Friday’s Astroworld Festival was an unfortunate tragedy on many levels. We still don’t know all the details, but based on what we know, let’s break down what happened and why.
Lack of crowd control. Both Variety and LA Times have written stories breaking down the challenges from Astroworld’s logistics. Here’s a summary:
– More police officers and security guards were needed in the crowd and at the front of the stage
-Crowds could have been grouped into areas to better manage spacing
-Astroworld had two stages. One where eight artists performed in succession, and the other where Travis performed at the end. Travis’ super fans posted up at his stage up to eight hours before his 8:45pm start time
-The last set before Travis ended 45 minutes before Travis started, which created a huge rush of people
-Astroworld failed to “spread the field” by having multiple headliners at the same time
Overlapping performances could have helped somewhat, but most fans at artist-run festivals are there to see the main act. As I wrote in How Travis Scott Growth Hacked Hip-Hop, in past festivals Travis hasn’t revealed his setlist until after the tickets are sold out. The mad rush toward Travis’ stage is inevitable.
In the past few days, lawsuits have been filed against Travis Scott, Drake, festival promoter Live Nation, and others.
Logistical challenges. Unfortunately, Astroworld’s logistical challenges are not unsurprising, especially for newer music festivals. It takes time to become a finer-tuned business like Coachella, where spacing, field spreading, and festival seating have been improved over time.
In recent years festivals, like Fyre Fest and Woodstock 50, have been shut down due to poor planning. Even Post Malone’s Posty Fest was recently canceled due to logistical issues. Considering the close calls, imagine how many music festivals continue despite their safety measures, and not because of them?
Travis’ actions and reactions. The “Sicko Mode” rapper’s history of inciting dangerous activity at festivals has been criticized heavily since Friday. According to the New York Post, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner visited Travis’ trailer before his set to share concerns about the crowd. And in days since, many have reshared Travis’ history of rallying fans to push back on security, rush the stage, and engage in unsafe behavior at festivals.
Does Travis deserve blame for what happened? Yes. But blaming everything on him is like blaming Woodstock 99’s tragic events on Limp Bizkit’s frontman Fred Durst. Both are justifiable targets given their rebellious nature. But focusing solely on them takes attention away from the questions that need answers regardless of the artist performing:
-How can security, police, and medical staff be better positioned to help attendees in the event of a crisis?
-How can the logistics and flow be managed to ensure safety during festival seating?
-How can artists be trained to handle crisis situations during their performances?
-How can newer festivals be held to a high standard for logistics and operations?
The future of Astroworld and music festivals. In the future, we’ll likely see better-positioned security, medical staff, and police officers, and more care put into logistics and spacing. That will translate to higher costs, higher insurance premiums for future events, and higher ticket prices for consumers.
But if Astroworld was an indication of what happens when those things are overlooked, then the price premium is a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.
Read more about Astroworld’s safety precautions in the Los Angeles Times.