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Major US festivals reschedule as Coachella cancels

Goldenvoice’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and Stagecoach Festival will no longer take place this April after being issued with a cancellation order by local authorities.

Cameron Kaiser, public health officer for Riverside County, California, tweeted late on Friday (29 January) that neither festival – scheduled for 9–11/16–18 April and 23–25 April, respectively – would be allowed to go ahead in light of the deteriorating coronavirus situation in the state, which passed 40,000 deaths from Covid-19 the following day.

It is the third time the festivals, which take place on the same site in Indio, in the Coachella Valley, have been called off since March 2020, when they were originally rescheduled for October, and then again to April 2021.

Aside from Glastonbury Festival in the UK, Coachella is the biggest international music festival to have cancelled its 2021 event, casting a pall over the summer festival season. It is unclear whether Coachella and Stagecoach, a country music event, will again attempt to reschedule for autumn or aim for a 2022 return.

Goldenvoice owner AEG has already pushed back one festival, the seven-day New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, to later this year: Jazz Fest, which normally begins on the last weekend in April will instead take place from 8 to 17 October.

“If Covid-19 were detected at the festivals, the scope and number of attendees would make it infeasible … to track those who may be placed at risk”

“It’s taking longer than we want, but we’ll all have our celebration when the time comes,” says festival producer Quint Davis. “Your health, along with the health of our musicians, food and crafts vendors, and all of the folks that work to make the magic happen, remains the priority as we plan the return of Jazz Fest.”

Also making the move from summer to the autumn months are a pair of Live Nation events, Bonnaroo (2–5 September) and New York festival Governors Ball (24–26 September), neither of which have announced a 2021 line-up, and Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival, which has applied for an event permit for the weekend of 10–12 September, as opposed to its normal July dates.

The decision to cancel Coachella and Stagecoach was taken over concerns that both festivals could have been super-spreader events for the coronavirus, according to the order linked by Kaiser. “If Covid-19 were detected at the festivals, the scope and number of attendees and the nature of the venue would make it infeasible, if not impossible, to track those who may be placed at risk,” it reads.

Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease specialist, predicted last month that indoor shows could return “some time” in autumn, depending on the pace of the US vaccine programme.

 


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Coachella “radius clause” lawsuit: ruling reversed

A lawsuit regarding Coachella’s restrictive “radius clause” is moving forward after an Oregon judge reversed his 2019 ruling to dismiss the case, according to Billboard.

On Wednesday (19 August) Oregon District Court Judge Michael Mosman ruled that the lawsuit filed by Soul’d Out Music Festival founders Nicholas Harris and Haytham Abdulhadi could now proceed, bringing the dispute closer to a possible trial.

The founders of Soul’d Out Music Festival (1,480-cap.) first filed the lawsuit in April 2018, claiming that the contractual restriction preventing acts on the Coachella bill from playing at any other festival in North America from 15 December to 1 May, amounts to anti-competitive behaviour on the part of organisers.

Harris and Abdulhadi said that the radius clause has damaged their event, Soul’d Out Music Festival.

Mosman granted an AEG motion to dismiss the antitrust claims and partially dismissed the lawsuit in October 2018. The plaintiffs were allowed to re-file their complaint, granted they revised their definition of “relevant markets”. However, the re-filed lawsuit was rejected.

In March 2019, federal judge Mosman dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice (11 March), preventing the Soul’d Out Productions’ founders from re-filing their suit against Coachella Music Festival (125,000-cap.), and organisers AEG and Goldenvoice.

“We expect that, after complete discovery, a jury will find that Coachella’s radius clause is unreasonable”

That decision was overturned 14 months later when a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that Soul’d Out Music Festival had been harmed by the radius clause and had a right to challenge the contract’s validity.

Now, the case will now move into the discovery phase with lawyers for Soul’d Out expected to subpoena artist contracts for the festival and internal communications.

“We are pleased that the court has agreed that Soul’d Out’s complaint was sufficient and that the case can go forward,” Harris and Abdulhadi’s lawyer, Nika Aldrichsaid. “We expect that, after complete discovery, a jury will find that Coachella’s radius clause is unreasonable, and that AEG’s use and abuse of that clause to hurt local music festivals was unlawful.”

The Oregon promoters were the first to bring attention to Coachella’s radius clause requirements, publishing previously-unreleased provisions of the agreement.

Coachella attorneys defended the policy, explaining in a court filing accessed by Amplify that “the entire purpose of the radius clause is to protect AEG from competitors unfairly free-riding on its creative choices in selecting its artist lineup.”

The lawyers stated that “maintaining a unique festival lineup is crucial for Coachella to remain competitive.” AEG’s lawyers also protested against the release of the radius clause letter, that was provided “for settlement purposes only”.

