Welcome to Dr. Lou’s View. I’m Dr. Lou Marciani, the director and co-founder of the Innovation Institute for Fan Experience. In this newsletter feature, I share my thoughts with our subscribers on a key issue facing the sports and entertainment industry. Today, I want to continue our discussion about fan behavior.
AstroWorld Festival Tragedy
As I write this, our nation is coming to terms with the crowd crush at Travis Scott’s AstroWorld Festival concert at NRG Park in Houston, Texas on Friday night. According to Houston Fire Department Chief Samuel Pena, the crowd on Friday night was more than 50,000 people.
By the end of the concert, eight were dead, many more injured, and at least 17 were taken to hospital. Eleven people suffered cardiac arrest. What started as a fun and festive major entertainment event ended as a mass casualty incident.
As a father and grandfather, I grieve with the families who lost loved ones. Like them, I want to know what happened and why.
Trying to Make Sense of It All
The AstroWorld Festival started in 2018 on the site of the old Six Flags AstroWorld amusement park.
Though the festival was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, the festival is a fan favorite. It features Hip Hop, Reggaton, hard rock, and other musical genres. Because of its popularity, this year’s festival was expanded to a two-night event.
So, what went wrong? Crowd behavior at the concert started trending on Twitter and other social media early in the day. Videos show people crashing the gates, racing through security screening areas, and destroying magnetometers. Others showed fans pushing over barricades and knocking people down in their haste to enter the venue. Unfortunately, there are also reports of substance abuse.
In my view, the crowds rushing the gates, knocking others down, and the destruction of security equipment were warning signs. The crowd’s actions indicated they would be unruly and non-compliant with the fan code of conduct. Videos show event security, and the Houston police try to close the gates and restore order. What adjustments were made to the event management and security is unknown.
Late into the concert, tragedy struck when people apparently rushed to be close to the stage. As with many crowd crushes in history, all it takes is one person in a dense crowd to fall and everyone leaning on them falls too. The fallen can be trampled and the people at the bottom of the pile struggle to breathe.
Day two of the festival was cancelled. The investigations have begun. The investigators will videos and eyewitness accounts to get a sense of it all. They will scrutinize training records, event management plans, budgets, contracts, and everything that can provide insight into what happened.
Perhaps the violence associated with Mr. Scott’s previous concerts as far back as the 2015 Lollapalooza festival will be reviewed. Perhaps there are patterns in the artist’s and fan behavior at his other concerts. The findings will inform a new case study for event planners, event and crowd managers, and security to learn from.
OTHER RELATED STORIES WORTH A LOOK
Reflecting on Fan Behavior
As sad as this incident is, the fan behavior is not unique. I often reflect on what happened during the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy on 11 July 2021. Ticketless fans stormed gates at Wembley Stadium, forcing their way past security (crowd stewards) and displacing people with tickets. This, plus fights, racial taunts, and other unruly behavior resulted in a two-match stadium ban (one suspended). This means fans were not allowed to attend the opening game of the new season.
Flash forward to the Ole Miss vs. Tennessee college football game on 16 October 2021. Unruly fans threw bottles, trash, and even a golf ball onto the field. Students were arrested, people were injured, institutions embarrassed, brands damaged, and fines were levied. Whether at sporting events or concerts, unruly fan behavior is becoming the “memory maker” and ruining the fan experience.
What is Going on With the Fans?
I wish I knew what is going on with the fans. To find out, IIFX is hosting a virtual Town Hall on this subject on 15 December 2021 at 11:00 Central Time. The Town Hall is part of our FANCENTRICTM series of podcasts and forums. FANCENTRICTM features visionary industry thought leaders, advanced practitioners, authors, technologists, and fans from around the world.
Mark McCourt, author of “Snow Day: Lessons in Leadership and Resilience from Crisis and Mass Casualty Events will serve as the moderator for the virtual town hall. The audience will pose questions to leading executives producing sports and entertainment events. They should provide insight into challenges and solutions to address fan behavior. Save the date and join us!
Thanks for reading,
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