White Oak Music Hall Uses COVID Shut-Down as Opportunity to Improve Operations and Efficiency

Making Lemons Out of Lemonade

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an avalanche of implications we may feel for decades to come. One of the hardest-hit industries is entertainment. With nations across the globe requiring businesses to close for months on end and residents to remain home except to retrieve essential items, the once lively music scene has been forced to take an unprecedented pause.

For music venues, the pain was felt instantly. Shows had to immediately be canceled and rebooking is now a shot in the dark. No one knows when the doors will reopen, but for White Oak Music Hall in Houston, they’ll be ready when they are given the green light. In fact, they will be in a better position than they were before the pandemic. Why? Because they used the economic shut-down to not only challenge themselves to innovate new marketing ideas, but they also finally had the time to clean up shop.

"Prism created something for us to operate more efficiently so I can focus on other things and relax a little."

Oak Music Hall

Still Gotta Eat

Luis Rivera is the general manager at White Oak Music Hall and when he was told to cease all operations, one of the first things he considered was his staff. “Our staff is family and even though we aren’t able to host shows or events in our venues, our people have to make money to pay their bills,” he says. “It forced us to brainstorm creative ways to bring in money so we could at least make sure they would be okay.”

Rivera and his managing staff came up with all kinds of ideas to raise money, from asking fans to donate any amount of money for a t-shirt or the chance to win a private rooftop party to a shoutout from the venue’s social media accounts. All money went directly to the White Oak Hall staff through a GoFundMe account that raised an astonishing $63,000.

But the idea wasn’t only to put money into his staff’s pockets. It was to also keep fans and staff engaged, even when they can’t be at one of his three venues. “We are giving fans a way to stay with us through this pandemic and their response has boosted our staff’s morale more than anything we could’ve done,” Rivera says. “They are reminded that we can still do things to make money and people truly care about them. Our guests will be back when we can open and we can’t wait to show them a great time.”

Might as Well Work

The White Oak Music Hall venues’ doors may be closed to the public but that doesn’t mean Rivera and his team can’t work. “With shows offline, we have more time on our hands,” he says. “We figured it was a good time for us to get new systems implemented, become more efficient, and evaluate options to do that.”

Rivera chose Prism event management software to help him manage what was once unthinkable for his business. With Prism, Rivera says they’ve seen a 100% efficiency improvement. Before Prism, Rivera and his team did the best they could with a Google doc. “We were spending so much time managing that doc and trying to organize dates, hold placements, and bands. With Prism, we literally see everything we need with a click and I can work from a mobile device. It’s been a huge time saver and gives us a quicker, more comprehensive view.”

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Rivera says he has had to move an entire quarter’s worth of shows, roughly 100 of them and counting, and still isn’t sure of when they can be rebooked. They’re working with agents and managers to determine how far out their bands need to reschedule and then figure out dates later this year or 2021 to start touring. “Because we operate three venues, there’s a lot more to manage,” Rivera says. “It’s not only the 100 shows but another 50-60 that weren’t confirmed yet. We also book private events and have to reschedule those.”

Prism has also significantly improved White Oak’s transparency. They’ve been able to streamline their booking process and glean a holistic view of their forecasted P&L. The software allows them to easily filter their data by venue or down to the agent.

“Change is short-lived, but improvements will last tenfold”

“We have all of this new insight into how to optimize our bookings to make the most money,” he says. “We also get a historical view to see what we’ve paid bands in the past and the money we brought in so we can predict revenue. As we reschedule shows, this data will help us see what works best to reduce costs while still putting on great shows.”

Prism provides White Oak Music Hall with one place to work together, create and check offers, manage settlements, and keep an eye on expenses and revenue. They’ve ditched their spreadsheets and everyone works from the same data. “Prism has reduced an hour of work down to 30 seconds,” he says. “I tell other venue managers that Prism is like a sausage maker.. it takes care of all of the horrible work and all we see is a finished product.”

For venues unsure of changing up how things are done, Rivera says simplifying practices is always a good idea. “Change is short-lived, but improvements will last tenfold,” he says. “Prism created something for us to operate more efficiently so I can focus on other things and relax a little. When we come back online, we’re going to be more efficient, organized, and profitable.”

If you'd like to support White Oak Music Hall, you can visit their GoFundMe here:
Help the staff of White Oak Music Hall.

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