At Lennd, we have the opportunity to work across multiple segments of the event world: festivals, sports, conferences, trade shows, and now virtual. Because of this position, we are constantly noting how similar the challenges and opportunities are between those markets. Our aim with this interview series is to connect individuals and help facilitate conversations so that everyone can continue to learn from each other.
Whether it’s looking at how a golf tournament is handling sponsorships in the time of COVID or how a music festival is rethinking security checks, there is a lot to learn from event professionals across all markets. In this conversation, a senior event producer for AEG joins the SVP of tournament affairs for Farmers Insurance Open. They dive into everything from how they're staying informed during COVID to what it might look like when the event industry returns to its new normal.
Senior Event Producer, AEG Presents
Festival Director for Hangout Music Festival and BUKU Music + Art Project
SVP Tournament Affairs and Events, Farmers Insurance Open
Listen to the Audio
Jump Ahead To...
- How they got their start (3:17)
- What you can learn from studying different markets and events (9:15)
- What happened when COVID hit (13:53)
- Sources they are using to stay informed (24:38)
- The impact of COVID on sustainability practices (37:51)
- Advancements in technology (41:42)
- How they're looking at virtual opportunities (48:07)
- The potential challenges of returning to the new normal (52:57)
- Reworking and rethinking their approach to sponsorships (58:27)
Notable Quotes On...
The importance of learning from a variety of events:
"It's great to learn from all event types: at any mass gathering, there's going to be staff, there are potentially volunteers, there's going to be some level of talent whether that be someone who plays golf or an artist... I want to know about what other people are doing, from different industries, because that's really where the innovative ideas come from." - KS
"Going out to these other types of events is an absolute necessity, in my opinion. For example, I went to KAABOO, where I learned about Unified Command. Now I use Unified Command. And then from Unified Command someone told me about Lennd and now I'm using Lennd" - AH
Reimagining their events during COVID:
"We've been dissecting every single part and angle of a festival and seeing how COVID impacts it, because it touches things that I wouldn't have thought of initially." - KS
Collaborating and staying informed during COVID:
"I've turned into a webinar junkie. And I've started listening to anyone speak, I'm looking to other industries whether it's music or if you're looking at football or looking at what they're trying to do with basketball and just continually reading and consuming information non-stop." - AH
"There are no guidelines out there, in my opinion, not worth reading. So even if it is for something totally different, a lot of things that I pulled from were from different sporting guidelines because that's what's coming back first. Andy, when you sent me your guidelines, I loved it." - KS
Virtual technology and where it can help:
Personally, I love the in-person [concert] still and [don't want to] go too virtual, but at the same time on the backend, it'll become very helpful for us. - KS
New opportunities to streamline operations:
"I think there's going to be several things from a virtual standpoint, that'll end up sticking around even after the fact, even when we do get through this.
For example: “The amount of money that we spent on our media center is exorbitant from providing the structure, air conditioning, the desk, the food, the phones... if life continued on as normal, [that] would never be shaken up... but now you're looking at it from a completely different angle.” - AH
Read the Transcript (Edited for Flow)
0:01:35 Chris Carver (CC): Do you mind expanding on your roles and responsibilities and what they entail?
0:01:13 Katelyn Scott: [My role] essentially consists of all the business management, back-of-house operations of the festival that the fans experience. So anywhere from budget management to department staffing, departmental communication, kind of the overall hub of the project management systems on the backend, which is vendor selection, all the different things that will go into a festival that I'm sure we'll get into in a bit, but it's basically overall project management. Kind of the orchestra conductor organizing the chaos.
0:01:56 CC: And that includes two festivals, right?
0:02:04 KS: Yep. Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and BUKU Music + Art Project in New Orleans.
0:02:05 CC: How does Winter Circle Productions fit into all of this?
0:02:10 KS: It's the same company. Locally it's Winter Circle Productions, but the parent company is AEG, and so we have BUKU that's in New Orleans, and then Hangout Festival in Alabama. And then we also run and operate The Joy Theater in New Orleans, and we do some pop-up events that are a bit smaller, one- to two-day events that aren't quite as large as a festival, but still an outdoor multi-stage type of event.
0:02:35 CC: And Andy, what about the SVP of Tournament Affairs and Events for the Farmers Insurance Open?
0:02:42 Andy Harmatys: Everything that Katelyn just said, it sounds so familiar. I use the term "conductor" all the time. But it's the same thing in regards to making sure everything for our event is set up and ready to execute, from vendor selection to overseeing the staff, the top and bottomline budgets, strategic planning. So not only day in and day out from an office standpoint, but also at the golf course once we start to build and execute the event.
0:03:17 CC: How did you get your start in the industry and what were the roles that got you to this point?
0:03:29 KS: I started as an intern when I was still in college and just kind of working odd jobs. I was an intern for a company called Superfly that does Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, or they used to do Bonnaroo. They also did Life is Good Festival and The Great Googa Mooga in New York. I started with that and just started working in every department from food vendor coordination to sponsorship, to artist relations, filling in where anyone needed help. From there, just building my network up. I got full-time at Superfly and then made connections that brought me down here to New Orleans where I've been for about 2 1/2 years now for AEG.
0:04:17 CC: Awesome, awesome. And Andy, how about yourself?
0:04:20 AH: In College, I was working at a golf course, at a club house, basically taking out the trash and flipping burgers. The time came to when I needed an internship. I had some relations with the tournament that was being hosted there at the time, which was the Greater Milwaukee Open, so I was able to get an internship. One thing just led to another from a networking standpoint. Basically, when I graduated college, there was a job waiting for me. I worked in Milwaukee for two or three years, and then after that, I had an executive director who allowed me to go on the road and experience other events as long as I could get there.
0:05:07 AH: I came out and stayed on a couch in San Diego, and I did the same thing in Upstate New York, and just kept learning about what to do and sometimes what you don't want to do. I just kept rolling with that... to get noticed, right? So that and just working your way up, wearing as many different hats as you possibly can. Just diving in, learning as much as you possibly can, and then just... I remember the days where it would be like, "You need seven years of experience to get this type of job," and now I sit here 17 years later and I just don't know where the time went.
