Just Say No to Spreadsheets
Looking to up your game in the live event management industry? Let me guess: you’re still relying on manual spreadsheets, disorganized emails and labor-intensive note taking on anything you can find to write on. There’s nothing wrong with spreadsheets – if there was nothing better to replace it. But, there are newer show management systems out there that can make your job much easier than it is right now – and help you make more money doing it.
Forbes even dedicated an article to why business leaders should ban spreadsheets. First, it says, “Hands-on involvement sucks up expensive labor.” When you use a spreadsheet, you have to manually create it, continually update it with the best data you have from another system, and then maintain it over time for it to be accurate. It really isn’t much for real-time visibility into your shows. Rather, it’s a historical reference full of data that was transferred from other systems of record. This takes time. Lots of time. And time is money, even if it’s your time and you’re not paying someone else by the hour to do it.
Sure, spreadsheets are free. Most people know how to use them, right? But to get them to do what you want, you have to spend time telling it how to do whatever that thing is, often repeating steps with every new entry, change in business or new requirement. Again, this is time. Even worse, spreadsheets are simply a database of information. They aren’t report-friendly and any insights driven from spreadsheets aren’t easily shareable. This requires more of your time to build reports you and others can see based on the spreadsheet data.
Even with all the time and money spent on building these spreadsheets, there is really no way to know just how accurate those data cells are. In fact, one study published in the Journal of End User Computing found 20 to 40 percent of all spreadsheets contain errors. Of course, a few small errors here and there likely won’t pose much of a problem in most cases, but take a look at your spreadsheets. How large have they become? How many cells of data are there? The bigger the spreadsheet, the more likely there are mistakes.
Some of those seemingly small errors aren’t so small after all. In the live music industry, event management means you have to have all your Ts crossed and Is dotted or a show doesn’t happen and people still have to get paid. Budgets may be underestimated, margins are smaller than expected and now your show is costing you more than you’re bringing in.
Situations such as these happen all the time, putting independent live music promoters and venue managers at risk. The “free” spreadsheet is now a liability.
Forbes goes on to list its third reason why companies should invest in a better show management system than spreadsheets. “When spreadsheet creators leave, knowledge leaves with them.” Here’s the sticking point: with spreadsheets, there’s no record of who made what changes when. There’s no record and if that person leaves the company, there’s no recourse or even an understanding of what the spreadsheet was intended to do.
Email Is Not a Show Management Solution
Then there’s the collaboration and communication aspect of show management. How many people do you engage with to pull off a show? Whether you are an event manager or a venue manager/owner, you have to communicate with dozens and dozens of people every day. Where is all of that communication going? Do you have a record of it and can find it in a moment’s notice, even when you’re out of the office?
If you’re using email, no matter if it’s Outlook, Gmail or another system, you likely have a mess on your hands. Email is fantastic for some things and in fact, 72 percent of people say they still prefer it. But if you dig a little deeper, you find that even while people say they want email, they aren’t looking at all of them. They can’t. The average American receives around 88 business emails a day. Notice I said “business.” That figure does not include personal emails that flood our Inboxes. Everything from sales at your favorite stores to reminders about your kids’ next choir recital is drowning out those important emails.
Every email you send and receive are in a long list with hundreds of other emails. This is not an effective show management system. In fact, it introduces plenty of risk that one of those important emails is lost – either the one you just sent or the one intended for you. Let’s just hope you don’t have someone ask you a question about something that may have been in one of those emails. Then you’ll have to dig through every possible email and scan its contents to see if that was the email that held the mystery information.
Time wasted. Money wasted.
Unless you’re really consistent and disciplined about organizing every incoming and outgoing email in a specified folder per show, something is going to get lost.
What Did You Say?
Finally, let’s tackle the other legacy application some people still use to manage shows: phone/text and note taking. After you call the venue to book a show, where is that information you discussed going? A spreadsheet? A sticky note? A napkin? What if that conversation happens at a bar or after a show at 1 am? Then what? What happens when that note is lost or the conversation wasn’t documented?
Again, things get missed. Efforts are duplicated. Time is wasted. Money is wasted.
When notes are scattered instead of being collected in a single repository, it’s difficult to be organized. Plenty of managers struggle with organizational skills, something that can directly impact their productivity, efficiency and stress levels. One of the biggest obstacles to organization is a lack of effective tools.
A Better Way to Work
Now, let’s consider a better option: a show management system for all of these tasks that is built specifically for the live music industry. A show management system is just that: a system. It is an integrated, automated piece of software that consolidates all of the daily tasks a music promoter, live event manager and venue manager does every day.
Instead of using a spreadsheet to document sales, your ticketing system is integrated with your financial system so you can see real-time updates to your balance sheet every time a fan purchases a ticket – automatically. No transferring data from your financial system to a spreadsheet and hoping your late nights and lack of sleep didn’t compromise your accuracy. No more having to locate the right row and column to see your break-even. All of the financial reporting, dashboards and snapshot of your business are in one place, automatically updated to reflect where you stand right now.
Another feature of a modern show management system is its ability to bring everyone together in the same place. Collaborate and communicate from the same system that houses your financial data, your calendar, your contracts and your settlements. It’s all there at your fingertips so you can do what you do quickly, accurately and efficiently.
The best part? The system enables you to categorize everything by show. That means all of your collaboration with the venue, the talent agent, the sound crew and everyone in between can be in an organized platform instead of email, all nicely rolled up under the event project. Any communication, including file uploads, photos or videos are archived by topic under this event. No more digging through emails or inbox folders. You and your stakeholders are all working from the same platform seeing the same things in real time. It’s archived forever, giving you the ability to go back years later and review how things were managed, people involved and money made (or not).
When looking for a show management system, find one geared specifically for the live music industry and offers mobility. You don’t want to be tied to your office to use it. If it’s made for music pros, it should be designed to go wherever you go. These systems should also understand what tasks you do every day and will, hopefully, provide a feature-rich offering that manages each one more efficiently. You shouldn’t have to toggle between your calendar, email and spreadsheets. In the end, you will have to forego those free legacy applications, but the investment is well worth the gains in productivity, accuracy and reliability.