Pay for a Weather Forecast? Are You Kidding Me?

Mike Chapman is a top meteorologist for the National Center for Atmospheric Research. With several degrees in the Atmospheric Sciences, it’s safe to say weather is a passion for Mike. Recently, he has co-founded Perfect Storm, a weather app designed specifically to help people in live event production. Together with Rich Barr, experience production manager for touring concerts, Perfect Storm hopes to make entertainment weather safety an accessible priority. Using first-hand experience from both production and weather forecasting, the team is devoted to customising individual programs for each client’s needs. And now, they have a cool new phone app.

When glancing through the app store on your iPhone, there are thousands of free and nifty apps that can be downloaded to give you weather information. In fact, most phones already come equipped with a weather app right from the start. What more could you need, right? Live events, especially those exposed to the elements like festivals and stadium shows, obviously have a need for accurate and timely weather information. Of course the event organisers can save a few bucks and rely on the free stuff to get at weather information for or near the venue. Here’s the catch though: free can sometimes be more expensive than something you pay for.

The ‘free’ weather community has advanced over the past decade. Weather information is everywhere – in your car, on your phone, on your laptop, and even on your watch. Is this the type of information that the live event world needs though? Free apps give you information about temperature and precipitation, like rain and snow, and maybe radar. However, with live events, much more is at stake. With countless lives and millions of dollars of equipment to consider, it is not enough to simply rely on your phone.

The ‘paid’ weather community has also advanced, however. I would argue much more than its ‘free’ counterpart. Paid apps use more advanced models, radar, and weather stations, but the greatest advancement that the paid community has made is in communication. Paid apps are more advanced, offering more detailed information and are customised for the end user. The data feeding those applications is more accurate, more timely and more specifically located. For live events, this means weather data pushed to productions that is tailor-made for the hard decisions that must be made when shows happen outside. Consider knowing not just that it will rain, but exactly when that rain will hit the specific location of your stage. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Certain paid companies also offer 24 / 7 human support for the entire duration of the event, from load-in to load-out. As we know, concerts don’t just have artists and fans to consider. Crews are onsite all day, with a much larger window for bad weather to affect their jobs. How nice would it be if during the stage build, everyone got a text that lightning was within five miles of the site (and approaching), or that winds would exceed 30mph because of nearby thunderstorms but that the festival site would not actually see rain? Plenty of money is spent on structural engineers to determine the wind tolerances of staging and other live event infrastructure. Why not spend a few bucks then on understanding the wind patterns around the stage for the time of year that the event will occur?

Certain paid weather companies provide weather information for the roads from venue to venue. Free weather apps can’t give you the expected road conditions that may be encountered as crews and truck-loads of gear move from site to site. Paid weather apps can. How many times during a winter tour does a crew leave a 2am load-out and hit the road, not knowing what types of bad conditions could lie ahead? Snow and ice may be waiting at your destination, or along the route. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a text from your personal meteorologist telling you to avoid a certain highway to steer clear of dangerous ice?

Free apps just don’t cut it for the live event industry. Why would you want to base high dollar decisions and the safety of your crew, talent and fans on an app that gives you a very small amount of useful information? Beyond the financial, there are serious safety concerns to consider. It seems every year we hear more and more stories of catastrophic live events, losing the battle with Mother Nature. As a decision maker on tour, do you want to risk the expense of cancelling a show, ruining your gear, or hurting someone on your crew just to save a little money? In the end, the decision to rely on the free weather application will most likely be more expensive than something that you can spend a few bucks on. Meteorologist are here to help. We have been developing custom apps to make things safer, more reliable, and ultimately, cheaper for productions. You just have to ask.

Perfect Storm