Since its humble beginnings, the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival has grown into one of the most important events in modern music. Artists from every corner of the world trek to the California desert for two weekends of musical immersion.
But sadly, the festival is caught in a political battle.
Despite having just purchased the 300 acres Empire Polo Field used as the primary festival grounds, Goldenvoice co-founder Paul Tollett and vice president Skip Paige are wrestling with moving the concert to another city or unincorporated area of the Coachella Valley. The main issue is over a proposed tax that would be imposed upon on large-scale events.
The initiative proposed by councilman Sam Torres would take affect in 2014 and would equate to a five to ten percent tax on admissions fees. According to Tollett, that would come down to about $36 per ticket which translates into $4-6 million from ticket sales.
The Desert Sun, a local Coachella newspaper, obtained a series of text messages in which Paige tells an Indio official that “organizers are seriously considering moving the festival out of the city.”
“We think this tax is outrageous for all the things we’ve done with Indio,” Tollett told The Desert Sun. The paper goes on to say that Councilwoman Elaine Holmes warned the Indio City Council, saying “He can easily take it to Irvine or someplace else. We don’t want to scare that concert away.”
Torres admits that he’s looking to Goldenvoice to help bail the city out of a financial crisis. Goldenvoice’s Tollet is dumbfounded, saying “They’re singling out one business to put a tax on. Forget legal, is that even fair?”
The dialog is crystallized in one particular text message from Paige to Torres, “You know were moving right? All this is a game. Why in the world would we stay where we are not wanted. LQ [La Quinta] doesn’t want us, Indio wants to take all our profits. Its a joke.”
Although Tollet declined to comment on his partner’s text messages, he says that if this tax goes into effect, there will be no concert in 2014. “When I say there’s going to be no 2014, realize what I’m saying. The Coachella festival-goers have to bank on what I’m saying. I say no 2014, there are going to be people who set their wedding during April. I can’t come back in 2014. Once I say it, the dice are thrown.”
For a blow-by-blow account of the battle, head to the Desert Sun.