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Radiohead Stage Collapse Sparks Criticism From Concert Industry Veterans

Radiohead
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

As the investigation into the cause of the stage collapse that killed a Radiohead employee continues, industry veterans are stepping forward to criticize the way the concert business is run in the United States — and call for reforms.

A recent Rolling Stone story surveys the response to the tragedy, including quotes from experts like Lars Brogaard, Rod Stewart‘s longtime production manager. According to Brogaard, part of the problem is the way companies cut corners with the materials used to build the stages. “You need to go to steel,” he argued, pointing out, “The shows nowadays are getting heavier and heavier with the lighting and the video screens. These aluminum roofs, they can’t take the weight.” (An NME report on the article indicates that European stages are built with steel.)

“I’m puzzled,” added veteran promoter John Scher, talking about the recent spate of stage collapses. “This never happens — or hasn’t. We went through 30 years of outdoor rock concerts and the only time you heard of some of this was in Podunk, Utah, when they didn’t use a professional company.”

Of course, as Scher went on to point out, the bands that have been affected by these incidents generally were using professional companies — such as Live Nation, the company responsible for the recent Radiohead show in question — and what appears to be a lowering of safety standards is raising eyebrows at the insurance companies who underwrite the tours. One senior VP in the business told Rolling Stone that they’re “taking a harder look at events they’re insuring — staging, engineer sign-off, weather monitoring, security plans, emergency plans … Production people for the most part are vigilant — they’re going to be a little more vigilant now.”

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