News Column

As tragic incidents rise, concert safety gets a new look

August 5, 2014

By Patrick Ryan, @PatRyanWrites, USA TODAY



The good times have gone bad quickly at a number of music shows this summer.

A man had his fingertip bitten off at BeyoncÉ and Jay Z's On the Run tour stop in Pasadena, Calif., last Saturday when he accused another concertgoer of groping his girlfriend, becoming the latest victim in a growing list of bizarre and tragic incidents to occur at live music events this summer.

An 18-year-old man was charged with raping a 17-year-old girl on a crowded lawn at Keith Urban's July 26 outdoor concert in Mansfield, Mass., while fellow country star Tim McGraw caught flak a week earlier for slapping a fan after she grabbed and ripped his jeans at an Atlanta show.

Last weekend, two died at Mad Decent Block Party, an EDM event in Columbia, Md., joining 15 other fatalities at festivals so far this year -- up from seven in 2013, according to Billboard.

Is it coincidence, or is a lack of security and safety regulations?

"We're talking about peak concert season, millions of people going to shows -- safety is always a paramount concern, but you can't completely, 100% contain stupid behavior," says Ray Waddell, Billboard's senior editor of touring. "The reason it gets so much media attention when it happens is mostly because it's so rare."

Despite best efforts to control what goes on inside a venue -- whether that means upping security staff, employing drug-sniffing dogs or capping alcohol purchases -- it's impossible to prevent all dangerous behavior, says Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni.

"How is a promoter supposed to stop a drug overdose? Even strip and full-body cavity searches couldn't stop someone from ingesting drugs just before they come in," he says. "The negligence would be if the promoter didn't provide adequate emergency medical (services) on site."

But promoters and city officials may bear some of the blame for seeking to maximize profits, says Paul Wertheimer, founder of Crowd Management Services, a safety consulting service specializing in live music.

"There's so much money involved (with events), and cities and communities are so desperate for money," he says. "Promoters know that, artists know that, and they're cutting corners more than they ever did before," with minimal security staffing and unlimited alcohol sales.

Electric Daisy Carnival, the Las Vegas EDM mega-fest, brought more than $278 million into the local economy in 2013, reports the Las Vegas Sun, while Forbes estimated that the three-day Ultra fest may have pumped as much as $200 million into the Miami economy in March.

"It's becoming acceptable that people are injured or die at these events. It's not an outrage," says Wertheimer. "Unless it turns into something substantial, it's business as usual."




John Locher, AP


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Source: USA Today


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