Pollstar’s 2017 In Review: Security, An Industry Shaken But Strengthened

While the concert business has never been stronger, 2017 was a rough year in many ways, with the worst mass shooting in modern American history happening at a major country festival, a suicide attack just outside an Ariana Grande concert in England, hurricanes devastating major parts of the southeastern States and Caribbean, and major wildfires wreaking havoc on the West Coast.

Vegas Mourns
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
– Vegas Mourns

The unthinkable happened in Las Vegas Oct. 1 when a lone gunman opened fire from his hotel room and with automatic fire rained bullets onto an unsuspecting Route 91 Harvest festival crowd during Jason Aldean’s set. 58 souls were lost and more than 500 people were wounded in what can only be described as a nightmare on the Strip.

See: Spot Operator Talks About His Route 91 Experience

 The destruction is sure to factor heavily into event planning from here on out, with experts weighing in shortly after the shooting.

Former FBI agent Jonathan Gilliam discussed snipers as security with Pollstar, and Rock Solid Security’s W.B. “Bart” Butler told Pollstar how his company had overwatches for Luke Bryan’s Farm Tour just days after the Route 91 shooting.  

“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.” 

More original reporting:
What Route 91 Harvest Means For The Concert Industry
Chris Young Addresses Vegas Attack
‘It’s Happened. No More Theoretical
Consultant: Never Been A Situation Like Vegas Shooting

Another major shooting in the United States (not to mention the Pulse nightclub massacre in Florida last year that took the lives of 49) has only further polarized the country on the issue of access to firearms. Following Vegas, there were widespread calls for great gun control measures. At the same time congress advanced legislation that could make it easier to take guns into venues — at least public ones — as well as make it easier to cross state lines with firearms. 

Earlier this year a Jamey Johnson cancellation related to the venue’s security protocol sparked some discussion on that very topic. Another notable cancellation was Lil Wayne, who apparently did not want to be subject to the venue’s metal detector and left before the venue could provide alternative accommodation.

The Route 91 shooting’s outdoor, public setting in one of the world’s busiest tourist destinations was the most prominent in the news on this side of the pond, but the May 22 bombing at Manchester Arena in England was just as horrific. 22 people perished when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the venue during Ariana Grande’s encore.

Manchester Aftermath
AP Photo / Rui Vieira
– Manchester Aftermath
A fan leaves the Park Inn hotel in central Manchester, England, May 23

See Pollstar’s European Year In Review for detailed recap coverage and the impact of the bombing on the European concert industry.

Nature’s Fury

On the natural disaster side, hurricane season was particularly brutal. Harvey, Irma and Maria devastated much of the southeastern continent and the caribbean.

Harvey was particularly powerful, unleashing damage worth an estimated $200 billion to the greater Houston area in late August and forcing the cancellation of major shows by artists including Coldplay, Mary J. Blige and Lady Antebellum shows.

At least one life was lost as a direct result of the storm.

See: Stars Turn Out For Hurricane Relief

Promoter Louis Messina Discusses Harvey Benefit

Despite the destruction, local venues held up admirably, with House of Blues Houston being spared any major damange and Warehouse Live collecting donations shortly after the storm passed.

Just a month later, Hurricane Nate hit the Louisiana/Gulf Coast area. While not as destructive as Harvey, it still did close to $1 billion in damage and affected some major concerts as well. 

The Category 5 and Hurricane Irma, and just two weeks later Hurricane Maria, were a whole different story, drenching Florida and devastating the island of Puerto Rico to the point of not having electricity for months. 

Napa Fires
AP Photo
– Napa Fires

Following the wet-weather destruction on the southeast, dry conditions on the West Coast saw wildfires bring piles of ash and rubble to first the Northwest, including the Napa Valley wine country in Northern California.

See: Report From The Fire Zone: A Visit To Napa Venues 

Blue Note Napa owner Ken Tesler, who lives on the hillside and watched the fire get uncomfortably close to his family, stressed that there has not been a single cancellation, only postponements. 

Just a few months later, Southern California fell victim to the Thomas Fire, which is still being contained and has been declared the largest wildfire in modern California history, taking more than 1,000 structures.

The Majestic Ventura Theatre in the southern California city near Santa Barbara narrowly avoided being burned to the ground, and held a holiday fund-raiser for those affected by the blaze Dec. 22.

The concert business appears to be stronger than ever, with the top 20 tours of the year grossing $2.66 billion in 2017, a record high and increase of more than $264 million from last year.  And the response to the disasters of 2017 was strong as well, with benefits such as We Are Manchester raising millions in relief, and just under $370,000 in the case of that particular event. 

San Francisco’s Band Together Bay Area benefit, spearheaded by Metallica and Dead & Company, raised some $17 million to aid those affected by the fires in Northern California. The star-studded Hand In Hand telethon for Hurricane Harvey raised a reported $40 million, further showing the community’s resolve in the face of tragedy and destruction. 

But after all the turmoil of 2017 — both natural and man-made — it’s likely we all would all prefer a calmer, more benign 2018.