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Crowd safety: Show stoppages rise post Astroworld

Crowd management specialists have spoken to IQ about the post-Astroworld rise in artists temporarily stopping shows due to fan safety concerns.

Last November’s tragedy in Houston, Texas, in which 10 people were killed following a crowd surge during Travis Scott’s closing set, appears to have prompted an enhanced level of vigilance from performers.

High-profile acts such as Adele, Paul McCartney and Billie Eilish have all briefly halted gigs in the last few weeks after being alerted to apparent medical emergencies in the audience, while Scott paused a New York concert earlier this month when he spotted fans climbing a lighting truss by the stage.

“We don’t know really how much of it was taking place beforehand for certain, but both venues and crowd managers are reporting an increase since Astroworld,” says Gentian Events founder Eric Stuart. “That is not a surprise though; it’s in the minds of the artists, for which we should all be grateful and hope it remains there.”

Crowded space expert Professor Chris Kemp elaborates on the shift in mindset that has occurred.

“It is not a new thing that artists, promoters, production reps, floor and barrier staff work together to keep the crowd safe,” he says. “But it is new that many more artists are understanding that they have a duty of care alongside everyone else for the audience.”

“We are seeing some more extreme behaviours and responses from crowds since we left Covid lockdown, making them more vulnerable”

Stuart, who also chairs the Global Crowd Management Alliance (GCMA), believes a combination of factors is driving the trend.

“Some of them are human heuristic tendencies or biases that make us – and that includes artists – focus on recent, high profile, high impact activity,” he tells IQ. “Astroworld fits all of those criteria. So there are some natural human elements to this for the artists. However, we are also seeing some more extreme behaviours and responses from crowds since we left Covid lockdown, making them more vulnerable.

“As well as some crowds being short tempered and intolerant, there is also an enhanced feeling of euphoria that may – I repeat, may – be leading to more medical events, fainting, etc, so there may be more need for artists to respond as well as more awareness of it.

“I emphasise may, because we don’t really have the empirical evidence, just plenty of anecdotal evidence from experienced people saying it is the case and frankly, we need to trust our instincts and our people on this.”

“We are still fighting with artists who encourage the public to join in mosh pits and don’t consider the risks”

Pascal Viot, safety chief for Switzerland’s Paleo Festival Nyon, urges all performers to treat their audiences with care.

“We are still fighting with artists who encourage the public to join in mosh pits, ‘walls of death’ and pogoing, and don’t consider the risks,” he tells IQ. “That is a real issue with fragile audiences.”

Singling out Billie Eilish for praise, Viot says the festival can collaborate with acts to make sure the crowd movement generated during their performances is under control. He also reveals discussions were held with Yourope Event Safety (YES) Group ahead of the 2022 season to educate artists and work together to provide the safest possible concert conditions.

Paleo sent a festival security rider to artists’ representatives this year, detailing the show stop procedure along with other safety elements.

“Show pauses or stops are complex matters that need very careful management”

Stuart stresses that show stops present additional issues from a crowd management perspective.

“Show pauses or stops – particularly the restart – are complex matters that need very careful management,” he says. “The awareness is very welcome, but the uneducated, unanticipated and unmanaged show stop is a challenge. Some of these show ‘pauses’ are absolutely essential, but some seem to have been generated by relatively minor, everyday incidents that security and medical teams just get on with.

“Certainly, one incident in a theatre in Vancouver led to a 20-minute show stop for a ‘faint’ which led to impatience and disorder in a crowd and soon afterwards, fighting on the balcony. That led to real risks for those bystanders on and below the balcony, but also for staff who had to intervene.”

Spearheaded by the United Kingdom Crowd Management Association (UKCMA), the Event Safety Alliance (ESA) and Event Safety Alliance Canada (ESAC), the GCMA was launched in December 2021 to “promote reasonable crowd management and crowd safety practices worldwide”.

“Artists have a vital role to play but, if they say the wrong thing, it could make matters far worse”

“If artists want to help, they should speak to the teams charged with crowd safety at the event first-hand. Not through agents or managers, but actually ask what is needed or expected of them in an emergency,” continues Stuart. “They have a vital role to play but, if they say the wrong thing, it could make matters far worse.”

Stuart expresses frustration that the lines of communication between security personnel and artists are often closed off.

