What we learned from Paul Tollet’s new Coachella interview

Goldenvoice head discusses Kanye, Philip Anschutz, the future of FYF Fest, and more

Coachella 2019
Coachella 2019

    On the heels of Coachella’s 2019 lineup announcement, Goldenvoice head Paul Tollett sat down with the Los Angeles Times for a wide-ranging interviews. Tollett discussed his decision to drop Kanye West from this year’s lineup, the controversy surrounding Coachella owner Philip Anschutz, the festival’s radius clause, and the future of Goldenvoice’s FYF Fest.

    Tollett confirmed rumors that Kanye’s cancelation stemmed from a disagreement over the stage design.

    “When we were going through the stage ideas, he had some other ideas. He’s played Coachella, and he knows it very well. Both times were great, and so different. The last one was pure art. He has some great [production] ideas, but we just weren’t able to pull them off right now. I’d like to circle back with him and figure out a future plan of what to do with what’s in his head. He’s very capable of coming up with ideas that work that are pretty great. Up until Jan. 1, we were making a poster with Kanye on it. We started realizing we’re probably going to have an impasse production-wise.”

    Anschutz, owner of Goldenvoice’s parent company AEG, has drawn criticism for his multi-million dollar donations to anti-LGBTQ organizations and Republican super PACs. Tollett addressed the controversy by pointing to the separation of church and state between Goldenvoice and AEG, while also noting that the heads of Live Nation, Ticketmaster, and Madison Square Garden are also Trump supporters.

    “I’m not a Trump supporter. I think people know I’m the owner-operator of the show. I’m partners with AEG. Phil Anschutz is the one they’re talking about, and he owns thousands of companies. He’s so not thinking about Coachella. He has no opinion if I should pivot from dubstep to trap-house. Most billionaires are Republicans. The billionaire attached to Live Nation is a Republican Trump supporter. Ticketmaster, same thing. Madison Square Garden? Billionaire Trump supporter. I know Mr. Anschutz isn’t a Trump supporter. None of it matters to me. I run a show 365 days a year, making all the decisions. Anyone who knows me and the Goldenvoice staff, they know we have a very colorful public history.

    They see our 1,400 shows a year. They know our well-balanced staff, diverse from the beginning. Currently more women than men, all races, all sexual orientations. We never had a plan to do it that way; it’s just what all of us are. We book our shows that way too.”


    Though they don’t often work closely together, Tollett did credit Anschutz for encouraging to continue operating Coachella following an especially rough experience.

    “I don’t see him that much. I lost a lot of money in 2008 — because I put Prince on at the last minute. Stagecoach was also just starting. I lost the most amount of money I ever lost. He came to the show. I was petrified.

    I was ready to quit Coachella that day. I’m done. I’ve had some great years, now a bad one. He asks, ‘Do you know what you did wrong?’ I explained a couple of things. He says, ‘OK, let’s drive on.’ He’s shown that he sticks with culture. He sees who we book and hire. It speaks for itself how we are inclusive with everything.”

    Tollett also offered some insight into Coachella’s radius clause.

    “We want that first announcement. There are only so many artists. I have a list that I want, and there is another 3,000 or 4,000 that get submitted by the industry. I’m looking for 140 or 150 artists that are fresh. If you want to play a whole bunch of shows in town, I’m not mad at you. I just don’t have to put you on the [festival]. I want something unique and fresh for a 100-day window…

    “Sometimes I’ll get a band back together and pay them a big number. And I’ll get another festival upset that I have the first announcement and they have to wait. I feel like: Wow, I went and talked to the four guys at their house. I got them back together. If I was a jerk, I’d also grab that other city. I’m more focused on Coachella and a couple of other things. But I’ll get another promoter calling, going ‘We want to announce.’ And I’m like ‘You’re two months after me. You don’t even know the band.’

    Tollett addressed the future of FYF Fest following the departure of the festival’s founder, Sean Carlson, in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations.

    “We attempted to put a show together that was already half-booked. There was a lag. Some bands were sitting there, some went away. We launched late. It went on sale and didn’t do well. Sad chapter, all of it: what happened to the women, as a festival going away from this city. Sean was such a good booker. He was my replacement in my mind. I’d still own the festival, but maybe I would have transitioned for him to be on the forefront. So it was a lot of emotion all at once. But these are unique times. The #MeToo things that are coming to light are affecting everything, as it should. These things should come to light…

    If we [were to do another event], it would be scaled down to what FYF was originally. It had a couple of big years, but what it should be is what it is. At a certain point, let’s do a redo.”


    Click here to read the full interview, which also includes details on Coachella’s new anti-sexual harassment initiative.

    Coachella 2019 goes down April 12th-14th and April 19th-21st at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. The lineup includes Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino, and Tame Impala, along with Solange, Janelle Monáe, Aphex Twin, Billie Eilish, and The 1975, among others. Tickets are sold out, but you can try your luck on the secondary market.