Future Music Festival Asia Cancelled Following Reported Drug Overdoses

Death toll at Malaysian EDM festival may be as high as six, with three more in critical condition, according to police

Future Music Festival Asia overdose death cancellation
Future Music Festival Asia, Kuala Lumpur
Philip Sherburne WRITTEN BY
Philip Sherburne

Malaysia's Future Music Festival Asia cancelled its third day today after six attendees are said to have died at the event. The Star reports that six attendees died and three more are in critical condition after collapsing at the event, according to Kuala Lumpur police official Senior Deputy Comm Datkuk Mohmad Salleh. "All tested positive for high levels of drugs and the deaths have been classified as overdose," Mohmad told The Star, which cited "methamphetamines" as the culprit without offering further substantiation. The Star reports that all six victims were Malaysians, between 21 and 28 years of age.

Festival organizers disputed the death toll in a statement published earlier today on Future Music Festival Asia's Facebook page. "As at 5.00PM on March 15," they wrote, "we can confirm that one death, and not five, took place on festival grounds on March 14. A police report has been filed and we are working very closely with all relevant authorities in examining and determining the cause of this very unfortunate incident." According to The Star, one attendee died on-site, one on the way to the hospital, and four more at local hospitals.

Festival organizers also announced the cancellation of the remainder of the event. "In the interest of public safety we have heeded the authority's advice to not proceed with Day-3 of Future Music Festival Asia 2014," they wrote. 

Today's lineup was to have been the biggest day of the three-day festival, which opened on Thursday with sets from Deadmau5, R3hab, and Adventure Club, and devoted its Friday programming to Armin van Buuren's A State of Trance showcase, which also featured Paul van Dyk and Markus Schulz. In contrast, Saturday's lineup offered a broad cross-section of pop, rap, and EDM, including Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Pharrell Williams, Knife Party, Eric Prydz, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, Rudimental, Porter Robinson, Baauer, and Martin Garrix, among others. Eight-five thousand fans were expected to attend the three-day event.

This was the third year of Future Music Festival Asia, a satellite event of Australia's Future Music Festival, which organizers say has sold more than 1.4 million tickets since its first edition, in 2006. Last August, Future Music Festival entered into a strategic agreement with the Mushroom Group, an Australian entertainment conglomerate whose holdings include festival promoters, record labels, and e-commerce companies. The partnership mirrored the increasing consolidation of the North American event market, as Robert F.X. Sillerman's SFX and rival Live Nation have bought up huge swathes of the formerly independent festival market. As Billboard noted last year, the Mushroom deal strengthened Future Music Festival's position against its chief rival Stereosonic, which SFX acquired in 2013 for more than $50 million.

The Australasian market has not been immune to the drug-related fatalities that have plagued events in North America and the U.K. in recent years. Last summer, a 23-year-old man died of a suspected overdose at Sydney's Defqon.1 festival. A week ago, sniffer-dog-assisted police arrested 48 people for drug offenses at Melbourne's Future Music Festival.

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