across Europe, T3 Expo started rolling 30-day scenario plans while staying agile enough to adapt to a rapidly changing situation. This action allowed the company to work with various organisations such as FEMA, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Health and Human Services to install a temporary field hospital for CoVID-19 patients at New York's Javits Center.

Other works involved working with a foam board sign manufacturer - that had also pivoted to make mobile hospital beds - to make 3,000 beds for the state of Connecticut. And design and manufacture portable ned tents that allowed healthcare workers to work closely with patients without being exposed to infection.

“We’re looking at this time as a huge opportunity to reflect on what’s important to us as individuals and be clear about what our strengths are and about what each department and this company can do to improve the way we serve customers, I think we’ll come away with a broader perspective that will serve us better in the future and will help us to meet customer needs in new ways.” - Chris Valentine, CEO of T3 Expo

Sofar Sounds, Boozi and T3 Expo are all examples of the different ways a business can pivot in the event industry, but they're also examples of how the industry is able to adapt to radical changes and new trends. The acceleration of digitalisation was undoubtedly one of the biggest trends for 2020/21. Depending on the type of services and products that a company provides, it's safe to say that turning to digital is a great way to save a business. Still, companies need to understand the best way to do it - what new business model to adopt, how to transform the way products and services are delivered and how to support the staff. Sometimes digitalisation is not the answer. As we can see with T3 Expo and Boozi, an opportunity to use transferrable skills and use already available resources is what is needed to pivot successfully.

Key Takeaways

Published on:
June 2020
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