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Why we chose to pass bringing this big name musical artist to our event

At the 2016 Propeller Innovation Festival, we seek to unite the innovators of the northeast. That means a day filled with top-notch speakers, future-changing exhibitors, drones, VR, VCs, a startup competition, and so much more, concluding the day with a musical performance from an artist who is relevant and brings a high energy musical finale.

Yesterday an option came up for a well known national artist. Given our budgeting constraints mixed with artist availability, this was an extremely compelling opportunity for us. Compared to other artists we’re considering, this was among the most well-known around the globe. After much deliberation, here’s the message to my team on how we ultimately made the very tough decision about what to do. To be fair to the artists’ image I removed the name.

“Hi! Lots of passionate discussion both here on slack and offline today about the possibility of going with #### as our main act. I spent most of may day on the topic. Before I get into the decision with #### I wanted to share some of my thoughts on how it could fit with the 2016 Propeller Innovation Festival.

As you prob now know ##### was accused of putting ecstasy in a girls drink. He was never found guilty and ultimately settled with the woman. A much bigger firestorm was caused by some foolish tweets he posted in response to the whole thing. I read them repeatedly and carefully and do honestly believe they were taking out of context and misunderstood to mean something he never intended.

With that in mind, the only way I can see this working is to put a direct spotlight on this issue. He has agreed to do an interview about this that we’ll have prepared at launch and we would announce him with backing of other female tech leaders. We would also have him speak via a fireside chat at the 2016 Propeller Innovation Festival to address this head on. Also, a portion of our proceeds would go to a charity that supports abused women.

From a business perspective, I am eager to share the story of how a business (in this case a band) deals with users (fans) and manages communication and press. In this case, I’d love to share lessons on social media crisis management. As you may be aware, lots of well known companies have dealt with hot button failures in one way or another, from Johnson & Johnson to Uber to VC funds.

I do sincerely believe we could all learn a lot about how ### hugely mishandled social media and lost tons of business (strategic partners like ###) and fans because of it. That story is compelling and valuable. Founders fail and get second chances all the time.

I also think it’s important to address uncomfortable topics directly. That’s what propels society.

However, in the end, there are a few reasons that have caused me to move in another direction. Here are the two most critical issues for me:

  1. I don’t want one speaker/performance to risk defining the 2016 Propeller Innovation Festival negatively and overshadowing the amazing experience we want people to have. While I believe wholeheartedly in giving people second chances, this particular topic runs too much risk in becoming the only story people hear about the festival. We’ve all worked too hard for that to happen.
  2. #### handling of the issue of rape showed horrible judgement. The statements since haven’t been stellar. The feedback I heard today from the manager gave me pause. I want to make sure we can be supremely proud of and confident in everyone we put on stage at the festival, even if we don’t agree with their views. Unfortunately, this doesn’t meet our standards.

To be fair, I think it’s extremely important that the truth gets some air. For us it’s too risky to do that at the 2016 Propeller Innovation Festival this year. Perhaps do some research of your own and see where you land on the issue.So we will pass on #####. We have a few other good options in the works.

By the end of this week I look forward to sharing with you our musical artists.

Thanks so much for you input and for your continued hard work.

Propeller Media and PropellerFest are not associated with Propeller Industries, LLC. PropellerFest is now Propelify.

About the Author Anthony Idi