Date: May 11,2005
In just six years, the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival has developed an unparalleled reputation as the spring destination of choice for music aficionados. The show – booked by AEG's Goldenvoice and promoted by Goldenvoice and AEG Marketing – took place on the Empire Polo Field in the Southern California desert town of Indio, California on April 30 and May 1. It drew more than 100,000 fans over two days for a line-up that included a combination of classic and reunited alternative artists and new acts including Nine Inch Nails, Weezer, Bauhaus, Gang of Four, New Order, Black Star, Wilco, the Secret Machines, M.I.A. and Pinback.
Though it has had strong buzz since it was launched by Goldenvoice's Paul Tollett in 2000, the concert drew its biggest and most high profile notice from both the national and international press this year, according to AEG Live's Randy Phillips. “This year it seemed as if the festival had matured enough that the media came after us,” Phillips said of the more than 300 press credentials issued and the strong coverage from dailies from New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. “We didn't solicit any media coverage. I think at this point we've become like America's Glastonbury.”
With single day passes going for $80 and two-day packages for $150 plus surcharges, as well as different price points for tickets that included camping ($35 per person for a three-night stay), Phillips said it was hard to predict what final grosses will be. A full accounting is due later this week. A VIP ticket was also available that allowed access to a raised platform and bar/concessions area near the backstage for an extra $50 per day. As in years past, on site parking was free.
Phillips said there are two keys to the success of Coachella: the site and the unique mix of acts. “The secret is that the lineup is not obvious,” Phillips said. “You hear the newest groups from Europe, some vintage acts and groups that people will be talking about.”
The event, spread out over a lush polo field in the shadow of mountains and towering palms, takes more than a week to set up, including the two main stages and three tented stages that hold between 10,000 and 15,000 each, as well as concessions, toilet facilities, back of house operations and food and merchandise tents. The set up began on April 25 and during the course of the week involved nearly 1,000 executives and workers on site. Tear down took between 2-3 days.
The main stage was 65 feet wide with 32-foot wings on either side and a 32-foot dock in the back. A 35,000-pound lighting grid was flown above the stage with 22,000 pounds of video hung alongside fed by one million watts of power. The lighting system used 1,200 watts, while 400-500 watts were employed for sound, all in three phase, as well as several hundreds watts for the LED screens.
The biggest video screen in the festival's history was in use this year on the main stage, an 18-foot wide by 24-foot deep screen provided by PSL. The main stage was protected by a double barricade that provided space for press and security. The stage was powered by a double generator system, with a backup system in place.
The other main stage did not employ a weight-bearing roof, but a stage roof that was equipped with a lighting package. AEG added an LED screen with a goalpost truss hung with about 15,000 pounds of gear. In the Sahara Tent, a dance-oriented venue which holds up to 15,000 attendees, AEG production manager Kevan Wilkins said the challenge was providing all the lighting needs of the visually oriented groups the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy. “We did it by using a lot of ground support for most of the lighting systems in that tent,” Wilkins said. “We were pulling about 600 watts of electricity in there.”
Though the event has already earned a strong cachet among music fans and routinely sells well, marketing efforts begin months in advance and include web and print advertising. Phillips said some marketing efforts for the 2006 show will begin in the next month.
While AEG is typically sponsorship driven, Phillips said Tollett has been wary of too much sponsorship for the very music-focused event. This year the show again lacked a headline sponsor and featured minimal sponsorship of tents (Heineken) and some retail outlets from Sony Playstation and Virgin Megastore.
In addition to music, the event featured spoken word and movie tents as well as interactive sculptures. Though more than 60,000 have been accommodated per day in the past, Phillips said the 50,000 per day this year was the number AEG is comfortable with to make ingress and egress smooth.
Interviewed for this story: Randy Phillips and Kevan Wilkins (323) 930-5701