 


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Covid-19 restrictions claim major US festivals

Goldenvoice’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival will not take place this year, despite being pushed back six months, as the Covid-19 pandemic triumphs over the last few major US festivals still standing.

The news comes days after the cancellation of C3 Presents’ Lollapalooza Chicago (100,000-cap.), the festival franchise’s flagship edition, which was due to take place from 30 July to 1 August, representing some of the final losses of the 2020 US festival calendar. Events including Live Nation/AC Entertainment’s Bonnaroo (24 to 27 September) and BottleRock Napa Valley (2 to 4 October), both rescheduled, are currently still going ahead as planned.


A weekend-long virtual event will take place over the original festival weekend, showcasing archival footage from Lolla Chicago, as well as the festival’s six international editions.

Coachella (125,000-cap.), along with its country music counterpart Stagecoach, had previously been moved from its original dates in April to October in a bid to circumvent coronavirus restrictions.

However, yesterday (10 June), public health officer Dr Cameron Kaiser announced he was “concerned” that Covid-19 “could worsen” in the autumn.

“Given the projected circumstances and potential, I would not be comfortable moving forward [with Coachella and Stagecoach],” said Kaiser.

“These decisions are not taken lightly with the knowledge that many people will be impacted”

“These decisions are not taken lightly with the knowledge that many people will be impacted. My first priority is the health of the community.”

Kaiser also pointed out that mass gatherings such as festivals fall under the “highest-risk” category in the state of California’s four-step reopening plan, and will only be permitted to restart in the final phase “once therapeutics have been developed.

Coachella 2020 was set to feature headliners Rage Against the Machine, Frank Ocean and Travis Scott over two consecutive festival weekends at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Riverside County, California.

Thomas Rhett, Carrie Underwood and Eric Church were among those to perform at Stagecoach the weekend after Coachella.

Dates for the 2021 editions of Coachella and Stagecoach have yet to be announced.

Earlier this week, Goldenvoice parent company AEG announced it would be laying off 15% of its workforce and furloughing over 100 employees, in addition to enacting pay cuts across the company.

Photo: Ben_1/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) (cropped)

 


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‘Change-seeking robot’ Miquela signs with CAA

Miquela, a singer, model, influencer and robot, has become the first-ever virtual client to sign with Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

The CGI-generated avatar, who was previously signed to WME, will be represented by CAA in all areas, including music, TV, film, brand strategy and commercial endorsements.

Created by robotics and artificial intelligence startup, Brud, Miquela was introduced to the world via her Instagram account in 2016. The avatar now has 2.2 million followers on the platform and almost 600,000 on TikTok.

Miquela, or Lil Miquela, as she is also known, has released a number of singles, including a recent collaboration with (human) singer Teyana Taylor called ‘Machine’. Software and pitch-correction tools are used to create Miquela’s vocal performances. It is unknown who provides her voice.

Described as a “change-seeking robot”, Miquela is currently raising money for the MusiCares Covid-19 relief fund on her Instagram page.

“Over the last few years, we’ve watched the team at Brud create a true multi-hyphenate in Miquela”

Non-human artists have appeared in all kinds of forms in recent years. Japanese vocaloid Hatsune Miku, who takes the holographic form of a blue-haired teenager, has performed live in Asia, North America and Europe. The vocaloid was due to play this year’s Coachella festival, which has now been postponed to October due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lil Mayo, an alien-meme-turned-Instagram-influencer, ranked in third place on IQ’s Radar Station chart in January. The alien puppet’s single ‘Be Gone Thot’ has almost 14m streams on Spotify and over 11m on YouTube.

“Over the last few years, we’ve watched the team at Brud create a true multi-hyphenate in Miquela,” says Adam Friedman, CAA global client strategy executive. “We are excited to jump in and help her navigate the world of television and film, and also see a unique opportunity for innovative, forward-thinking brands to align with a culturally relevant, icon-in-the-making.”

Founded in 2014, Brud has raised US$6.1m in funding from investors including Spark Capital, BoxGroup, Sequoia Capital and Founders Fund.

 


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Footage from major fests to be shown in WMG’s PlayOn Fest

Past performances at major festivals including Coachella, Primavera Sound and Rock in Rio, as well as from venues such as the O2 Arena, will be streamed as part of Warner Music Group’s three-day virtual event, PlayOn Fest.

The event, which kicks off on Friday (24 April) at midday EDT will stream live for 72 hours via the Songkick YouTube channel, allowing fans to “relive epic performances for one time only”.

The virtual festival will raise funds for the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Covid-19 solidarity response fund through the sale of merchandise and donations.

