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Don't trample the Electric Daisy

Festival producer Insomniac, which has invested heavily in security, has been unfairly singled out for criticism.

August 22, 2011|By Pasquale Rotella

The media and some public officials have had plenty of bad things to say about the Electric Daisy Carnival, and a lot of it can be summed up by the word "rave." But this isn't 1993, and Insomniac, which produces EDC, isn't throwing parties in warehouses with no rules and no security.

Insomniac creates multimillion-dollar productions with top artists like Tiesto (who performed at the opening of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens) and Will.i.am (who performed for President Obama). Don't know them? Your kids certainly do. Both have also performed at Electric Daisy Carnival, an event that until last year had been held in Los Angeles for 15 years without major incident.

A snowball of negative press and political fallout followed the tragic death of a teenager after the Electric Daisy Carnival in June 2010. Attention focused on such an alarming incident is understandable, but ever since then Insomniac has been unfairly placed under a microscope. The same scrutiny has not been applied to individuals engaging in illegal behavior or to other festivals and mass gatherings that endure similar issues.

In late July, a documentary, "Electric Daisy Carnival Experience," capturing the largest electronic music festival in the world, premiered at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Unfortunately, a small group of people disrupted the event when a popular artist sent out a tweet offering a free concert before the premiere. Although the film showcased an Insomniac production, Insomniac had nothing to do with the tweet or what followed, yet much of the media incorrectly labeled the situation with the words "Electric Daisy Carnival Riot."

And though that kind of characterization now comes easily to the media, many of the same outlets have managed to make just a small footnote of any good news related to Electric Daisy.

Insomniac commissioned Beacon Economics to study the economic impact of the Electric Daisy Carnival, finding that the two-day event in 2010 boosted Los Angeles County economic output by $42 million, bringing in $14.6 million in income for workers in the region and $3.1 million in tax revenue — local governments earned more than $1.2 million in revenue, and $1.9 million went into the state budget.

This isn't to say that the economic benefits outweigh security concerns. They certainly don't.

Our events are successful only if they are safe for attendees. Insomniac has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars during just the last year in additional security personnel; it has purchased state-of-the-art ID scanners to guarantee that our events are limited to adults; and we continue to enforce a zero-tolerance policy for illegal substance possession and use. Additionally, by releasing medical and law enforcement statistics after our events, Insomniac has become more transparent than any other major U.S. festival producer.

We continue to learn from the past; however, there are only so many factors we can control. At some point individuals are responsible for their own behavior. We can't prevent every instance of self-destructive behavior, or tweets that others send out without our knowledge. Any time there is a mass gathering of people, event organizers are going to face challenges. There is no such thing as a "perfect" event.

If the issue is public safety, where is the avalanche of bad press in reaction to the L.A. Rising festival, headlined by Rage Against the Machine at the Coliseum in July, when among 50,000 attendees there were 15 medical transports to area hospitals? That same weekend at an Insomniac event in San Bernardino attended by 20,000 people, there were two medical transports, and one of those was for knee pain.

There are plenty of other examples. Where was the outrage in early August over the Manhattan Beach six-man beach volleyball tournament, where there were 35 alcohol-related arrests? Where were the editorials in June 2010 calling for an end to Lakers championship games in downtown Los Angeles after fans actually rioted, causing damage to businesses, setting cars on fire and assaulting innocent people?

If the issue is drug use, I'm certain that those criticizing us haven't been to either the Hollywood Bowl or UCLA's reggae festival, because with the thick haze of marijuana smoke laying over the crowd, those events should be on the outs too.

The strenuous objections to our events should sound familiar to anyone who remembers early reactions to rock 'n' roll or hip-hop music. But to suggest, as this newspaper and Coliseum officials have done, that an event such as the Electric Daisy Carnival has no place in Los Angeles is like saying rock concerts should have been banned in California after violence erupted at the Rolling Stones concert in Altamont in 1969.

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