0:05:48 CC: Wow. So Katelyn, right before this role that you're in today, what was it like when you got the call or somebody emailed you and asked you if you were interested? What was that like, that moment for you?
0:06:10 KS: It was great. It was exciting. It was a step-up for me. Instead of just working in one department, kind of the overall macro management, and that's kind of just what I slowly started to fall in love with. And because I worked in most every department at some point when I was a freelancer, I was able to see what those departments needed from the ground level and then bring that up. I thought, "I could help them reach that. I could help them give the staff what exactly they need from a macro management level." And then, through some network and connections, I found out that there was an opening for a festival director for BUKU, and looked into the company, and loved what they did. The festival itself is so raw and organic and true to the culture of what it's always been, that it was an exciting leap for me. It was hard to leave Superfly, I love those guys, but it was just the next step for me in my career. And who couldn't love New Orleans? [In regards to] moving from New York City down to New Orleans, I thought I could do anything for at least a year. And here I am, 2 1/2 years later with no plan to leave. So it all kind of worked out well.
0:07:27 CC: How about you, Andy? What was it like getting this job?
0:07:34 AH: Prior to this, I was at the Tiger Woods Foundation (TGR Foundation). And in the five years that I was with them, I had the ability to see more, experience more, not just from a golf standpoint, but from their galas and their fundraisers, and multiple states, all over the nation. I got a call, basically being head-hunted... "Hey would you come down to San Diego and entertain fixing this event up?" And the event that I was heading at the Tiger Woods Foundation was considerably smaller than the one in San Diego, so it was definitely a challenge and something that I could step into in my own right.
0:08:16 AH: We had a great team at the Tiger Woods Foundation, and I was a component of that, but coming here, it allowed me to really be the lead and to go in the direction that I wanted to. I had an amazing leader who departed about a year ago now, but he really was hands-off, and was just like, "Do your thing." And just to be able to have that, and have that conversation prior to coming here was really appealing to me. And so when I was at the Tiger Woods Foundation, it was like, "Why would I go anywhere else in golf?" You're working for the icon in the moment in golf, but this opportunity was just too much to pass up. Now, I've been here for just over 7 1/2 years.
0:09:15 CC: Do you guys ever look at other event types and wonder what they are doing and what you can learn from them?
0:09:32 AH: I am, all the time. We talked previously, the three of us, about the experience that I've had down at Hangout. And just going around and sniffing around and looking at things, just trying to understand how other people approach things outside of your industry. And there are a lot of similarities, but it's just great to learn about how the thought process is different and everyone coming from different backgrounds, and just take those little learnings from that. At the same time you do go to places and you're like, "Why would you do it that way? That doesn't make any sense." And it just reinforces the fact that you are potentially doing it right.
0:10:17 KS: Yeah, I agree. I look at other events in other aspects, and almost just as much as I look at other festivals and study what other festivals are doing. New Orleans is perfect for that because they have, I think, more festivals than they do days in the calendar year. And that's everywhere from food festivals to cocktails to different sporting events. That's where the music industry is actually quite... It's big, but it's quite small with who's actually organizing it all, I feel. And so some of the ideas get passed around. But at the same time, to be innovative and new, I want to know what the NFL is doing for security checks, and all that at the Superdome. And I want to know about what other people are doing, from the different industries, because that's really where different innovative ideas come from. There are a lot of similarities, like you said Andy, with security and checkpoints or food and bev, and bathrooms and all of those things. But it's like, "What approach did they take to get there?" Is what I find the most intriguing about different events.
0:11:25 AH: Yeah, I went to KAABOO, and from KAABOO I learned about Unified Command. Now I use Unified Command. And then from Unified Command someone told me about Lennd and Chris, and now I'm using Lennd and Chris. And so it is really going out and taking those big pieces that are working that are proven in other industries, and then point it back into your industry, and then kind of manipulating and tweaking it to a point that it works for you. So going out to these other events is an absolute necessity, in my opinion.
0:12:05 KS: Yeah.
0:12:06 CC: So Andy, is that why you go down to Hangout and work transportation?
0:12:11 AH: Absolutely not. I go down to Hangout to play. At Hangout I work with TMS, which is the transportation company that Hangout hires. It might be second or third party, but really they're in charge of all the off-site parking lots. So basically all the stops, up and down the one in regards to loading all the buses and getting everyone there. I think it's 12, 13, 14, I'll say, lots that we get there about a week before, and set everything up and put up the signage for all that, put out the coolers, checking in all the bus drivers, and then too, spending a lot of time on the ground during the festival in regards to the egress. So making sure everyone gets off in a timely manner.
0:13:13 CC: I'm assuming it's interesting for you as you also look at your own transportation needs at Farmers.
0:13:20 AH: Absolutely it is. There are so many learnings just to see how they do it, and then too it's such a different clientele from the clientele that's going to Hangout, spending all day and enjoying the beach and the music versus being at a golf tournament. The demographics are completely different. So when you have people exiting after 10:00 p.m. in Alabama (younger demographic) versus clearing out a golf course at 4:00 p.m. on a Sunday, it's just [chuckle] a completely different thing.
0:13:52 CC: Obviously we're in a really unique time, but I'm curious if you guys can take me back to February of this year. Walk me through what's going through your head at that point as it pertains to you personally, or as it pertains to your event. What were you thinking at that point?
0:14:16 KS: Well, BUKU Music Fest was in March, and so we thought we were going to be able to get that in before it really hit the United States. And so I had people on site flying in, we had some stages drop, we had it all. We were starting to build that week where we had to cancel. And it was just... it was a very hard decision, and we leaned on the local authorities because we want to support that obviously, and they're the ones... The mayor of New Orleans made the safer call and we support her in that. And it's just... I don't think anyone understood at that time what this was going to turn into. So then our focus was just on, "Okay, well, if it hasn't hit here yet, let's keep going, let's move on." Because if you pause and you're that close to loading in, it can really hurt. If we were to go forward with the festival. It could hurt our operations on site and put us behind. So it was just that juggling of how long can you hold on and hope that it goes off, to when do you really need to make that tough decision? And we were so close with BUKU, and it was definitely a sad moment that weekend when we had to cancel it. And then when it was supposed to happen, We were really hoping it would thunderstorm and all that, since we had to cancel it, but it was literally perfect weather.
