Experts Call For New Guidelines After Radiohead Stage Collapse

Veteran live music experts say that steel rods should always be used for outdoor stages after a Radiohead technician was killed in a stage collapse this month.

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A concert industry veteran has called for new industry guidelines following the tragic death of a Radiohead drum technician when their stage collapsed this month.

Lars Brogaard, who has produced concerts for Rod Stewart since 1985, says that promoters should commit to using steel rods to ensure the safety of the musicians and road crew who build outdoor stages.

"You need to go to steel. The shows nowadays are getting heavier and heavier with the lighting and the video screens. These aluminium roofs, they can't take the weight," he told Rolling Stone.

"There's just been too many accidents. I have guys working who are really upset about it. Why go out and do a show and have something fall on your head and die?"

Radiohead's drum technician Scott Johnson was killed when the stage collapsed in Toronto this month, with three other crew members injured.

Now the Canadian government is investigating companies including Live Nation and Radiohead's Ticker Tape Touring company to find who responsible for the incident.

A veteran promoter John Scher suggests that Live Nation would normally be responsible for the erection of the stage.

"It's not a theatre, it's not an arena, so you've got to go to a company that builds outdoor stages. Hopefully you'll check and make sure they've got the experience and references. It's the promoter's responsibility to be able to hire somebody who can deliver the specifications that the production manager and the act ask for."

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    For christ f***ing sake. How many times do stages have to collapse and kill people for them to do something about it? This happens like every 6 months
    cbabb7 wrote: I dont get why they werent steel in the first place. More structure, less liability, less to maintain.
    Laziness and cheapness, most probably. It's a damn shame they didn't just go with what was safest this whole time.
    I dont get why they werent steel in the first place. More structure, less liability, less to maintain.
    You would think that they would perform safety tests back in the day when stages were first implemented to this scale. So many years, and we finally start making the wise move. I swear sometimes I just don't understand the world.
    Aluminum is used in place of steel primarily because of its weight to strength ratio. When you consider the massive undertaking that is facilitating and maneuvering a massive rig such as Radiohead's, the difference in weight makes a significant difference fiscally and physically. Everything from the cost of transporting the raw aluminum stock before it is fabricated into its finished state, to making things lighter for the crew during load ins, to the fact that in most cases steel needs to be painted or coated whereas aluminum typically does not, are taken into account. In addition, aluminum is particularly maleable, allowing it be manipulated using less energy which equates to lower costs. Unfortunately there is a trade off. The tensile strength of aluminum is roughly 3x weaker than that of mild steel (although those figures are dependent on the grade of the metals themselves). While you can argue using a stronger material could help to avoid these situations, the reason stages fail is typically not due to the use of an insufficiently strong material (I'm not a big fan of being anecdotal, but Madonna's stage collapse, for example, was due to an improperly balanced load, not because there were one too many par can lights hung from a piece of truss. A stage is a delicately balanced piece of architecture with the additional caveat of being in constant flux, as it is erected in a hurry, and dismantled just as fast or faster. Having worked for years for a company that did everything from rebuilding theaters to renovating them (Ford's theater in D.C. for example) as well as outdoor staging and events, I have experienced the pitfalls of balancing the needs of a profitable business with the safety of those involved. Lost fingers, crushed chests, friends in their twenties now rolling in wheel chairs, and even a significant fall that resulted in death were unfortunate realities. While my experience may appear to be the exception to the rule, the unfortunate truth is that it is not. The larger touring companies already do a great deal to ensure the safety of those that participate in their shows. However, especially now, as the current model continues to change (some say a song now is like the business card, and an album, the resume), recorded music is bringing in less and less money. Live shows are becoming more of the driving force, and larger companies have a greater incentive to squeeze every last dollar from every show. Consider the fact that reports that in 2011 Live Nation owned 128 concert venues, promoted 21,000 shows, employed 31,600 and reported its 2010 revenue as 5.06 billion. That is approximately 1.5 employees per show. Now, that statistic is hardly a statistic at all, there are many other factors to consider, but it does go a long way to illustrate the strain and expectations placed on the employees of these companies, as they are asked to create bigger and better environments, faster, for our enjoyment. A larger discussion must be had highlighting the current inadequacies of the recipe that produces our beloved live shows.