Performances from over 65 acts, including Ed Sheeran, Cardi B, Coldplay, Twenty One Pilots, Bruno Mars, Janelle Monáe, Green Day and Slipknot will be broadcast over the three-day event.

“PlayOn Fest is a great way to come together, enjoy good music and company, and support the WHO’s most urgent global work to combat Covid-19”

PlayOn Fest will include festival footage from Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Primavera Sound and Rock In Rio, as well as live shows from London’s O2 Arena, Sydney Opera House and Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

“During this pandemic, we are all searching for ways to stay connected,” says Elizabeth Cousens, president and CEO of the UN Foundation, which powers the WHO’s Covid-19 fund.

“The PlayOn Fest is a great way to come together, enjoy good music and company, and support the World Health Organization’s most urgent global work to combat Covid-19.”

Over the weekend, the Global Citizen-organised, Lady Gaga-curated One World: Together at Home benefit concert, which featured live performances from acts in real time, raised $127 million for the WHO’s fund.

Read more about the booming business of livestreaming here.

Photo: slgckgc/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (cropped)

 


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Virtual event to replace cancelled Burning Man 2020

Burning Man is the latest US festival to be called off due to the coronavirus pandemic, with organisers announcing that the famous Black Rock City will take the form of a “virtual metropolis” instead this year.

The countercultural gathering was set to take place from 30 August to 7 September in Nevada’s Black Rock desert.

“After much listening, discussion, and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision not to build Black Rock City in 2020,” reads a statement on the Burning Man website.

“Given the painful reality of Covid-19, one of the greatest global challenges of our lifetimes, we believe this is the right thing to do.”

The event, often dubbed as an “anti-festival”, will go ahead online, however, with fans invited to enter the Virtual Black Rock City 2020, in keeping with the event’s 2020 theme, the Multiverse.

“Given the painful reality of Covid-19, one of the greatest global challenges of our lifetimes, we believe this is the right thing to do”

Unsure what form the online gathering will take, the Burning Man team says although it “will likely be messy and awkward with mistakes”, the virtual event will also be “engaging, connective, and fun”.

The first round of Burning Man ticket sales took place last month, with 4,000 tickets prices at $1,400 sold during the ‘FOMO’ ticket sale in March, as well as those sold through Direct Group Sale (DGS). The event’s main ticket sale was postponed earlier this month.

Organisers state they are “committed” to providing refunds to “those who need them”, adding that they hope some “will consider donating all or a portion of your ticket value, and/or making a tax-deductible donation to (non-profit festival organiser) Burning Man Project”.

“Substantial” staff layoffs, pay reductions and other cost-cutting measures will be needed to ensure the organisation remains operational into next year’s event season, say organisers.

Burning Man joins other major US events to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak, including South by Southwest, Governors Ball, Boston Calling, Firefly Festival and Ultra Miami, with Coachella, Bonnaroo, BottleRock, New Orleans’ Jazz Fest and Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas all pushed back to later in the year.

Photo: Bureau of Land Management/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (cropped)


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Sick Festivals: 300+ events now affected by coronavirus

With the coronavirus forcing festival cancellations on a daily basis, music data start-up Viberate has launched Sick Festivals, a list of some 5,000 music festivals, updated daily, tracking which events are on, which are postponed and which have been cancelled altogether.

Slovenia-based Viberate has, at the time of writing, identified 141 cancelled and 185 postponed festivals. The data is sourced from artists, venues, events and festivals featured in Viberate’s blockchain-based music industry database, which the company hopes will become the ‘IMDb of music’.

The idea for Sick Festivals came when one of the company’s founders, techno DJ Uroš Umek (aka DJ Umek), started receiving a slew of festival cancellations, he explains: “Just a week ago, I played on the Resistance stage at Ultra in Melbourne and Sydney, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. When I landed back home and turned my phone back on, most of my upcoming gigs had already disappeared from my calendar.

“That was when I realised how serious this outbreak had become in a matter of days. It feels eerily dystopian.

“It’s up to us to do whatever we can to manage the damage”

“Now it’s up to us to do whatever we can to manage the damage. At Viberate, we quickly put together a service that we hope will help people see what’s going on with the festival they had been planning to visit, and shed a light onto industry professionals’ income loss, which is no laughing matter.”

In addition to listing festivals’ current statuses, Sick Festivals allows fans to express their disappointment at cancellations/postponements, demonstrated by a sad-face emoji next to the festival’s entry. (At press time, Coachella had 19,175 sad faces, some 5,000 more than Ultra Miami and 9,000 more than Glastonbury.)

Viberate, one of the first wave of music-focused cryptocurrencies, started out as an Airbnb-like service which promised to cut out the agency middle man and connect unsigned musicians (who would be paid in Viberate’s native crypto, the vibe) with a database of those who might want to book them.

