When music festivals go wrong - Full Time Cover

When music festivals go wrong

After the popularity of Fyre festival documentaries I take a look at other examples of when festivals have gone wrong and what we can learn from them.

Stage construction

Following his horrific fall from “a state of trance” in 2016 Paul Van Dyck was awarded $12 Million in a settlement against event organisers ALDA event BV. During his set, the music stopped and the DJ fell from stage, and was subsequently airlifted to hospital.
The German producer suffered brain damages and had a lengthy recovery process. Most artists contracts should stipulate various safety clauses and the need for safe stage design. Paul van Dyke contract did so they sued for breach of contract.
PVD was awarded damages, of which ALDA events have since disputed the settlement and returned to courts. ALDA have claimed that PVD never signed an underlying contract to perform at the festival and thus this overrides the DJ’s legal position to claim cost of damages.
Whilst the dispute continues it is clear that safety in stage production is paramount as lives are at stake but also the important of artists contract with promoters and the need for unambiguity.

Liability claims

Lability claims, of course, and not just restricted to performing artists. With drink and drugs involved festivals are often subject to liability claims from attendees slips, false arrest, assault and battery -these are just some examples of what event organisers have to deal with.
Live Nation Entertainment were sued for the wrongful death of attendee Tom Nichols at electric Daisy carnival festival in Las Vegas. It was alleged that the event made it difficult to access water and medical staff.

Crowd control

Block festival in the UK fell victim of poor crowd control. The set up with the festival was almost doomed to failure from the outset with the main stages were too close together causing large overcrowding, with attendees unable to move. Overcrowding can also lead to sets being shutdown prematurely, for example 4 Tet at field day. Whilst this was no doubt due to the popularity of 4 Tet other festivals have had dangerous crowds just trying to get in. Sunfall festival in 2017 a prime example of 5 hour queues to get in resulted in police having to enforce crowd control and many attendees unable to get in.
How you manage and plan for large groups both inside and outside the festival is paramount not just to the success and future of the event, but most importantly the safety of attendees.
From mapping out festival and its attractions, to ensuring security at entrance is thorough but efficient all is vitally important. Large festivals that have been going for years can make this look easy, but if you look behind the scenes an incredible amount of thought and planning goes into it.
Site manager, production manager, security director, medical director these all have a significant part to play in keeping everyone safe.


Outside of planning what can’t be helped is good old-fashioned British weather. This year in 2019 we saw 2 high profile festivals cancelled due to the weather. Whilst horrific weather in final days can cancel a festival it can also pose serious problems in terms of construction in the build up to it. And whilst the weather cannot be prevented, ensuring good planning and robust insurance policies in place to safeguard the future of your festival and mitigate losses is essential.