This has been one hell of a week when it comes to interesting news in the music industry. First, there was the debacle that was the Reunite Festival – an illegal rave thrown in the Mojave Desert last weekend that called itself a “protest” to get away with it (well, legally). Then last night, this email popped up in many people’s inboxes: a note from the Global Eclipse Gathering in regards to this year’s event in Patagonia.
If you’re unfamiliar, Global Eclipse has been slated to happen on December 10-16, 2020 in Neuquen, Argentina in a self-described “beautiful site with wide open skies, lush vegetation, and water features that will be perfect for a cosmic celebration!” It is timed to happen on the path of complete totality for this year’s solar eclipse.
However – as we all are well aware – COVID-19 has forced events in 2020 to cancel or postpone as gatherings are unsafe and can serve as ground zero for spreads of the virus. The pandemic has drastically impacted the industry, and most events have given in. But according to last night’s email, the event is still happening.
The Global Eclipse team has been heavily scolded on social media for months now regarding their complete silence and lack of updates about an event cancellation (which most of us assumed would be the case) and ticket refunds. This email shines a light on that.
You Can Get Half Of Your Ticket Money Back – But You Must Sign An “Intense” Contract First
In short: full ticket refunds aren’t happening. Only half of your original ticket price will be returned, and that’s if you sign up for the BuyBack program.
One caveat here – in order to participate in this BuyBack Program, you must “release” the Global Eclipse team “from liability in regards to Patagonia Gathering.” You’ll receive a Docusign document that is “written by lawyers in contractual language which can be a bit intense to read.”
The Event Isn’t… Cancelled?
In short: the event is still happening, with undescribed ways in which they will provide a space built for “thousands of safely distanced people.” The email explains:
Is This The Right Move?
The Covid Risk Factor
It’s frustrating that they won’t fully refund attendee tickets for an event intended for thousands of people – and beyond that, there are numerous risk factors to take into consideration here. Think about the dangers of traveling (many of us would be heading there on hours-long flights and drives from around the world) and the risk of exposing ourselves to the potential of COVID-19 on planes, trains, and automobiles, then coming together with all of these individuals to party in Patagonia. Let’s not sugar coat it – this is a festival. It’s a party. Partying will happen. And the level of safety that can be implemented here is incredibly questionable.
The Balance Between Refund and Bankrupt
However, I think it’s important to point out tons of money has been put into this event, so full refunds don’t make sense here – and that’s absolutely fair. There are obviously two sides to this issue with refunding or not. Global Eclipse is also a one-off event – not a continual, annual event like many other festivals – so these sunk costs can’t be made up in years to come. Thus, this is an incredibly challenging scenario to be in – for both event producer and event attendee.
But it’s also worth considering how events in similar situations have handled this. For example – Lightning In A Bottle and Burning Man both offering refund requests if you need it, but also asking for donations and support if you have the financial ability to do so. COVID has hit many of us super hard and left us in financial scenarios where we can’t afford to lose ticket money like this. But it hasn’t affected everyone so harshly, either – there could have been a better balance to this.
The Logistics of an International Event
The international location of the event creates a bigger challenge here for the event organizers – considering that this is not an event being thrown in the US with standard US guidelines. Hosting an event in Argentina is likely a drastically different ball game than what we’d be used to here, and there’s no doubt that they are facing an array of issues to overcome by working with an international government and international finances.
We have reached out to the Global Eclipse team for their perspective on this aspect, and will update the piece as we hear back.
Ultimately, I don’t think there’s any right answer here, and I feel for these event leads. You can read the full email sent on August 26th here.