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By Chris Cooke | Published on Monday 7 August 2023
A Houston-based news organisation has revealed that a deal between Travis Scott and Apple regarding the livestreaming of his 2021 Astroworld performance required the rapper to complete his set in order to receive a $4.5 million fee. That has led to some discussion about whether or not that agreement put pressure on the rapper’s team to keep his Astroworld set going despite the crowd surge that occurred in the audience which resulted in ten fatalities.
The recent publication of the Houston Police Department’s report into the Astroworld tragedy has put a new focus on the big question as to why Scott’s set continued for some time after the scale of the problems within the crowd had become apparent to emergency services. Though legal reps for Scott insist that that question isn’t actually relevant in the context of all the lawsuits that were filed following the incident.
Ten people died and hundreds more were injured during the crowd surge at Astroworld 2021, which took place in Houston’s NRG Park. Following the event, the local police force launched a criminal investigation, while hundreds of lawsuits were filed by the victims – including the families of those who died – mainly targeting Scott, who founded the festival, and the event’s promoter, Live Nation.
The HPD completed its investigation last month. The police then handed their 1266 report to a grand jury which concluded that there were no grounds for pursuing criminal charges against Scott or anyone else involved in organising the festival. That police report was then made public.
Since the report was published, much attention has been given to statements made by some of the people working backstage at the festival who said they heard messages on the communications system during Scott’s performance that suggested his team were aware of the crowd surge and the fatalities, and that that information was passed to the rapper himself. Scott insists he was not aware of the crowd issues until sometime after his performance had finished.
It’s from digging deeper into the police report that Houston Landing has found information about the streaming deal between Scott and Apple. Police seemingly became aware of that deal from documents that were submitted as part of the discovery process in the civil litigation.
The report states: “Apple Inc was brought in as a partner to Travis Scott to livestream Travis Scott’s performance. According to documents produced in the civil litigation, Travis Scott had five stipulations to fulfil in order to receive $4.5 million from Apple per contract. Of those five acts, one was to complete the show”.
“The livestream appears to have been brought on last minute”, it goes on, “and detectives believe they were brought in to help alleviate some of the debt the Travis Scott organisation had accumulated by building the mountain stage”.
The deal with Apple could have put further pressure on Scott and his team to complete the Astroworld show, including the big guest appearance by Drake.
Although, that said, there’s not currently any actual evidence to show that that factored into the decision to keep Scott’s set running for 25 minutes after a mass casualty incident had been declared, nor even whether any decision-makers on site at the festival were aware of the Apple contract.
Obviously, a grand jury has already decided that no criminal charges should be pursued. Though the revelations about the Apple deal could still be brought up by lawyers in the civil litigation.
Steve Herman, a lawyer not himself involved in any of the Astroworld lawsuits, told Houston Landing: “It could be very important. [Travis Scott is] never going to admit that that was his motivation, but if there’s other circumstantial evidence from which ultimately a jury can infer that that was a motivation in not stopping the concert, even though he knew people were getting crushed, that’s pretty powerful stuff”.
However, he also added: “There’s a good chance he didn’t even read the contract. It could be important evidence, but it could also be completely irrelevant. You would have to know a lot more about why that provision was in there”.
The mere fact Scott’s performance continued – oblivious of the reasons why – may not even be relevant to the litigation. Mainly for practical reasons.
One of Scott’s lawyers, Kent Schaffer, told the news organisation: “My understanding is that the major injuries that occurred were all within the first 20 minutes or so of the concert. The mass casualty event was not declared until almost 20 minutes later, which would have been around 9.40pm”.
Nevertheless, should the Astroworld lawsuits get to court, it will be interesting to see if the Apple deal is used as evidence by the plaintiffs. So far, three of the families of those who died at the event have settled their legal action.