“It is remarkably hard for the safety team to speak first hand to an artist protected by so many of their people,” he laments. “I just wish we could break down that wall of them protecting the artist so we could all protect the guests.”

“We do not expect artists to be entirely responsible for crowd safety, but they are part of the team that does that”

He concludes: “If any reader of this article is engaged in band or artist management, or you are ‘with the band’ and you know they are genuinely interested in crowd safety, just get in touch. We know the artist has a job to do and they are under enormous pressure to perform every time. They do that job with lighting effects that often make the crowd invisible and in-ear monitors making them almost deaf to the audience noise.

“We do not expect them to be entirely responsible for crowd safety, but they are part of the team that does that. We just want to give them an idea of what to say or do on the day they notice something amiss, and to know what we will do to rectify that. We want to work with them to keep all of our crowds safe and if we could get to speak to the artists, we think they would agree.”

To get in touch with the GCMA, email [email protected], or contact Stuart directly at [email protected]

 


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Astroworld injury claims exceed 4,900

Almost 5,000 people have claimed they were injured in last November’s Astroworld tragedy, according to a new court filing.

Ten concertgoers, aged between nine and 27, were killed after a crowd surge during co-founder Travis Scott’s headline set at the 50,000-cap festival in Houston, Texas, promoted by Live Nation and its Scoremore subsidiary. All of those who died suffered from compression asphyxia.

Now, Rolling Stone reports that attorneys Jason Itkin, Richard Mithoff and Sean Roberts, who are acting as “plaintiffs’ liaison counsel”, have tied 732 claims to injuries that required extensive medical treatment, 1,649 to less extensive treatment, and 2,540 for injuries where the severity is still under review.

Earlier this year, the go-ahead was given for hundreds of Astroworld lawsuits to be formally consolidated into a single case . Lawsuits were filed against Scott and promoters Live Nation and Scoremore, along with other parties, in each of the 24 district courts in Harris County. Nearly every claim alleges negligence such as “failures of safety and security rules, crowd control and emergency response measures, and failures to provide adequate security, supervision, training and care”.

Scott performed for the first time in public since Astroworld at the weekend

The Texas Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation ruled that 387 suits, representing almost 2,800 alleged victims, could move forward as one case.

The accused parties have denied all allegations against them relating to the 5 November 2021 disaster.

Last month, the Texas Task Force on Concert Safety (TFCS) made a series of recommendations on how to improve concert safety and help avoid a repeat of the tragedy, including the creation of a centralised Event Production Guide – outlining and encouraging best-practice for event design and crowd control.

“While some level of risk is inherent in any mass gathering, it is the opinion of the TFCS that proper planning will allow Texans to enjoy safe performances, concerts, and other culturally significant events,” it said.

Scott took to the stage at a Miami nightclub at the weekend to give his first public live performance since Astroworld.

 


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Taskforce publishes Astroworld tragedy report

A US taskforce has made a series of recommendations on how to improve concert safety in response to last year’s Astroworld Festival tragedy.

Ten concertgoers were killed and more than 300 were injured after a crowd surge during co-founder Travis Scott’s headline set in Houston, Texas on 5 November. The 50,000-cap festival at NRG Park was promoted by Live Nation and its Scoremore subsidiary.

The Texas Task Force On Concert Safety (TFCS) was announced by Texas governor Greg Abbott in the days following the disaster.  Led by Texas Music Office Director Brendon Anthony, the group comprised safety experts, law enforcement, firefighters, state agencies and music industry leaders, who held several meetings and one-on-one discussions to develop ways to enhance security at live music events in the state.

“The recommendations in this report are narrowly tailored to address gaps that were identified as contributing to safety failures at the Astroworld event,” states its newly published conclusions. “The TFCS also proactively used this process to enhance the state’s standard of safety practices for mass gatherings of all types.

“While some level of risk is inherent in any mass gathering, it is the opinion of the TFCS that proper planning will allow Texans to enjoy safe performances, concerts, and other culturally significant events.”

“The recommendations, findings and solutions detailed in this report will help the state of Texas prevent another tragedy like that at Astroworld Festival from happening again”

One of its key proposals is for the creation of a centralised Event Production Guide – outlining and encouraging best-practice for event design and crowd control – which could serve as a one-stop shop for promoters to access existing legal requirements. The guide would include a list of robust training resources for promoters, staff, and first responders for site walkthrough drills, security briefings, communication trees, and show-stop triggers and responses.

