Tickets to a death trap: Why we should have seen the Astroworld Festival tragedy coming

Travis+Scott+performs+to+a+packed+crowd+with+a+massive+spectacle.

Frank Schwichtenberg, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Travis Scott performs to a packed crowd with a massive spectacle.

Mitchell Wood and Vinay Joshi

American hip-hop artist Jacques Webster came under scrutiny for a lack of security and severe overcrowding at his annual music festival. Held in Houston on Nov 5, the event resulted in the deaths of 10 fans and left hundreds with injuries, launching Webster into an ocean of lawsuits.

This year marked the third edition of Astroworld Festival, the brainchild of Webster who is better known by his moniker Travis Scott. Like previous years, Astroworld Festival has been one of the most anticipated music events of 2021 due to Scott’s rapidly growing popularity and the impressive roster of A-list artists he is able to recruit to perform alongside him. 

However, with this year’s Astroworld Festival, Scott seemingly put ticket sales in front of the safety of his fans, putting their well-being in jeopardy by overcrowding the concert venue.

And it ain’t a mosh pit if ain’t no injuries”

— Lyric from Travis Scott's hit song STARGAZING

Scott burst into the spotlight with his critically acclaimed 2015 album “Rodeo” after working in legendary artist Kanye West’s shadow earlier in the last decade. However, the Houston native became a household name with chart-topping “SICKO MODE,” the RIAA certified Diamond single from his 2018 record “ASTROWORLD.”

Scott’s high-profile relationship with socialite Kylie Jenner and his numerous fashion collaborations and brand deals have catapulted him to the top of American popular culture. 

However, in the aftermath of the horribly misplanned and tragic 2021 Astroworld Festival, Scott’s blossoming career has come to a grinding halt.  

Upon first glance, Astroworld Festival seemed to be just like any other high-profile music show. The 50,000 tickets for the Nov. 5 show at NRG Park sold out within an hour of going live, the same amount as the 2019 edition. Like past years, Scott recruited an all-star cast of chart-topping artists including Drake, Roddy Ricch, Young Thug, Lil Baby and more. 

However, the security present at Astroworld Festival was seriously understaffed, which became clear when swarms of fans broke through the barriers set up to hold them back while their tickets were scanned. According to a CNN article, there were eight breaches of security, allowing 3,000-5,000 concertgoers to enter without their tickets being scanned. 

One of the biggest criticisms of Scott and his Astroworld Festival is that he encouraged fans who could not manage to get the elusive, expensive tickets to sneak in. A since deleted tweet of Scott’s from May 5, 2021, read, “NAW AND WE STILL SNEAKING THE WILD ONES IN. !!!!!” 

Additionally, it seems that it was Scott’s plan to make the concert bigger than ever this year. Following the 2019 Astroworld Festival – the event was not held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic – Scott’s manager David Stromberg said in an email to Forbes, “Travis transcends hip-hop and is one of the biggest artists in the world, but still curates everything about the festival. He’s already thinking of ways to make it even bigger next year.”

Reports from the concert describe pure pandemonium: harrowing scenes of fans being so tightly packed together and pushing to get closer to stage before and during Scott’s performance that they could not breathe. Multiple people passed out from suffocation, but the small number of paramedics and medical staff could not help everyone. Several people were trampled by the masses and could not manage to get up.

While many question how such a catastrophic event occurred in the first place, those familiar with Scott know the warning signs were abundant. In the song STARGAZING” from “ASTROWORLD,” Scott embraces chaos in his lyrics. “And it ain’t a mosh pit ain’t if no injuries,” can be heard on the track.

 Since Scott burst into the mainstream, he has built an image around chaos and recklessness at his concerts.

That same recklessness is now at fault for 10 deaths, hundreds of injuries and an astounding 46 lawsuits and counting. “This tragedy was months, if not years, in the making,” said Houston lawyer Steve Kherkher in an interview with AP. The lawsuit Kherkher is working on demands upwards of one million dollars for a victim who was trampled during the festival.

Perhaps even more egregious is the fact that many of the Astroworld Festival victims were children. As of Nov. 14, the latest casualty is a nine-year-old, who died following injuries sustained from being crushed. A 14-year-old is also among the 10 fans who passed away. Music festivals are typically notorious for unruly crowds and drug-use, so the question must be asked: What were so many kids doing at Astroworld Festival in the first place?

The answer is simple: Between 2019’s Astroworld Festival and the most recent edition, Scott has made a conscious effort to appeal to a younger crowd.

Over the summer of 2020 when delays and cancellations were inevitable in the entertainment industry, Scott partnered with the immensely popular video game Fortnite to host an in-game live experience for players to tune into with their friends. Titled “Travis Scott presents Astronomical,” the event hosted 12.3 million Fortnite players.

Later that year, Scott collaborated with McDonalds on a new limited time menu item which mimicked Scott’s favorite order from the famous franchise.

While Scott was not breaking any rules with these lucrative partnerships, his newfound focus of directly marketing towards younger demographics was apparent given the nature of the companies he chose to collaborate with. Young kids have now found themselves caught in the crossfire from Scott and his concerts, and the result has been disturbing and shameful.

While Astroworld Festival isn’t the first live music event to result in the loss of several lives, it stands out as the first within the hip-hop world. Senior Brady Adams, a fan of the hip-hop genre, believes the catastrophic festival was the result of a combination of several factors. “The situation is nothing short of a nightmare. Travis Scott definitely encourages a rager personality amongst his fans and that was 100% part of the problem,” he said. “However, the fest had no protocol for a crowd surge and Travis did not have authority to stop the show. The only people that had that power were the executive producer and the festival director. Many things went wrong including the organization of the fest.”

Regardless of what could have been prevented, it is going to be pivotal moving forward to keep these losses in mind. At the end of the day, hundreds of families and friends of victims have had their lives abruptly affected.

The implications of the tragedy have already started to impact Scott’s previously thriving career. His reputation among fans has already been tarnished, and Fortnite has announced they have parted ways with the star. The fallout likely will not end there. Scott will have to deal with lower ticket sales, more corporate ties being cut and major changes to his live performances.

The 2021 Astroworld Festival was a harsh reality check for the rapper who tried to accomplish too much, causing him to overlook the safety of his fans. While details from the tragedy continue to spill out, Scott will have to carry the guilt of the injuries and deaths of fans who simply wanted to enjoy their favorite rapper perform live.