Disclaimer: The information presented in this article was correct at time of publication. This is not an article about COVID-19 and it does not offer advice about the virus itself.
As needadisco.com handles hundreds of enquiries regarding provision of entertainment services and products each day, as well as monitoring the status of agreed bookings, we are ideally placed to be able to identify trends in the marketplace caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Effect on New Enquiries
Since early March 2020 and the news about the spread of COVID-19, we have noted a significant drop in new enquiries for events taking place in the next 2-3 months (see our new stats page under the 'enquiries' tab. Usually around 40-50% of all enquiries are for this timeframe. Enquiries for events further out in the future into the summer and beyond do not seem to be affected at this time. This suggests that people are following government advice about social distancing and postponing or not bothering to host events in the near future. It should be noted that enquiry volumes overall are fairly robust and are still showing an increase in quantity over the same period in 2019 despite the recent reduction in short-term advertisements. We now expect to see the vast majority of planned events taking place in April and May cancelled, with clients currently 'hedging bets' for June, July and onward. This may well change going forward.
Anecdotal evidence from DJ forums and chat pages suggests that cancellations ARE now happening on a wide scale, with the majority of these tending to be for DJs working residencies in pubs and clubs, as well as bookings for corporates as they cancel or postpone events and staff gatherings. Smaller private family events and children's events are not affected to the same degree as yet.
Some members have asked us for advice on handling cancellations instigated by the customer. All that we can advise is that each case is handled on its own specifics, and to try to ensure you are not left out of pocket by enforcing any terms and conditions agreed to by your client on acceptance of the booking until such time as 'force majeure' situations arise (e.g. government legislating against public gatherings). We encourage members to push for postponement rather than cancellation and to work to retain client goodwill. We are seeing a willingness to consider postponement amongst wedding clients in particular and due to the fact that many popular venues are already booked for weekend dates later in the year we are seeing an uptick in weekday bookings as a consequence. Do not confuse a lost event as a loss of revenue for the same amount - ensure that deposits cover your profit margin so that in the event of cancellation you are in the same fiscal position as you would have been had you worked the event. For example, if the event pays £300 and you have calculated your total costs including income tax, NI, fuel, wear and tear, administration time, advertising etc. etc. as being £200, then a £100 deposit retained will see you in the same position had you not worked the event. See this article for advice on setting the right deposit level.
DJs infected or self-isolating
To date we are not aware of any of our members being unavailable to work due to COVID-19 infection or self-isolation precautions. However, we stand ready to help our members needing assistance in finding cover should the worst happen. Members are advised to use our quote request system to find cover - needadisco.com/quote if it is one or two events, or raise a support call - needadisco.com/support if help is needed managing multiple covers. We are happy to help source DJs for events NOT sourced via our platform via the first link. Please ensure you use the notes box to tell us why you are looking for cover.
What will happen to needadisco.com if staff become infected or need to self-isolate?
We will make every effort to keep the platform running as normal, but we are a small team so of course we may be affected in the event of a rapid and widespread pandemic. Thankfully we are well spaced geographically so our hope is that we can continue to run as normal a service as possible.
In the event that we are impacted significantly, we may relax our service level targets with regards to administration tasks and if this happens we will place a system-wide alert to keep you informed. Should it become necessary to suspend the handling of new quote requests, the website will revert to a maintenance mode for the duration. If this happens then all affected members will be credited with the equivalent of the downtime which can be redeemed on the next subscription extension.
Will needadisco.com be suspending membership fees during the downturn?
Our focus remains very much on 'business as usual' and providing an uninterrupted service whilst remaining diligent and responsive to government recommendations and guidance. So in short, no. But rest assured - we ARE looking at various different ways of supporting our members and ensuring we deliver maximum value to help support their businesses in both the short and the long term. More details about these measures will be posted in news articles over the coming days and weeks. We have business expenses too, and the needadisco.com service does not run at a profit. We are looking to the future and trying to secure as many genuine enquiries as possible for our members so that they can at the very least take deposits to help see them through the short term and these enquiry levels are currently quite robust.
Warren Buffett famously said that is is wise to be 'fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful', so whilst your competitors are spending time spouting rubbish on Facebook and other social platforms, we encourage you to spend your time and limited advertising budgets focusing on your business and making it the best it can be. Then, when the upswing inevitably comes, you will be best placed to take advantage.
