Magazine Feature

7 Ways the Music Business Can Guard Against Another Orlando Tragedy: Security Experts Weigh In

Concertgoers passed through security checkpoints at Beyoncé’s June 14 concert at Ford Field in Detroit.
Christopher M. Bjornberg

Concertgoers passed through security checkpoints at Beyoncé’s June 14 concert at Ford Field in Detroit.

Bataclan. Irving Plaza. Christina Grimmie. Pulse. In the wake of four music-venue shooting incidents that claimed the lives of 140 people in seven months, security experts weigh in on the measures needed that go far beyond hiring “the biggest, meanest-looking guys.”

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“There is going to be an increase in security costs,” says Cory Meredith, founder of the sports and entertainment security firm StaffPro -- and fans ultimately will pay that bill through increased ticket costs. In addition to the price of installing metal detectors (see No. 3), small venues (capacity: 500 to 1,000)  can expect to spend $125,000 to $150,000 annually hiring appropriate levels of trained security personnel if they’re hosting 200 events or more, and midlevel venues (2,500 to 5,000)  as much as $1 million. Stadiums and arenas (10,000 to 80,000), which tend to be the most secure venues, routinely spend $100,000 or more per event.


“Unless something is done to reduce gun violence, event professionals ... will have a legal duty to their invitees to institute security plans,” says Steve Adelman, vice president of the Event Safety Alliance. “Identify vulnerabilities and threats that can affect the location, staff and guests,” says security consultant Russ Simons, managing partner of Venue Solutions Group. “Develop a plan that addresses those vulnerabilities,” and conduct drills that test the plan. Entertainment attorney and crisis manager Ed McPherson tells Billboard that any plan should include security personnel who easily are identifiable in a chaotic situation.


“Many venues think they should just hire the biggest, meanest-looking guys,” says McPherson, “[but] no matter how big you are, you are not going to stop a gun, a bomb or a crowd surge.” Simons says continuous training is best -- and where the industry falls short. “Keep learning,” he says. “Connect with similar [venues], local and regional,” and work together. Other resources: security firms and even the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. McPherson also stresses that “artist security has to be able to work with venue security,” because the latter “presumably knows more about the artists’ fans and how aggressive they are.”

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The cost of magnetometers, or metal detectors, ranges from a few hundred dollars for wands to approximately $5,000 for walk-through models. The cost of implementing the higher-end (and more reliable) devices, and the time required for fans to pass through them, has been a deterrent for their widespread adoption, but that’s changing. Public-assembly safety and security consultant Russ Simons says, “The metal detector is the best technology we have today, because it is consistent and not dependent on whether the person has been properly trained [to perform pat-downs], and, more importantly, is properly and consistently supervised.”

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Metal detectors usually are touted as the most effective means of preventing firearms from being smuggled into a venue, but McPherson is among a faction of security experts who say the easiest and most effective form of prevention is to employ “trained, licensed security guards” to pat down all patrons -- including those with VIP, green-room and meet-and-greet access, and to search all purses and backpacks before they’re allowed inside. “A well-trained guard is more effective than a loosely monitored and enforced machine,” says Adelman.

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Like Pulse in Orlando, many clubs hire off-duty police to work the doors. Simons suggests that venues also use local law enforcement officers as preparedness-training resources. “[They] have situational-awareness skills that are light years beyond the rest of us,” he says. “I don’t think a lot of people think to ask them to do more than just be present.” Ideally, they also could “be used as an asset to coach” a club’s security team. In the event first responders are required, McPherson says venues should designate a staffer to phone law-enforcement and emergency personnel directly in order to minimize confusing 911 calls.

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“The general public cannot count on law enforcement and/or security to guarantee safety anymore,” says Meredith, which means that anyone venturing into a dark, densely packed venue should be prepared to follow the Department of Homeland Security’s “Run. Hide. Fight” strategy in a shooter situation. “The first thing that [clubgoers] should do when they step inside the venue is locate all exits, and especially the one closest to where they are sitting or standing,” says McPherson, adding that it’s the patrons’ responsibility to report suspicious activity.

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This article originally appeared in the July 2 issue of Billboard.