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Sameen Ahmad & William Orner #020

Weather the Storm

When a storm begins to pick up speed, watch for the waving flags, they can tell you a lot about what is coming. With Lil’ Wayne headlining a High Time Concentrates Cup, flags began to wave for Hank & Ed Co-Founders, Sameen Ahmad, and William Orner. The artist was on the wrong side of the continent during soundcheck, asked for the balance of payment to be in cash in advance of the performance, and the entourage didn’t utilize the fully stocked dressing room. “You start doing the math on the flight patterns and things like that, and that was when I first learned how to track a private jet.” 

Temperatures raised to 105 – 115 Fahrenheit in the July event, while thousands of fans sampled the many forms of vapes, rosin, water hash, kief, compound concentrates, and extracts competing for the annual award. Ten minutes of the headlining show had passed as Lil’ Wayne continued to ask his swaying crowd to jump up and down. Security begins to scramble and vehicles whip around as Lil’ Wayne ends his onstage rant, drops mic, and leaves the stage. “The two things that the came from that were [the team’s] writing what TMZ was going to get, our statement, which was interesting, I had never been on that side of the news and then later on … staff drinking out of his bottle of Dom Perignon….biggest lesson learned is that you can’t return chilled champagne in the state of California,” explained Ahmad.

In Las Vegas, working on Life is Beautiful during the October shooting, Ahmad was able to take that unfortunate experience and carry over the safety and protection plan created in its wake to other event production plannings like the postponed Roots Picnic and HoagieNation festivals. Grabbing their production structure from prior festival trials also helped them reorganize Camp Bisco from its loading to its building to keep everything cleaned, cleared, and on-time. Mojo barricade does little to hold a crowd back during an Insane Clown Posse show if the security behind it is shielding itself from sprayed Faygo, which in turn amps up security protocol and process when fan engagement comes from the stage.

But how do you plan to survive a live event hiatus? Ahmad recently started a bar business in Austin, Texas when the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival and conference was canceled and is currently slated as digital for March 2021. Ahmad says, “For the businesses that are thoughtful of what’s to come, you have business 365 days a year, and losing SXSW is devastating, but it shouldn’t break your business like a pandemic breaks your business.” Ahmad also branched out with a new client on their merchandise line, taking data from event merch and moving them to a client’s online store. Orner brought Ahmed’s merchandise skills on board with artist Billy Strings, as his recent album released in early 2020. “Really focusing on the merchandise might be the future because people are always going to need clothing, which is kind of nice and a little bit more bulletproof rather than looking at live events as your only business,” Ahmad explains.

Meanwhile, in early 2020 Orner as general manager of Billy Strings had their bus roll into Nashville. “Then a tornado came and we had some things cancel, and here we are. So, the tornado is kind of like the harbinger of things to come, unfortunately, and oddly enough it really felt like it…and what we ended up doing is a merchandise sale with 100% of the proceeds going to benefit those in need at the time. And we were pretty happy with how that ended up, with the amount we were able to raise” With the pandemic putting live events on pause, they began streaming new songs from Billy Strings living room in April, then moved him in the Dining Room, then they peppered him into other streaming shows and festivals creating content through the spring. By summer, the band had a streaming tour in empty venues in Nashville, Red Rocks, and more with fans buying merchandise online to continue their charitable abilities and charitable efforts along the way. And all this time. Billy Strings has been writing and will soon announce ANOTHER album for a new tour already booked through 2022.

“For all of us, it’s really understanding and remembering that we will return to live events. We will gather again,” Ahmad says, but until then Hank & Ed Management will continue to do a lot more financial support for clients navigating unemployment, PPP loans, general business planning, merchandise strategy and design, event consulting services, bookkeeping and accounting and so much more to help the industry continue to weather the storm and when live events reopen Hank & Ed have crews to crank away in the festival circuit and artist management and touring. 

Looking to the future, Ahmad has joined the Insomniac Events family as their Sustainability Consultant investing her mind in what the future of festivals will be. “How do we get closer to a carbon-neutral footprint? What are the initiatives we can look at with solar energy? Composting on-site food waste programs, donating to local charities, and water recycling,” Ahmad continues, “In events, we have such a big footprint, trash, food waste, and confetti. I really hope that companies don’t take the pandemic as everything needs to be single-use…Maybe have more sanitation stations back of house so that we can reuse materials.”

During the pause in live events, it hasn’t stopped events from happening. Concerts and conferences are digital, merchandise continues to sell on websites, and the thrill to reconnect has not waned, but in this adjustment, we have learned new skills in an effort to give back to the community, consultation for businesses and agencies needing assistance, an audience searching for ways to reconnect with their favorite bands and brands, and management companies like Hank & Ed looking for new way festivals can not only connect people at the moment in a safe and healthy way but leave a town better than when they arrived.

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Amanda Younger

About Author /

Amanda brings 15+ years event experience working with the world's preeminent brands, including NYC Pride, High Times, NBA, and MRY. Amanda has led, managed, and executed activations, touring, ticketing, food & beverage, trade shows & conferences, rallies, street festivals, concerts, and any confetti moment New York City has allowed. Amanda can be reached at amanda@eventspeak.com

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