LA County Officials Are ‘Still Evaluating’ a Complete Ban on EDM Festivals

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Two teenagers died at the HARD Summer music festival in Los Angeles just over a month ago. The HARD enterprise is owned by Live Nation.

Local government officials immediately proposed the prohibition-era idea of banning electronic music festivals on county owned land.

Los Angeles County has come to an interim agreement with Live Nation as they investigate the safety of electronic music festivals. Live Nation agreed to cancel HARD Presents… A Night at Fairplex, an event that was partnered with the LA County Fair.

Live Nation also agreed to put restrictions on the upcoming HARD Day of the Dead festival. The event will now be 21+ instead of 18+. Attendance will be reduced from 65,000 to 40,000 people per day. Live Nation will provide more shade, cooling stations, and free water. Medical services and security will be increased. Anti-drug and drug education information will also be distributed.

I was worried about the initial desire to ban an entire genre of music festivals, but this interim agreement is very reasonable.

The county has approved an EDM festival task force. They will be conducting more research on deaths at electronic music festivals so they can implement new policies and restrictions.

Now for the troubling part…

The county says a complete ban of electronic music festivals on their property is still on the table:

“Ultimately, in the interest of public safety, a ban of electronic music festivals at County-owned properties remains a possibility that will continue to be evaluated. While the Board supports musical events in the County, what is of paramount importance is the health and safety of the youth attending these events”

This is ridiculous. Part of the problem is drug policy in both Los Angeles County and the entire United States. It’s extremely difficult to properly educate attendees on drug safety when drugs are so criminalized.

As Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella said:

“If we’re trying to create a safe and secure environment for these passionate fans, sending them back into the unregulated underground isn’t a step in the right direction. We all need to do our part in creating a national dialogue that educates our youth and encourages them to be accountable for their choices—especially when it comes to drugs.”

+A Drunken Fan Plunges to His Death at a Baseball Game. So Why Aren’t We Canceling Baseball Games?

How many more overdoses will there be if Los Angeles County pushes these events underground? There will be blood on the county’s hands.

But there is hope. The county says: “The task force should also seek input from the electronic music festival community, specifically groups promoting safe experiences.”


See the full document here.

13 Responses

  1. Willis

    This is so stupid. People need to take responsibility for, as well as deal with the consequences of, their actions.

  2. Seth Keller

    The potential ban is a PR issue at its core. It’s the same PR issue that helped decimate SFX’s stock. When teenagers die at events that take place on government property or are promoted by public companies, it causes a lot of headaches–and potentially head rolling–for elected officials and executives who have to answer questions about why they’re involved in events where kids die.

    I agree drug laws in the US are arcane and aren’t helping the situation, but neither is the denial by those involved in electronic music events that the cultural of permissive, accepted and expected drug use is a huge attraction for young people who attend the events.

    I’m old and haven’t been to an electronic music event in eight years. 15 years ago when I did go regularly, drugs like ecstasy and ketamine were more than prevalent, they were dominant. Almost everyone was doing something. A lot were selling in the venues. And there were dozens of people at events with capacities of around 3,000 who were so out of their minds they had no idea where they were.

    Maybe that’s not the case today, but from talking to execs in the business who attend these events now, it sounds pretty similar. Now, instead of 3,000 people you have 30,000 or 100,000 at event, and the number of incapacitated attendees rises dramatically and deaths happen.

    Electronic music, particularly EDM, is big business and the top DJs make more in a week than many touring bands make all year on the road. A lot of the money is being generated by under 21 attendees. When you mix teenagers with easily accessible drugs harder than weed and shady drug dealers selling concoctions of who knows what passed off as MDMA, you’re going to have issues.

    If you’re an adult giving permission to use taxpayer funded spaces to hold these events or an adult promoting these events and bad shit continually happens to kids, the public at large isn’t going to be happy or take the time to understand the nuances of the electronic music culture where it’s not drugs that are bad but the drugs you take and how much you take that can kill you.

    Paul wrote a piece earlier this week about the drunk 60 year old who fell to his death at the Braves game asking why not ban baseball games. Again it’s all about perception. Society thinks an inebriated old man killing himself–while sad–isn’t as tragic as a beautiful young girl attending a top tier college who has yet to turn 20 dying at a “rave.” The old man should have known better. The young girl had her life taken from her. That’s the way people think.

    • lroosemusic

      All true, Seth.

      But what’s the alternative? My expectation is that banning something that has popular demand will only send it underground to venues that are less regulated and less safe than today.

      • lroosemusic

        Re-reading your comment, I suppose your solution would be to keep the shows off of public grounds to manage the PR aspect that the gov. is doing something to stop tragic deaths.

        The net effect in terms of lowering the attendance of people going to these shows wouldn’t be much though.

