Why is Free Water Still Not Mandatory for Music Events? (Op-Ed)

With some proper planning, large-scale warehouse events and music festivals could have free water for their patrons
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Masha Lukashenko
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With some proper planning, large-scale warehouse events and music festivals could have free water for their patrons

This post is going to be one of those, "You Know What Grinds My Gears" editions because I have pretty much had it with water prices at music events.

I recently attended a big Techno festival in NYC and although I had a lot of fun, what perturbed me was the insane price of bottled water...$6. 

Understand that I grew up in NYC and have attended many events there, so I'm not unaccustomed to ridiculously inflated prices of alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages. However, what I'm left thinking at this point is, why? Alcohol aside, there is no reason that any non-alcoholic beverage should ever be more than $3 max. Water, on the other hand, should be free! 

Festivals hook us up with water stations, which are crucial part of any festival, especially in the summer, but large scale events that are not a festival could do a better job at helping their patrons stay hydrated. If not for the sake of just common decency, then understand that accessibility to free water might actually be the most successful way to reduce the amount of people that get sick at shows. Whether you're out bouncing around in 90-degree sun or inside a crowded venue in the middle of January, everyone is at risk of getting ill without proper hydration. 

Special Events Medical Services list symptoms of general dehydration (without drug association) as; fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness, extreme thirst, headache and little urine. Without proper treatment, especially at large events, a person can become delirious, lose coordination or even lose consciousness. 

Let's be real, it's not always easy to go refill or buy a new bottle of water for many reasons; long - ass lines and you don't want to miss your act, you ran out of cash for their ridiculous $5+ bottle prices, or you just simply aren't paying attention to your body. Now add a mixture of caffeine, alcohol and possibly a kaleidoscope of drug intake. It can't be healthy to go without water.

Kia Makarechi of the Huffington Post wrote in an article, "A number of music journalists (including myself) have witnessed fans suffering from heat exhaustion and/or drug-related health issues being walked or carried through crowds that easily number in the tens of thousands..." 

Dancesafe.org reported in one of their articles, "...the most common cause of MDMA-related medical emergencies and deaths is heatstroke, where MDMA was only one of a number of factors involved." 

To avoid hypothermia, water is necessary at any music event. With the way music events typically are, promoters and venues should start taking into consideration the benefits of providing free water for their guests. If they would also provide electrolyte-potent soft drinks such as Gatorade, that can go as far as preventing hyponatremia ("low salt" or water intoxication, too much water). 

At most venues/nightclubs, patrons can request a cup of water (just don't be stingy, please leave a dollar tip). However, most warehouse and pop-up events will claim to have no "water hook-ups", therefore you need to buy bottled water (how convenient...). 

Most major festivals like Electric Zoo, Coachella, EDC, Mysterland, Ultra Music Festival and Sunwaves have all added refillable water stations and allow patrons to bring camelbacks! Great start. All festivals in Amsterdam, as per law, have to have one station per 150 attendees at any festival. Maybe that's a rule that should be carried over to the states as well. What that being said, where major festivals have begun to catch on to the trend of providing free H2O, smaller scale events and shows have not. 

At Costco, you can purchase in bulk, 78 cases (24ct) of Nestle Pure Life water bottles for roughly $500. That's enough for 1,872 people at an event. The average large-scale pop-up event/warehouse show in NYC can have up to 4,000 attendees. $2,500 worth of water will equate to allowing 9,360 people to have 2 or more bottles of water per attendee. This might sound like a lot, but if you have 4,000 attendees and they all paid $85 to go to your event, that equals $340,000. I understand that you have to factor in the cost of production and other factors, but if the initial budget was designed to include a certain amount of water or non-alcoholic beverage to provide for free at an event, you can always gauge the breaking point. Honestly, none of these events have any excuse as to not provide free H2O. Saying that it's far too expensive doesn't seem to make sense when you crunch the numbers. I don't care if you want to stay off the radar and not sell out, but corporate and philanthropic sponsorships are a solid and very easy way to provide free water and sports drinks without shelling out a penny. 

IEGSR, predicted that over $1.4 billion in corporate sponsorships would be spent on music events in 2015, with non-alcoholic beverages beating out beer as the most active type of sponsoring. The Huffington Post reported in their The Economics of Music Festivals article, "According to a report from IEG, an estimated $1.34 billion was spent sponsoring music festivals in 2014. FRUKT, an agency dedicated to finding branding opportunities within pop culture, reports that some 447 brands played a role in 300 music festivals worldwide in 2013." 

My point being, where festivals are moving forward with this trend, large scale rave events could catch on as well. For example, a small day party in Boston called Dancing on the Charles (initially started by Soul Clap) has always provided coolers of free bottled water to all their guests and ticket prices never exceeded $35 for a 6-8 hour event. Pop-up/warehouse style events especially, and you know which ones I'm talking about if you have read my event reviews, need to start concerning themselves with the bare necessities of their patrons. 

Rant OVER!