Electric Zoo Unveils Security Reforms, Required PSA; Aoki, van Buuren on Review Board

Frank Bruno

Electric Zoo, the annual EDM festival owned by SFX Entertainment, has announced a slew of new security reforms for its 2014 edition, which the dance conglomerate holds on New York's Randall's Island, the last day of which was cancelled last year following the drug-related deaths of two attendees as well as four others becoming critically ill. As Billboard noted, it was the first major EDM festival cancellation at the time.

Following the tragedies, Electric Zoo announced: "Because there is nothing more important to us than our patrons, we have decided in consultation with the New York City Parks Department that there will be no show today [the festival's third and final day]." The tragedies spurred other festivals initiated their own reforms.

Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Electric Zoo, told Billboard that the review of the fest's safety and security protocols was put in motion "pretty quickly [following last year's event]. A board was put together over the course of six to eight months. Quickly after the events of last summer -- not only at Electric Zoo but up and down the Eastern Seaboard -- there was a desire to act."

The board Friedman refers to included Steve Aoki, Armin van Buuren, doctors, security experts and dance music industry personnel among others, brought together in a series of meetings to compose a list of improvements to ensure attendees' well-being.

Most notable among these is the requirement of customers to watch a PSA, still in production, on drug use before being allowed to purchase their tickets. There will also be an increased presence of trained dogs around the event (and onstage), and the addition of an "amnesty bin," where concertgoers can ditch their drugs without fear of retribution.

Considering the scope of the board's recommendations and the primacy of SFX within the festival circuit across the world, it would seem likely that many of the reforms suggested would become standard across SFX-owned events.

"There was a significant force of medical and security on-site last time, and there will be even more this time," Friedman said. "Some more visible than others. Drug dogs are an obvious tactic, some won't be so obvious."

However -- a zero-tolerance messaging to fans isn't the way to go either, Friedman said. "I don't know if 'zero tolerance' is the messaging here -- what we want to convey to our fans is the dangers of doing some of these things. The finger-wagging is something that I don't think has been effective." Though they are "still working through what the messaging will be exactly."