Top Acts Pull Out of Reading and Leeds Festivals – Bad Supplier Behaviour

How should you react if a supplier lets you down? If it is a minor issue, a quality failure perhaps, or a lightly late delivery, then you discuss the issue, what might be needed to avoid a repeat, and perhaps administer some sort of direct critique – “we’re very disappointed in you….”  You might take more severe action if minor problems become frequent of course.

But what if the supplier really lets you down? What if, shortly before they are due to deliver something – maybe raw materials, components, or some new tech equipment – they tell you they can’t. Or perhaps a lawyer who is collaborating with you on a big project says they can’t make that critical meeting on Friday – even though you’ve got the CEO and CFO both lined up to attend?

Then, when you ask why, they tell you that basically, they’ve had a better offer from another customer. Going back to my first procurement job at Mars, maybe a supplier of orange juice tells me that Rowntree’s have offered more so the shipment is going to them. “Your contract is at £1 a litre – they’re offering me £2 a litre”.  But, I say, we might have to close down the Starburst production line for a week! Tough, says the supplier, that’s business.

That is an approximate analogy to what has happened with Reading and Leeds music festivals. Jack Harlow and Italian rock band Maneskin, both near the top of the bill, pulled out of next week’s festival in recent days. (Harlow is a boring white US rapper – Pitchfork said his latest album was “among the most insipid, vacuous statements in recent pop history”. )

Their reason appears to be that both were offered live slots at the MTV VMAs (video music awards) in the US next weekend. Actually, I’m not sure MTV will have offered lots more money; it is probably an “exposure” factor that has made the artists and their managers decide to let down some 150,000 UK live music fans.

Going back to Mars, let’s consider how procurement would respond to this sort of action. It’s easy to say that you would never work with that supplier again, but that would come down to power and market situation (if they are my only approved supplier of orange juice, I have a problem). But if I had the opportunity to exclude that firm, possibly forever, I would certainly do so. They have betrayed my trust and that is not easily remedied.

I might also look at taking legal action. Can I sue for breach of contract, and claim damages – such as the cost of shutting down the production line, perhaps? It will depend on the contract, but generally “force majeure” incidents which allow contractual terms to be ignored are quite different from someone just overtly breaking the contract for commercial reasons. Note that Rage against the Machine pulled out of the festivals too recently – and they were a headliner – but one of the band is ill and their entire European tour has been cancelled. That is quite different from the VMA issue.

So I hope Harlow and Maneskin get backlisted by every festival in Europe from now on, and that promoters of any gigs with them understand they are not to be trusted and should look at having really punitive clauses in their contracts. I hope Reading and Leeds have also been compensated in some way – otherwise I don’t know why they wouldn’t take some sort of action against the acts. There’s also a reputational issue for the festivals here. If customers start thinking that you can’t trust the list of artists that are spread across the marketing material, why would I commit £250, months in advance, for a Reading ticket?

Anyway, not Bad Buying (unless Reading didn’t have a decent contract in place, of course); but certainly Bad Suppliers!

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