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The Coachella ka-ching

The festival floods the parched region with dollars. Now, a second weekend promises double the effect.

April 13, 2012|Randy Lewis and Todd Martens

Robyn Celia runs Pappy & Harriet's saloon and restaurant 53 miles away from the festival in Pioneertown. The desert denizens, she said, take a curious rather than defensive approach to Coachella revelers. "They've never been anything but welcoming to the out-of-towners. They get a kick out of it. I think the locals think it's hilarious. It's not something they're going to see at Applebee's."

Whether fans will stay in the desert region between festival weekends remains to be seen, but either way, Goldenvoice has the market covered. Last month the promoter unveiled a full slate of April shows featuring Coachella bands. Artists who rarely tour, such as pop oddity Jeff Mangum or British reunion act Pulp, were given club dates in the desert region and L.A.

The challenge for bands not playing one of the in-between shows, said booking agent Tom Windish (who represents several acts that are playing this year), is what to do during the week. "Sitting around doing nothing for seven days gets expensive," he said. "You have to pay for accommodations, and there's equipment they've rented and they're paying tour personnel to do nothing."

The downside of playing a festival such as Coachella is that the gig usually comes with "radius clauses," contractual rules against performing in the areas surrounding the festivals in the months before and after.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, April 14, 2012 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival: An article in the April 13 Section A referred to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival as taking place in the Mojave Desert. It is in the Colorado Desert.

Many artists are traveling outside the embargoed areas to places like Las Vegas and San Francisco to earn extra money, though Windish says bands now make twice playing Coachella as they would have last year.

"If a band used to get paid $20,000 to play Coachella, now they're getting $40,000," he said.

Goldenvoice President Paul Tollett, and AEG officials, insist that their primary motivation for the doubling up of shows this year was not about multiplying profits, but accommodating fans. Tollett has estimated that last year as many as 80,000 fans who wanted to attend weren't able to.

His rationale for mirroring the lineup over both weekends, rather than building separate shows like the two-weekend New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival does, was so that fans wouldn't feel torn if they could only attend a single weekend.

"On paper it's just math, and that's the way Paul Tollett looked at it," Billboard's Ray Waddell said. "There was twice as much demand as they had ticket availability. But it was still a huge gamble."

Since Coachella was born in 1999 -- a money-losing inaugural outing that nearly killed the concert promoter, Goldenvoice, that created it -- subsequent growth has inspired dozens of other festivals across the country to the point where nearly every weekend it seems like a music festival is taking place somewhere (Bonnaroo in Tennessee, Lollapalooza in Chicago, the Austin City Limits Festival in Texas . . .)

But for Indio, Coachella -- and the business it generates -- are what matter.

At a Palm Desert Albertson's, a clerk who preferred not to be identified said the store was prepared for "mega-business" this weekend. New riser displays highlight alcohol and soda, and extra registers will be open. The grocery store is expecting business to be up a minimum of 10%. Asked what Coachella goers are after, the clerk said, "Alcohol, of course."


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