Guest blog: 5 major music event fails

By Mike James, writer & cybersecurity professional

Organising a music event can be an incredibly arduous process. After all, just think of the number of people that attend them – we’re talking hundreds, if not thousands, of fans.

Coupled with that are a ton of other things to consider as well. From ticket printing to catering, and line up to venue choice, organising a music event is a lot easier said than done – as the following examples prove.

Here we discuss some of the biggest global event fails that have taken place at major music events over the years. We also point out what, if anything, could have been done to prevent them from happening in the first place.

1999: Woodstock

Not to be confused with the iconic music festival which has run successfully every decade from 1969, the 1999 rebirth of the event was a completely different affair. Billed originally as ‘3 Days of Peace and Music’, the festival turned out to be the complete opposite, rife with rioting, arson and pure carnage.

This came following a performance of Limp Bizkit’s nu-metal anthem ‘Break Stuff’ which guests seemed to take a bit too literally, retaliating against the festival’s severe water shortages, poor facilities and overcrowding. Fortunately, Woodstock has recovered since then and is set to return again later this year for Woodstock 50.

Cause of Problem: Facilities, water shortages, overcrowding, riots, destruction and Limp Bizkit.

Prevention: Don’t sell more tickets if you can’t handle the numbers. Also, make sure to have good quality facilities, and don’t target provoking music at already-disgruntled guests.

2005: Glastonbury Festival

OK, so this one isn’t a ‘failure’ as such, but the organisers definitely could have done more to prevent the flash flooding that ran rampage throughout 2005’s Glastonbury Festival – shouldn’t we all be used to rain in Britain by now?!

British festivals are notorious for being much muddier affairs than their American equivalents, but nothing could have prepared Glastonbury attendees for the torrential rain and flash-floods of 2005. Attendees’ tents, clothes and belongings were all ruined, with the sludgy water rising to almost six-foot high in some areas. An electrical storm even hit one of the stages at one point, so it was a miracle that nobody got hurt.

Cause of Problem: Flooding.

Prevention: Organise and put in place temporary flood defences, such as interlocking concrete barriers, and form an emergency plan to ensure guest safety. Also, provide lots and lots of umbrellas.

2012: Bloc Festival

The ironically named ‘Bloc Festival’ will likely never be blocked from attendees’ memories. The idea was great, but the delivery was poor – a ship was sent from Germany to England to act as the festival’s unique main stage and venue.

However, drinks ran out by 10.30 PM on the first night and the sound quality was said to be terrible. There were also too many tickets sold, meaning that many guests were either unable to actually get to the sea craft, or were exhausted after milling around for hours on end. In the end, the organisers decided they had no other choice but to cancel the festival for the sake of guests’ safety.

With a range of great acts on offer, including Snoop Dogg and Gary Numan, the event was a real shame, but some horrible logistical planning turned the whole thing into a bit of a nightmare experience.

Cause of Problem: Overcrowding, lack of drinks, health and safety.

Prevention: Think carefully about the choice of venue and don’t oversell the tickets. Also, make sure you have enough drinks available – it is a music festival after all.

2017: Fyre Festival

OK, so we may have saved the best until last – 2017’s infamous Fyre Festival was such a disaster it was even recently turned into a Netflix documentary. Yes, really.

Originally marketed as a ‘luxury music festival/resort’ by Fyre app owner Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, and promoted on Instagram by Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski, the event was catastrophic from the get-go. Experiencing issues related to security, food, medical services and artist relations, guests were left fuming at the thousands of pounds they had had to spend for the privilege.

With tickets costing upwards of $4,000 and the event taking place on the Great Exuma Island in the Bahamas, guests expected a bespoke experience. However, their ‘luxury’ accommodation turned out to be FEMA tents, and their ‘gourmet meals’ turned out to be pre-packaged sandwiches. Not only that, but the event was stopped shortly after a storm rolled in, meaning that all flights off the island had to be cancelled too. Guests were stranded, the Bahamian government had to seize control and, as a result of the calamitous events, McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison.

Cause of Problem: Everything – more or less.

Prevention: Don’t overcharge for tickets and then underdeliver. Also, make sure your guests receive the services as they are promised, and have an emergency plan in place just in case. Likewise, don’t leave your high-profile guests stranded on an island in the Bahamas.

This content is sponsored by Mike James.

Molly joined the editorial team in March 2019. She has several years’ experience working in broadcast and journalism, as well as marketing and PR. Past experience includes working for the BBC and independent publishing houses. If you have a story you think Molly might be interested in, please email: molly@eventindustrynews.com