Urgent measures need to be taken to protect festivals.
What’s painfully obvious about Orlando? Not only are music venues and clubs totally unsafe, they are increasingly a juicy target for terrorist activity. It was the Western music, freedom, and open sexuality that drew Islamic extremists to attack Eagles of Death Metal at the Bataclan last fall, and the elements were almost entirely the same at the Pulse in Orlando this past weekend. In both cases, non-believers celebrating and flaunting their Western values that include gender equality, choice, and celebration.
Don’t let the gay thing throw you off. It’s just a variation on a theme of religious hatred and intolerance. But the sad news is even worse than the bodycount in Orlando: venues large and small, including major festivals, are now a prime target for Islamic extremists. And without serious changes, the next massacre will be bigger than a club in Florida, simply because it’s so damn easy to get weapons into a venue these days.
Think about the last few shows you attended. Mine include massive venues and open-air events at the Hollywood Bowl, as well as smaller venues with tons of people packed inside. In some of those cases, I could easily imagine sneaking in not just one weapon, but weapons plural. Not just a handgun, but semi-automatic machine guns and even explosives.
I won’t name names, but some places just checked my ID and left it at that. Others, like the Hollywood Bowl, had a guy using a flashlight and stick to go through our bags (maybe that’s enough, who knows). At EDC, which stuffed a massive speedway in Vegas with more than 100,000 people, some guy patted me down and probably would have caught a weapon. I can’t even remember if there was a security check at the Santa Barbara Bowl, and yes, I was (mostly) sober.
At every single one of these venues, security was completely vulnerable to a jihadist firing his way into the entrance.
But they don’t even have to do that! I haven’t been to a show at Irving Plaza in New York for years, but I do know that someone managed to not only bring a gun into a recent T.I. show, they killed someone at that show. Thankfully it was just crazy rapper beef, and not crazy jihadist beef. But I’m probably thinking twice before heading out to Irving Plaza or any show this summer.
And there’s clearly an issue here: if a T.I. show can get shot up in New York, a nightclub in Orlando can get completely taken over, and a midsized venue in Paris can be overwhelmed by a team of radical Islamics, then there’s a major security problem. Live Nation is cancelling shows to address this issue, and the entire concert industry needs to be revamping its security in a massive way right now, before the summer concert season kicks off in earnest.
1. Everyone gets thoroughly checked before entering, just like at the airport.
You can bitch all you want about long lines at the airport. I had a friend who flew to Pakistan with two one-way tickets and faced extra-long interrogations before every flight afterwards. All of that is a good thing. Because if you like security at the airport, it’s probably too lax. It’s not about making you feel good about your flying experience, it’s about keeping bad stuff and bad people out.
And there are lots of rules that you can’t break: no liquids beyond a certain volume, take off your shoes, and obviously, no firearms.
What are the rules at a show? They’re different every time.
2. Every ticket holder is the actual person who purchased the ticket.
No exceptions. You can’t scalp your Virgin America ticket to Denver outside Terminal 3, so you shouldn’t be able to do it for a show. Every ticket holder must validate their name with government-issued ID and be checked before entering. People need to be tracked.
3. There’s a blacklist.
The TSA has a no-fly list, and a list of people they definitely don’t allow onto planes. The same should be true for shows and festivals, because all it takes is one imbalanced extremist to kill dozens of people (and change the entire concert industry).
4. There’s a pre-checked priority list.
One thing that works really well at airport security is TSA Pre. You get fully screened beforehand, and go through an express line while security focuses on higher-risk people. It should be exactly the same at shows: people who have been to previous shows without incident, have pre-registered and are low-risk should be given faster access. Even better, existing, already-screened TSA Pre holders should be encouraged to expand their privileges into other access points like concerts.
5. Attempting to bring anything into a show is a felony offense.
If you try to bring a gun onto a plane, you are suddenly in a very serious legal situation. So why isn’t it the same for music shows? The rules not only need to be stated very clearly, there need to be severe consequences for breaking them.
6. Security should have guns and be prepared to take someone out.
At the Eagles of Death Metal show, the only people that had guns were the terrorists. Any questions?
7. Drugs are de-prioritized.
People OD’ing at shows is tragic and stupid. But people are going to take drugs in the parking lot if they can’t get them into the venue, and it shouldn’t be the priority anymore. Ask yourself which is worse: someone OD’ing on MDMA, or an Islamic extremist killing 100 people?
8. Bad or suspicious behavior inside the venue is punishable by law.
If you start a fight on an airplane, the pilot lands the plane and the police are waiting when you arrive. So why is it tolerated at shows? Sketchy activity needs to be monitored, and infractions need to carry criminal ramifications.
9. Venues themselves should receive serious fines and infractions for not implementing strict security.
Undercover cops can check the process, just like airplanes have undercover flyers. These people are also inside the show, checking everything out and scanning for suspicious activity. Most importantly, venues should be forced to implement certain security measures, by law.
10. Venues should receive security ratings that must be publicly posted.
If a restaurant has a health violation, that must be posted in many cities and municipalities. That means posting a sub-par grade prominently on the front window so customers can take an informed risk.
What about doing the same with security? Venues with lax security should also face repercussions from informed customers.
11. If a venue can’t afford to operate with maximum security, it goes out of business.
Security can’t be an option anymore. If people can get killed inside, then the club or venue shouldn’t be allowed to operate.
12. Attendees play a security surcharge if needed.
Live Nation and Ticketmaster proved a long time ago that concertgoers will tolerate fees and extra surcharges. Now, it’s time to add a surcharge that actually means something.
13. The government gets involved.
This goes beyond music venues, but at some point, serious security needs to be the law. There isn’t a such thing as an airport with bad security (at least in the US) anymore. The same should be true about music venues, because if the concert industry doesn’t take care of this, the US government will almost certainly step in.
Live Nation, AEG, and all venues and municipalities need to start implementing these changes right now, or risk very serious incidents and changes to their very business. But even more importantly, concertgoers themselves need to think very seriously about the level of (in)security at their next show.
I’ve already made my decision. I’ll be watching Netflix.