How Concert Security Has Changed Following Live Music Tragedies in 2017
Promoter John Meglen can’t reveal exactly how much The Rolling Stones spent on security for their 15-show No Filter European tour in 2017, but it’s “more money than any of us have ever spent before,” he says.
It’s no surprise that amid tragic events at Ariana Grande’s show in Manchester, England, in May and the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas in October, security costs for promoters are rising fast, with record spending on security staffing and police, as well as new anti-terror tools like facial-recognition software and vapor-wake dogs trained to detect explosives on the move.
“It’s something we all have to take very seriously on every single show,” says Meglen, noting that despite the increased spending, he still finds himself “praying to God that nothing happens.”
The past year has put the concert industry on high alert. On May 22, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive at Manchester Arena as patrons exited Grande’s concert, killing 23 people and injuring over 500. Months later, a shooter fired more than 1,100 rounds from the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino at Route 91 attendees, claiming 58 lives and leaving 546 injured. A number of promoters say that security expenses increased as much as 20 percent following Grande’s concert and that costs are rising another 10 to 15 percent in 2018. That includes new expenditures for sniper towers and lookout posts as a reaction to the Vegas shooting.
“You’ll see promoters look at terrain and elevation differently, and engage in intelligence-gathering around online chatter,” says former Los Angeles Police Department counterterrorism chief Michael Downing, who now serves as chief security officer at Prevent Advisors, which provides security consulting for live events.
“The margins are so thin, we’re getting to a point where it’s not worth the risk,” adds Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman, who announced in November that he was ending the traveling punk-rock tour in 2018, after 25 years. He says that he has been keeping track of the survivor lawsuits filed in the wake of the Route 91 attack to get an idea of what types of liability show organizers could face in the future. “You hate to watch litigation like this set a precedent, but if the risks of putting on these events start to outweigh the rewards, then you’ll either see less shows, or more move inside to secured buildings and less outdoor events.”