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: 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: 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.

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