Live Nation

Astroworld

1144 0

Now what?

Used to be the promoter went bankrupt, families argued with insurance companies for years and by the time settlements were made no one was paying attention. But that was back before Bob Sillerman started rolling up the regional promoters in 1996, ultimately resulting in two powerhouse promotion companies, AEG and Live Nation, the latter of which is a publicly traded company.

On the surface it appears it was an independent promoter, unknown to most, ScoreMoreShows. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that Live Nation purchased the company back in 2018: https://bit.ly/3BKmXx6 I.e. Astroworld was a Live Nation show.

So… There are insurance issues, and if policies don’t cover the loss, Live Nation has deep enough pockets to do so itself. However, what will be the stain on the company, to what degree will its stock take a hit?

Well, if we look at Facebook, the stock dips for a brief period of time and then goes sky high once again, because it all comes down to the money, and if you make it people will invest with you, and other than the Covid shutdown period, Live Nation has been putting up great numbers.

But this was an accident waiting to happen. Somehow, somewhere, sometime in the past the music industry decided that festival seating was preferable. I don’t care what promoters say, this is a way to squeeze in more attendees, despite their protestations that they’re adhering to fire marshal limits. And now the acts are in on it too, never mind the attendees. If everybody is close, there is more energy. But EVERYBODY can’t be close, but we’ve learned that almost everybody wants to be, which is why the expensive tickets always sell out first, it’s the cheap seats in the back that are hard to sell. But at festivals, there’s VIP and then the great unwashed masses. As for VIP…you’ve probably seen the video by now: https://bit.ly/3GWO0ZN There obviously wasn’t enough security, but why?

Festivals are not a new thing, ScoreMoreShows has experience. Maybe they did a poor job with barriers outside the venue, allowing attendees to storm in. HOWEVER, the dirty little secret is promoters can’t get enough people to work these shows. Even if they agree to, people don’t show up. You’ve heard about the Great Resignation, you’ve heard about the inability of restaurants and other businesses to fill jobs, well it’s the same in the concert industry too! But as we saw tonight, the risks are worse.

As for the public… In a country where the last president lied with impunity, where governors refuse to adhere to the law, where the unvaxxed don’t want to comply with mandates, why in hell should the hoi polloi obey the law? Then again, watching this video I was reminded of 1/6. What we need to do is arrest a bunch of these gate crashers. They’re easy to identify. Fine ’em, give ’em suspended sentences, no jail time, and community service. Believe me, word will get out. People won’t be crashing the gates in the future. Everybody thinks they’re immune, but there are cameras everywhere these days, if you want to commit crime make it white collar, otherwise you’re gonna get caught.

Which brings us to the deaths. As of this writing it isn’t confirmed it was a squish situation, but everybody seems to think it was.


Ever been squished? I have. It was in Boston, a free concert on the Common, with the Chambers Brothers, back in 1970, or maybe ’69, one of the most frightening experiences of my life. Sure, I’d worked my way up from the back, but I was not fighting to be up close and personal, I was a good thirty or more feet from the stage. And then the push began. And then I was squeezed between two people, who were also squeezed, running out of breath, the end was in sight. But in a stolen moment, there was a slight loosening of the crowd and I worked my way sideways, and out of the fray. Then again, I was not that far from the right, I wasn’t in the middle. So now…

I never fight to get up front, NEVER EVER! Because I know the crowd takes over and no one can save you, NO ONE! Once the mass starts to move, you’re all on your own. And as much as those on stage say to back off, it never works. The crowd is now an independent mass, with its own life, or shall I say death.

So, what next for festivals?

Well, honestly, some of these festivals are oversold, just to get from one stage to another is running a daunting gauntlet. But…

Festival seating…that’s why it’s called that, it started at FESTIVALS! And it ain’t the Woodstock Nation anymore, stoned hippies making way for their spiritual brothers, it’s everybody for themselves these days and you’ve got to fight for not only your right to party, to but get even a little bit in life. So, telling people who are struggling each and every day to back off is an impossibility.

And then there’s the elephant in the room, Astroworld was a hip-hop show. If it had been a country show, believe me, the mainstream press would be all over it, there’d be laws passed, but if it’s people of color…just like in other walks of life, they’re on their own.

Now if we look at George Floyd, a year and a half later, what we see is nothing has really changed, as I and too many with experience predicted. As a matter of fact, there’s been a backlash! Most notably with Defund the Police, which is a right wing mantra employed to rile up its constituents, getting them to vote. Just tune in to Fox News, you’ll see.

