webnexttech | Scooter Braun on His Nova Music Festival Exhibition: “We’re Not Going to Stop, and We’re Going to Los Angeles Next”
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The Nova: Oct. 7 6:29 am — The Moment Music Stood Still: The Nova Music Festival Exhibition went on as planned despite protests Monday from pro-Palestinian demonstrators, who lit smoke canisters and flares outside. They also reportedly chanted “antisemitic slogans” and waved flags for the terrorist group Hamas. The protests were condemned as “ugly” and “vile” in rebukes from the likes of New York City Mayor Eric Adams, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Undeterred, however, is Scooter Braun, the music manager giant whose clients have included Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Black Eyed Peas. Braun brought the exhibit to the U.S. after experiencing a version of it in Israel. He’s committed to allowing as many people as possible to experience Nova. To Braun, the project transcends politics. “It’s just about massacre at a music festival that should have never happened,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But music is a universal language and music has to remain a safe place.” Below, Braun also opens up about the formation of the exhibit in the city’s financial district, what visitors can expect to see inside it and where he plans to take it after extending it in Manhattan. How did Nova: Oct. 7 6:29 am — The Moment Music Stood Still: The Nova Music Festival Exhibition come about? I went over to Israel in December. I needed to see the Nova side. I needed to see the kibbutz. I needed to see all of it for myself — and not because I needed to believe it. With Holocaust-surviving grandparents, the attack on Manchester’s AO Arena with Ariana Grande, I know this kind of evil exists. But I felt like so much of it was being denied and people were dehumanizing each other. And I wanted to be able to go see it for myself so I could have the argument with people about each other’s humanity. And I went over there and started documenting my experiences on Instagram and sharing stories from people and showing the human beings and allowing people to see humans. When I landed at 8:30 p.m. I was at Kibbutz Be’eri within an hour, and I saw everything. And this was December, so there was still blood on the ground. It was horrifying. But I knew this kind of evil existed. On the third day or fourth day, my friend Eve brought me and my friend Joe and my dad and my brother to a Nova healing camp. I walk in, and I see all these 19-to-24-year-old kids singing, dancing, crying together, writing songs, writing poetry and talking about peace one day. And these are kids who were survivors. They saw their friends killed. They saw their friends raped. They all had horrifying stories, but they were holding onto each other in this place with therapy to get through it. And it was the first time I became incredibly angry because when the Manchester attack happened, it took us two weeks to rally the entire world behind us and put on [the benefit concert] One Love Manchester. You were in the arena when the Manchester attack happened? I was not at the arena. I was flying to meet Ariana in London. But we put together One Love Manchester within two weeks and the entire community came and rallied behind us. Every artist showed up, every corporate company helped us and broadcasted it around the world. And it was simultaneously broadcast all around the world on BBC, on NBC, on CBS, on Twitter, on everything. And it was a six-hour concert with the biggest artists in the world. And the kid who blew himself up had the same ideology as Hamas. And no one called him a freedom fighter because they saw that 22 people dying at a concert was unacceptable. But here I was standing in front of these kids, and they weren’t there as soldiers. They weren’t there in a fight. They were at a music festival dancing for peace, and they were brutally butchered, over 360 killed, over 40 hostages, the largest music massacre in history by a landslide. And that drew a different global response than Manchester? The entire community was silent. And I just was really upset, and I said, “I need to do something about this. They need to hear their voices.” There’s a video on my Instagram of a girl at that healing camp, and she’s saying she was shot, and she’s saying, “I don’t hate anybody.” I said, “What do you mean?” She goes, “People don’t know what happened, and they hear all this stuff online, and they don’t know. And you came, and you saw for yourself, so you understand now. But maybe if I was someone in the world who’s being told a lot of different things, I might hate us too. I might not understand also. So I choose not to hate them.” I was blown away by that. Tomer, one of the kids I met that day, said, “Do you want to come to us to the memorial for the festival? They have an exhibit. We haven’t seen it yet, but we’re going to go tomorrow.” I was a little nervous. I said, “Of course, I’ll go with you guys.” He’s one of the survivors who’s at our exhibit in New York, and he speaks every day, tells his story, tells his friends’ stories, and talks about it. And he goes out in New York and tries to find people who don’t know anything about it and say, “Hey, I’m a survivor. Nice to meet you. I know you feel certain ways, maybe. Let me just show you what happened and understand. I also pray for all people. He’s a special kid.” So the next day we’re in Israel. I see the tents, and I see the porta potties, and I see everything. And I immediately go, “I need to bring this to New York and L.A. People need to see this, but I don’t know how to do it. It had no screens. It was just a place that recreated the campgrounds, and that was it. And I said, can I meet the founders? They say they want to help us bring it. I said, “How much would it cost?” And he told me a number far less than what it ended up being. And I said, “Well, let’s do this.” And he goes, “Well, we could talk about it next year.” I said, “No, let’s talk right now.” And we went and sat down in a room. And from that point on, we were on a mission to bring it to the United States and have people see it. And I was able to bring in Melissa Zuckerman and her PR team to do pro bono work. I brought Virginia Fout, who’s one of the best production managers we have in the United States who was very passionate about this. And we brought our team to them and said, “Let us produce this in a way that people can start hearing these stories.” We basically told the story of Nova, and it has nothing to do with politics. It’s just about massacre at a music festival that should have never happened. Unfortunately, people see religion as politics. But music is a universal language, and music has to remain a safe