If anyone doubts there are challenges doing business in emerging economies, they should examine Metallica's experience during the heavy-metal band's much anticipated first gig in India this weekend.
The Oct. 28 show, part of the F1 Rocks series organized by U.K.-based Enterprise Entertainment around the Formula One Grand Prix motor-racing events, should have been history in the making on many levels ( Billboard.biz Sept. 21, 2011). Yet, not only was the much anticipated concert canceled, after angry fans reportedly damaged stage equipment worth an estimated $200,000, but four executives from the Bangalore-based local promoter DNA Entertainment Networks have also been arrested on fraud charges.
Now DNA has promised to issue refunds, while the local police authorities investigate how the organization of one of heavy metal's most publicized concerts disintegrated into an alleged crime.
The concert, at the Leisure Valley venue near New Delhi and supported by act Scottish band Biffy Clyro, should have kicked off a weekend of entertainment that also saw India host the country's first F1 race on Oct. 30.
But on the day of the concert, two days before the race and hours before the gig, crowd-control and security issues forced the organizers to postpone the Metallica-headlined show to the following day (Oct. 29). The organizers, Enterprise Entertainment and DNA announced some time later that the F1 Rocks postponement had turned into a cancelation
"It is most regrettable that we were forced to take such measures," the band said in a statement. "We were looking forward to meeting our fans and sharing our music live for the first time in India."
Although Enterprise Entertainment and DNA could not be reached for comment, an inside source told Billboard.biz that the security barriers became compromised when the first fans to reach the venue got overexcited. Other media reports, however, including the Wall Street Journal and the Hollywood Reporter,, claimed fans became unruly when the gates opened several hours later than the scheduled opening times. Still other media reports said fans became angry after DNA sold more tickets than the venue's estimated 30,000 capacity and because the organizers failed to inform ticket holders of the cancelation.
Despite attempts to restore order, some spectators breached security and began to destroy the stage set and equipment. ESPN's F1 website states that Metallica had brought more than 30 tons of equipment. When the damage was later assessed, there were hopes to put on the show the following day, but the organizers discovered there was not enough time to secure the required licenses.
About Saturday's canceled race in India, an F1 Rocks spokesperson commented: "Every conceivable effort had been made for the concert to go ahead today, but in view of public safety and in consultation with DNA and representatives from Metallica, the decision was made to cancel the show."
But the true nature of the incident must be much more serious: According to reports, police officers in the Gurgaon region, where the venue is located, said they had arrested DNA's operational chief Ranjesh Chandwani and three colleagues. And DNA founder/CEO T Venkat Vardhan is helping police with their enquiries. The police have asked DNA's local bank to freeze its account while the investigation is still ongoing (although during preparations, DNA had given the local authorities a bank guarantee of $200,000).
Fans are advised on how to collect their ticket refunds on DNA's website.
It does not help that the disappointment for Metallica and their fans comes one year after the debacle at the Commonwealth Games sport event at New Delhi (Oct. 3-14, 2010). It was the first time the Commonwealth Games were held in India and largest international multi-sport event held in the country, but the organizers were internationally criticized for the poor security and unsanitary conditions.The experience made the international sports industry more wary for the F1 race itself, which in the end took place without a hitch.
For F1 Rocks, however, it was the second time this year an event had to be scrapped in an emerging economy. Although the Grand Prix race had successfully taken place in the Middle East kingdom of Bahrain several times before, this year's was the first one supported by F1 Rocks. But both the race and the concert were canceled as the violent clashes between the government and the Pearl Revolution protesters (part of the region's Arab Spring uprising) intensified.
Metallica's other India show, at Bangalore's Palace Grounds before 50,000 on Sunday, Oct. 30, reportedly went off without a hitch.