0:15:43 KS: So we all got on FaceTime and had a drink to that. Everyone was all hands on deck, and it's just like, "Okay, well, how could it affect your department? How could it affect yours? What do we need to do to supplement that?" Our Porta Potty vendor, Joe's Septic went above and beyond to help us find extra hand washing stations and soap, and sourced it across the states for us. There's all these different things that everyone was just really hands on deck in it. Difficult situations bring a lot of people together. Everyone worked really hard and well together. So it gives me confidence for when we re-open, but it was definitely a big letdown when we had to make that decision.
0:16:28 CC: So it's not something we hear talked about much, but what was it like to cancel the event? What was it like right after? So what were the things that you had to do? What were the boxes you had to check to make sure that you were unravelling even the load-in area? And then communication, what was that like?
0:16:49 KS: Well, we have a marketing team that's strong as hell, and they're working on, how do we communicate this to the fans? And we have a ticketing manager thinking of, how do we process refunds? What is that like on the backend? Can our ticketing partner, Elevate, handle that? Working with them, and then we have myself and all the department heads... I have to reach out to all the department heads, and the timing was very specific too, because we didn't want it to leak necessarily to fans. And so it's a big juggling act. So we have teams doing those things, and then for me and my department heads notifying vendors, because we don't want them to necessarily hear it online. But it's a juggle of how far can we tell people internally before the external world knows.
0:17:36 KS: It's a lot of discussions and especially for BUKU, 'cause so many people did so much work. It was a lot of negotiation of, "What is the time that you put in? We want to pay you everything, but we really need to protect our bottomline as well. So let's work together." Luckily, AEG, in my opinion, handled it fantastically in terms of protecting the vendor relationship and making sure it worked for both of us. We're not in the business of it's every man for themselves. We really tried to look at each individual vendor, walk through it with them. I was on endless calls, I'm still going through some of it. And that was way more heavy lifting than I had anticipated. Just the individual calls and the person-to-person interaction, I think, went a long way versus just a quick email. That helped us in the long run. And honestly, it made our vendor relationships even stronger.
0:18:35 CC: Yeah, fascinating. Because you essentially still have to wrap up the event. It's just you didn't have the event.
0:18:41 KS: Exactly, yeah. We advanced it all and we settled it all. We just never got to build it. But all the other aspects were there.
0:18:51 CC: Got it. And Andy, how about yourself?
0:18:55 AH: We were lucky from a timing standpoint; it's the complete opposite of that, as our event ended the last week in January, so when this all hit, we were already basically three, four weeks into breakdown. So from a timing standpoint, very, very fortunate, and then going up until this coming year for 2021's event, we have so much runway. But in regards to the vendors which Katelyn was talking about, there's been numerous reach-outs from a wrapping up standpoint just checking in to see how everyone is doing and how are they weathering the storm. Are they still going to be around? How have they been impacted? So it's continuously trying to understand who's on the playing field with you, too, and there are some unfortunate situations that there's people that I have been doing business with for over 10 years that they don't exist anymore.
0:19:58 AH: Some are barely hanging on and some are thriving. There are companies like Andy Gump, who we use, who's our restrooms and our fencing and our barricade [provider], and they're thriving from the hand washing stations and having to go out and put up separators and dividers. So a lot of people are also benefiting from this and they're pivoting too. And so it's been very interesting to see the ones who are holding on and the ones who have gone by the wayside.
0:20:34 CC: During this kind of quarantine period, where do you feel like you've spent the most amount of your time and attention?
0:20:47 AH: For us, budget, non stop, budget, models, scenario. What is it like if we have an event in '21 to where we can't offer Pro Am, which is when individuals pay a high sum of money to play with a professional golfer on either Monday or Wednesday at our event, plus the package that comes with that. And that has huge margins because you're selling experience. Also too from a hospitality standpoint. What can we build? What will be the distancing, social distancing the square footage allowed to have? Will we be able to allow fans? So taking that and shuffling it, and there are so many different paths, so many different avenues, about how will this play out. So basically looking at both the top line and running through those scenarios and to see where you shake out. And then as those bits and pieces of information come in, we lock those things in and then basically go in another direction and just keep zig zagging back and forth as the information comes in. So it's really just been budgeting, budgeting, budgeting.
0:21:55 CC: How about you, Katelyn?
0:21:57 KS: Yeah. Very similar. We're looking at options across the board. We'd love to come back full force next year for BUKU, but if we can't, what does that look like? Can we scale it down? All the different things, we're just running out different budget scenarios as well as operationally... COVID really touches almost every part of the operation, so whether that's dressing room changes and cleaning protocols for in between the dressing rooms or keeping social distancing when fans are coming to site or staff check in, how they pick up their credential now, the guidelines are just endless, and so we've just had a running doc and a checklist that is kind of let's think of everything that we possibly can and just going through it and adding to it.
0:22:48 KS: Our ideal would be to have a master checklist... it forever would be growing, but a master checklist that each event could look at and say "yes this applies to our vendor or no it doesn't" and going from there. We've been dissecting every single part and angle of a festival and seeing how COVID impacts it, because it touches things that I wouldn't have thought of initially and now I'm like, oh yeah, we should be looking at the type of cloth of a wristband. Could that hold on to the virus? We just don't know. So we're thinking of all the scenarios and shopping it out to our team. It could easily change and it's going to continue to evolve, but for now, we just want to be able to make sure no stone is unturned and just go from there.
0:23:45 CC: Yeah. It does feel like the industry or the folks that are in it now are getting a full like PhD and it's a new level of learning. It's going to be interesting for new folks that are coming in, it's just a whole new semester, two years worth of classes that you gotta learn. Because it's intense, the amount of info that is coming at you guys, for sure.