Furthermore, after Tuesday, consensus is the Democrats are too woke, and they need to move to the center, which means the marginalized have to go to the back of the bus, their needs have to be subjugated, like they always are.

But it gets even worse. On the right Black people are portrayed as takers, they’ve got an original sin that cannot be washed off.


Then again, hip-hop music is riddled with aggressiveness, gangs, bullets, mistreatment of women, but I don’t think that had anything to do with what happened tonight, but believe me you’ll read articles saying so.

So, this was a failure of security, plain and simple.

I read a tweet that when Drake took the stage as a surprise guest, the tweeter had been in line for merch for three hours. Getting people to man the merch tables is the hardest thing to do, at some gigs they reduce the number of merch stands because of this, because whoever shows up to work has to fill a more important position. But, if this tweet is true, and who knows, that would seem to indicate there weren’t enough workers at this gig, so…

At sporting events there are seats. People don’t start off all squeezed together, like they do at festivals. And with so many bad happenings in the past, there’s a heavier police presence. Oh, did I tell you that it’s hard to get off-duty police people as security these days? And look at the gate-crashing footage above, police on horses seemed to have no effect.

Now if it’s an older demo show, you tend not to see this. Then again, older people don’t like to stand, and many don’t even like to go to festivals. So, it’s the young ‘uns who are driving the festival business. And they are passionate about the acts and…

For a while there, there was a clampdown on the acts themselves, telling them not to incite bad behavior, to not tell the crowd to come forward. But there hasn’t been a disaster in the U.S. for years, so it’s not top of mind.

Could there be better security?

Of course! There could be barriers. There could be more cops. But someone has to pay for this, cops are expensive, never mind installing the big plastic barriers. And, if you have barriers, you instantly undercut the vibe that everybody is in it together. Then again, maybe there should be different levels of festival “seats.” Sure, everybody wants to be close, but when those tickets sell out you pay less to be behind.

As for VIP… They’re off to the side, this is what they pay for, to be separate. And oftentimes there’s a VIP viewing ground right in front of the stage, with a huge barrier protecting these people who pay for the privilege.


So, it was just a matter of when. The truth is festivals are incredibly profitable for promoters. They pay a flat fee for the acts and if they get enough people to come they can make tens of millions, not only on tickets but overpriced food, souvenirs… Then again, we’ve learned there can only be so many festivals, we’re past peak festival. So, the ones that remain, do we need a code, defined security requirements for each and every one?

If promoters were smart, they’d get ahead of this. Form a consortium to enact rules that every promoter agrees to. Otherwise, there will be hearings in Congress, and you never want to get the politicians involved, they don’t understand concert promotion, then again, concert promotion is opaque, just the way the promoters, everybody from the acts to the agents, like it. Ticketmaster is the enemy and everybody else skates. I could explain why Ticketmaster is not guilty, bottom line being that the acts are greedy, the fees are a way to keep some money out of commissionable income, but I could talk until I was blue in the face and most people wouldn’t buy it. You don’t want to believe the act is greedy, it’s easier to blame the corporation.

So the bottom line is these people are dead. And they’re never coming back. Their families are ruined, tragedies like this stick with parents until their own deaths. It’s just too much to get over.

So, the goal of everybody involved will be to say it’s an isolated event and move on, but I think the waters are choppier here. Then again, in today’s fast-paced world how many people are gonna care about this next week? Even mass shootings only get a day or two of headlines, and then…

So, is the public willing to take the risk, to assume it? Printed on their tickets a release absolving the promoter of liability?

Well, the truth is people no longer care about the fine print, which they click through ad infinitum online every day. But if you put it in plain English, do you want to die at a concert? You won’t find a single person who says yes. And that’s the problem right there. We need a zero tolerance policy, and as we can see from tonight in Houston, we’re far from one.


Responses from Bob’s readers. These comments are not edited for grammar or content.

Thank you for your comments. As a 55 year old metalhead who has attended hundreds and hundreds of GA shows with thousands of kids, mosh pits, and often violent behavior I know this kind of tragedy can be avoided. I spent many years on the road with Slayer, who has historically had some of the most aggressive and violent crowds out there. There are many ways to limit this kind of problem. One example are barricades (think breakwaters off-shore) that break up the density of the crowd (running both parallel and perpendicular to the stage) always helped. The trick is the people in charge have to take the possibility of such a problem seriously and be proactive. Slayer had a specific person on the road who was trained in doing this and would have a conversation with the entire venue security staff before every show. I think often at non-metal shows this kind of preparation does not happen.

