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Manufacturing Dissent: The tragedy at Astroworld stems from Live Nation’s monopolistic chokehold

By now, the tragic and avoidable events that transpired at Travis Scott’s Astroworld music festival in Houston have gained widespread attention across the country. A deadly combination of limited space, inadequate staffing and equipment, a rambunctious deluge of fans and an insatiable artist who ignored all the red flags became the recipe for a staggering nine fatalities (at least) and several hundred injuries. Many viral videos and written accounts of those who attended reflect a faint yet persistent fear for concert-goers that became a disturbing reality. 

The overwhelmingly horrified response to what happened spawned a couple lackluster apologies from Scott and the event organizer Live Nation Entertainment. As the lawsuits start to file in, the litigation will be tasked with weighing who bears the most blame for the damage done. Many parties appear to be guilty, from the Houston police who failed to take initiative and halt the concert after declaring it a mass-casualty event, to Scott himself, who seemed very aware of the spiraling situation yet chose to continue his set, and apparently wants all the glory of bringing the “rage” but none of the responsibility for the destruction it causes. 

As ghastly as Scott’s actions were, and despite the negligence of every other authority present at the event, Live Nation stands as the main villain of this story. And it's a position they’re quite familiar with. According to research from the Houston Chronicle and NPR, the corporate behemoth has been linked to approximately 200 deaths and 750 injuries in the past 15 years. 

From 2016 to 2019, as Live Nation tightened its grip on the music concert and festival market, 10 Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, citations were filed connected to events under its provision. The Astroworld incident alone has precipitated 19 lawsuits and counting. And yet, their combined pre-settlement value isn’t enough to put the slightest dent in Live Nation’s overall profits, which continue to increase year after year.

When Live Nation Entertainment merged with Ticketmaster in 2010, the major music event organizing industry was reduced to a monopoly. After a stagnation in total revenue the previous five years, the company began to steadily climb both in market share and in wealth, and its revenue per year had more than doubled by 2017. The convergence of a major event organizer and a ticket-selling mammoth that owned 70 percent of its market solidified one of the most robust consolidations of power in corporate America, and the results have been disastrous. 

At Astroworld, several accounts reported that there were only two water stations provided, a grossly insufficient number of staff to suit the 50,000-plus attendees and almost no one who was CPR-certified on-site. The venue itself was untenable to suit the volume of tickets sold, and little to no planning was in place for crowd-control and the excess of fans rushing in.

The hazardous conditions of concerts that are promised to be safe and its deleterious effects on concertgoers are a direct consequence of Live Nation’s perceived financial invincibility. Unseating their gross consolidation of power is necessary to stamp out this life-threatening issue, which some lawmakers are beginning to acknowledge.

Damage to Live Nation’s reputation after Astroworld has been enormous, but will it incentivize change to its safety measures if there isn’t a hefty cost attached to its bottom line? Not likely. The catastrophe at Astroworld is a long-overdue impetus for our government to force companies to prioritize human life over their profit-maximizing and cheap safety practices.

Camden Gilreath is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Camden know by tweeting him @camgilreath23.

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