0:24:15 AH: Absolutely. Every single touch point, whether it's a fan, sponsor, worker, whoever it is is thinking about what their day-to-day job, their interaction. So just thinking about all those different touch points and then how do you counteract that. That checklist is long.
0:24:36 KS: It definitely is. Yeah.
0:24:38 CC: And so where are you guys getting the majority of your information on this? I know, Andy, you have some stuff in golf and Katelyn, obviously, you have a parent organization, but talk to me a little bit about what are the things that are set up for you guys to really learn and digest this information in the right way?
0:24:58 AH: I can start there. For us, the PGA Tour or the league is really at the helm of this. And they're working hard with their groups in regards to providing all of the sister events that type of communication and those elements in regards to the direction and the path that they're [taking]. And then as these events are happening—because golf is now back and happening; we've been through four PGA tour events—we're taking the learnings from those. After those events, they're sharing it with everyone else, we're on calls with several hundred people. So that's kind of one thing, but then for myself, I sit on so many different webinars. I've turned into a webinar junkie. And I've started listening to anyone speak, I'm looking to other industries whether it's music or if you're looking at football or looking at what they're trying to do with basketball and just continually just reading and consuming information non-stop.
0:26:07 KS: Yeah. Definitely, I think AEG has been great at the master of the minds and they're coming up with their policies. But at the same time, encouraging all the festival directors to talk and the people that run safety and security... there are no guidelines out there, in my opinion, not worth reading. So even if it is for something totally different, a lot of things that I pulled from were from different sporting guidelines because that's what's coming back first. Andy, when you sent me your guidelines, I loved it and it's perfect and It's great to learn from all event types: at any mass gathering, there's going to be staff, there are potentially volunteers, there's going to be some level of talent whether that be someone who plays golf or an artist... I want to know about what other people are doing, from different industries, because that's really where the innovative ideas come from.
0:27:04 KS: And so across the board, we're just reading different guidelines left and right and looking at other professionals that we trust their opinions on. Researching, getting opinions from different medical consultants, just across the board looking at the city guidelines and just everything, and just trying to digest it all and pull what applies to us and just really keeping our minds open with that. We have an internal folder at the company that people will just drop in the things that they find and it is massive and there's probably 50 different documents right now in there that, someone has been like, "Oh yeah this is going to be important. This is really good for this" and kind of just looking through and everyone's just getting as knowledgeable as they can.
0:27:54 AH: I have one of those too just called COVID other events.
0:27:56 KS: Yep.
0:27:58 CC: That's funny. So, not to get too deep here, but how are you and your teams doing from a psychological/mental standpoint in all of this?
0:28:11 AH: For us, it's difficult for people who haven't been around a long time, who are younger, who have just maybe come out of school a year or two ago, haven't been exposed to the world and they're nervous because they're the last ones in. They have this mindset that if things go awry that they're going to be the first ones out. And I think not having that day-to-day interaction for some people is really hard and I think some people are thriving. I think people are learning about a different type of life balance. I think there's individuals in our office who have kids, who are young. I would have initially guessed that they loved being home but from the feedback that I've received, it's hard. It's tough to not have the separation and distance to get away from their young children with the absence of daycare right now, having their spouse, significant other at home.
0:29:17 AH: So I think it goes in both directions. I can say for myself, I know that my productivity has skyrocketed because I'm not fielding all of those pop-in questions and talking about the day-to-day and hey, what's going on, and it's really allowing me to just do a deep dive to focus on budgeting and planning and on different models. So for me, I feel like I'm being more productive with our office being closed and everyone working at home. I'm assuming it's different for everyone, it depends on what your psyche is and what you personally need.
0:30:08 KS: Yeah, our team's hanging in there for sure and we really lean on each other. We talk every day and whether that's about fun stuff, things about the job itself or whatever that might be, but just trying to find that camaraderie. At the beginning, it was really tough because we worked so hard and everyone was a bit let down but at the same time [everyone] knows that it's an unprecedented time and we just all have to rally behind it. And the whole team has been doing a great job with that and just leaning on each other and talking through it. And, for me personally, I agree with you Andy. I think I've been able to get more productive; it definitely comes in waves. But for the most part, much more productive in terms of just sitting down to focus and then having that work-life balance, being able to work out more because I'm home more and not having to commute to work and that stressful start of the day driving has been helpful for me to just clear my head.
0:31:25 AH: I would agree. My health has skyrocketed from this, the shape that I'm in compared to when... Personally, there's so much silver lining in it, for me. I have lost over 25 pounds. I've completely changed how I approach life. It has made me realize what's important.
0:31:49 KS: Yeah. And businesses are realizing how much can get done remotely. And I think when we have the option to then get back into the same office, it's going to be great because that human-to-human contact and connection is important. But at the same time, I don't feel as pulled if I need to spend time with my family or if I need to work; I can do both. And it's just a lot of personal boundaries you have to set. So when I walk out of my home office to the living room, I try not to bring my computer to keep it separate and that's seemed to help me a bit.
0:32:28 CC: Yeah, it's interesting. I've definitely found that I can be way more tactical, but it's also fun seeing my son run by the sandbox and yell at his grandfather, stuff I would have missed before.
0:32:41 KS: Yeah.
0:32:42 CC: So Andy, you're not getting the COVID-19 in terms of the amount of weight...
0:32:46 AH: No, I have lost the COVID-19.
0:32:49 CC: I'm curious, in a normal year, what would you be doing right now?
0:33:00 KS: What month is it? July? Yeah. [laughter] BUKU would be closed out by now, we would have wrapped Hangout, but likely still closing up some of the settlement stuff on the budget side. And then July is really... It's a bit slower for us typically, and it's when we start to re-look at our documents. So if we want to change up how we managed something in the past or change project management systems, last year when we switched to Lennd instead of Mercato, this was the time that we were really discussing that and some of the bigger changes. So when it's go time, you're ready for that.
