As We See It

A new Insomniac initiative tackles the hot-button issue of drugs in dance music

Fans gather at Stage 7 as the next artist readies to perform during the first night of the 2015 Electric Daisy Carnival on Friday, June 19, 2015, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Photo: L.E. Baskow

We need to talk about drugs. That was the takeaway from a panel discussion during the recent EDMbiz conference in Las Vegas, and it’s a point that’s all the more urgent following the death of a 24-year-old man at last weekend’s Electric Daisy Carnival (an exact cause has yet to be determined).

“It’s a hot-button issue,” said KCRW’s Jason Bentley, introducing the June 17 panel at the Cosmopolitan. “We didn’t ever want to go near it because of the negative connotations.” At this point, however, it may be impossible not to.

“Is it time for us to set our own standards and help bring those at the smaller end of events up to the higher end?” moderator Mark Lawrence of the Association for Electronic Music asked. The answer is a long overdue yes. Insomniac is one of the few industry leaders with the resources to do so, and the promoter kicked off the discussion by launching #WeAreWideAwake. The initiative promotes health and safety awareness, encouraging fans to speak up if a friend needs medical attention rather than fear consequences.

The initiative is far from perfect—drugs aren’t specifically called out, and useful info like how to look for signs of an overdose isn’t offered—but it arrived in tandem with an unusually open public discussion about drugs in dance music. Topics ranged from legal limitations to social stigma to whether drug-testing booths at events implicitly encourage use. “The reason it’s so important to talk about what you’re taking is that it’s probably not what you think you’re taking,” said panelist and DJ Brianna Price, who directed a documentary about drug use in dance music.

Talking alone won’t solve the issues that lead to overdoses, but it could open the door to figuring out what will. “It’s heartbreaking, because we want to help you,” said panelist Maren Steiner, Insomniac’s director of health and safety. “So much of this stuff can be avoided, if people would just see something and say something.”

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