Coachella 2012: Artist reps see new opportunities, and fans wait and wait and wait for tickets
Tickets for the 2012 editions of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival went on sale Friday at 10 a.m. for one week only, and for the first time ever fans had the opportunity to pick between two weekends of the spring desert festival. Yet though the event is 10 months out and artists have yet to be announced, multiplying Coachella into two separate festivals to be staged over consecutive April weekends didn’t lessen the immediate rush for tickets.
“Due to extremely high demand,” read a message that greeted most who attempted to buy tickets, “you are now in Front Gate Tickets’ waiting room. This does not reserve you a ticket.”
Those awaiting the opportunity to buy tickets were given a game of Pong to play. Wait times drew comments from frustrated users across social-networking sites, and this Pop & Hiss reporter was in the online holding pen for 35 minutes before the screen updated simply to state that tickets were still available. A few minutes later, the message once again refreshed to state that "plenty of tickets are still available so hang in there!"
While some fans reported wait times of 15 minutes or less, I held on, waiting long past 71 minutes without advancing to the purchase page. Finally, at just a little after 1 p.m. -- about three hours after the on-sale began -- I was advanced to the purchase page, where I selected one $661 VIP three-day ticket.
If I were to purchase two VIP tickets -- one for myself and one for my imaginary girlfriend -- the total would run me $1,398 (including service charges). I did not, however, make the final purchase, as I didn't want to create added stress when I turned in my corporate expenses. Adding VIP parking to the mix brought the total up an extra $100. To be fair, there are indeed ways to do Coachella for much cheaper, such as buying two $705 passes with camping and choosing the layaway option.
This marked the first time Goldenvoice, Coachella's promoter, used Front Gate tickets rather than the more ubiquitous Ticketmaster for the general on-sale. Once charges were factored in, a general admission three-day pass came to about $315, but the Coachella site is loaded with options, ranging from shuttle trips to VIP passes, hence the reason numerous Twitter users were reporting that two tickets could push $1,300.
Additionally, reports of being logged out flooded the Coachella official message boards as well as Twitter. "I literally had 20 secs left on the page that confirms tickets. in the time it took my ticket disappeared," wrote Twitter user DavidWasLike.
Yet despite the problems, any initial questions as to whether or not the demand existed for two distinct festivals seemed immediately answered -- with a mighty exclamation point. The Coachella brand is one respected for bringing in a mix of mainstream and underground acts, ranging from Radiohead, Gang of Four and Daft Punk to Madonna, Paul McCartney and Kanye West, but the main draw just may be the idyllic desert setting of the Empire Polo Club.
"Buying [Coachella tickets] when we don't know the performers is like buying Super Bowl tixs before the NFL season," wrote Twitter user Ruy24. It's a statement that reflects the event-like nature of Coachella, in which the months of guessing as to what artists will play Coachella has become the music geek equivalent of a fantasy baseball league. Just look, for instance, at the number of fake Coachella posters created each year.
Arcade Fire manager Scott Rodger said Coachella is "one of the most important music events on the planet."
"For the artists," he continued, "most artists love this festival. Every one of my clients specifically. They'd all be happy with two weekends."
Goldenvoice chief Paul Tollett, who has been the mastermind behind Coachella since its 1999 inception, intends to book nearly identical lineups for each weekend. The 2011 edition of Coachella sold out within six days of the general on-sale, and Tollett hopes that staging two Coachellas over consecutive weekends, the first being April 13-15, will accommodate all of the fest’s potential paying customers, as well as weaken the value of secondary market tickets.
But buyer beware. Tickets were almost immediately available on eBay, with bids starting at $375. Searches on Craigslist of Los Angeles and the surrounding areas netted only the occasional Coachella 2012 offer, but thus far general-admission three-day passes were going for around $350 on the latter site.
What Goldenvoice is attempting is an ambitious undertaking, as while other fests have been held over multiple weekends (New Orleans’ JazzFest, for instance), most staged two distinct events with drastically different lineups. Still, with approximately 150 acts, replicating the lineups may prove impossible, and in conversations earlier this week Tollett conceded as much, although it was stressed that when it comes to headliners or acts who rarely tour, Goldenvoice is only interested in those willing to play twice.
One concern brought up on the Pop & Hiss message boards has been whether Goldenvoice’s plan will kill the “singularity” of the event. Coachella is known for its unique, one-of-a-kind performances, and in 2011 Arcade Fire surprised fans by unloading about 2,000 LED-enhanced orbs upon the crowd. Rodger did admit that such an endeavor was a "one-off," and said "it wouldn't work two weeks in a row."
Yet there's time to sort out such technicalities, and a debate was raging on Coachella’s official message boards as to whether it was worth it to buy both weekends in the hopes of avoiding artist conflicts, or to witness any artists who may attempt to mix up their sets with differing multi-media tactics. Those pledging to commit to two weekends had grand justifications. "Missing Coachella is like the mother missing the birth of her child," wrote Coachella user kroqken.
A sarcastic tweet from comedy site Funny or Die put the same-artist, multi-weekend plan into playful perspective: “Great news! They split Coachella up into 2 weekends. Finally, even people who go can get in on the fun of feeling like they missed out.”
Others, however, aren’t even going to take such a chance. Wrote Twitter user chelseaharshman, "Mission @coachella 2012 tickets complete. Which weekend did I buy? #BOTH."
Before tickets event went on sale, hotel rooms were already at a premium, and The Times called eight hotels before finding open rooms to book. Such a demand, artist mangers and booking agents said, should actually increase opportunities for artists. Chicago's the Windish Agency books artists as diverse as the xx, Zola Jesus and James Blake, and company founder Tom Windish is already dreaming up numerous package tours in cities outside of Los Angeles and Palm Springs.
"We had over 30 artists at Coachella in 2011," Windish said. "If we can combine a bunch of our bands and book shows for them in other California markets and the Southwest -- or even Colorado or Utah -- we can put together some cool events."
So maybe those who don't want to hit Coachella should just plan for a weeklong vacation in San Francisco, picking and choosing acts to see in local clubs?
"You will have your full touring party on payroll," said Nine Inch Nails/No Doubt manager Jim Guerinot. "I suspect acts will wind up playing Saturday, and then going to Phoenix or S.F. or Vegas. Within an eight-hour drive of Palm Springs are a lot of places to fill your touring itinerary."
-- Todd Martens
Images: Screenshots from the official Coachella website. Top, the waiting pen for tickets; middle, the various ticket options available. www.coachella.com