“I thank the Texas Task Force on Concert Safety for their commitment to safety and security for all concertgoers and for their collaboration with stakeholders on this critical report,” says governor Abbott. “The recommendations, findings and solutions detailed in this report will help the state of Texas prevent another tragedy like that at Astroworld Festival from happening again.”

The task force supports a requirement that promoters determine which emergency service would respond to a 911 call on the site of their event, and recommends that local authorities stop the show when it is determined that an event has been organised without a permit or has breached the bounds of the issued permit.

“The recommendations in this report are narrowly tailored to address gaps that were identified as contributing to safety failures at the Astroworld event”

It has also called for a Concert Attendee Code of Conduct as part of the ticketing process, which makes clear what behaviours will lead to ejection, and recommends that venues communicate with other venue representatives that have previously hosted the artist.

It adds that promoters should partner with artists to encourage safety, since messaging from the artist can be “uniquely persuasive” for fans.

 


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Hundreds of Astroworld lawsuits to be consolidated

Hundreds of Astroworld lawsuits are being formally consolidated into a single case following a court ruling.

Ten people, aged between nine and 27, died and hundreds of others were injured following the crowd crush during Travis Scott’s headline set at the festival at Houston’s NRG Park on 5 November 2021.

Lawsuits were filed against Scott and promoters Live Nation and Scoremore, along with other parties, in each of the 24 district courts in Harris County. Nearly every claim alleges negligence such as “failures of safety and security rules, crowd control and emergency response measures, and failures to provide adequate security, supervision, training and care”.

The Texas Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation has now ruled that 387 suits, representing almost 2,800 alleged victims, can move forward as one case.

“The agreed motion alleges the lawsuits arise out of incidents leading up to, during and following a live performance by Travis Scott during the Astroworld Festival outside NRG Park on November 5, 2021,” states the court papers. “We conclude that the cases arising out of the incident are related, and we find that transfer of those case would result in more efficient pre-trial of the related cases.”

“Houston Police Department continues to lead the investigation”

Billboard reports the move towards a single case was agreed upon by both sides. Scott previously requested to be dismissed from multiple lawsuits relating to the disaster, with a representative saying the rapper “is not legally liable” for the tragedy.

Live Nation, Scoremore and NRG Park owner Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation also deny all allegations against them, but have not asked for their dismissal.

Criminal investigations are still ongoing. Last month, Houston police appealed for Astroworld attendees to submit any photos or videos taken at the event.

“Houston Police Department have already viewed countless hours of video evidence as part of our ongoing investigation into the Astroworld event,” it tweeted. “To ensure that we have captured all possible evidence for a complete investigation, we have partnered with the Federal Bureau Of Investigation for additional technical assistance. The FBI has created a website where the public can upload any photos or video taken at the concert venue. Specifically, we are seeking any photos or videos of the main venue area from 8pm to 11pm. The website to upload your photos or video is fbi.gov/astroworld.

“HPD continues to lead the investigation and we appreciate the assistance from our federal partners at the FBI.”

 


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Congress demands answers over Astroworld tragedy

The US Congress has written to Live Nation to demand answers over the Astroworld tragedy.

Ten people, aged between nine and 27, died and hundreds of others were injured following a crowd crush during Travis Scott’s headline set at NRG Park in Houston, Texas.

In an open letter addressed to Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino, the committee on oversight and reform have requested information “regarding the roles and responsibilities for Astroworld Festival, security planning for the event, and the steps Live Nation Entertainment took after being made aware that law enforcement had declared the event a ‘mass casualty event'”.

We are committed to investigating what went wrong to inform possible reforms that could prevent future tragedies

“Recent reports raise serious concerns about whether your company took adequate steps to ensure the safety of the 50,000 concertgoers who attended Astroworld Festival,” reads the letter, signed by members of the committee.

“For instance, reports indicate that security and medical staff were inexperienced or ill-equipped to deal with mass injuries. Some attendees stated that the placement of barricades made it difficult to escape. Experts have stated that Astroworld Festival organisers failed to heed warning signs.”

The letter adds the tragedy follows “a long line of other tragic events and safety violations involving Live Nation”,  stating the promoter has been “fined or sued numerous times over safety issues at previous events, including other incidents involving surging fans or stampedes”.

Members add: “We are deeply saddened by the deaths that occurred at Astroworld Festival and are committed to investigating what went wrong to inform possible reforms that could prevent future tragedies.”

