Lightning In A Bottle Issues Apology, Offers Refund Options

It goes without saying that event production companies are hurting beyond belief right now. Lightning in a Bottle, an event in Central California that traditionally happens every Memorial Day Weekend, was one of the many events that was forced to cancel due to COVID-19. They received massive backlash when they announced that they couldn’t provide refunds at the end of March.

As a result, Do LaB – LiB’s parent company – released a response earlier this week via an email to ticketholders. The event has had a loyal community that has grown over the years, and this was a strong step towards making things right. The team lays it all out on the table in an honest, eye-opening description of how much Do LaB is struggling to survive.

They explain:

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.

The email continues on to offer three options for ticket purchasers who had originally planned to attend the 2020 event. You can 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. 


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.

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. 

A Community Responds

It’s heartbreaking to watch independent event production companies struggle through this time, and they aren’t alone. The email has received an outpouring of positive support from LiB fans online so far – the Reddit thread is worth a read.

At the end of the day, small companies like Do LaB need the support of the community to stay afloat. The music industry is disintegrating at the hands of COVID-19, and at this point, anything helps. If you truly want to see your favorite shows, festivals, and artists again when the world returns to normal, consider the struggles they are facing with these forced shutdowns.

Our hearts go out to Lightning in a Bottle, the Do LaB team, and event promoters everywhere who have lost thousands—and much of their livelihoods—during this challenging time. You can read the full letter from the Do LaB team here.