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Will banning under-18 fans from entering music fests work in India?

International music festivals such as Spring Awakening, Ultra and Electric Zoo decided to disallow music fans below the age of 18 to attend their festivals. Dhara Vora quizzed industry insiders in India, artistes and young fans if this policy is relevant to our country, or not

Fans at a Swedish House Mafia concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Pic/AFP
Fans at a Swedish House Mafia concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Pic/AFP

Sunburn 2014/ REPRESENTATIVE PIC
Sunburn 2014/ REPRESENTATIVE PIC

People speak
Hrishikesh Wakade 19, student
Hrishikesh Wakade
I think something like that is necessary just because alcohol is provided at festivals. As for the security aspect, I attended Sunburn in Mumbai, and big festivals have taken care of that perfectly. It is mainly underage drinking that is the issue, and if they check IDs (which they do) then underage people attending should not be
a problem.

Khushnuma Shaikh 20, student
Khushnuma Shaikh
The legal age for drinking here is 21, but there are people below the age of 18 who attend the events as well. I attended Hardwell’s concert when I was 19, and we mostly saw a young crowd. The main question is consumption of alcohol and if that is taken care of, it should be okay for all to attend. Also, these events happen late at night, where many lie and sneak out of home to attend them, so, it’s risky especially for girls. Again, age becomes an issue.

Industry voices
Lavin Uthappa Festival director, Storm and Chasing Storm Festival
Lavin Uthappa
It depends on the genre of music. Music for me has no barriers and boundaries.
At Chasing Storm, we had nearly 500 kids at the festival. The security has to be taken care of; we had every area under CCTV surveillance. We had a separate enclosure for kids’ activities. For a festival, it is brilliant to see a mix of crowd, from young ones to oldies. The artistes were able to see the audience in the eye; it was intimate. But we chose to keep the festival like that. It’s about how you market the festival. As far as music goes, kids as young as five can understand music. It’s the commercial aspect that calls for these policies.

Hermit Sethi Director, Submerge
Hermit Sethi
It’s not commercially-viable but it needs to be done as it’s ethically right. If we wanted to host under-20 parties, which are only for kids with no alcohol being served at all, mostly all events are driven by sponsors, which makes it very tough. All new EDM music is made for kids but Submerge College Jam that we host on colleges includes thousands, which is great. Last year, we did over 10 such college events. We always have LDA (Legal Drinking Age) verification before we issue wrist bands at our events. Fans are served drinks only if you sport these, and the same is briefed to the bar tenders.

Arjun S Ravi Co-founder, NH7
Arjun  S Ravi
For Weekender, we have had people come with their kids (we provide free earplugs for kids), even pets. My grandmother attended the festival. That’s the vibe of the festival. It all depends on the personality of the festival and what are they aiming at. It also depends on the excise rules of the state one is hosting the festival at. We have different wristbands given to people under the age of 21. It comes down to the programming or the production; it’s not that they are screening an adult movie or something, but logistical aspects, the scale of the festival and the format is sometimes suitable for those above 18. This policy exists in a lot of clubs too. Though I don’t see it becoming a norm in the industry.

Prayag Mehtaof music duo Lost Stories
Prayag Mehta
This new regulation of the populace below the age of 18 should not be allowed to materialise as the demographic group attending the festivals and buying music in the legit manner has changed. The age group of 22-28 has been taken over by the age group of 15-23. One can say that this young populace is the one driving the music industry on a global scale. There are no two ways about our support for responsible festival behaviour but banning the young demographic group is pushing the envelope too far.

Tuhin Mehta DJ
Tuhin Mehta
While festivals have checks and wristbands to mark people of the legal drinking age, underage people can manage to get a drink no matter what. For the safety of underage people, festivals include this policy. While concerts do allow underage fans in India, the festival has to be designed such that it doesn’t raise a problem. At the end of the day, it boils down to the education of the audience to figure what’s right and what isn’t.

The organisers of Sunburn, Enchanted Valley Carnival and Supersonic were unavailable for comment.

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