Nearly three years on, its creators are focused on building blockchain-powered database that maps the entire live music business, including artists, music venues, booking agencies, festivals and other music events.

 


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Byron Bay Bluesfest to go ahead as planned

The organisers of Byron Bay Bluesfest have confirmed that the festival is going ahead as planned from 9 to 13 April, despite the spread of Covid-19.

“We are all aware of COVID-19 in Australia and want to update you. Bluesfest Byron Bay will be going ahead as planned,” reads a post on the festival’s Facebook page, last updated today (12 March).

“Both NSW Health and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), the federal body, report that attending public events such as Bluesfest are low risk.”

Fan are assured that their tickets are “fully insured” in case of a coronavirus-related cancellation.

The New South Wales festival, organised by Peter Noble, is entering its 31st year in 2020, featuring acts including Lenny Kravitz, Dave Matthews Band, Kool and the Gang and John Butler.

“We are all aware of COVID-19 in Australia and want to update you. Bluesfest Byron Bay will be going ahead as planned”

Extra safety measures and additional facilities, such as hand sanitisation stations, will be put in place at Bluesfest to further safeguard the health and safety of guests.

Covid-19 was yesterday declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Major festivals including Coachella, Ultra Miami, South by Southwest and Tomorrowland Winter have been cancelled or postponed due to the virus.

Events affected in Australia include Miley Cyrus’ cancelled headline performance at the World Tour Bushfire Relief concert in Melbourne, Victoria. However, Robbie Wiliams’ appearance as part of the same event series is going ahead as planned, along with the Australian grand prix.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today said there will be a “further review of mass gatherings” across the state, saying, “there is no need to massively change what you are doing but it’s not business as usual. We are asking everybody to be alert.”

13 new cases of the virus were reported in NSW yesterday alone, bringing the state’s total to 78, half the total number of cases reported across the whole country.

 


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It’s official: Coachella rescheduled for October

April’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival – traditionally the unofficial start to the festival season in the northern hemisphere – is being pushed back to October, organisers have announced, becoming the biggest music-biz casualty of the coronavirus to date.

Confirming a story first broken by Billboard on Monday 9 March (which reported Goldenvoice was working to reschedule the event), at around 11pm GMT last night the promoter released a statement stating Coachella will now take place on 9–11 and 16–18 October 2020, while country music festival Stagecoach is pushed back to 23–25 October 2020.

Coachella 2020, headlined by Frank Ocean, Travis Scott and a reunited Rage Against the Machine, was original set for 10–12 April (weekend one) and 17–19 April (weekend two) at its traditional home of the Empire Polo Club (125,000-cap.) in Indio, Riverside County, California.

Yesterday (10 March), Riverside County voted to declare a public health emergency in response to the novel coronavirus, Covid-19. At the time of writing, there have been at least 14 cases of the virus recorded in California.

“We take the safety and health of our guests, staff and community very seriously”

“At the direction of the county of Riverside and local health authorities, we must sadly confirm the rescheduling of Coachella and Stagecoach due to Covid-19 concerns,” reads Goldenvoice’s statement.

“While this decision comes at a time of universal uncertainty, we take the safety and health of our guests, staff and community very seriously. We urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials.”

Coachella and Stagecoach are the third and fourth major US festival postponements due to concerns over the virus, which has now infected around 120,000 people worldwide, following Ultra Miami and Austin’s South by Southwest.

In Europe, where Covid-19 is more widespread, festival promoters are still biding their time – though widespread bans on large public gatherings across the continent appear to signal further cancellations, and many tours have been called off.

 


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Morrissey, Blondie to head up new Goldenvoice fest

The inaugural edition of Cruel World festival is taking place in Los Angeles this May, marking the newest addition to the Goldenvoice portfolio.

Morrissey, Blondie, Bauhaus, Devo, Echo and the Bunnymen and the Psychedelic Furs are among acts performing at the one-day event on 2 May at the Grounds at Dignity Health Sports Park (27,000-cap.), LA.

Promoted by AEG’s Goldenvoice, Cruel World adds to the organiser’s stable of California festivals, which includes Coachella, this year headlined by Travis Scott, Frank Ocean and Rage Against the Machine, and country music event Stagecoach Festival.

Goldenvoice also operates multiple venues in Los Angeles and the Bay Area and promotes over 1,400 concerts a year in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Alaska and Canada, in addition to recently promoting a number of North American tours, including dates by K-pop stars Blackpink.

Tickets for Cruel World festival go on sale on Friday 14 February at midday pacific time, with the presale beginning the day before. Prices start from US$135.

 

 


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