SFX Needs To Just Stop Already

Is Robert Sillerman A Machiavellian Actor Or Just Wildly Irresponsible?

Most who follow the slippery SFX Chairman and CEO have probably entertained both notions at some point, but the disastrous TomorrowWorld festival in Atlanta seems to point to massive incompetence at SFX.

Whatever end-game Sillerman has in mind, the company’s reputation has become so toxic that it might be less costly for SFX to cancel all future events rather than face more liability and lawsuits that seem like an inevitability.

The Sept. 25-27 EDM festival in Chattahoochee Hills, just outside of Atlanta, failed one of the most basic tenants of concert promotion: getting attendees home safely.

On Saturday, after rains destroyed the festival’s onsite parking, attendees were instructed to park 9 miles offsite. Shuttles then dropped attendees off at the festival, but when the concert ended Saturday night there were no shuttles waiting to pick people up.

Attendees described a scene of mass confusion, with only a handful of staff members directing thousands of people to walk 9-12 miles down a dark dirt road where they could catch an Uber or a shuttle.

No shuttles ever came, and many said the only available rides were from locals demanding upfront cash payments for the 20-to-30-minute drive to Atlanta. Most striking was that as the meltdown was unfolding, TomorrowWorld organizers were silent on social media and did nothing to help stranded attendees.

They had to know the crisis was unfolding – after all, it was TomorrowWorld organizers who had shut down shuttle service after the roads became bogged down in mud.

EDMPocahontas @TomorrowWorld last night when you wouldn't let shuttles take us fucking home

TomorrowWorld’s communication void was eventually filled by angry attendees including a 23-year-old model and personal trainer from Baltimore named Cassandra Foley

. Tweeting as @EDMPocahontas, Foley’s pictures and video from the chaotic “Trail of Tears” march from the festival site to the parking lot were picked up by dozens of news agencies and fans trying to get more information on the event.

“I was actually a brand ambassador for TW this year and have been helping promote this festival for, like, the past four months,” she told The Real. “How they handled the situations was terrible, what they put many people through wasn’t OK and shouldn’t just be swept under the rug.”

TomorrowWorld’s tepid response was lacking and bizarre – spokeswoman Debby Wilmsen chose to address the media in her native language of Belgian, and later scolded several EDM news outlets for the way they translated her statement.

On Sept. 29, TomorrowWorld posted its own Raver-speal apology, telling fans “the combination of your positive energy and our hard work did not shine through and we completely understand your dissatisfaction.”

Missing from the statement was the acceptance of responsibility for leaving thousands stranded in the backwoods of Georgia.

It also portends a larger question – given the dire state of SFX’s finances and reputation, should TomorrowWorld have even been allowed to happen?

The company’s tanking stock price has pushed it to the edge of insolvency, with Sillerman opting to loan $30 million to the company in exchange for a 29 percent interest rate.

A fire sale of SFX’s assets might collateralize some of that debt, but SFX’s reputation has been so battered by the TomorrowWorld fiasco that it has undoubtedly depreciated the company’s most high-profile assets.

Between the huge losses the company will rack up refunding tens of thousands of tickets, the damage to TomorrowWorld’s reputation and the potential for lawsuits, it’s unlikely the brand will return to the U.S. next year.