        • Seth Keller

          Hey Iroosemusic:

          I’m not suggesting PR spin or banning the events is a solution to prevent deaths at festivals. Nina is right when she says drug education would be the best method to prevent any sort of drug related health issues and deaths, but in reality that’s going to happen on a mass public scale any time soon.

          My points are really these:

          1. Blaming governments and corporations for not being cool enough or understanding enough to be involved in events where young people have died or could die from illegal substances is misguided. In some cases, if you pay governments (and their officials) enough money, they’ll take it and deal with the fallout. And if corporations can increase their profits, most will pretty much do anything. But its naive to think both of these entities won’t push back and protect their political and financial interests if even one kid dying impacts those interests negatively.

          2. Those involved in the EDM business in particular have to stop pretending that wide spread and expected drug use at their events isn’t one of the biggest attractions to attendees. For many it’s much bigger than what DJs are on the bill. The EDM community will argue it’s really about the vibe, the love, the bonding of a shared experience with friends. But of all that is a lot more intense and vibrant on ecstasy, and I’d argue that ecstasy creates a lot of those good vibes.

          If the dance music community wants governments and corporations to stop making their decisions based on politics and perception, then they need to do the same.

          P.S. – I’m really not anti-drug use. I’ve done a few so I’m not saying “kids, don’t do drugs.” But drugs as much as “the experience” are fueling the billions of dollars EDM is generating for all involved.

          • lroosemusic

            All good points.

            I’m definitely one that won’t deny amphetamines are a huge part of the live EDM scene. And that is much different than the weed/alcohol you see at other genres’ live shows. I can also attest the last all ages show I attended, I had 14 and 15 year olds asking me where to find Molly, and my first concern was whether they’d actually find someone that would give it to them. One of the first times I’ve really felt old.

            If public venues choose to keep the festivals off of their grounds, that’s certainly their prerogative, but as long the demand stays as strong as it is, you’ll see the same problems you see today.

            Like you, I think education on drug safety is the best place to start. The line between overdose and good time is a lot narrower than many first-timers think, and I remember being completely blindsided by how easy it was to go from love and peace to dizzy, weak and nauseous by taking just a bit too much.

      • festivalmaker

        If Live Nation wanted to, it could purchase and build out a festival field in LA County- it has the money. The reality from a CBA perspective is that even the biggest music festivals don’t really earn their localities that much money (often just the opposite and the EIR that they use are such lies- much like professional sports teams and their publicly financed stadia). Which means, these events are not the huge money maker for these localities that people claim. Also, I find it really amusing how many EDM types are going to the mat to defend a publicly traded Company, Ticketmaster basically, ‘s right to utilize a common good (public land) at a lower cost than they would have to spend to build their own space. Isn’t that sort of contrary to the whole EDM spirit? But whatever, much more important to lower Corporate costs than worry about taxpayers getting fleeced, as long as JACK U (sponsored by XL Energy and Radio Flyer) keeps flowing. Ha ha ha ha, very far from the early 90’s in abandoned warehouses- so drop the “better than thou” attitude.

  3. oathkeeper

    It’s California, Land of Big Government nanny state lovers. It’s fun and games letting the government get involved in other people’s personal choices, but quite as fun when the light shines on you.

  4. festivalmaker

    It might be more helpful if you did not use false analogies like “prohibition-era ban” when describing what’s happening. When you grossly and inaccurately use phrases like that, you actually make people like Anontivich’s job much, much easier.

    For the County of Los Angeles to not allow a certain type of event on publicly owned land that is managed by the Board of Supervisors is not, dear friend, a “prohibition-era ban” on the type of event itself.

    PR aside, they might very well be thinking of taking this decision just based on the numbers alone, crunched out by some risk analyst deep in the caverns of some County office building.

    Maybe the revenue (fees and increase in economic activity and taxes) received by the County doesn’t outweigh the potential health care and legal costs associated with the event? In that case, it makes total sense for the County to not host these festivals.

    The whole world doesn’t have to comprise of mean anti-EDM folks for them not to want to cross-subsidize these things!

    Try to think a little outside your own narrow perspective.

  5. GGG

    Certainly makes sense to implement more cooling/hydration stations. But for fuck’s sake; it’s almost like people think festival organizers force feed everyone drugs at the gate.

    People do drugs. You can’t stop them. People will die from drugs. You can’t stop them. I don’t know who thinks you can educate things down to zero, though the ratio of deaths to non-deaths is already basically zero.

  6. EDMblows

    Is there anything we can do to accelerate the ban? Or better yet, help spread it nation-wide? Because that would be pretty great.

    • Wait.....

      I just realized, I should have made the name EDM3lau’s instead of EDMblows. Oh well, at least they’re basically the same.