Within the last 12 months, from May 2015 - May 2016, there have been a reported 17 deaths from drugs at EDM festivals and over 100 confirmed drug-related hospitalizations. While these numbers may be staggering, it's important to note that festivals have been stepping up their security and efforts to increase safety; but is enough being done?
Two major festivals, TomorrowWorld and Stereosonic, have already announced they will not return in 2016 due to financial reasons, while many other festivals are attracting the attention of authorities, determined to prevent any more deaths on their turf. California councilors are currently debating whether to ban dance music events from the San Manuel Amphitheater, home of Beyond Wonderland and Nocturnal Wonderland.
Industry leaders heading to meet at the International Music Summit (IMS) in Ibiza May 25-27 aim to discuss negative portrayals in the media, and how to shift EDM back to a more positive path. The Association for Electronic Music (AFEM) will present The Future of Our Industry, a panel bringing together Dutch label Spinnin' Records' CEO, Eelko Van Koote, Italian DJ Joseph Capriati, CAA's Maria May, Beatport's Terry Weerasinghe and Tommy Vaudecrane of French association Technopol to discuss how to "identify a positive path forward" for an industry "under attack from governments and negative media."
The panel won't focus directly on the deaths this past year, but instead focus on the "chance to help educate and inform the genre about the actions we are taking together to help combat criminals trying to destroy our culture," according to IMS organizer Ben Turner.
Organizations like DanceSafe are pointing towards harm reduction practices as opposed to prohibition of whatever illicit substances people choose to partake in. The founder, Emanual Sferios, has been diligently campaigning for his documentary, MDMA The Movie, in an effort to showcase the positive aspects of the chemical.
If public school sex-ed classes have taught us anything, it's that attempting to ban something completely doesn't work, but information about the positive and negative aspects of an experience can truly help people make more informed decision about what they put in their body.
Festival organizers like Insomniac and HARD have been working tirelessly to make their events safer without intruding on their attendees, and we commend them. We are excited to see what comes of this panel and how festival promoters work together to make the industry safer for everyone.