0:33:44 KS: We started that early, but redoing our RFPs or just really analyzing how it went and seeing what we might want to change, because when you're in the thick of it and you think of something like, "Oh, I would rather do it this way next year," it's really hard to stop and figure that all out. So I basically just have a document of running notes that I'll go back through and say, "Oh yeah, why did I think that was a good idea? Let me talk to my ticketing manager." And this is the time that it's a bit slower for us, so we're able to really dive into how to make things better for next year.
0:34:20 AH: For us, like I said earlier, our event's in January, but right now we would basically be having our first round budgeting. We would be starting the permitting process, for whether it's ABC or if it's for land use, Kel Trans, really starting working on those first elements. The build for us starts in late October, early November. So for us it's not that far away, even though our event is in January, our actual execution and goal is really by mid-October. So we're only really a couple months out at this point. However, due to COVID and things that are happening, I can see a scenario, based on what I'm seeing in California, San Diego PGA tour, that we're going to be such a different type of event that we probably won't start build until after, I would say, probably Thanksgiving.
0:35:21 AH: So it's a completely different world, and it's all this additional runway, and it's just going to allow us to make sure that we're reviewing those checklists and all these facts to make sure that we have everything right. So it's going to be a different year. It's going to be a unique year, but at the same time, I really think that we were so used to, accustomed to building this massive event with all of these people. And it's going to be so reduced and yes there'sgoing to be new rules and regulations, and guidelines and learnings. But I also think that it's going to be much simpler when it comes to actually to building the event. And it's just going to be a different type of hard... making sure that all those new protocols and procedures are actually followed during the window of the actual event as opposed to really, traditionally having to focus on the actual overall build out. The scope is going to be such reduced.
0:36:25 CC: One of the things I'd love to hear is what you guys would connect with each other on. Even though you are in totally different events, you still have operations, you still have talent, you still have F&B and so on and so forth, and one of the points of me doing this conversation is to see what are some of the areas that you would want to hear from each other about?
0:37:01 AH: I think the things that are different are the things that intrigue me in regards to difference between how you take care of a PGA tour golfer and their family versus how Katelyn and her organization would take care of the talent, the artists and their entourage, if you will. So anything that's different between the two groups is something that really would be the topics that I'd want tp go through.
0:37:35 KS: Yeah.
0:37:37 CC: Yes, so are there certain topics like F&B or talent or even sustainability? I'm curious.
0:37:51 KS: Yeah, I'm curious. You listed out sustainability. I want to touch on all the topics, but for sustainability, it was such a goal for us this year and it very much still is, but the one thing that I don't think the world has analyzed yet is how all of these... the COVID, the masks, and the non-reusable masks, and hand sanitizer and little bottles, how does that affect everything? And so I'm just curious, on a regular day, what is your focus on sustainability? And then two, have you guys thought of how, potentially, some of the protocols you've put in place for COVID may affect your carbon footprint basically?
0:38:35 AH: Yeah, absolutely. That's one of the things that in the interview I did with Chris that I touched on. And I think it's just going to be a bashing of the heads. It's going to be interesting to see how it plays out. For us, sustainability is huge, and it's something that's really important to farmers as well. It's important to the golf course in the city of San Diego. And we actually go through the training with the City of San Diego, where they come out and they work with our vendors in regards to making sure that they're doing everything properly, even coming down to working with the chefs in the kitchen tents with food waste and making sure that the food waste bins have locks on them and only certain people have combinations to them because it has to be 0% contamination to be able to go to the greenery.
0:39:29 AH: And the other thing we have on site every year, which is going to have to change and we're still working through that now, and it's sad 'cause we just had to deliver the message two weeks ago, is that we have the Boy Scouts of America come on site and work with our ecology company. Every single bag of trash, recyclables, you name it, that comes from the course, comes to a sorting area and those kids sort everything. The conversion rate is just premier.
0:40:00 AH: So basically minimizing anything that goes to the landfill and then basically they raise money through the recycling of that program, and then we match it for their summer programs. And now if you think about COVID, there's no way we're going to be placing kids and/or anyone without the proper gear on, in the situation to where they're sorting and rummaging through trash. It's going to completely impact how we've been doing things for, as long as I've been here, for seven and half, eight years and that was happening before I even got here, that's something that I inherited. So it's thinking about that, but then to your point, it's the single wipes, it's the bottles from the hand sanitizers, it's the masks, all of that, majority of that is going to be destined for the landfill. So how do you offset that? And that's a really good question that I don't know the answer to, currently.
0:41:04 CC: I have to imagine that single-use plastics are going to increase.
0:41:16 KS: Definitely.
0:41:17 AH: That's going to have a huge impact on budget too.
0:41:20 KS: Oh yeah.
0:41:22 AH: Just think about the additional holes you're going to have to have because of all that additional product. And maybe by the event being smaller, it'll balance out, but still at some point in the budget, it's still not making sense.
0:41:39 KS: Yeah, totally.
0:41:42 CC: I want tp talk a little bit about technology. Obviously, there are still so many moving parts, but are there certain things that you can start to see might advance more quickly... anything that would have taken 10 years in a normal kind of environment that's just massively grown?
0:42:15 AH: There's a webinar that I sat on a couple of weeks ago on something that I think is really going to take a large leap forward, and I can only speak to the golf world. It was based on a company called Appetize, and it's mobile food ordering. [Normally] you're talking about an adoption of four to five years to get everyone up to speed in our industry with that type of offering. Now, I think you'll see something happening within a year, 18 months: your hands-free mobile, your orders up, you dropped off at a counter and you pick it up. I think it's going to go from just being your standard basic concessions order to where it's going to be a completely different experience.
0:43:10 KS: Yeah. That's interesting. Postmates has been a sponsor at several different events, they are our sponsor at Hangout. That system has been in place, but not as straightforward and organized, and so I definitely think it's about the same idea, fans would order and then they could get it delivered and it's less of that human contact. I don't know if we'll go that far. That's a lot to take on for 20,000, 40,000 people, however, the different technologies that have been advancing are just... It's kind of... It'll be interesting to see what really comes out the next couple of months, but for temperature checks and front gate screenings, is there a way to do it where it's less contact with the security guard checking a bag? There's some talk of basically being able to register that you've tested negative and you go through this Q&A, and then when you're at the gate, they can scan something and shows that, yes, you've been certified that you don't have it.
