By Jonathan Friedman
June 30, 2017 -- A widely reported estimate of 60,000 people coming to last week's Twilight Concert Series at the Santa Monica Pier has triggered lots of negative reaction among City officials. But Pier officials claim the crowd size was much smaller than reported, and they say they have the proof.
Leaders of the Santa Monica Pier Corporation, the non-profit agency that runs the concert series, hired Virginia-based Digital Design & Imaging Service to estimate the crowd size through “high resolution aerial imagery.” It estimated the attendance at this year's first concert was about 25,000.
If that estimate is correct, it does not place the performance in record territory as had been widely reported. Some of the Twilight concerts last year attracted crowds in the neighborhood of 40,000 people, according to reported estimates.
Santa Monica Pier Corp. blames what it considers to be an overestimate of the June 22 concert size on a tweet made the next morning by the headline performer Khalid:
“Around 60,000 people came out to Santa Monica to see me last night at the free show. The Staples Center holds 21,000 people. Holy [expletive].”
Pier officials wrote in a statement to the press, “That number took on a life of its own and was reported by multiple media outlets and the Santa Monica police.”
The statement was issued late Thursday night after the second Twilight concert, featuring indie pop performers, had concluded. They said that concert “went smoothly with a mellow crowd having a terrific time.”
Regarding last week’s concert, Santa Monica Pier Director Jay Farrand said, “We knew based on the 22,000 RSVPs received leading up to the event that this was going to be a historically large concert.”
He continued, “As soon as we noticed a spike in RSVPs due to Khalid’s sudden rise to fame in the weeks before, we shared the info in our weekly public safety meetings with the Police and Fire Department.”
Farrand concluded, “All of us take the safety of these events very seriously and while there was nothing we could have done about his last-minute rise in popularity, the fact that there were no major injuries or public safety incidents despite the large crowd speaks to the good work and planning done by all of our public safety partners.
"It also speaks to the kind of audience that is drawn to the Santa Monica Pier and the Twilight Series.”
City officials had not spoken out since the statement was issued. But several were highly critical in the immediate aftermath of last week’s concert.
Mayor Winterer said he would not support additional funding to boost policing for the concert series.
He added that “unless the Pier Board and [Farrand] can find a way to quickly downsize attendance we may well have seen the end of these concerts.” (“Santa Monica Mayor Says Crowds Could Bring End to Twilight Concert Series,” June 27, 2017).