Hi, We are Mike and Krista Timmermans, of Timmermans Organization!

We currently host an annual event called the “Norfolk Ram Rodeo” on our farm. It is a community event which we began in 2015 and has been a huge success! Each year has grown by about 20% and gone smoother than the year before. Each year we have stuck to our budget and have generated about $100 000 in revenue. We use this event to meet new people in the area and promote community involvement. We commit to putting all our profits from the event back into it, to grow the event for the following year. To see more about the event, visit www.NorfolkRamRodeo.com

How I lost $100 000 throwing a concert, and how to avoid making the same mistakes

This “mistakes” post is from Mike’s previous experiences…

When I was 23 years old, I had the belief that I could do anything I put my mind to. I wondered what I wanted to do with my life… at 23 my favourite thing was partying, so naturally this would be a good life path! Throwing huge concert weekend parties sounded like the most logical thing to do.

I found a campground (near the shore of Lake Erie in Southern Ontario), quickly bought it, and started to plan for my first event, September 2009; Erie Lake Fest.

I budgeted $100 000 for this concert event, in hopes that I would raise the money through advance ticket sales. I had optimistically thought that 2000 people would pay $100 each and I could make $200 000 throwing an amazing party.

You can probably guess what happens next (my title is a bit of a giveaway, I know!)… The event costs snowballed into $120 000, and the revenue came in around $10 000, with a loss of $110 000 for the weekend.

This was the single hardest day of my life. I had worked and planned for months, and now on the day of the event, I had to beg and borrow another $20 000 just so my headlining band would get on stage and play for the 100 people who showed up.

How I lost $100 000 throwing a concert, and how to avoid making the same mistakes

How I lost $100 000 throwing a concert, and how to avoid making the same mistakes

The band put on an amazing show, providing a very personal and unique experience for everyone who attended. Unfortunately, this weekend would set the tone for neighbours and council members who were not impressed with the noise and traffic.

September 2009 would have been the only event I ever ran, if only I hadn’t bought the campground! I spent the next half year recovering from this event and working hard at my other business to pay back all my debts.

For the next season, I decided to run a 4-weekend concert series. There would be one concert camping weekend on each long weekend of the summer 2010. Each weekend I would budget $50 000 and aim for 1000 people at $100 per person. For the May 2-4 long weekend, we booked the band “Ill Scarlet”, who did a great job advertising and attracting people to the event. My team and I worked months to prepare and ended up breaking even. I decided the event business wasn’t for me. We were developing a reputation of hosting concert events, and therefore I was able to attract some new event planners who were as optimistic as I had been.

I was able to rent the venue out for the Canada Day long weekend, to a promoter who hired the band “Classified”. The promoter had a budget of $100 000 for the event, and was planning for it to be a promotional event for an even larger event he was running. Long story short, the promoter lost over half of his money he had invested in both of these events.

How I lost $100 000 throwing a concert, and how to avoid making the same mistakes

Our next 2 weekends of the 4 weekend concert series, we scaled way back. We cut the budget down to $20 000, and ended up generating around $40 000 each weekend.

Over the next 4 years, we hosted 6-8 concert & party style weekend camping events a year, until noise violations and complaints almost put me in jail. But that’s another whole story… maybe I’ll tell you it one day! (Side note – I never went to jail, and sold the campground to move on to bigger and better things!)

The #1 biggest mistake 1st time event planners make:

Going too big, too fast

Most first time event planners are super optimistic, and want to run the biggest, best event they can imagine. This reminds me of a quote by Jesse Itsler: “Start small, think big, scale fast.” … wise words!

How I lost $100 000 throwing a concert, and how to avoid making the same mistakes

I recently read an article which stated that 19 out of 20 events lose money … those aren’t very good odds! It’s extremely important to run an event on the smallest budget possible, not just to save yourself from losing a ton of money, but also to allow yourself to learn the flow of the event. Going too big too fast is not only a financial risk, it is also a logistical nightmare.

The first year we ran our rodeo we were constantly changing and adjusting things throughout the weekend to make it run smoother. We had advertised that gates would open at 10 am, with a pre-show at noon and the main show at 2 pm. At 9 AM, we didn’t even have our front gate ready to go and we had a lineup of cars down the road in both directions! It is a single lane road so we had no choice but to start moving cars in!

How I lost $100 000 throwing a concert, and how to avoid making the same mistakes

This was unexpected but a good problem to have. However, if we had tried to go too big, this first year could have turned into a major issue. We started funneling cars in as quickly as we could, and finally after 5 hours the road was clear. This was probably the only time in history that our country road was showing up red on Google maps! By our 4th year we had more than double the cars and traffic never stopped. By starting small we were able to see what problems would arise and how to fix them before they became huge issues.

Here is my formula for figuring out a budget for a first-time event, using our rodeo as an example. We could comfortably host a maximum of 3000 people. I take half of this as a max capacity. 1500 people at $18/person on average over 2 days = $54 000. This is the most I could expect to generate in ticket sales at the gate. I divide that in half again to get $27 000 which is what I would realistically expect to make in ticket sales at the gate. This is the number I use when working backwards to figure out the budget for the event. We trimmed and cut out any non-essential costs we could and got our budget down to $42 000 for the weekend.

How I lost $100 000 throwing a concert, and how to avoid making the same mistakes

We then had to figure out how to cover the $15 000 expected loss. Stay tuned for my next post, where I will explain to you how we managed to cover this $15 000, and address 7 other mistakes most first-time event organizers make, and how to avoid them.