Festival safety, and what Astroworld got wrong, from the music lover’s perspective
As someone who regularly attends music festivals, the news of Astroworld’s tragedy is both frightening and infuriating. (The latest news of nine-year-old Ezra Blount’s death more than a week after the event, brings the total count to 10 lives lost.) These emotions arose not just from the loss of life, but from the clear festival safety negligence from organizers and Travis Scott himself. Echoing the masses of comments, the shocking scale of this tragedy was preventable.
First, I was not at Astroworld, so precedence should be given to survivors’ families‘ stories and those still healing injuries. I hope that all those affected by this event find the justice and peace they deserve.
Music festivals are meant to serve as an escape from reality, an experience where attendees are surrounded by people who share their love of the same music and the community it provides. Everyone onsite trusts that festival organizers have created a safe environment. No matter the number of fans, whether it’s 100 people or 100,000, the safety of all fans and staff should be priority number one.
It is the duty of XP professionals to ensure festival safety. Here’s what that entails:
Every festival needs an experienced and active social media team. As an attendee, I expect to see multiple posts per week in the months leading up to the festival. Then, constant updates during the event. This includes sharing venue maps, check-in details, and available resources. Additionally, successful festivals, from Coachella and Pitchfork to SXSW and Inbound, implement custom apps to house this information and deploy push notifications for real time updates.
However, the effectiveness of these communications depend on the staff’s preparedness to handle the crowd. When I’m at a festival, I expect that safety protocols exist and have been practiced. I don’t know to what extent Astroworld producers invested in detailed communication practices, but Live Nation Worldwide’s Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook posts (as well as Scott’s) only include information on lineups and ticket/merch sales.
2. STOP TREATING US LIKE CONSUMERS. BUILD TRUST WITH US AS HUMANS.
Communication lessens chaos within a festival — and that effort should extend to clear directives for staff. As soon as the crowd got rowdy the music should have been turned off and the lights turned on. Then, it’s the onsite staff’s job to gain control of the crowd and regroup. That didn’t happen. Music fans trust that the organizers care about their well-being and will act accordingly.
Event security had no experience or training, attendees believe the event was oversold, and Scott encouraged people without tickets to sneak in. This willful negligence was perpetuated at every level. There’s no way Scott wasn’t informed of the crowd surge during the show. And there’s definitely no way he wasn’t informed of it backstage.
3. FESTIVAL SAFETY STARTS FROM THE STAGE.
The foundation of the problem is the impact of music, artists and social issues on crowd temperament. I highly recommend the documentary “Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage” for further education. Every XP professional should be required to study this film as historical text. Like Astroworld, the riots, looting, violence and sexual assault at Woodstock ‘99 was a multifaceted tragedy. Furthermore, the doc particularly hones in on mob psychology and male aggression — both of which apply to this month’s events, too.
A performer’s social and on-stage persona contribute not only to who identifies with their music, but their subsequent behavior at live shows, too. Scott consistently bragged about fan injuries at his shows like a badge of honor. Ultimately, he created and perpetuated a fan base that fed off of his aggression with impunity.
Finally, while I plan my itinerary for the next festival, it’s with more caution and trepidation than before Astroworld. Now, I’m relying on the integrity and professionalism of XP producers to build experiences that make me feel safe. I hope, in the future, we can once again attend music festivals with all joy and connection. Above all, the least we can do for the victims is build a better and safer future.