The Life Cycle of Events
Editor John Zamora's words from the May 2017 Issue
I constantly talk about how our job at Hot Bike is to find the next big thing in the V-twin world. It’s a never-ending task to stay ahead of the curve and find new stuff to report about while knowing when it’s time to devote attention away from stuff that has or is about to jump the shark.
Ideas for new events usually originate over a few beers among friends, where an idea comes out to throw the world’s most killer show that will be different, bigger, and better than any of its kind. After all, with a buzz you are sure to know the scene better than anyone and have lots of friends who want something new. That kicks off the cycle, and after that most events follow a typical lifespan that last a little more or a little less than a decade.
The first year of any new event is almost always a mess and tons of mistakes are made, as the learning curve is steep. Often the most basic necessities are overlooked because throwing an event is a lot of little details. The second year usually gains ground and momentum with lessons learned from past mistakes, and overall the event becomes more refined and a lot of fun.
Years three through six are the golden years, as the word spreads and the majority of the crowd and overall core value of the event is still pure. Media coverage is certain and people start to come from around the world. Bragging rights start to emerge for attendees who haven’t missed a show in X amount of years.
If an event makes it to year six or seven, it’s probably become profitable at this point. But this always comes at a cost with compromises in order to attract the big sponsors. This inevitably pisses off the participants who have been from year one through three. All of a sudden, the one event everyone looked forward to is “not cool” or a “sellout” or “played out.”
Competition for an event starts to emerge around year five when the illusion of an easy buck is possible if they can duplicate or have their own version. Eventually these other similar events, whether good or bad, pull people from the original event year after year as they reset their cycle back to the zero.
Year seven or eight of any event has to be the roughest. Cost and expectations are typically at an all-time high, criticism is at full swing, and the core, and even some of the scenesters, are replaced by the general public. While this sounds like a good thing, it can also be the sign that Fonzie is on the beach.
By year nine, most events are struggling to make money, keep their core, and possibly losing sight of their original reasons for throwing it. Often the original team is split or gone and replaced by outsiders who focus mainly on making money.
Then, a funny thing happens at year 10. People start to remember how great year one through four were. They become nostalgic for that good time and might wander back to see if it was what they remember. Upon their return, if the scenesters and general public are the ones dominating the show, it will probably never make year 11. If the core values of why the event was ever thrown in the first place are still solid and present, there is a good chance of long-term survival.
Years 11 and on are a roller coaster of ups and downs. But by now, most of the kinks have been worked out, and it’s just a matter of keeping the quality up and current, whether it’s the bikes, cars, artist, or bands. If you can make it long enough, the event becomes something you go to every year. It’s just what you do. The core audience now uses this event to see old friends they might not see but at this event once a year. This is the goal for all events.
If anyone thinks throwing any event is easy, I encourage them to just try and do one on their own. Showing up and complaining about every little thing is very easy to do. Dealing with a never-ending series of problems that all need immediate attention is not.
It’s a lot easier to pay an entrance fee and make complaints than to charge an entrance fee and make a memory for someone
I think what makes an event a long-term success is to stick with those core values of what got them to start the event in the first place. I always read that if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life. I can tell you from experience that’s bullshit, and when you do what you love for a living it’s still a job if you want to pay your bills. Like any job, you need to work hard in order to make money. Working hard means making comprises and doing anything long term takes sacrifices while others only see the rewards. If you lose sight of why you got into it, it’ll become a job just like any other really quick. It’s a lot easier to pay an entrance fee and make complaints than to charge an entrance fee and make a memory for someone. HB