Coachella, the enormously popular music festival in California, is once again moving its date back, Rolling Stone reports. Traditionally held in April, it was bumped to October this year due to the coronavirus, then bumped to April 2021 when it became clear that the virus would not be at a point where state authorities would allow a mass gathering in the fall. With COVID-19 showing minimal signs of slowing down as cold weather approaches, organizers are reportedly on the verge of announcing that it will be held in October 2021.
Coachella is “100% moving” again, one person who works at a major talent agency that represents popular festival performers tells Rolling Stone. “Frankly, they were supposed to announce [the change] over Labor Day. They hadn’t. And they were supposed to announce at the end of September — they hadn’t.” The source says they have heard from Goldenvoice CEO and Coachella founder Paul Tollett’s office that the new date will either be in the first or second week of October 2021, “but they are holding the first three weeks to be safe” as not all artists have confirmed availability.
While some events have begun to operate with fans in attendance – NFL games are allowing more fans as restrictions relax and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is reportedly pushing hard for a full capacity Super Bowl in January – nothing remotely approaching the scale at which Coachella and other similar music festivals has yet been approved in the United States. Approximately 100,000 people routinely attend each weekend of Coachella, which expanded to a two-weekend scope in 2012. Overseas, plans were recently announced for Pearl Jam to headline two nights at the BST Hyde Park Festival in July 2021, but full plans for that event have yet to be announced.
Hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts descended on Sturgis, South Dakota for its annual bike week this summer despite COVID-19 concerns. But there are major differences in the level of government restriction involved when comparing South Dakota’s republican administration and California’s democratic one. And Sturgis operated as a variety of individual events run by independent operators – the city called off all official events but stopped short of banning the gathering entirely – which is a far different animal in terms of operation and insurance than a single-operator music festival like Coachella.
It is likely that the postponement of Coachella, should the reports be accurate, will bring increasing pressure on other festivals in 2021 in terms of booking acts. Goldenvoice, which operates Coachella, has been notorious for its use of a ‘radius’ clause to restrict acts from performing at other festivals in the area that could conflict with the sale of tickets for their behemoth. And it’s entirely likely that numerous other festivals will opt to postpone to the fall in hopes that they won’t need to move dates again while scientists and government authorities work towards a vaccine and treatment of the coronavirus.
It adds additional disarray and uncertainty to an industry already filled with both going on seven months of doors largely shut to fans amid the pandemic.
“It’s going to be really challenging for the artists to decide because multiple factors always come in. What does the paycheck look like, what does the moment look like?” a source in the industry told Rolling Stone. “Most, if not everyone, are watching what Coachella does. A lot of people are going to wait to see what they do before they really solidify their plans and either have to compete with artists or renegotiate.”