The worst has happened, perhaps.
Beyonce, the most popular musician on God’s green earth, has canceled her co-headlining spot for this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The announcement comes two months out from Coachella’s April 15-17 opening, the first of two consecutive weekends with Kendrick Lamar and Radiohead topping the bill. While Beyonce will perform at the 2018 edition, the postponement begs the question — what happens now?
Coachella, which is promoted by AEG Live/Goldenvoice, is likely right at this moment scrambling to find a replacement for Beyonce, who now pregnant with twins and on doctor’s orders has pushed back her appearance to next year’s festival. (Billboard has reached out to reps for AEG as well as Beyonce for comment.)
The news caused an immediate dip in the price of Coachella tickets on the secondary market, according to TicketIQ, an event ticket search engine and aggregator that tracks ticket sales on the secondary and primary market.
Prices for Weekend 1 dropped 12 percent from an average price of $978 to $872 after the news hit that the Lemonade singer was bowing out of this year’s festival. Tickets for the Weekend 2 dropped nearly 3 percent from an average price of $856 to $834.
Coachella is the world’s biggest and most profitable festival. In 2016, it drew some 99,000 paying customers to the Empire Polo Fields in Indio, Calif., for two weekends, bringing in a total of nearly 200,000 fans who doled out $400 for general admission tickets (or $900 for VIP). The consistently top-grossing festival took in $94 million, according to Billboard Boxscore. None of which may deter disgruntled fans who helped Coachella sell-out in record time from seeking refunds.
If history is any indication, fans are not likely entitled to recompense. When the Beastie Boys were forced to cancel their appearance at Lollapalooza 2008 after Adam Yauch was diagnosed with cancer, they brought in indie rock outfit the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, much to the chagrin of some of the hip-hop trio’s fans.
In that case, promoter C3 chose not to give refunds to those who had already bought tickets arguing that “Cancelation by individual bands does not entitle a ticket-holder to a refund,” according to a statement. “With over 100 acts, the fans are still receiving a tremendous value.”
Coachella can make similar claims as many of their acts could easily headline theaters or even arenas, including Lorde, Bon Iver, DJ Khaled, Gucci Mane and New Order. This in addition to many mid-tier acts like Father John Misty, Travis Scott, Schoolboy Q, Car Seat Headrest, Guided by Voices, Mac Miller, Hans Zimmer, Justice, Tove Lo and The Head and the Heart among many others.
Coachella is more than likely not legally bound to give refunds. Most all concert tickets come with caveat emptor notices along the lines of “line-up subject to change, no refunds” which indemnify promoters from any liability.
Most festivals, as was the case with The Yeah Yeah Yeahs filling in for the Beasties attempt to find an artist who is of similar stature and sound as the canceled artist. So let the prognosticating begin knowing that at the outset there is one of equal stature to Beyonce (see Adele‘s humbling acceptance speech after she beat out Queen Bey at this year’s Grammy Awards).
Some obvious replacement choices might include other contemporary R&B/pop divas such as Rihanna, Pink, Katy Perry, Missy Elliott, Nicki Minaj, Lauryn Hill, Jennifer Hudson, Erykah Badu, or Mary J. Blige — none of whom seem to quite fill the breach. Perhaps looking to an iconic historical R&B diva of Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Diana Ross or Tina Turner’s could?
Or maybe Coachella founder Paul Tollett takes a different tact and books a hip-hop star like Chance the Rapper, who is doing a number of festival dates this summer, or A Tribe Called Quest who is already performing at Goldenvoice’s Panoroma Fest in New York. There’s also Tool who is playing Governor’s Ball this year and hasn’t played Coachella since 2006, Foo Fighters who are headlining BottleRock and haven’t played Coachella since 2002 or the Weeknd, played Coachella in 2015, but could return this year with new material from his album Starboy.
When Billboard reached out to Graham Williams of Texas’ Margin Walker Presents to discuss just this scenario, the promoter was sanguine. “There’s no [female artist] with that kind of iconic status, who also appeals to young kids right now,” he said. “She’s definitely the exclamation point on the bill. Radiohead plays festivals, Kendrick Lamar plays festivals, but I can’t think of the last time she played a festival [in the U.S.]. Beyonce really is the perfect artist to have.”