place. And Harvey [Mason Jr., CEO of the Recording Academy,] said it at the Grammys: If they honored Manchester at the Grammys, if they honored Vegas at Grammys, they had to honor Nova. What we’re trying to get people to see is there’s nothing political about this exhibit. You don’t walk in and see flags. You’ll see it is a music festival. You’ll see Coachella. You’ll see Stagecoach. You’ll see Governors Ball. And that’s all we want people to see, that you should be able to have empathy for all people. Where does it take place now? Right now it’s at 35 Wall Street in New York City. In response to these protestors, I called the team and extended it in New York for another week because we’ve decided to show people that we’re not going to allow hatred and fear to divide us. In fact, we’re going to go longer now in New York just so people can bear witness and understand what this is really about. And we’re not going to let this loud minority divide us. And in fact, I’ve invited those protestors if they’re willing to come in and see the exhibit for themselves. Based on the protest videos I’ve seen, it would seem almost impossible to get past them and into the building. How are you getting visitors into the exhibit? Oh no, it wasn’t. They tried to go in front, but with the police and with our security, we brought people in that day. People got trapped inside for a little while because of the threats and the police didn’t feel comfortable letting them out for a little bit. But we have been sold out every single day. There’s over a 100,000 people who visited the exhibit and continuing to grow, and we’re not going to stop, and we’re going to continue to give people an opportunity to understand what happened there, and we’re going to bring it to Los Angeles next. How long of a walkthrough is it? Sometimes like 45 minutes, sometimes it’s an hour-and-a-half. Sometimes people spend three hours because the way it ends, you end in the healing room, you end in a room that has beautiful music and has a light that says, “We will dance again.” If you need to sit there and rejuvenate, we welcome that. And you can expect to see testimonies from survivors. Will you see the dead and honor them? You see the testimonies from survivors. You see videos from their phones. You see the video that Hamas took and put all online to understand what happened that day. Most of the videos are from Hamas themselves as they paraded around and took videos of it. And you see the real cars that people try to escape in that they were burned alive. You see the porta potties with the bullet holes in them as kids were hiding in the porta potties, and Hamas, in the video that they took, you’ll see they just shot indiscriminately into these porta potties killing dozens of kids. So it is violent. You’ll see murder. You’ll see things that are very, very hard to see but very powerful. You’ll hear phone calls between parents and their kids as the kids are scared and running. You’ll see stories of survival. But you’ll start in the light, you’ll enter the darkness, and you’ll end in the light again. The protests seem aggressive. How are you dealing with these protestors? There’s more police. But at the end of the day, once you come in, it’s a very safe environment. Once you walk out, it’s a safe environment. I believe that most of these protestors are just incredibly misinformed, and some of the leaders of these protestors have an agenda of division. And that’s not going to scare us, nor affect us. In fact, it inspires us to do it more and more. It’s more important for us to fight back, to show our shared humanity. And you want to extend it now for another week in New York? We already did one extension because of demand. Now we’re extending it through June 22, and then we’ll bring it to Los Angeles next in the fall or late summer. Is it the kind of thing that’s inappropriate to bring children to? What we tell people is probably around 13, 14, is the appropriate age for kids to start coming. Nothing below that. Someone said to me, “If my kid can watch Schindler’s List, they can walk through this.” I know you yourself have been reaching out to various celebrities, influencers, trying to correct their language. I’m thinking of Mark Ruffalo calling it the hostage release, and you corrected him and said it was a rescue. How do you choose when to make those kinds of public corrections? When I think I see things that are damaging, and I have no interest in doing it in a way that isn’t respectful. When I wrote to him publicly, I corrected something that he put out very publicly to the world. But I also said that I understand that his heart is probably in the right place. And then I’ve always had respect for him. But I think when he says certain things, it’s incredibly damaging, and it’s not bringing people together. It’s not creating an opportunity for peace. It’s only selling more division. You see what’s happening to other famous Jewish entertainment figures. I’m thinking Jerry Seinfeld’s live show being heckled by protestors and Amy Schumer getting just trashed on social media. It just seems like it’s open season on Jewish entertainers, and I just wonder, how do you… Respond to that? Not just that, but what makes you want to wade into it? Wouldn’t it be easier just to sort of keep your head low and not make yourself a target? It’s a complicated answer, but no, it would not be easier. When my grandfather died, I promised him I would never be scared. And I think a bully only bullies you when you allow them to. And I don’t think anyone, whether you be Jewish, Christian, Muslim or any other religion should ever be afraid to speak on who you are and be proud of who you are. I have no interest in keeping my head down while others are suffering because they have the same faith as me. And by the way, I would do the same for every religion or culture, and I have in the past. So why should this be any different? The only difference is there’s a tremendous amount of hate coming in the direction. And my belief is the same way Jerry’s standing proud, the same way Amy’s standing proud, the same way every person should stand proud, I’m going to do the same. And I don’t look at this as so bad. Antisemitism is no different now than it’s ever been. The difference this time is that we’re not afraid. For me, it was very hard to watch the Eurovision this year and just see all the countries of the world booing Israel. That was very painful. You know what? Let me tell you something though. That girl won the popular vote and all those countries that were supposedly hating on Israel, I promise you this is a loud minority. Hate is always loud and small, and the only way it gets bigger is if we are too afraid to speak up before it does.

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