The cancellation of the first day of music mogul Pharrell Williams’s inaugural Something In the Water Music Festival (SITW) in Virginia Beach, Virginia due to stormy weather is a recent reminder of the importance of securing event cancellation and business interruption insurance to mitigate the significant economic risks posed by outdoor events.[1]

SITW, Williams’ tribute to his home state of Virginia, brought a convergence of musicians, personalities, scholars, students, artists, activists, and athletes together for a multi-day festival experience on Virginia Beach. SITW featured music performances from Williams and Friends, including Virginia natives Missy Elliot, Pusha T, D.R.A.M., and Dave Matthews Band. Williams surprised festivalgoers with a number of guest appearances including Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, and P. Diddy.

Unfortunately, the first night of the Williams’ transformative event was derailed by weather. The performance start time of 2 p.m. was postponed to 7 p.m. and eventually cancelled due to strong wind gusts, heavy rain, and a tornado threat. With initial attendance estimates of 25,000 per day at the festival, it is likely that hotels, restaurants, tourism and transportation companies, and other businesses were impacted by the cancellation.[2]

Impacted businesses can tap into event cancellation coverage for, among other things, lost profits and revenue or amounts paid to reimburse ticketholders, vendors, or other third parties because of the cancelled event. Here, the event promoter, LiveNation, refunded festivalgoers a portion of the festival ticket price to account for the cancelled performances on the first day. In addition to coverage for refunds to ticketholders, coverage is also potentially available for out-of-pocket or unexpected costs, lost advertising, lost ticket sales, or other contractual obligations a business has to pay that can be attributed to the cancelled event.

Event cancellation is an important risk management tool that can protect businesses, large and small, from financial losses that accompany event cancellation and postponement. Businesses should familiarize themselves with the scope of coverage provided by their current policies and consult experienced coverage counsel to place or renew such policies and maximize insurance recovery.

[1] Newman, Jason, “Pharrell Williams Forced to Cancel Day One of Music Festival After Severe Storms.” RollingStone, 26 April 2019,

[2] “Sold-out Something in the Water music festival from Pharrell Williams adds more artists.Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9 April 2019.