Chuck D Rips Live Nation for Trying to Dodge Astroworld Blame
Public Enemy frontman Chuck D pulled no punches in an open letter addressing the Astroworld tragedy. The rapper and orator berated the entertainment giant for not taking full accountability for the tragedy, instead allowing Travis Scott to shoulder a huge amount of public criticism for events that occured while he was on stage with Drake in front of a crowd of more than 50,000 people in Texas.
“Live Nation controlled this show,” he wrote. “They control almost all of the concert venues. Artists ain’t speaking out because these same cats are already bought by these corporations. No one can say a word against them unless they want to be Blacklisted and hurt their careers.”
In perhaps the harshest criticism, he accused the “White Corporate Music Biz” of “cashing in on Black Pain, Trauma and Death.”
“[Travis Scott is] being blamed for a crime while the old white men running the corps that Travis and his fans trusted with their lives stay quiet in the shadows, counting their money and watching their stock prices go up and up.”
In the wake of the Astroworld tragedy – when fans packed tightly in general admission pens “surged” towards the stage and hundreds were injured including ten deaths – hundreds of lawsuits have been filed, including some seeking damages into the billions of the dollars for negligence. Live Nation’s security plans and dubious safety history have seen plenty of scrutiny, but Travis Scott has also been targeted in those lawsuits and subject to stories questioning whether or not he could have done more to make things safer, or at least stopped the concert earlier once it started to become clear that something was seriously wrong.
To Chuck D, Scott’s culpability in the tragedy is a shell game – those who were in charge of making sure something like what happened shouldn’t have been possible, but other than a brief statement in the immediate aftermath of the debacle, they have said nothing and let the artist take the blame.
“Travis Scott is a performer, an act, not a concert promoter,” he wrote. “He doesn’t run the sound or venues or festivals or their staff. He doesn’t build stages or coordinate logistics, he’s not an expert in crowd control or security or emergency medical services. But he does trust Live Nation and all the other concert promoters who are supposed to do all of this.”
While Live Nation’s stock has taken something of a hit in the aftermath – it fell by around $10 from its high of $123 to around $113 after the event – it is still trading at near record-high numbers that reflect its nearly unassailable control over the entertainment business in the United States and greater world. The market may be unable to correct the corporate power that Live Nation currently holds, even in instances where it arguably cut corners in terms of audience safety.
“This is a vertically integrated operation, where Live Nation often manages the artist, runs the venue, sells the tickets, and promotes the concert all at once,” wrote David Dayen in a prospect.org story linking the Astroworld tragedy to Live Nation’s dominance in the market. “Now, ask yourself just how much emphasis the company really needs to put on safety, given its dominance of the industry. If there’s a tragedy, will they credibly lose any market share? Will Ticketmaster no longer be the broker for that tour? Will the venue no longer work with Live Nation acts? There’s simply no possibility of disciplining Live Nation from a market forces standpoint for skimping on safety.”
I cannot believe we’re at the point where I gotta say this out loud: Travis Scott is a performer, an act, not a concert promoter. He doesn’t run the sound or venues or festivals or their staff. He doesn’t build stages or coordinate logistics, he’s not an expert in crowd control or security or emergency medical services. But he does trust Live Nation and all the other concert promoters who are supposed to do all of this. And yet here we are, 10 deaths and counting. 10 broken families.
The world is mourning.
I’m tired of these corporations shucking their most crucial responsibility. These folks simply say Rest In Peace and move on. This negligence can’t continue. Folks want answers. I’m not buying the Young Black Man did it. He’s being blamed for a crime while the old white men running the corps that Travis and his fans trusted with their lives stay quiet in the shadows, counting their money and watching their stock prices go up and up. The excuse of Scott’s irresponsible actions don’t wash – if his act had a history of that behavior why promote him to bigger venues, why partner with him in the first place and let him headline a bigger audience? Live Nation controlled this show. They control almost all of the concert venues. Artists ain’t speaking out because these same cats are already bought by these corporations. No one can say a word against them unless they want to be Blacklisted and hurt their careers.
So I am calling on Michael Rapino’s entire team at Live Nation and a consortium of all the major concert promoters out there to do the right thing. To step up and step out of the shadows to fix these situations and save lives. To stop letting one Young Black Man take the blame, the hate, the fall. We don’t know everything that happened or exactly what failed. But concert promoters have all the power to make the changes to keep everyone safe and alive.
Live Nation, your stock is up. The White Corporate Music Biz keeps cashing in on Black Pain, Trauma and Death. This has to stop yesterday. You’re part of the problem. Grow the fuck up, fix this and let us all LIVE in PEACE.