[Opinion] Artists should be held responsible for tragic events at their concerts

Ethan Flores Rothmund, Writer

Separating an artist’s work from the character of the artist themselves is a tricky subject that leaves supporters of “problematic” creators in a confusing predictament. No one really wants to admire the behaviour of an individual that has proven themselves to be disrespectful, bigoted or just straight up awful, but someone with these dangerous tendencies can still have the talent to create enjoyable art.

For people that want to enjoy a “problematic” creator’s work, they must recognize the fact that they willingly support someone that has caused harm through racist social media posts, cultural appropriation, and other offenses. One way that people do this is with the separation of art from the artist argument, demonstrating that what an author creates and the character of the author can be treated as two separate entities.

It is comforting to think that we can effectively ignore the less favorable actions of an artist and experience their work free of concern. Afterall, it’s much easier to listen to a fun song than to think of the person that wrote the song and how supporting them reflects one’s character.

But is this separation between creation and creator really appropriate? Is it a just and moral argument that can save us from the knowledge that actions have consequences?

To answer this, we need to look at a real world example. We need something recent that calls into question whether character can be separated from artform. Luckily, we have one: the recent tragedy at the 2021 Astroworld concert. The event is a perfect example of an artist being called out to answer for his wrongdoings.

On Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, world famous rapper and record producer Travis Scott hosted an annual music festival, titled Astroworld, in Houston, Texas. About 50,000 fans came to witness Travis Scott, Drake, Chief Keef, Lil Baby and other artists perform in the two-day event. On the first night of the event, while Scott was performing, a crowd crush occurred that was so severe it prompted Houston officials to declare it a “mass casualty event.” Nine people have died and hundreds more were hospitalized.

To make matters worse, children have been reported to be seriously injured; 14-year-old John Hilgert was the youngest fatality of the event and nine-year-old Ezra Blount is in a coma. No children should have been at this concert in the first place, especially since events like this are notorious for being reckless. That aside, the fact that the violence escalated so far is appalling and calls into question just how negligent Scott and the staff running the event were.

Videos from the event show people screaming for help as Scott continued the concert, seemingly choosing to ignore the obvious cries in the crowd. The video shows two individuals climbing onto a camera crane and begging members of staff, and anyone who would listen, to stop the show.

It has since been revealed that the reason they had climbed onto the crane was because they had witnessed people dying and getting injured in the crowd. There are countless videos, written accounts from attendees and official reports that all display the blatant disregard for the audience’s safety at the event.

Allegedly, the medical staff in attendance did not know how to properly conduct CPR or pulse checks, resulting in several concertgoers attempting to help the injured themselves.

All the while, Scott continued on with his set, despite all these horrible incidents happening right in front of his face. An ambulance was brought into the middle of the crowd, and it is here we see where Scott’s true priorities lie. Instead of prioritizing the safety and well being of his attendants, he was more concerned with the completion of his set.

The video taken shows Scott choosing to continue, despite events having escalated to the point of necessitating an ambulance, even adding to the severity of the situation by telling his fans to “make the ground shake.”

Scott continued on with his set for nearly 40 minutes in the midst of these casualties, proving that his event’s promoters and safety staff have no true concern for the mass safety of Scott’s events. This is absolutely a bad reflection on his priorities as an artist.

Scott’s entire performing career has been defined by a mosh pit-like dynamic that is characterized by “raging” and an overall wild atmosphere that numbs inhibitions and senses of self-preservation. To be fair, a lot of concerts share this same energy; fainting, trampling and injuries are common occurrences that can happen to anyone.

However, in regular concerts, when an audience member faints, that person is picked up by trained medical staff who are qualified to deal with serious injury. Additionally, the performing artist is typically aware of what’s happening to his or her fans.

Scott failed to do any of these expected hospitalities. At best, he was “unaware” of what was happening. At worst, he merely brushed the events off and chose to continue playing his music. Either way, nine people are dead and hundreds are in the hospital.

Multiple individuals, most of which are part of Scott’s dedicated following, are defending Scott’s behaviour at his concert. Fans attempt to argue that it is not the responsibility of the performers to ensure crowd safety, and the people complaining about the affair have simply never been to a concert before. However, make no mistake, this event was Scott’s event and he was responsible for not only the well being of the people that paid to come see him and other artists perform, but what was happening directly in front of him.

The individuals defending Scott’s actions must be made aware that Scott’s actions are in no way normal or excusable. To reiterate, the tragedy that was Astroworld happened less than a few feet from where Scott was performing and he chose to do nothing except “make the ground shake.” That in and of itself is a clear example of behaviour that is inexcusable and abnormal. The case for Scott gets harder to defend when considering the actions of artists that have held similar events.

Ariana Grande paid for the funerals of all 22 victims after a bomb was detonated during her 2017 Manchester concert, Corey Taylor from Stone Sour stopped his set to assist a passed out fan and Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda reminded his crowd of the expected behaviour at a mosh pit after it escalated. Scott did not complete his duty as the host of the event, therefore his actions are inexcusable.

The same question surfaces when considering both Scott’s role in the Astroworld tragedy and the debate about separing the artist from their art debacle. Is the argument for separating the art from the artist really a valid and moral argument? In other words, can we separate Travis Scott from Astroworld? The answer to both is a resounding no.

We as consumers cannot in good conscience treat a creation and a creator as two separate entities because, no matter how much we hate to admit it, the creator of the content we enjoy is the same person that did something harmful. Art is too personal of an activity to not reflect its outcome on its artist.

Scott staged a concert that was mismanaged, wild and dangerous because he is neglectful, wild and dangerous. No matter how much separating we try to do, the tragedy of Astroworld 2021 reflects deeply on who Scott is as a person.

It is the duty of a fan to hold their content creators accountable for what they do, no matter how much they enjoy that creator’s work. At the end of the day, our idols are just human, and people need to know when they have conducted misconduct.