0:44:21 KS: It's just across the board, technology has gone kind of crazy with that, and I think, all the technologies that have kind of come out of there, it hasn't necessarily been put into play yet because things are just starting to get back there, so we'll see. We're still researching different ways technologies can help us with things like mitigating that human interaction. Is there a way to show fans the congestion of the front gate, so they know when they can arrive personally and can kind of manage that when it's not too crowded. It's definitely a can of worms you could dive down. But yeah, a lot of different technology I think is coming out of it. For instance, something like the ability to have fans being able to look at the congestion and manage the traffic somewhat, or like a Google map showing it to be red or whatever that might be. We have heat maps on the back end that we can see movement, and so a lot of the back-end technology, I think will be more visible to fans in more of a consumer-facing way.
0:45:26 CC: And clearly virtual is a hot topic in all aspects of the event world right now. It's obviously taking off more in certain spaces, like the conference space, and I think the sports space [in terms of] coming back with no fans. What are some of the ways that you guys are thinking about leveraging virtual tools?
0:46:02 AH: For us, it's really not as much around our fan base or our sponsors, but really about how you interact on the property in an instance to where we can't have fans, we can't have sponsors, and we're for TV only, and really how we would use the virtual platform around our media center, how the media can still be interacting and present without physically being present at the golf course, so they can have that interaction still with the players as they come off the greens when they're finishing a round and also going back to the interview area and in the media center, so they can still get their questions out there, get the answers and get it out.
0:46:52 CC: And Andy, I'll just take it one step further, that also has other implications too, right? On budget and footprint and all of that, right?
0:47:00 AH: Yeah. I mean, that's something that the amount of money that we spent on our media center is exorbitant from providing the structure, air conditioning, the desk, the food, the phones, Wi-Fi, blah, blah, blah, just on and on. I think this is something that... and I'll go back to silver lining, if life continued on as normal, would never be shaken up, they would never be challenged, they would never be addressed. But now you're looking at it from a completely different angle here and having these learnings about, "Well, if I can do this virtual now and it makes sense and it works and it benefits everyone and there's cost savings and you can give more money back to local charities, why wouldn't you continue down that path, even when you get back to a normal, a new normal, whatever you want to call it. So I think there's going to be several things like this from a technology standpoint, from a virtual standpoint, that'll end up sticking around even after the fact, even when we do get through this.
0:48:07 CC: How about you, Katelyn, are you looking at any virtual stuff just yet?
0:48:13 KS: You know, we're more so on the back end [in terms of] how to communicate with staff. We do site visits and more of the functionality on the backend. We've talked in depth about virtual concerts and all that. At this time, I don't think we're ready to give up on the magic of an in-person show. And so we're trying to hold on to that as long as we can, and I think it'll come back, but a lot of people in the industry are doing that. I am not a video game fan myself, but there's DJs and Marshmello, and I believe Travis Scott, they'll do concerts, virtual concerts, and those kids can log in and literally be in a virtual world and hang out with their friends on their headset, which scares the hell out of me because that's not the world I grew up in. But I think it's kind of a beautiful thing for younger kids to be able to still experience music because I know for me and everyone I know in the industry, we're craving that live music again, and I think any form of that is great. Personally, I love the in-person [concert] still and [don't want to] go too virtual, but at the same time on the backend, it'll become very helpful for us.
0:49:29 AH: I agree with you 100%. Just to have that interaction and physically be there. I can't even get on board right now with friends going, "Hey, let's have a virtual happy hour."
0:49:42 KS: Yeah.
0:49:43 AH: I just can't do it. It just doesn't work for me. And I think that depending on who you are, and I think a lot of people are doing that right now, and that's great. If that works for them, awesome. I think at some point in time, there's going to be some sort of virtual fatigue and people are going to want that human touch and that interaction, and they're just going to be thirsty for it.
0:50:05 CC: Andy, one of the things that we've been talking to Nick on your team about beyond just the virtual media center is being able to virtually train volunteers and staff and vendors in advance using a virtual system like Lennd. So I think training will be one of those things that evolves. A couple of other interesting things that we're hearing is that virtual tools will also be able to drive deeper engagement with VIPs and sponsors around the event, maybe not in the event per se, but around the event, extending the time frame of the event in some ways. I also think that you'll see a little bit more 365s being able to engage key constituents around the year. So it will be interesting to see how that evolves, but I could see very much that being one of the results of all of this.
0:51:14 AH: Yeah, when you talk about training, anything that can be done beforehand, not on-site, not having to find space or to rent space, coordinating any of that, to be able to knock that out in advance is going to be extremely beneficial for sure.
0:51:31 KS: Absolutely, and we're upping our training as well to include some new COVID policies to make sure and that'll be a requirement of all staff, and so it's also just we want to do it. We have to do it anyways. Because my main goal is for every staff and fan to know what we're doing to help mitigate that risk and feel comfortable in it and feel like they're part of that solution versus just, "Oh yeah, wear a mask, you're fine." And so training and ways to make that training more personal with the new virtual technology will be really helpful.
0:52:12 CC: Yeah. Oh, and separately, Katelyn, I'll walk you through what we're doing there where you can actually see who's taken what sessions and who hasn't, and then follow up there, so that would be pretty interesting.
0:52:23 KS: Definitely.
0:52:25 AH: I think going back to that and Lennd, just from our overall checklist from a submittal standpoint, really submitting that you reviewed these guidelines, you understand what the rules and regulations are, and here's your signature and you've uploaded it and we have it. And you're not going to come on property... You're not going to come have the experience until you are thoroughly educated on what you need to be educated on prior to [arrival]. There are no excuses.
0:52:56 KS: Absolutely.
