Will the Paris Attacks Change Concert Security?

Music industry execs divided over efficacy of heightened security at shows

After the Bataclan Paris attacks, music industry execs are divided at the efficacy of heightened security at concerts Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

It's still not clear how armed assassins were able to storm the Bataclan and murder 89 fans of U.S. rock band Eagles of Death Metal during a wave of terrorist attacks Friday night in Paris, but the breach has frightened artist managers and concert promoters into at least some kind of action. They're just not sure what that might be.

"It's a scary time that we live in," says a prominent artist manager, who requested anonymity citing nervousness about ISIS' recent "Kill List" of U.S. military sites. "Security often does a pretty good job of making sure people aren't bringing anything that could harm anyone else; however, there's not a wide use of metal detectors at most concerts, and I feel like this might be an eye-opening situation.

"We can't live in fear and not run marathons or go see concerts or sports matches or go to movies," the source adds. "But a lot of the venues we go to could use a good, hard look at what they have in place and what more they could do to make sure their patrons are safe."

"There's not a wide use of metal detectors at most concerts, and I feel like this might be an eye-opening situation," says one manager.

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, in which 129 people died after terrorists fired automatic weapons and set off bombs in six locations throughout the city, several music stars immediately canceled appearances in the area. U2 and Motorhead postponed scheduled shows over the weekend, and Marilyn Manson canceled his show for Monday. In the U.S., police added extra officers for shows starring Justin Bieber and Snoop Dogg in Los Angeles, and, after consulting with the FBI and Homeland Security, the National Football League beefed up security for Sunday games.

"It's a discussion that the venues have to have, and promoters have to have internally — maybe they'll be putting in more metal detectors," says Jim Romeo, an agent for Ground Control Touring, which represents numerous indie-rock acts such as Kurt Vile and Parquet Courts. "But so far, I haven't heard of anything happening."

A source in the concert business, though, says those discussions have already begun. "This will heighten some awareness," the source says. "There's always going to be room for improvement, but at the same time, we can't make it so cumbersome and burdensome that a 22-year-old doesn't want to bother."

Live Nation and A.E.G. Live, two of the biggest promoters in the concert industry, both issued statements expressing plans for increased security.

"The safety and security of our shows, fans and venues continues to be our highest priority," Live Nation said. "Due to the recent events in Paris and in an abundance of caution, we have implemented heightened security procedures globally. However, because of the sensitive nature of these protocols, we cannot elaborate further on the specific details."

"The safety of fans attending our venues and events is and will always be AEG’s highest priority," the company said in a statement. "While our security practices have earned AEG a reputation as an industry leader in this area, we are continually evaluating and updating our policies and procedures as we remain vigilant in the face of ever-changing circumstances. We will continue to work closely with federal, state and local law enforcement partners to share information, monitor security threats and implement heightened security measures as appropriate to protect our guests, employees and performers."

"Tickets are so high in most places, I'm not sure venue operators are prepared to spend that kind of money," says one promoter

Some in the concert business say the Bataclan attack was such a brutal anomaly that it can't possibly change anything. "I was watching the coverage, and somebody had been in the Bataclan, and said there was no security and that's why [the terrorists] were able to get in," says David T. Viecelli, agent for Arcade Fire, St. Vincent and others. "It wouldn't matter what metal detector they had, or what bouncer they had at the door — when somebody shows up with Kalashnikovs, they're getting in. And take the obvious example of the people who were shot on the street at cafes. You cannot protect against this."

"It's very hard. You could hire a lot more security guards or police or off-duty police. You can get trained dogs. You can get metal detectors," adds John Scher, a veteran New York concert promoter. "But tickets are so high in most places. I'm not sure the venue operators, especially the middle-level places, are prepared to spend that kind of money."

But Paul Wertheimer, head of Crowd Management Strategies who has been complaining about lax concert-safety procedures for decades, raises some pointed questions about the Bataclan. "Where were the police? This is a major pop-rock venue in Paris — this is not some back-alley concert venue," he says. "We knew these were targets. Paris was already struck and threatened by extremists. Was there any preparation for a scenario, or a risk-management plan that said, 'What if somebody enters with a gun?'"

At major U.S. sports arenas, teams and promoters have already implemented intensive security systems — some have scanners and metal detectors as sophisticated as those at airports. But those may not be feasible for theatres like the 1,500-capacity Bataclan and smaller clubs. "It's not realistic. It's going to feel like, 'There's only 400 of us. Is this not a safe place? I'm here to see Deer Tick,'" says the concert-business source. "But I think that some theatres and venues will be a little more proactive on the security side."