Music industry

What can the music industry do?

The Danish town of Roskilde shares little with Houston other than the proximity to a waterway and the tragedy of a music festival in which nine people died.

The Roskilde Festival, which typically attracts more than twice as many music fans as the city’s population of around 50,000, only made the news until its 30th year, when nine fans were crushed in a mosh pit during a performance of Pearl Jam on June 30, 2000.

A year later, the festival returns with Bob Dylan headlining.

Carlos Chirinos, professor of music and global health at New York University, studies crowds and music-related behaviors. He worked with the organizers of the Roskilde Festival in 2005.

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“I was impressed with the way they tightened the security in the pit,” he said. “I had the opportunity to be close to security and I saw how closely they worked with the management. They tried to get full control.

“And they haven’t had any incidents since then.”

A week after the Astroworld festival in Houston left nine people dead, no answer has been found as to the root cause of the tragedy. The response to the incident will take time as the tragedy unfolds in court. Governor Greg Abbott announced a Texas Concert Safety Task Force last week. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called for a briefing of all entities – Live Nation promoter, NRG Park, the city’s police, fire and emergency management departments – involved in the rapper’s show of Missouri City Travis Scott. And a criminal investigation is underway.

In the meantime, experts say large-scale changes in the way the music industry organizes its events are unlikely to occur. Those who advocate an end to general-admission music festivals with tens of thousands of spectators can get a short-term reprieve: the festival season hibernates largely for the winter.

But by next spring and summer, music festivals will likely be back in full swing.

“It’s not cynical, but just an observation, that some of the most heart-wrenching tragedies at mass rallies in the United States haven’t brought about much change,” said Steve Adelman, vice president of the Event Safety Alliance. The nonprofit was formed following a concert in 2011 that was to feature the band Sugarland at the Indiana State Fair. High winds knocked over the supports of a temporary roof, killing seven fans and injuring dozens more.

“What are the likely long-term changes after the Astroworld tragedy?” You can find people asking if this will be the end of GA shows, and commentators saying it will happen. I don’t think it’s likely at all, ”Adelman said. “If only for another reason the business model of the music industry has changed. Nobody sells records. So the industry sells live music, food, drink, and merchandise. It’s just the model. It’s economy.

Music festivals for young people

A 2015 Nielsen Audience Insights report estimates that approximately 32 million people attend at least one music festival in the United States each year. Most festivals were canceled due to the pandemic last year, and many have also closed in 2021. As musicians, fans and many other players in the festival ecosystem are increasingly returning to the scene. Comfortable with gatherings, festivals are likely to return and attract young audiences like those who showed up at Astroworld on November 5th.

The Event Safety Alliance does not have a “core interest” between those who produce and those who attend events, Adelman said. “We advocate for safe practices in the live music industry. “

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But he said the organization was retained last week as a consultant for a party involved in the Astroworld incident. He advises asking the right questions about security, barricades, crowd management training, response time, and artist or other inducement.

Jim Digby, manager of the Linkin Park group, is the founder of the Event Safety Alliance. Earlier this week, videos from Linkin Park from 2001 were circulated as an example of good crowd control practice: During a 2001 concert in London, the band’s guitarist noticed that a fan was stuck under the crowd and interrupted the group’s performance until the participant was recovered.

Although America has produced a number of now famous festivals such as the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969, Europe has a longer history of annual events that draw tens of thousands of people.

“Rave culture was slower to come to the United States,” Chirinos said. “But in the early 2000s, festivals became a big deal here.”

Hundreds of festivals are now taking place across the country. The Nielsen report found that nearly half of festival goers are between the ages of 18 and 34, a demographic prone to events like Astroworld.

The Houston event is now a flashpoint, and concert promoters – including spokespersons for Live Nation, AEG Live, and Beaver Productions – would not comment on the future of the business following the tragedy of this event. week.

Randy Phillips, former CEO of AEG Live, said that for all future concert promotions he oversees, “we are over-securing and over-insuring all attendees in a way that we probably wouldn’t have before Astroworld. “, in an interview with the New York Times.

European security procedures

Practices at Astroworld will be scrutinized for months, if not years. At first, fans went through a security checkpoint and entered the show. Videos of the event have been circulating for more than a week, including a spectator begging a cameraman to help stop the show and an emergency vehicle slowly making its way to the stage as the concert continued. A report from Chronicle revealed that the Houston Fire Department was struggling to communicate with private contractors providing medical care and safety.

“At the moment, it is unfair to say this or that caused that,” Chirinos said. “There are a lot of people involved, and we’ll find out more later. But only the people who broke into the concert: that alone calls for a possible cancellation. You have no idea who entered. They could have entered with weapons, knives. There is no way to find out.

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Turner suggested that the number of security personnel was higher for Astroworld than during the World Series earlier in the week. But Paul Wertheimer, who founded Crowd Management Strategies three decades ago, told The Chronicle: “It’s not about how many people you have. This is where you place them and how well they are trained for the task they are going to perform.

“You could have had 10,000 of Houston’s best at this festival, and if they’re not in the right position or trained to handle this kind of situation in crowd management, it doesn’t matter. importance, “he said.

Wertheimer called Astroworld a “preventable tragedy.” But assigning responsibility will be complicated with so many entities involved, public and private, to put on a show in front of a crowd of this size.

Chirinos said he hopes the tragedy will spark discussions about organizing the festival and handling communication between security and medical staff.

He cited aerial photos from subsequent Roskilde festivals to illustrate how the festival changed its approach. The areas closest to the stage have been divided by aluminum “Mojo barriers” into six sections, with a first come, first served policy on these premium spaces. Other concert-goers have spread out in large spaces on the outskirts.

“You have to create subsections in the pit,” he said. “There are people, but no one is cracked. This is what you want in a space.

England’s Glastonbury Festival – which drew over 200,000 people in 2019 – has operated on and off since the 1970s without such an incident, he said.

“The regulations are very strict; there is a close link between managers, security and police, he said. “There are few negotiations. Communication in the chain of command is changing rapidly. It is not for private companies to decide. It is a public safety requirement that has to do with politics. But you have to be prepared to implement policies.

The Roskilde Festival is “the centerpiece of the city’s tourism,” Chirinos said. “The people there felt a civic responsibility to better manage the crowds so that they didn’t have to get rid of the festival.”

It operated continuously until 2020, when the global pandemic brought it to a halt. But next summer, Roskilde will once again handle tens of thousands of fans – with her darkest moment two decades behind it.

The tragedy at the Astroworld festival


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