2019 American Music Awards

Coachella's Paul Tollett Talks Beychella, 2020 Lineup & Docuseries at Billboard Live Music Summit

Goldenvoice president and CEO and Coachella co-founder Paul Tollett was just as impressed by Beyoncé’s 2018 festival performance as the rest of us. During the "The Festivals Through the Viewfinder" panel at the Billboard Live Music Summit in Beverly Hill, California, on Tuesday, Tollett told Billboard senior director of music Jason Lipshutz that he visited Beyoncé’s rehearsals for her legendry performance where she had recreated the stage in a studio.

“She was sitting in the director’s chair and she had a male dancer on stage doing her parts. She was already practiced, ready to go,” Tollett said. “She was picking camera angles for the livestream ... and she said, 'You’re missing a camera angle.' That level of detail shocked me. She had so much going on in her head and it was incredible how she pulled it off.”

“Was there a sense, after Beyoncé did Coachella, of, ‘Oh shit. How are we going to top this?’” Lipshutz asked.

“We thought that a few times,” Tollett said. He said him and his team had that same feeling after Rage Against the Machine played in 2007 and when the 2Pac hologram graced the stage alongside Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg in 2012. “We've had a lot of fun since and these are all great memories. We’re just in search of the next one.”

In order to capture some of the excitement around artists' stories, like Beyoncé’s Emmy-nominated Homecoming, Coachella created a docuseries featuring select artists that aired via YouTube. In lieu of live streaming all the performances for a second weekend, Tollett decided to share those videos with select artists on the lineup.

Tollett's Coachella Curated series aired in April and followed him around the globe as he traveled across six continents to visit the homes of performers scheduled to play the Southern California festival. That included treks to Moscow to meet electronic artist Nina Kraviz, to Seoul to visit BLACKPINK and to Perth, Australia, home of Kevin Parker, frontman for headliner Tame Impala.

“Every artist has some sort of story. They're all different, but they do have their own stories,” Tollett said about capturing the stories on camera.

“There are so many rich stories out there and we feel like we just scratched the surface. We would love to tell more. It is financial thing. You can only do so much, We’re not filmmakers.”

Tollett added that they plan to continue the Coachella Curated series, but they have to think about the festival first. The festival co-founder said he has 95% of the Coachella’s 2020 lineup booked, not making mention of Rage Against the Machine's recently revealed plans to reunited for the event next year. 

When asked about what his day-to-day work like looks like weeks away from the regular lineup announcement in January, Tollett said, “I’m working on the scheduling to make sure everyone gets the right thing. It’s hard. In the early days of the show, you could put hip-hop against indie rock against electronic and everyone was in their spot. Now everybody likes everything.”

Tollett added that he has a group of friends who give him feedback on the schedule, some of whom were upset about his choices for the 2019 set times.

“’You’re so nice to us. You show us the poster all the time,’” he described his friends saying. “’But Rosalia versus Blackpink? You savage.’”

“To me, it was a K-pop group and flamenco from Spain and they shouldn’t compete, but that’s how we all like different types of music now,” Tollett said.

Tollett said he curates the Coachella lineup every year based on the shows 2,500 shows Goldenvoice puts on every year.

“Around the office, it is a culture of us talking about good stuff coming up,” said Tollett, who added that the smartest thing for a festival booker to do is go to live shows and see bands who are engaging audiences.

The panel also touched on the continuing issue gender disparity on festival lineups.

“It is taking care of itself naturally,” Tollett said on whether or not he takes gender representation into consideration when he is booking Coachella. “If you look at the 2,500 shows we have, the [gender] percentage breakdown is different than it was years ago. Fortunately, it is balancing itself out now.”

“It was a male-dominated industry for sure. Everyone played a role in that probably, but it is completely changing,” Tollett said, adding that submission lists for Coachella are now at roughly 55% male which is an improvement on previous years. “Submissions aren’t what you have to book, but it goes to show you what is out there, what is touring and what agencies are pushing.”

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