The committee has asked Live Nation to respond by 7 January 2022.

Live Nation and its Scoremore subsidiary deny all allegations against them relating to the 5 November disaster.

 


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Travis Scott involved in festival safety blueprint

Travis Scott is reportedly involved in an initiative to put new festival safety protocols in place following the Astroworld disaster.

According to Billboard, the rapper has reached out to “target participants” including Live Nation, AEG, Spotify, Apple and ticketing companies, among others, to secure their involvement in the scheme, which he has spent the last three weeks working on with the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM). Healthcare and public safety experts have also been approached.

USCM will announce the ‘Ensuring Festival Safety’ initiative at the 2022 USCM Winter Meeting in Washington, DC, scheduled for 19-21 January.

It is our hope that this report serves as the new safety and security blueprint for all festivals

The publication, which will be freely available online, will be compiled based on discussions that take place from January to June next year, and will include findings and recommendations on areas such as chain of command, crowd management and enforcement of health and safety regulations.

“It is our hope that this report serves as the new safety and security blueprint for all festivals,” states the agreement.

The news comes after Harris County medical examiner’s report concluded that the 10 victims of the Astroworld crowd crush at Houston’s NRG Park last month died of compression asphyxia. Another 300 people were injured among the 50,000 crowd.


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Friday round-up: World news in brief 17/12/21

Welcome to IQ‘s weekly round-up of news from around the world. Here, in bite-sized chunks, we present a selection of international stories you may have missed from the last seven days…

AUSTRALIA:
TEG, the Sydney-based live entertainment, ticketing, and technology company, has appointed impresario Randy Phillips to the board of directors. The live music veteran most recently served as president and CEO of LiveStyle. Prior to that, Phillips was CEO at AEG Live for 13 years, where he promoted world tours for artists such as Bon Jovi, Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber. Phillips, whose role will be both advisory and operational, will contribute to the expansion of the TEG footprint in live entertainment, including the creation of unique, owned, or co-owned, and financed intellectual property.

GERMANY:
Semmel Concerts has set up its own booking department under the name SCE Artists & Events. “Of course, the booking area has always been an important part of our company DNA, which we are now professionalising and making more visible with the Artists & Events department,” says MD Dieter Semmelmann. “We act as a partner and networker between artist/production and customer. Due to our experience and our diverse portfolio, we are able to offer and implement individual and tailor-made concepts for our partners.”

FRANCE:
Midem, a music industry conference and festival in Cannes, has been officially axed after 55 years. The impact of Covid-19 forced the organisers to stage events online in 2020 and 2021. An in-person event was scheduled for June 2022 but has now been pulled. The event launched in January 1967 with the promise that execs could “do all your business in six sunny days in Cannes,” and it became a crucial fixture of the music industry calendar.

SPAIN:
The organisers of marquee Spanish festival Primavera Sound have warned that they may have to find a new host city in 2023 due to a “lack of interest and agreement” from Barcelona city council. Primavera Sound has taken place in Barcelona for 20 years and has recently expanded internationally with sister events in Los AngelesChile , Argentina and Brazil. The flagship event will mark its 20th-anniversary next year with an expanded edition.

UNITED STATES:
The 10 people who died in a crowd crush during Travis Scott’s concert at the Astroworld Festival in Houston last month accidentally suffocated, according to the Harris County medical examiner. The victims, aged 9 to 27 years old, died of compression asphyxia, the examiner’s report concluded. Another 300 people were injured among the audience of 50,000 people. Travis Scott has requested to be dismissed from multiple lawsuits he is named in relating to the Astroworld disaster.

NORWAY:
More than 160 music festivals across the country are to benefit from the latest round of compensation from the Norwegian government’s scheme for organisers and subcontractors in the cultural sector. Kongsberg Jazz Festival, Oslo World, Vossa Jazz, Night Jazz, Trondheim Jazz Festival, Oslo Jazz Festival, Beyond the Gates, Midgardsblot Metal Festival, Nordland Music Festival and Risør Chamber Music Festival are among the festivals that will receive a share in 2022. It was recently announced that the scheme, which has been running since 2020, will be continued until the summer of 2022.