0:52:57 CC: We've had this long pause and who knows how long it's going to go for, but when the market does come back, and when we start having these events again, are there any downstream ramifications you could see popping up? One of the things in the back of my head is, is there going to be a run on talent? You have a lot of contractors that may have had to go get other jobs, start other careers. [When things ramp up again], is there going to be a shortage of quality talent?
0:53:45 AH: I think there will be because you're going to have it where all of these events... You look at the calendar. I'll just use San Diego as an example, right? So you have it where this calendar is basically set. You have your big events, your medium events, and your small events. And they basically, year in and year out, they flow. That flow has been completely disrupted and everyone now is looking for a different time, a different date, and you were moving equipment from one to the other. You weren't using the same security company or the same restroom company at the same time. Now, you're going to have this overlap. And to your point to whether it's equipment or it's personnel, taking anything else into account, even the weather that time of year. All those different things that you're used to getting are going to be pulled in so many different directions that it's going to be, I think, a huge issue.
0:54:39 KS: 100%. There was a time when every event was getting rescheduled for the fall. That also depletes the fan base. But in terms of vendors... across the states, at least... there are a handful of fencing vendors, a handful of good stage vendors, sound equipment, all of that. And then all of a sudden, you realize how much, "Oh, they already have a job that weekend, but we just rescheduled and moved everything. Do we need to find a new vendor for that, or are they big enough to do both?" and some are and some just aren't. And it came a time where we originally rescheduled BUKU, and then some of my department heads weren't going to be able to go because it was the same weekend as another festival. And I was just like, "Wait a minute." Crap, you know. But how many things can you juggle? There are just not enough weekends in the fall for every single event to happen.
0:55:40 KS: So when everyone started to reschedule, I think we all had an "Oh shit" moment. There will definitely be a pull of trying to get the staff that you want back and opening that up to new staff as well. But just across the board, people are going to be hungry to work, so I think everyone will work really hard. I think it'll bring some people that maybe were just starting in their career being able to really step up into more prominent roles, but it's definitely going to be difficult with the staff and vendor selection. That is definitely something we're looking at because the pool is... There are only so many staff and vendors out there that can really lead that charge. And when there's multiple festivals, there were... I think there were three different festivals one weekend that was rescheduled and we were just like... we'll see how that goes.
0:56:36 CC: I think it was back in early March, when all of them were getting pushed to the fall, I saw a festival calendar. It was like in a Google Doc or something that somebody... I don't know if you saw the same one.
0:56:47 KS: Oh yeah.
0:56:47 CC: But there was like five or six festivals a weekend, every weekend, and it's like, "That's a problem."
0:56:54 KS: Yeah. And for fans, too. Often fans, depending on the demographic, might only be able to afford to go to one festival, or if they are going to more festivals, they typically spread it out, at least a little bit. There are a lot of kids that will go to multiple festivals and they're kind of on that festival circuit. But then what happens when they have to choose between their two favorite festivals, because they've moved to the same weekend. That's going to be an interesting one to work through as well.
0:57:18 AH: Yeah. And then on the top of that, a lot of people have lost their jobs and a lot of people don't have those discretionary dollars, they don't have an income.
0:57:26 KS: Exactly.
0:57:26 AH: So that's going to be a problem, too.
0:57:30 CC: Wow. Anything else come to mind?
0:57:33 AH: I think one thing that pops into my mind is just being careful about what you deliver in this year, right? You have to be careful from a cost standpoint, but you still have to deliver for your sponsors and your client. And I think it's having a very clear conversation and having an understanding with them that there might be something that we provide in this year to offset something that we have done in previous years. And it doesn't necessarily makes sense for us to provide, but we're going to provide it this year to make good. But just really not having the mindset that that's going to continue on in perpetuity, that "Hey, this is a one off, this is different, we blew it up, this is the offering for this one year." You really can't hold us to maintain this moving forward, if that makes sense.
0:58:27 CC: To add onto that, let's talk a little bit about sponsorship. In college sports, with the uncertainty of what's going on in the fall, there are some major issues with sponsors potentially pulling out and really... It's just really fascinating to see. But I'm curious. How have you guys interacted with your sponsors, and do you think there's going to be a lot of new creative ways to be able to create value for them?
0:59:02 AH: Yeah, absolutely. We had a call today with Farmers who's our title sponsor for an hour and a half this morning, going through what's happening with them internally, sharing with us what's going on internally, sharing what's going on with the PGA tour, and really going line item by line item, from a contract standpoint, about what they are owed and what they are thinking about each one of those items, whether it's building the infrastructure or signage or doing a sponsorship program internally for them to where they bring in 150, 200 agents to the event and how that is all going to be impacted.
0:59:49 AH: And then also too, you think about for us from a branding standpoint, right? So on every green we have hospitality on, we have Farmers Insurance Open logos on. Well, if we're not building those hospitality units, that branding isn't there, so then it's going to be working with a tour called Channel Network in regards to getting that sponsorship image on the broadcast, or coming up with a water feature, or painting the grass as a Farmers logo or just coming up with all different ideas in regards to ensuring that they still get their money's worth out of this event at a time where they can't activate and do all the things that they want to do.
1:00:33 KS: Yeah, definitely, I think we're going to see brands get much more creative. It's been a big trend, the experiential marketing and events for brands, and what does that look like when we can't have those different types of activations. We're going through that right now; we could likely still have sponsors on site, but what does that mean for what they do on site? Who's going to be monitoring all of those different things? We're going to take it brand by brand and just have that conversation with them because we want them as much as they need us, we need them as well.
1:01:13 KS: For instance, Bud Light is a big sponsor at BUKU. Well, do they want be part of our signage. Because we're going have a whole hell of a lot more signage on site. And there are logos you can place everywhere, but you just need to really get creative in some of the more virtual aspects across the board just as long as it pairs with the direction they're going in as well, we're open to getting creative with it too. But I think it's definitely going to be going to the drawing board and talking to each brand about how they have pivoted and what their new goals are and all of that.
1:01:54 CC: Yeah, interesting.
