Artist News Business News Live Business Top Stories

Music industry responds to Orlando club shooting

By | Published on Monday 13 June 2016

Pulse Orlando

Members of the music and clubbing community have joined the chorus of outrage, sympathy and debate that has followed the shooting at the Pulse nightclub venue in Orlando this weekend that left 50 people dead and a further 53 wounded.

A single gunman, Omar Mateen, attacked the venue, part of the Florida city’s LGBT scene, at around 2am on Sunday morning local time. A hostage incident then ensued until about 5am when, according to the BBC, a police assault team – which had received text messages and calls from some of the hostages inside – entered the venue. Mateen was killed during the rescue operation.

The horrific incident feeds into a number of ongoing political debates. Mateen, an American of Afghan descent, reportedly swore allegiance to the so called Islamic State before the attack, again instigating emotive discussions around the impact Middle Eastern conflict and Islamic fundamentalism can have on Western democracies.

Meanwhile, Mateen legally purchased several guns in the days leading up to the attack, putting America’s gun control laws, or a lack thereof, back in the spotlight. While for the gay community, Mateen’s choice of venue is a reminder that homophobia remains a real danger, even in societies where LGBT rights are now usually assured.

For the music community, without wishing to be too inward looking, parallels are inevitably being drawn with the gun attacks on the French gig venue Bataclan last year. As we noted at the time, while we all know terrible terrorist attacks take place around the world all the time, the news will always hit hardest when the horror occurs in such a familiar environment.

As with the Bataclan attacks, venue owners and promoters will now be asking whether security measures should be stepped up at music and clubbing events and, if so, how that can be done without too great an impact on the events themselves. That’s arguably an even greater challenge at club venues, where people are generally more mobile once inside the premises.

The boss of the G-A-Y venues in the UK, Jeremy Joseph, spoke to BBC Newsbeat about these challenges, saying: “I’ve spoken to police and they’ve been very reassuring but the problem is that it’s lone people doing this. There’s a concern now that there’s going to be a copycat person who’s going to attempt this here. What they’re trying to do is create as much devastation as possible and take as many lives as possible”.

Joseph confirmed that venues receive and adhere to advice from anti-terror police, and that they are trying to educate customers too. He went on: “We do what they advise us to do. I know this sounds awful but customers can be stupid. They come in, leave their bag on the floor, and go to the bar or toilet and just leave it there. We’re trying to get customers to be vigilant”.

Speaking to Billboard in the US, Russ Simons, a security expert at Venue Solutions Group, said event operators could still up their game. He told the industry magazine: “For our business I believe this will help motivate people to take the appropriate steps to keep their patrons and guests safe. In my opinion, the results of last night’s events will be the realisation that this is not someone else’s problem. The threat exists, whether from terrorists, hate crime or someone who is mentally deranged – it can happen anywhere people gather”.

Though Dan Berkowitz of CID Entertainment, which specialises in VIP concert experiences, argues that the US has it’s own wider issues to deal with, bringing the matter back to the gun control debate. “Unfortunately, with gun use and ownership so out of control, this is not a problem that is unique to the music industry”.

“These days we need to be careful and vigilant when going to the movies, attending a religious service, going out to a club, or simply walking down the street”, he added. “This is largely an American problem, not just a music industry problem. That being said, our artists’ and guests’ safety and security are always our highest priority”.

The US music industry – and the Orlando music community in particular – were already in the midst of a new debate around the country’s gun controls law before Saturday night’s atrocity, after singer Christina Grimmie was killed by another lone gunman while signing autographs after a concert in the city on Friday night.

Grimme, who rose to fame on YouTube before appearing on the US version of ‘The Voice’, had been performing with the band Before You Exit prior to the shooting. Media reports suggest her killer, Kevin James Loibl, was a “deranged fan” from St Petersburg, Florida, who possibly travelled to the show in Orlando with the sole purpose of killing the singer.

Incidents like this pose similar but different challenges for a music industry where artist meet-and-greets are at an all time high, and have become separate revenue streams for some acts, while for YouTube talent in particular closer contact with fans has become the norm.

Of course, for today, the focus should remain on supporting those who lost friends or family during this weekend’s attacks, and on the criminal investigations. Though the various political debates around these stories will also continue in the longer term, including those of particular interest to everyone involved in live entertainment.