The New Yorker recently published a feature about the behind-the-scenes workings of Coachella with a particular focus on Paul Tollett, who serves as both the festival’s and Goldenvoice’s CEO. There are a ton of interesting tidbits in the article, but one of the most interesting (as Pitchfork points out) comes courtesy of talent agency William Morris Endeavor’s head of music Marc Geiger, who apparently pitched Kate Bush as a potential Coachella performer and was turned down. Here’s the relevant portion:
In addition to curating the lineup, Tollett had booked the hundred and fifty acts himself, negotiating all the offers with agents—a six-month process. He also fielded a lot of pitches that he had to turn down. Geiger, of W.M.E., described their working method: “I’ll say, ‘Kate Bush!’ And he’ll go, ‘No!,’ and we’ll talk through it. I’ll say, ‘She’s never played here, and she just did thirty shows in the U.K. for the first time since the late seventies. You gotta do it! Have to!’ ‘No! No one is going to understand it.’ ”
Kate Bush has never performed in the United States. In 2014, she played her first show in 35 years and sold out a run of 22 shows in London. Those performances were compiled onto last year’s live album, Before The Dawn.
It’s unclear from the article whether or not Bush was even interested in performing at Coachella, or if it was a hypothetical situation, but either way it’s wild that the mastermind behind the festival would decide to not even try and pursue it! More Kate Bush always.
The feature also lends some interesting inside perspective on the always contentious business of font size on the Coachella poster:
For artists, placement on the poster translates directly into booking fees. “Agents will say, ‘They’re a second-line band at Coachella!’ ” Tollett related. Rarely has typography been so closely monetized. For E.D.M. d.j.s, in particular, placement on the poster can determine their future asking price, not only in the United States but internationally. “We have so many arguments over font sizes,” he went on. “I literally have gone to the mat over one point size.”
“Today is the day I’m telling all the agents what line their band is going to be on,” Tollett explained. “Sounds like a small thing in the great scheme of life. But, as it relates to these bands, it’s huge.” He added, “We booked it, and it’s going to be great.” He sounded as if he were trying to convince himself.
A prototype of the poster was on the table. He pointed to the second line, Saturday, where two popular E.D.M. d.j.s, DJ Snake and Martin Garrix, and the hip-hop m.c. SchoolBoy Q, were all together, along with the alternative-rock star Bon Iver and the Atlanta rappers Gucci Mane and Future.
“I have a pileup of d.j.s here,” Tollett said. “The problem is that every one of them wants there.” He tapped the left side of the line, where Bon Iver held pride of place. “In the old days, you could look at SoundScan or Pollstar. Who sells more records? Who sells more tickets? But d.j.s don’t do concerts. And these hip-hop guys—some of them play only raves and large dance-club events,” so-called “soft ticket” shows in which the artist is just one part of the package. Instead of hard numbers, the d.j.s use social-media-based metrics to measure their popularity: Facebook friends, Twitter followers, YouTube views.
“The third line is the hardest,” Tollett went on, adjusting his Kings cap. “With someone like Justice or New Order, you know they’re solid.” The French techno group and the British New Wave band were two of the occupants of Sunday’s second line. “Marshmello?”—a third-line masked E.D.M. d.j. whose identity is concealed beneath a buckethead with a blitzed-looking emoji for a face. “Could be a line two, because he has crazy statistics,” Tollett said as he drummed on the poster with a pencil eraser.
“Twenty years ago, alternative artists grew slower,” he continued. “But there is no underground anymore. It’s all kind of pop, in a way, and it goes up quickly because of SoundCloud. Some of these artists get stats over a six-week period that are just crazy. I make an offer for small bands, and in six months the world can change for them so much. Or you buy them at their peak and their numbers are dropping off each day. It’s like gambling. Going short, going long. We’re going long on Marshmello.”
UPDATE: In a statement Bush’s spokesman says the singer never considered Coachella:
It was never Kate’s intention to play any more shows than she did in London. The show was conceived for a very specific type of venue. No discussions were ever had with Kate about playing any festival, including Coachella.