Coachella times two
In a bold expansion of what has become the premier pop music gathering in the West, organizers of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival said Tuesday that they would stage the event as two mirror-image concerts over consecutive three-day weekends next year and will begin selling tickets Friday, some 10 months before the festival and long before any of the performing acts are announced.
The move, by promoter Goldenvoice, a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based AEG Live, caught the music industry by surprise, though initial reaction was mostly positive. The 75,000 tickets for this year’s festival sold out within six days of going on sale, and even with the requirement of electronically encrypted wristbands for entry and a major upgrade in security, secondary sales and counterfeiting remained a problem.
Paul Tollett, who heads Goldenvoice and has organized the festival since its 1999 inception, said the expansion is in reaction to the increased demand for tickets.
“We wanted to create access for as many people as possible,” said Tollett.
“The thought of this selling out super quick, and the only people who get to go are the people who bought the first minute or bought tickets for more than they sold for, that didn’t seem great to us,” he said. “We didn’t want to go with more people and ruin the experience, we can’t add a midnight show, and we didn’t want to add another city or raise the ticket price. So we decided to add another weekend.”
The 2012 festival will take place April 13-15 and 20-22. Goldenvoice intends to book the same performers for both weekends, although no acts were announced Tuesday. “We’re going after artists who are going to play twice. We’re not looking for artists to play one week,” Tollett said.
Tickets, however, will go on sale Friday, and will be available for one week. If any of the passes, which will be priced at $269 (plus service fees) for one weekend, remain after the seven-day period, they will go on sale once the lineup has been unveiled. This will be the first time tickets will go on sale before potential buyers will know who is performing, though in the past acts have been added to the lineup after sales began. Fans will not be allowed to switch weekends once a purchase has been made.
The festival began with a focus on indie and electronic acts, but has evolved into a platform for a wide variety of pop performers. Artists as varied as Kanye West, Madonna and Paul McCartney have performed there in recent years. Upward of 100 acts are booked for the three days and the fest, held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, has become a destination event for young celebrities, paparazzi and veteran musicians checking out up and coming acts, as well as for thousands of music fans.
Tollett said the move will not affect the annual Stagecoach Festival, a smaller country music event that Goldenvoice typically produces on the same grounds the weekend following Coachella. The heavy metal music festival that the company produced this year on the Coachella festival grounds will not return in 2012.
Gerry Harrington, who manages Big Audio Dynamite, the post-Clash band led by Mick Jones that re-formed for this year’s Coachella, applauded the move. “If he can pull this off,” Harrington said of Tollett, “it’s the greatest idea ever.”
Tom Windish, whose Chicago-based Windish Agency placed more than 30 acts at Coachella in 2011, said the influx of more tickets should weaken the resale value, but conceded it would be a “new challenge” for tour routers. Still, Windish was optimistic it would create more opportunities, as well as increasing an act’s payday.
“It will mean the artist can walk out with more money from the L.A. market than they had previously … Potentially, now they can double that money. I don’t know if they’ll be offering twice as much money for two shows, but hopefully they will do that.”
Destination festivals like Coachella and Chicago’s Lollapalooza lock artists into exclusivity clauses that place limitations on where an artist can tour in the weeks surrounding the event. How artists will be allowed to fill the gap between Coachellas remained an unanswered question.
“I’m looking forward to hearing more logistical details about what the plan is for performing artists during that week in between,” said Ben Dickey, whose L.A.-based Constant Artist works with Coachella main stage veterans Spoon. “But I’d rather [Tollett] try something creative like this than simply sell more tickets to the one weekend, as that inevitably leads to a less positive experience for fans and artists alike.”
Scott Rodger, who manages 2011 Coachella headliner Arcade Fire, said the booking concerns were largely moot. “Announcing this far out will ensure no booking or routing issues,” he said. “The consumer now has a better choice of weekends too.”
“There is no festival with a concept like this,” Rodger added. “Ultimately, Paul Tollett will try it, and the audience will let him know if it works or not.”