Rock Solid Security: ‘There Will Be A Change’

While the security industry has been shaken by the nightmare that transpired at Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas, W.B. “Bart” Butler, president/CEO of

Luke Bryan
Ethan Helms
– Luke Bryan
Luke Bryan plays to 75,500 at Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo at NRG Park in Houston March 16.

“There’s going to be lots of research, lots of studies are going to take place,” Butler told Pollstar, adding that overwatches are already taking place.

Butler handles Luke Bryan’s yearly Farm Tour, which continued after the Vegas shooting.

“We want to assure our fans that we are working with state and local officials to do everything possible to ensure your safety during our Farm Tour shows,” Bryan said in a Facebook post Oct. 1, hours after the shooting. “Country music has always been about community and we will continue to stand together.”

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“We stepped it up a notch,” Butler said, adding that snipers were at the last three shows of the Farm Tour, which included Fort Wayne Oct. 5, Edinburg, Ill., Oct. 6 and Centralia, Mo. Oct. 7. “The FBI got involved, Homeland Security got involved. We hired the state SWAT team and we set overwatches. We did.” 

“Luke did everything they could to make their fans feel comfortable,” Butler added, who has handled events from Phish to Santana to Jimmy Buffett shows. “They brought extra personnel in, we did a lot in a very short period of time to ensure those shows went well.”

Bryan also very publicly and touchingly spoke about the Vegas massacre during his shows, including holding moments of silence for victims as well as first responders.

“The costs were picked up by him,” Butler said, adding that Bryan is his own promoter for the Farm Tours. “These were all things Luke and their management did to make their fans feel safe, with no extra cost embedded to their tickets. Knowing Luke, though, he’d continue to do that.”

Butler said staff morale is likely a big issue right now.

“Firing up your team is probably a pretty tough job right now, especially for these guys. At CSC for instance, Jay (Purves) lost one person and still has three missing,” Butler said, referring to Jay Purves, VP of Contemporary Services Corporation’s Las Vegas branch, which handled security at Route 91.

“I can not imagine how Jay felt when he found his player was down,” Butler said. “How do you charge that team up to do that event the next day or the days after that? I think that’s going to matter a lot.

“Cops wear badges, they wear targets. But they’re paid $25-30 an hour and sometimes $50-$70 an hour,” Butler said. “Does that make them better to get shot? No, it doesn’t. But how do you fire up your team to possibly take a bullet at an average of $10 an hour?” Butler added that it’s always been a challenge to get promoters to pay for the necessary security.

Apart from discussion, which Butler welcomes among the industry in a symposium or conference setting, the important thing is to remain proactive, having the right procedures in place to handle things before they happen.

Technology is always improving, too, with more military-style gear becoming available to security companies, such as listening devices that pinpoint shooters and the source of gunfire, as well as infrared-capable visual oversight abilities.  

Counter-terrorism and active-shooter specialists are likely to continue becoming more prevalent, as well.

But disasters can still happen despite best practices being in place, from everyone from crowd control to hotel security.

“Those guys did everything right,” Butler said. “There’s not an expert out there who’s going to tell you that the hotel did anything wrong. And they got more cameras and monitoring systems in place than any show ever thought about.”

“The entertainment world is vulnerable now and it always has been, it’s just that someone took advantage of it. I’m more concerned about the copycats wanting to make their name, you might say. Terrorism is designed to cause terror. And it’s going to be up to us to not let that happen, in any form.”