I'm hosting a party soon - should I cancel it?
This is a difficult question to answer, and really comes down to a personal decision about the balance between the risk of a large group of people in one confined space for a period of time, and the need to carry on with our daily lives. You might want to consider the ages of your guests and whether any 'key' invitees are in an at-risk group, such as those with underlying health problems. You might also want to consider the area where you are holding the party and the areas from which your guests will be travelling, as some parts of the UK are curently seeing higher numbers of cases. Also consider HOW your guests might travel. Finally, if you do go ahead with the event, think about how many potential guests will not show up either through enforced self-isolation or fear of contracting the virus - if you can get a feeling for how many people might not turn up, you might be in a good position to amend catering provision for example, saving some money and reducing food waste.
The real answer to the question will probably change in the coming days or weeks as the virus spread continues. For now there is no specific government advice on avoiding gatherings of this kind, however some countries have banned large gatherings, some for as few as 100 people.
If I cancel or postpone my party will I get my money back?
This all comes down to the contracts that you have with your venue and other suppliers. All will likely have penalty clauses for cancellation or postponement, because they have reserved their services especially for you and turned away other customers for the same dates. Some suppliers may be more lenient than others, perhaps allowing a rebooking at a reduced rate or carrying forward a deposit. You will need to speak to your suppliers individually to understand the cost impact. You may be covered by an insurance policy if you took one out - for example wedding insurance - but again you will need to discuss the situation with your insurance provider. Government advice is currently to avoid gatherings, but there is no outright ban. Contractually therefore your venue and entertainment/other event suppliers are still bound. Things may well change if the government legislates the cancellation of events.
What is needadisco.com doing to help its members at this time?
Members can rest assured that we are doing everything we can to ensure a steady stream of event enquiries for future events and staff are devoting more time to a number of initiatives to support this aim. Specifically, since the start of the crisis, we have:
- frozen subscription rates for the third year running
- lowered the minimum subscription rate at which a 6-month renewal option is offered to £79
- introduced a 3-month renewal option for all subscriptions £149 and above
- suspended the additional admin charge for 6 month (and 3 month) renewals temporarily
- fast-tracked the development and release of a number of initiatives designed to drive even more enquiries to our quote request process, including sharing more of our data with search engines for inclusion in FAQs
- fast-tracked the development and release of a number of initiatives designed to improve the web visibility of individual members and their excellent feedback records in search engine placement
- brought forward the initial release of a real-time statistics tool to help members decide how best to structure and advertise their businesses going forward based on historical and current demand for services - this is a subset of more detailed and localised statistics that will be made available to members shortly through Member Dashboard
- introduced a simple 'Clear All Filters' tool in Member Dashboard so that members can ensure they are seeing as many new enquiries as possible
- relaxed the DJmark 'time to wait' between Silver, Gold and Platinum for returning members; the 90-day steps will remain for new first-time members
We believe that at this difficult time, a well-maintained needadisco.com subscription is the best value and most effective advertising package for any small mobile disco centric business. We continue to invest in the platform and members will see the fruit of this investment with regular updates and improvements.
How can I maximise the chances of picking up bookings from needadisco.com enquiries?
With thousands of DJs in the same position - cancelled bookings, lack of new enquiries - it may be prudent to consider expanding your target market for the foreseeable future - perhaps reconsider services of different age groups or venue types, or review your pricing policy (and perhaps service levels) to pick up jobs paying a little less than you might ordinarily like. To help with this, needadisco.com have introduced a 'Clear All Filters' tool in Member Dashboard - with one click this will reset all optional filters such as minimum pricing, age groups, venue types and so on so that you will receive as many enquiries as possible to help see your business through these difficult times. Bulking out the future order book will also help in the short term if you can start to collect deposits, or need to apply for financial support to remain solvent.
We always recommend that members make the most of their subscription by ensuring their profile and dashboard settings are reviewed and updated - it doesn't take long to keep your content fresh and it will help us sell you in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Why not run a Profile Healthcheck which will tell you where your profile might be lacking. Ensure you've told us in detail about all of the services that you offer, and review/update your pictures, descriptions, video clips etc. whilst you have the time available to do so. Every minute invested in your business now whilst your competitors are running around in a panic will reap rewards later.