Coachella, the famed Indio, California festival of
social media influencers and cultural appropriation music, is in trouble. The festival lasts two weekends starting April 10 and since that darned coronavirus is out here infecting people, there may be a chance it brings down Coachella. It already took out No Time To Die, and it seems music executives and political people are now mulling over the cost/benefit analysis of cancelling a concert festival last minute to avoid people dying from infectious disease. Although, you know those Coochella hipsters are gluing flowers to masks as we speak.
COVID-19 is not a band going to Coachella, but it is the virus which is currently spreading across the literal planet and killing a bunch of people. Just like the flu. Right now in California there are 50 confirmed cases in Los Angeles alone, and the mayor, Eric Garcetti, declared a state of emergency. It’s mostly preparatory because he clearly doesn’t want coronavirus spreading through Los Angeles and killing the world’s most beautiful celebrities, but it means that other places may do the same.
Indio is in Riverside County, where they activated an emergency operations center over the coronavirus concern. So it could be that the county declares it’s own emergency which would help shutdown Coachella and even Stagecoach which is also in Indio the weekend after. Kevin Lyman, who founded the Van’s Warped Tour, told Billboard:
“I wouldn’t doubt over the next 20 days if we see a festival a day canceled.”
And just before Miami’s Ultra Music Festival was canceled, another live music big-wig said:
“I wasn’t worried about the virus until about 10 minutes ago when I saw that Ultra was postponed.”
People have also asked that South by Southwest in Austin, TX be canceled. Over 50,000 people have signed a petition to stop it because of coronavirus. But it’s going on as planned. (UPDATE: No, it’s not. It’s been shit-canned.)
Problem is, if festivals cancel money will get hectic. Rich artists like being paid for appearances, and throwing together a music festival takes a lot of logistical expenses–ask Billy McFarland and Ja Rule. So stakeholders in the show won’t want to cancel because insurance doesn’t cover typhoid. Literally; infectious disease insurance is opt-in and it’s too late to buy it now–so no insurance company would cover any cancellation costs over coronavirus. A major music executive spoke to Billboard saying:
“Insurance isn’t going to get us out of this one.”
This would trigger legal battles between the artists and the promoters–they would claim the “force majeure” clause in their contracts which removes liability over these types of “hand of God” issues which could prevent a show. A tornado or an earthquake are other examples of the kinds of things which would exempt promoters from paying under this clause. And officials at the two biggest concert promoters in the US–AEG and Live Nation–have already suggested they ain’t paying anyone if corona takes them out.
When it comes to South by Southwest’s situation this year, artists have already said they don’t want any force majeure and should be paid if it’s canceled–which it may with the petition and also Apple, TikTok, Twitter, Vevo, Netlix and more have already pulled out. Force majeure also cannot be invoked without an outside agency pulling the plug; like the local health department, or law enforcement. Kevin said:
“There’s no one managing it at the federal level, which means this is going to be decided by local officials who wield a ton of power.”
But the thing about the music industry is nobody wants to be the first one to do the right thing because it usually costs that person the most money and they suffer the most blow-back. Kevin said:
“The music industry is always a game of chicken and we always push things right to the edge because that’s what we’ve always done.”
As for hope of the festival still happening, another source basically says you’d need a miracle:
“They still have a little more time before pulling the cancellation trigger, but unless the situation improves soon, the momentum might be too much… If this is going to work out, things need to start going right very soon.”
RIP Coachella. Guess you’ll have to wait until next year to piss off the already-struggling indigenous population with your appropriated war bonnets. But hey, there’s Tinder: you guys can always just call someone over to listen to bad music and catch herpes.