August 25, 2006 Sean Burns
By Christine Paluf
“Play some Skynyrd!” was a call heard across Arthur W. Perdue Stadium in Maryland this Fourth of July, but to no avail.
“The [Lynyrd Skynyrd] show was scheduled for July 4th, but due to inclement weather, thunderstorms, lightning and heavy rain, it was impossible to play,” said Ross Schilling, the band’s manager.
Both the venue and Skynyrd’s management agreed to cancel.
“We said we’d try to reschedule, and ticket patrons were advised to hold onto their tickets,” Schilling explained.
Bands are compensated rain or shine per their contract, Schilling explained. If they show up and are ready to play, they get paid.
“The band still would have had the same expenses whether they played or not. Some promoters don’t get rain or weather insurance,” Schilling said, which was the case with the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert.
Two days after the show, a release was posted on www.theshorebirds.com, the venue’s Website. It stated that Giant Productions of Easton, MD was working to reschedule, and would release information concerning their ticket refund policy. It also stated that as they continued to get information it would be distributed to all media outlets and posted on their Website.
Despite the statement that the concert may be rescheduled, one week after the show, Giant Productions decided to offer refunds instead.
“The promoter was unwilling to confirm a date we had in October. The band was going to come back for half price,” Schilling said.
Those that checked the venue’s Website or heard advertisements for the refund were given only two weeks to reclaim their cash.
“They only offered the refunds until the end of July,” Schilling said. “Everyone was kind of miffed at their only offering the refund for several weeks after the show.”
In fact, may fans never heard about the refund. Though it was purported to have been advertised on radio and through the Shorebirds’ Website, a number of those fans that were originally told to hold onto their tickets never knew about it.
“A portion of tickets weren’t refunded. There was $30,000 or more outstanding,” said Steve Yaros, general manager of Arthur W. Purdue Stadium. “The promoter had previously refunded 75 percent prior to the refund ending July 31. We’d done a large percentage of the refunds, but many customers were not happy that they didn’t hear the news.”
Calls came in to complain about the issue. Finally, one savvy customer made the connection between two of the three parties involved in the concert’s scheduling.
“There was one customer that contacted us and Skynyrd’s people, so out of the good will of our people and Skynyrd’s, everybody should get their refund by Jan. 5.”
When the band heard that their fans were left in a lurch, they took matters into their own hands.
“There was $30,000 not refunded, so the band stepped up to offer refunds. Of course people are very happy. It’s kind of unheard of. I don’t know how many bands go out on a limb to give money back. Ultimately it’s not their responsibility,” Schilling said.
Giant Productions’ owner, Ted Creighton, was quoted in “Delmarva Now” as saying that they had no legal obligation at all to refund the tickets, as “on the ticket, it says ‘all sales are final.’”
Though responsibility was one issue with this case, and though they were not necessarily at fault for fans not receiving their refund, as Shilling said, concert-goers don’t get upset with the promoter, they blame the band. Or sometimes, the venue.
“We simply rented the facility to the promoter,” Yaros said of The Shorebirds. “They paid a flat rental fee, we’re responsible for setting the refund policy.”
Though they set the policy, the promoter, Giant Productions, ultimately made the decision as to how long they would allow money to be returned.
“Whether I agree or disagree with the two-week period is not the issue,” Yaros said. “We have no stake in the revenue, but we do have a stake in our own reputation in the marketplace.
“This was the first time we ran a concert with this promoter, they’re a local business, very reputable. They’re just as concerned, but are dealing with their own financial issues with the concert being cancelled,” Yaros said.
“Right now we’re not going to come back with that promoter,” Schilling said of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
“We started up refunds about one week ago. We worked out a deal directly with the venue box office so that no one could access the money unless they were a fan or patron with an unused ticket. No other ticketing services can get refunds,” Schilling explained.
“We wanted to make sure the promoter didn’t have access to those funds, and that the revenue we put back would go directly to the fans that have unused tickets.”
Skynyrd may now find a sweet home in Maryland for their efforts in keeping their fans happy. Many bands would have let it slide. But for Skynyrd, whether it was their fault or not, they took on the responsibility.
“People pay for a ticket, they want their money back,” Schilling said.