Coachella organizers bend rules on bands playing non-festival venues

Atari Teenage Riot performing Monday at the Echoplex in Los Angeles. The German electronic trio is among dozens of Coachella acts appearing at smaller venues across the Southland this week.
Atari Teenage Riot performing Monday at the Echoplex in Los Angeles. The German electronic trio is among dozens of Coachella acts appearing at smaller venues across the Southland this week. Steven Cuevas/KPCC

Weekend One of Coachella is ancient history, and Weekend Two is around the bend. But if you can’t get there, not to worry. This year, many of the same bands are also appearing a lot closer to home.

Organizers have relaxed certain festival rules that restrict where and when a band can play. Concert promoter Goldenvoice modified its so-called “radius clauses” that generally prohibit bands from performing in the L.A. market up to three months before, during and after the festival.

Such agreements are not uncommon in the music industry, but they tend to be much stricter for larger festivals like Coachella.

“Fundamentally the radius clause covers Los Angeles and the Inland Empire,” said booking agent Tom Windish. “There’s a few other places it touches on, including San Diego. So you can play San Francisco and Las Vegas, but [otherwise] it's pretty substantial.”

Windish represents nearly two dozen Coachella performers, including the Canadian "post-rock" collective known as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and powerhouse French electronic duo Justice.

The idea behind the agreement is that Goldenvoice might sell fewer tickets if its big draws, like Justice, also booked gigs at venues in L.A. or Anaheim within weeks of the festival.

“It’s a way to give the festival some exclusivity,” said Windish, reached by phone in the Coachella Valley where he’s attending this week’s back-to-back festivals.

The Chicago-based agent said it’s pretty rare for any of his bands to gripe about the radius clause, since Coachella itself is often a huge payoff.

“My clients want to play [the festival], with or without the exclusivity clauses," according to Windish. "Just having your name in the advertising at Coachella is a huge boost for a band."

“For me, adding the second weekend presented some challenges for what to do in between. The great thing about it was that the band got paid twice as much money for playing the same market and the exclusivity clause wasn’t any greater.”

Goldenvoice declined to comment for this story, but it does seem to have partly addressed Windish’s concern about what performers can do with all the time on their hands.

Dozens of bands booked for Coachella were also allowed to play at smaller venues like the Glass House in Pomona, the Echoplex in L.A. and Pappy and Harriet’s near Joshua Tree.

The catch? Most of those shows are either sponsored by Goldenvoice or happening at venues affiliated with the festival promoter.

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