Before we start, let us say that our thoughts and prayers go out to those who lost their lives and were seriously injured at the AstroWorld Houston rap concert festival–about 250 miles south of our Dallas area studios. It was a senseless loss of life that, in part, stems from a massive business and logistics failure on a number of fronts that I will briefly touch on in this video. The music industry should use this as an ominous teachable moment.
Now some background. Travis Scott has done a great job maneuvering himself into becoming one of the most popular rappers in history. His baby mama relationship with Kylie Jenner (she’s expecting their 2nd child) brought his marketing brand into the larger Kardashian brand, which seems to have been a win win for both. His foray into becoming a superstar and business mogul started from his very humble beginnings in some rough parts of Houston, all the way to a chance encounter with superstar rapper TI’s Grand Hustle label and later Kanye West, who signed Travis to his GOOD Music label.
Obviously, these fast moving big time connections provided the basis for his business ventures. Let’s not forget it was he who started the hugely popular AstroWorld Festival in 2018. Fashion deals with Nike in 2019 and Dior in summer 2021 established him as a business force to be reckoned with. A Fall 2020 deal with McDonald’s quarter pounder burger, the first tied to a celebrity since they did one with Michael Jordan way back in 1992, was so popular that it broke McDonald’s supply chain. Yeah, Travis Scott is THAT influential.
This deal led to a Cactus Jack line of food and merchandise. Right around the same time, Travis became a Strategic Creative Partner of PlayStation PS5 console. Earlier in 2020, as things began to shut down concerts, Travis Scott’s marketing brand reached an insanely impressive high following his virtual concert on the very popular Fortnite gaming platform. Over 12 million players logged in for it, calling it stunning and spectacular. Finally, Forbes Magazine in 2020 had him on pace to be worth over $100 million. Forbes fondly said of Travis “…he’s helping major companies rethink their brands—and changing how celebrities and corporations interact.”
Very nice. And being forever tied to cosmetics businesswoman Kylie Jenner makes him part of a venerable power couple that hundreds of millions follow closely.
That’s the positive stuff. Sadly, Mr. Scott has not been paying enough attention to his rising marketing brand when it comes to how he conducts his popular concerts. The tragedy at AstroWorld 2021 was not his first of that kind, although by far it is his worst. He has a history of encouraging deadly concert behavior among fans, leading to him being arrested in 2017 following an Arkansas concert where he allegedly encouraged fans to rush the stage. He pled guilty to bad behavior following a 2021 Lollapalooza incident in Chicago. And there are a couple of other related problems along the same lines.
The business liability fallout following several deaths and hundreds of injuries will be enormous, especially given his history of neglecting concert safety measures by encouraging fans to rush the stage. That’s in addition to the fans rushing past security at the entrance gates. There’s no telling how many underage kids got past security. and with reports that some were injecting fans with illegal drugs without their knowledge, this could lead to considerable liability insurance problems that might put Live Nation and Ticketmaster in danger of bankruptcy. The same Forbes magazine I quoted earlier also said of his followers also said “Scott is a famously raucous MC. Once he takes the stage, fans are “ragers” (his term), and he is “La Flame” (ditto), the spark that sets it all off.” Clearly, the term “ragers” will now come back to haunt him legally and from a brand standpoint.
He has issued several statements since the tragedy, which is the right thing to do. However, there is a legal jeopardy here. If you recall from my previous videos, I mentioned how criminal or civil legal problems can make brand and PR disaster recovery tricky because you have to pick the right words without putting yourself in danger of going to jail. The best move from a humanity and business standpoint is to quickly make sure all the families of the deceased and survivors are taken care of. Travis Scott did pledge to help them any way he can, which was the right thing to do personally and from a business angle. Fellow AstroWorld star Roddy Rich just announced he will give his concert earnings to the victims’ families, according to Billboard Magazine, which is the right thing to do.
There will be plenty of blame to go around. Live Nation and Ticketmaster are on the hook for general liability insurance payouts, plus potential compensatory and punitive damages resulting from the loss of life and huge number of injuries. A security guard just sued Travis Scott and Live Nation. According to Live Nation’s 2021 Securities and Exchange Commission filing, due to the current medical crisis we’re in, Live Nation was already facing a vulnerable financial situation, and this tragedy could prove to be the major catastrophe they feared when they said:
“The occurrence of such an incident or incidents affecting any one or more of our business facilities could have a material adverse effect on our financial position and future results of operations if asset damage and/or company liability were to exceed insurance coverage limits or if an insurer were unable to sufficiently or fully pay our related claims or damages.” The NRG stadium it was held at, the Houston Police Dept and the City of Houston may have some questions to answer in court, because the approval of the concert may have been reckless as well. Earlier in the day, fans were already rushing past security in such large numbers that riot police should have been involved, or they should have tightened up security more, or canceled the concert right then. Stage security should have had better communications between them and Travis Scott so that as people were passing out due to the crowd surge, Travis could have had a better handle on crowd control.
Because of the potential legal fallout, there could be some damage to the Travis Scott’s brand that will force him to change his business operations or be subject to intense scrutiny from now on. As the investigation expands in the future, watch for more public resentment towards Travis Scott and the City of Houston, both of whom will require the best public relations strategists to manage perhaps the biggest catastrophe in rap concert history. Stay tuned, and keep the victims and their families in your prayers.