1:01:55 AH: You bring up a good point when you bring up beverage. That's when we think about our previous vodka sponsor, right? I mean, talk about where, not only you need the dollars and bring it in, but if they're not getting the amount of pours that they want, does it even make sense for them, and on top of that, can we with the new health protocol, the new procedures, what's it going to be like to be making cocktails? Having your garnishes or mint, or whatever it is. Are the sponsors also going to come up with ways to, "Okay, well, maybe now we're going to can our cocktails." How are they going to respond to it too, to ensure that it works for us on-site as well.
1:02:43 CC: And does that also make you guys start to explore other partnerships with, you know canned cocktail companies and...
1:02:48 AH: Exactly.
1:02:50 KS: Absolutely.
1:02:53 CC: Got it. What do you expect the next couple of months to look like for you guys? Is it more of the same? Is it more of what this last month has looked like? I know things are changing on a week-by-week, day-by-day basis, but given your next couple of months, what do you think it's going to look like?
1:03:14 KS: Yeah, for us our main focus is how we can open across the board in a scaled-down manner, but making sure we're safe first and foremost. We're eager to get our team back, and we want to be able to pay our team and we love the staff that work for us, they work super hard, and it's taken us a while to grow the team. So my main focus is really going to be on how can we get them back working so they can start getting that income and feel good about everything and just prepping up until that point, so when it's go time, they feel good about the systems because they hadn't been able to work on it as long or whatever that might be, just making sure that the foundation is solid to get the team back.
1:04:01 AH: For us, it's kind of hurry up and wait. Thirty days ago, I would've told you that we would have an event in January that would have zero fans, zero sponsors, be for TV only. Two weeks to go, I would have been like, "We're having pro-ams, we're having people on site, we're going to have hospitality." And today, I would tell you again, we're not going to have anyone on property.
1:04:25 KS: Yeah.
1:04:25 CC: Oh man, I probably shouldn't be laughing.
1:04:28 AH: No, the thing is, like I said, we just had the call with our title sponsor, and it's the most frustrating thing is... not to be able to give someone an answer. And not necessarily that you have the answer, you can't even go and find the answer to bring it back and give it to them. So you start feeling like a dumbass, and my mind starts wondering like, "Do they think I'm just sitting here doing nothing?" But nobody has the answer, so it's... For being in California, whatever Newsome says is what the San Diego County Health Department's going to say, and whatever the Health Department says is what the city of San Diego is going to abide by.
1:05:07 AH: So I mean, it's really what's ever coming out of Sacramento is what we're waiting for. And even if we do get to a good point, we just learn that we can snap back because every restaurant as of what, midnight or yesterday's midnight, closed. So we're back to no restaurants, no bars, and that's scary. Because if you planned and you spend those dollars and you build that infrastructure, and then, it's gone. It doesn't matter what you want to do 'cause you can't do it. Whether it's the state or even if it's the tour and the league coming back, and if the players aren't comfortable or the tours aren't comfortable in putting that safety first, rightfully so, it's going to be... It's just so unknown. I'm at a loss for words on it.
1:05:54 KS: Yeah, I think you make a great point, like, how do you give someone the answers when there literally is no answer right now? And so it is a hurry up and wait game, and then hopefully when we're able to reopen again, we do it the right way and it's able to stick and all the protocols we're working on, hopefully in three years from now, we don't need them, but until then we'll have them and we'll be ready, but it is definitely a hurry up and wait game.
1:06:21 CC: Yeah.
1:06:21 KS: 100%.
1:06:22 CC: Yeah, it's interesting, Andy, you talk about how linear it is from the governor to the county to the city. Not all cities and states have that linear nature. It's interesting to talk to some different events that are in cities where the city is totally at odds with the county or totally at odds with the state, so that makes it even more confusing, I think.
1:06:45 AH: Yeah.
1:06:46 KS: Yeah.
1:06:46 CC: What also makes it confusing is when you have vendors and other constituents that are out of state. It's like, how do you deal with cross-border issues and things of that nature? So my last question is, if you could pick my next interview pairing, who would you want to see?
1:07:16 AH: It's a good question.
1:07:24 AH: If I'm staying in my own lane in the industry, the one that I would want to hear from, and actually Chris, you know, it's based on the announcement that came out today, would be hearing from someone like Ben Rubin, the PGA of America, the Ryder Cup, the President Cup being pushed back this morning, I would really love to hear what his experience has been dealing with it from an international standpoint. So to me, that would be very intriguing.
1:07:57 KS: Yeah, I agree with that. Someone with the international perspective, I think would be very intriguing to see how they're... Our festival team in London, how they're doing things. I communicate with them and we try to, but it's not always as easy on the international level to stay in communication, so I'd be very interested in that.
1:08:19 CC: Yeah. Does anybody come to mind in the festival space, Katelyn?
1:08:24 KS: I'll reach out to you after and send you some names, 'cause they definitely do, but I've got a couple... I have a list so I can send you them, yeah.
1:08:33 CC: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, again, this was incredible. I hope... Hopefully, you guys enjoyed it as much as I did.
1:08:40 AH: Absolutely.
1:08:41 CC: I think people are going to really appreciate having the differences of where you guys are coming from, but also being able to see the similarities. I just think one of the things that is needed is for people to realize their options... Hopefully as the market comes back, [it] extends beyond just the segment that they're working in. Because you can see it today, if you're working in F&B, there are so many similarities, if you're working even in... I was talking to a major conference that deals with speakers and talent, and some of it is music talent. But their process is so similar to the artist advancing process Katelyn, that it's really truly fascinating to see how that crosses over, but we don't often get the time to see these conversations actually unfold, and so that's why I was really excited about having it.
1:09:34 KS: Absolutely, I appreciate you organizing it.
1:09:38 AH: Yeah, absolutely appreciate the platform. To have someone like Katelyn and have learnings from other industries too, I think you definitely got your finger on the pulse here for something. It's... To keep having conversations like this and grow it, people who really have a thirst for that knowledge are definitely going to tune in. I just ask that you edit out anything stupid I said.
1:10:01 KS: Yeah. [laughter]
1:10:02 CC: That's the best part. No.
1:10:05 CC: Well, thank you.
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