Popkin: Disaster at Travis Scott’s 2021 Astroworld Festival—who’s to blame?

Sophia Popkin, Social Media Editor

On Nov. 5, Travis Scott took the stage at his Astroworld music festival in Houston. Scott’s two-day event sold all 100,000 of its tickets back in May in less than an hour, with fans ecstatic to finally see their favorite artists in concert once again following the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this excitement quickly turned to panic on the festival’s first night as a crowd surge led to many injuries and several deaths. When Scott’s performance began, the crowd of 50,000 people pushed forward, causing many to pass out or fall over as they were unable to hold their balance and the weight of the crowd made it increasingly more difficult to breathe. The tragedy led to 10 deaths thus far, with hundreds of others left injured. 

Amidst discussions of lawsuits from concertgoers following the horrible events that occurred at the festival, one question in particular has been circulating the internet: who should be taking the blame for this tragedy? Although many of his fans might disagree—as thousands of them have been defending Travis Scott since the incident—the artist himself needs to take at least a fraction of the responsibility for what happened. In fact, Scott has a past of encouraging his fans to participate in rowdy behavior, which has led to injuries before. At one of his concerts in 2017, Scott pressured a fan to jump off of a second-story balcony after he had already climbed over the railing. Another fan that same evening was pushed off a third-story balcony and, as a result, broke several bones and ended up paralyzed. 

In a deleted tweet, Travis Scott stated, “NAW AND WE STILL SNEAKING THE WILD ONES IN,” in reference to the fans who did not buy tickets and wanted to breach the security of the 2021 Astroworld Festival. This statement inspired thousands of fans to enter the festival without tickets, which likely contributed to the later crowd surge. Scott also failed to stop his set for around 40 minutes, which could have prevented many deaths and injuries. Although many state that Scott did not notice the hoards of people suffering, it is clear that he would have been able to see the numerous ambulances that slowly made their way through the crowd or hear fans screaming for help.

However, placing the blame entirely on a single person is simply egregious. Frankly, it can be argued that many of Scott’s fans in the audience contributed to the lack of medical care that the injured could receive. For example, several audience members actually stood on top of emergency vehicles trying to get through the crowd to dance on them and refused to apologize afterward. Thousands of people also made it past security without a ticket by breaking the gate, which likely led to staff being overwhelmed as they did not prepare for the swarm of people who showed up unexpectedly. While this definitely cannot be said for everyone in the audience, it is important to note that at least some individuals inhibited the medical attention that so many fans needed; plus, the fans that pushed past security may have overcrowded the event.

Nonetheless, the company that organized the festival, Live Nation, should receive the most considerable amount of blame for the incidents. The conglomerate was clearly underprepared and understaffed given the circumstances of the festival. Although it could have been difficult to gauge exactly how many medics and security staff would be necessary, it was absolutely logical that the concert would be far more intense than Astroworld events in the past—given that this was one of the larger live music events since the start of the pandemic. But the fact that it was a sold-out show—where Travis Scott actually encouraged gate-crashing—should have meant that Live Nation would prepare for more people to show up than they expected, right? Well, if they had actually prepared for the event properly, such as setting up additional barriers to enter the festival after the first gate, it probably would have prevented many of the gate-crashers from entering. The event was seemingly understaffed as well—there were only about 70 medical staff members for over 50,000 people in total. This is simply unacceptable, especially given how knowingly rough Travis Scott concerts can be. Furthermore, concert-goers during the event explicitly told organizers and videographers that people were dying, so they needed to stop the show. Not only did Live Nation not prepare for the event properly, but they also failed to solve the problems once they were already underway. 

While several factors all worked together to cause this tragedy, the primary (and legal) blame should fall onto Live Nation. Although Travis Scott and audience members should take some responsibility for their actions resulting in the tragedies, the company that organized Astroworld 2021 must truly reflect upon their under-preparedness that led to the horrible deaths of ten individuals, as well as hundreds of injuries.