Drug Deaths Threaten Rising Business of Electronic Music Fests

Electric light show

(From The New York Times, September 9, 2013) The electronic music business has  gained tremendous popularity within the entertainment industry that only continues to increase. Festivals can draw in ten of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of fans with psychedelic light shows and popular DJs. The trend is now at a estimated worth of 4.5 billion dollars and has started to gain interest from both Wall Street investors and mainstream corporate sponsors. However, a recent series of drug- related deaths may put this growing industry to a halt.

Since March, at least seven people have died after experiencing symptoms of overdoses with MDMA and other commonly used “party drugs” known as ecstasy or Molly. This has exposed a risk to not only the fans that attend, but the businesses looking to profit from the growing trend. Executives say these deaths may have the potential to scare away investors and sponsors looking to win over young fans. Defenders of the electronic genre say that drugs and overdoses have long been associated with popular music and is only being targeted by the media.

While most festival promoters have zero-tolerance drug policies, it’s almost impossible to keep drugs out of concerts. It’s often required by state law that any large gathering must have security checks, free on-site water, first aid tents, and ambulances on call for insurance purposes. No promoter can keep drugs from entering a festival nor prevent fans from consuming drugs before entering the festival, yet many feel that promoters and stars should be doing more to discourage it. “I don’t think we should be scared of saying ‘don’t do drugs,’ ” said top DJ A-Trak. “There is this sort of elephant in the room, where people are scared to say, ‘That stuff is dangerous and don’t mess around.’ ” Only time will show what the future has in store for the business of electronic music festivals.