UNITED STATES:
Opry Entertainment Group (OEG) has announced AXS as its official and exclusive ticketing partner. Under the partnership, AXS will provide its full suite of solutions for all OEG properties on a single platform, streamlining tour and show ticketing operations. OEG properties include the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, its Ole Red venues in Orlando, Gatlinburg, Nashville, Tishomingo and the recently announced Ole Red in Las Vegas (expected 2023). The partnership also creates new opportunities to align with AXS’s parent company AEG and its live event business, AEG Presents.

 


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Travis Scott, Live Nation deny Astroworld claims

Travis Scott has requested to be dismissed from multiple lawsuits he is named in relating to the Astroworld disaster.

Ten people, aged between nine and 27, died following a crowd crush during Scott’s headline set at the 50,000-cap. NRG Park in Houston, Texas on 5 November.

However, a representative said the rapper “is not legally liable” for the tragedy, according to Rolling Stone. Scott, who is accused of negligence, among other claims, is named in most of the 300 suits filed in Harris County. He denies all allegations against him in 11 lawsuits and is likely to file many more requests for dismissal going forward, the report adds.

Promoter Live Nation, its Scoremore subsidiary and NRG Park owner Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation have also denied all allegations against them, but have not asked for their dismissal.

Nearly every petition alleges the same or similar common fact questions related to the alleged negligence

The news comes after it was revealed that 275 Astroworld lawsuits representing more than 1,250 people could be consolidated into a single case, according to a filing with the Texas Supreme Court.

“Transfer of all of these lawsuits to a single pretrial judge for consolidated and coordinated pretrial proceedings will eliminate duplicative discovery, conserve resources of the judiciary, avoid conflicting legal rulings and scheduling, and otherwise promote the just and efficient conduct of all actions,” it reads.

“Nearly every petition alleges the same or similar common fact questions related to the alleged negligence – such as failures of safety and security rules, crowd control and emergency response measures, and failures to provide adequate security, supervision, training and care.”

 


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275 Astroworld lawsuits could be consolidated

A total of 275 Astroworld lawsuits representing more than 1,250 people are set to be consolidated into a single case, according to a new filing with the Texas Supreme Court.

Ten people, aged between nine and 27, died following the crowd crush during Travis Scott’s set at Houston’s NRG Park on 5 November.

Lawsuits have been filed against Scott, promoters Live Nation and Scoremore, and other parties including venue manager ASM Global, in each of the 24 district courts in Harris County.

“Transfer of all of these lawsuits to a single pretrial judge for consolidated and coordinated pretrial proceedings will eliminate duplicative discovery, conserve resources of the judiciary, avoid conflicting legal rulings and scheduling, and otherwise promote the just and efficient conduct of all actions,” reads the filing.

Nearly every petition alleges the same or similar common fact questions related to the alleged negligence

It continues: “It is alleged that while Travis Scott was performing numerous people in the crowd pressed against each other or barricades and some were trampled, leading to injuries and 10 deaths. The concert was ended and the event cancelled.

“Nearly every petition alleges the same or similar common fact questions related to the alleged negligence – such as failures of safety and security rules, crowd control and emergency response measures, and failures to provide adequate security, supervision, training, and care.”

Criminal investigations are also ongoing into the tragedy at the 50,000-capacity festival.

 


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Rolling Loud goes 18+ following Astroworld tragedy

Rolling Loud organisers are introducing an 18+ age policy for its 2021 California leg in an apparent response to the Astroworld tragedy.

Kid Cudi, J. Cole and Future are due to headline the 55,000-capacity hip-hop festival at Nos Event Center, San Benardino, from 10-12 December.

All ticket-holders under the age of 18 will be given the option of rolling their tickets over the next year’s edition, or receive a refund. The Rolling Loud brand launched in Miami in 2015.

In light of recent events, we will be implementing an 18+ policy

“We welcome everyone to experience our festivals, however, in light of recent events, we will be implementing an 18+ policy specific only to our upcoming 2021 California festival,” says a statement on the festival’s website.

Live Nation promotes both Rolling Loud and Astroworld.

All 10 victims of the 5 November crowd crush during Travis Scott’s Astroworld set at Houston’s NRG Park were aged between nine and 27.

Hundreds of lawsuits totalling more than US$2 billion have been filed on behalf of concert-goers against Scott, Live Nation and its Austin-based Scoremore subsidiary, and other parties including Drake, who appeared as a special guest during Scott’s headline performance. Criminal investigations are also underway.

 


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