It looks like Ultra Music Festival Miami’s woes are far from over. After the postponement of the March 2020 event due to Coronavirus the festival came under fire for refusing to offer ticket holder refunds. Instead favoring a “store credit” of sorts, offering admission to either the 2021 of 2022 Miami festival. However, due to its magnitude and international appeal, many ticket holders were left angry over sunken travel and accommodation costs.
UMF strict ticketing policy leaves little power for consumers
Due to a widespread public pushback in a time where many face financial instability two men from Florida are pushing forward with a class action lawsuit. Many other festivals maintain the same ticketing policy as Ultra that they hold “sole and absolute discretion to either issue full or partial refunds to the purchaser, not issue any refunds, or reschedule to event.” With safety margins this large, Ultra Miami clearly absolves itself from many potential ticketing issues. However, the lawsuit argues that postponing an annual event for one year is essentially the same as cancelling the current year’s. The stringent qualifications for refund options also lead the class’s attorneys to void the contract.
The class’ attorneys estimate that damages run more than $5 million and seek full ticket refunds. One of their legal representatives, Joe Sauder issued the following statement:
“We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every part of the global economy but we do not believe that gives Ultra Music Festival the right to shift the burden of this extraordinary crisis onto its customers, who, in some cases, paid thousands of dollars to attend this festival and the now the pandemic has or will preclude them from ever using any credit.”
In many ways Ultra Miami represented the start of pandemic-related festival cancellations. As an early spring festival of huge magnitude with already-pretentious city relations, the postponement doesn’t come as a surprise. The no-nonsense ticket refund policy however, did strike some fear into ticket holders of other impending festival cancellations. If one festival doesn’t offer any financial compensation for would-be attendees, who’s to say another would be any different?
Balancing consumer loyalty using good faith
Clearly, there’s a difficult line for production companies to balance between customer loyalty and their own profitability. On one hand consumers shouldn’t be held financially liable for purchasing tickets to a cancelled event. But on the other, if every holder backs out and demands a refund the expenses could capsize a production company permanently.
Insomniac toed that line recently after assuaging consumers to hang onto now-postponed Beyond Wonderland tickets for next year. All current ticket holders will be automatically upgraded to the next tier for Beyond Wonderland 2021. Also recognizing changing economic priorities, refunds can be requested as well.
Strategizing inventive ways to incentivize support: What’s to come
Nearly all summer festivals in the Pacific Northwest face cancellation. While considering public health and safety is always the top priority, many of us are anxious for the next chapter of live music. Bass Canyon in particular draws thousands attendees in the northwest, and is still officially on for August 28-30. The pandemic causes change quickly which carries difficulty for solid planning. But if the case study of Ultra Miami’s ticket holder outrage is any indication for future policies, not many can afford to follow suit.
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