The 2018 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival took place from June 7 through June 10 in Manchester, Tennessee. During Eminem’s headlining performance of “Kill You” from his album “The Marshall Mathers LP” released in 2000, audience members screamed and crouched after hearing gunshot-like sounds.
— EMINEM_TOUR_UPDATES (@Eminemreviv1) June 10, 2018
According to Billboard, a representative of Eminem said, “Contrary to inaccurate reports, Eminem does not use a gunshot sound effect during his live show. The effect used by Eminem in his set at Bonnaroo was a pyrotechnic concussion which creates a loud boom. He has used this effect — as have hundreds of other artists — in his live show for over 10 years, including previous U.S. festival dates, without complaint.”
This concert closely follows the Santa Fe High School shooting on May 18, which took the lives of eight students and two teachers. In the wake of mass shootings and violence both in the United States and around the world, this raises the question of whether a gunshot-like sound effect is appropriate.
Just over a year ago, a device exploded at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, U.K. that killed 22 people and left 59 injured. Grande recently revealed that she has PTSD as a result of the bombing. Grande said, “It’s hard to talk about because so many people have suffered such severe, tremendous loss.”
On June 12, 2016, a shooting occurred in Pulse nightclub in Orlando. This incident resulted in the death of 49 people, and the injuries of 50 more.
The route 91 Harvest Festival, a country music festival in Las Vegas, became known as “the worst mass shooting in modern American History.” This shooting claimed the lives of 58 people and injured hundreds of others.
In a world where people fear for their lives going to school, nightclubs and concerts, should artists consider this when performing and creating music? Although this sound effect may not have been an incident in past shows, the world has changed from 10 years ago.
Ali Abbas, director of the Neely Center for Ethical Leadership and Decision Making in Los Angeles, said “If this were in the ’90s, would a panic situation have occurred? It’s an important question to ask because it gives a lot of perspective about the perception of safety in society.”
Many fans called the sound effect inappropriate, while others defended the artist for using this noise in many shows over the years.
coming from a performing stand point, i get the effect of sound effects on stage, but there’s a certain point that cross’s the line. i’m one of eminem’s number 1 fans but to hear 3 gun shots coming straight from his set had me scared af. not gonna lie. especially in this world…
— M (@macykatemusic) June 10, 2018
Eminem has ended Kill You with the gun shot effects for (at least) 6 years now and this is the first time someone ever complains
— Laia (@onlyslimshady) June 10, 2018
Ron Avi Astor is a social work and education professor at the University of Southern California who has conducted research about mass shootings and violence. Artists need to realize the context surrounding their work may change over time, he said.
“One of the issues that comes up is that, [Eminem’s] been doing it for so many years and so have others, but it has a different meaning now,” Astor said. “Artists need to ask what kind of responsibility they have when the norms of the culture change to the point that people are actually afraid of being shot.”