After Manchester, enhanced security will be the new normal at live music events
In the wake of the Manchester attack, focus will turn to security outside venues
Under the spotlight: venue security is now an issue that no one can be complacent about. Photograph: Getty
The most thankless job in live music has just got a little harder again. The horrific events following the Ariana Grande show at the Manchester Arena last week have put the focus once more on security at concerts and live music events.
As with the murderous attack on the Bataclan venue in Paris during a show by the Eagles of Death Metal in 2014, a show attended by people who simply want to see a band or pop act has proven to be an easy target for terrorists.
Security at live music shows is already a huge priority for promoters. Those who regularly go to concerts know what to expect when they approach the door in terms of bag checks, pat-downs and the like. Such scrutiny is further heightened when it comes to festivals and big outdoor shows, with security forming a huge part of the pre-event planning and budgeting.
The Manchester Arena is a very well-run operation and is one of the most popular venues on the circuit for touring acts due to its capacity and location. But the attack took place just outside the venue and showed that no amount of venue security procedures and methodology can thwart someone who sees a target with 21,000 people inside. The venue security did their job in preventing the bomber getting inside the building, but he still managed to murder 22 innocent people.
People expect to be kept safe at a show and yet are not thrilled about the inconveniences which occur as a result
In the wake of this attack, many have predicted that we will see even more security measures to come. Some of the live-music sources this writer spoke to stressed that the focus will now be on making the perimeter of a venue more secure to prevent incidents like the Manchester attack from taking place again.
Many pointed to the need to take lessons from how large-scale sporting events are policed at venues such as Croke Park, the Aviva stadium and European football stadiums. All talked about how the inevitable increase in costs which will occur because of all of this will be passed onto fans in the form of a hike in ticket prices.
It will be interesting to see how gig-goers will react to the enhanced security at live-music events, something we’re sure to see in the coming months, especially during the busy summer festival season. There’s often a feeling among fans that security measures are already onerous and overbearing. You’ll hear and read many grumbles about the confiscation of umbrellas and water bottles at admission points and how security hold-ups cause long delays.
There are also examples of over-zealous security behaviour to consider. Last week, a couple settled a High Court action against the Electric Picnic promoters and a number of UK security firms working at the Co Laois event. They had taken the action for defamation, assault, wrongful arrest and false imprisonment after security burst into their tent during the 2015 festival to search their belongings.
We’re back to the opening paragraph again. Gig security is a thankless job because people expect to be kept safe at a show and yet are not thrilled about the inconveniences which occur as a result.
What we have to accept is that venue security is now an issue that no one can be complacent about. This should not put people off going to live gigs, nor should it give security firms a free pass to be heavy-handed with audience members. But, regardless of who’s on the stage, security is now a fact of life when we go out for the night.