Thanks

Marc Paschke

_________________________________

at GA shows in the UK and Europe, in arenas, there are often barriers across the floor so that only a maximum number of people are allowed into each section. No price difference, first come first served. Prevents overcrowding in any one section.

And, yes, the labor shortage is one of the biggest problems, in so many industries. Tour after tour, concert after concert, I see people desperate for more local workers.

Hadn’t seen an issue with gate-crashers in years; that does seem like something that should be under control.

Toby Mamis

_________________________________

It’s not just festivals.

We saw Phish at the Gorge this summer. First night, a security crew walked off (we were later told) closing down a venue exit gate after the show. While this was a minor inconvenience to a few thousand people, in 25 years of concerts I had never seen that happen, and it smelled like a much larger, lurking staffing issue.

James Coburn
Rose Ganache

_________________________________

The video you linked to only shows a portion of the mayhem at the gates. Start watching at 1:42 and you’ll people literally being trampled.

Ty Velde

_________________________________

I worked the Travis Scott concert in Detroit before Covid. I am in my 60’s and remember looking down on the floor with the mass of young people and being very concerned. They moved as one swaying forward, back, side to side.
At the time I thought this is so dangerous. Then I thought, I must be getting old because I probably would have been down there as a teen.

But I would say the people in charge of safety must have felt the same way and every concert like this they breathed a sigh of relief nothing bad happened. At the Twenty One Pilots it was the same. They started lining up early for early entry. It was cold so they all had heavy jackets on. Then they rushed the stage to get as close as they could. Then spent a couple hours there waiting for the warm up act to finish to see Twenty One Pilots. Trying to hang on to a bunch of jackets and getting hotter and hotter. These are young people who have not ate or drank much in their quest to not miss out. I was working the service desk that night next to the medic office and quite a few from up front ended up there. Some had fainted, some just exhausted and could not get out of the pack. They would send in medical to get the out and bring them up.

They know this is happening and has been a disaster waiting to happen for years.

Lily Morozow

_________________________________

Safe standing needs to be a thing yesterday. Look into them for soccer stadia. Put 4 barricades across the crowd, have a rough capacity for each section, and let people through until it’s full. Crazy to me that this isn’t already in place. Sad to hear about this but these kinds of things can and should be prevented in the future.

Thanks,
Adam Sliger

_________________________________

After Roskilde, “D” barriers were made mandatory at Australian festivals that had no seating (ie had mosh pits). And we have waaay less attendees than the staggering ticket numbers sold in the US. Is this not a regulation over there? I guess we prefer to kill the vibe rather than kill our concert goers…

Megan Butler

_________________________________

Mott the Hoople Kings College 5/3/1974, opening act Queen. There was a scary crush of people before doors were opened. I thought I’d be crushed, there were injuries. Inside, glass bottles being thrown onto the stage until the band had to threaten to walk off. I remember venues requiring assigned seating ever since.

Susan Rad Dorsey

_________________________________

Back when my Dad was in the concert promotion business, he refused to do festival seating; he just didn’t think it was safe for the fans. Thousands of shows and no stampedes. He was proven right in 1979 and again several times since.

Michael Weintraub

_________________________________

Ten years ago after the Indianapolis roof collapse, production managers, touring professional and production vendors started the Event Safety Alliance, to enacted guidelines and safety standards for all aspects of the concert touring industry.

There is a lot of great stuff on this web site.

Take care,

Kent Black

https://www.eventsafetyalliance.org/

_________________________________

Hi Bob,

I just read your post regarding the deaths and injuries at Astroworld.

I want to bring your attention to the work of the Event Safety Alliance, ESTA and the TSP.

Please take some time to read ANSI ES1.9.

ANSI ES1.9 – 2020 Event Safety – Crowd Management

https://tsp.esta.org/tsp/documents/published_docs.php

I hope you can share this with your readers.

https://tsp.esta.org/tsp/index.html

https://esta.org/

The Event Safety Alliance® (ESA) is a 501(c)(6) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting “Life Safety First” throughout all phases of event production and execution. We strive to eliminate the knowledge barrier that often contributes to unsafe conditions and behaviors through the promotion and teaching of good practices and the development of training and planning resources.

Best,
Boxer

Jahn ‘Boxer’ Hardison

Treasurer, Event Safety Alliance
https://www.eventsafetyalliance.org/

Related Post