How can the live music industry respond to the threat of terror?
The initial reaction of the live music industry to the terrorist atrocity at the Manchester Arena has been one of determined defiance.
In the city itself, the only events to have been cancelled since the bombing on May 22nd were scheduled to take place at the arena itself, which has of the time of writing remains a crime scene. A KISS concert scheduled for Tuesday, May 30th was called off, as was a WWE wrestling event and a national netball tournament. The next scheduled gig there – a Kings of Leon show set for June 9th – is presumably to go ahead as scheduled, with no word from the venue, the band or Greater Manchester Police one way or the other as yet.
The day after the attack, a slew of shows across Manchester continued as planned, including one by Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene at the Albert Hall, which featured a surprise appearance by local legend Johnny Marr. Moving forwards, though, venues will need to think about how they can ramp up security in the face of the evolving threat from terrorists.
The day after the attack, a slew of shows across Manchester continued as planned
This is an issue the industry faced a little over eighteen months ago, in the wake of the assault on the Bataclan in Paris. In the UK, the response included airport-style bag checks at the O2 Arena in London, as well as increased checks and body pat-downs across Live Nation venues. The Civic Hall in Wolverhampton went as far as to install metal detectors in the wake of the Paris attacks.
The problem that venues face, though, is that it isn’t clear how much difference such measures will face. In Paris, pat-downs at the turnstiles at the Stade de France led to ticket-holding suicide bombers being turned away by security, but beyond that, it’s difficult to know how these new restrictions would prevent an incident like the one at Manchester Arena, given that the explosion took place in a public foyer outside the venue itself. Security experts have likened it to the Brussels bombing of March 2016, in that the airside of airport terminals are very safe, but the publicly-accessible areas – before security is passed – are vulnerable.
There’s no question that this will be a major challenge to the industry going forward.
Major events to have taken place in Manchester since the 22nd, including two huge concerts at Lancashire County Cricket Ground, were heavily policed, with some officers armed, but this is obviously not a strategy that will be sustainable at all venues in the long-term. Accordingly, venues and the security companies that they work with will need to develop an approach that strikes a delicate balance between the priority of keeping concert-goers safe and also ensuring that their event experience is not compromised by security so heavy that it interferes with enjoyment of the event. After Paris, the heightened state of security at venues may well have helped the public feel safer, but whether they actually were any less vulnerable remains to be seen. There’s no question that this will be a major challenge to the industry going forward.