POWER MOVE: Expansion of Coachella to two weekends made it the highest-grossing, best-attended music festival in the world. The Coachella music cruise offered brand expansion and a chance to own the conversation in both December and April.
THE RUNDOWN: Since launching in 1999, the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif., has arguably become the most culturally significant American music event, as well as the highest-grossing and most well-attended music festival in the world. Paul Tollett is the brains behind the blockbuster.
In 2012, an unprecedented expansion featuring sold-out, back-to-back weekends with identical lineups pushed the Goldenvoice/AEG Live-produced Coachella to No. 1 on Billboard’s tally of the top 10 highest-earning festivals, grossing $47.3 million and drawing more than 158,000 fans across six days, according to Billboard Boxscore.
Overseeing a 60-person staff at Goldenvoice that promotes an estimated 1,000 concerts every year, Tollett’s name is nonetheless synonymous with the one event.
Unlike other major festivals decided by large committees, Tollett personally books every act at Coachella. In addition to helping boost the careers of new acts, the event has served as a high-paying platform for veteran headliners. Some booking agents have even been fired after their artists didn’t get onto the lineup, Tollett revealed in a 2012 Billboard cover story.
Last year also marked the debut of a musical cruise, S.S. Coachella, which featured such acts as Pulp, Hot Chip, Yeasayer and Sleigh Bells. “Paul created an incredibly powerful brand based on two simple things: great music and an incredible fan experience,” says Tom Windish, whose influential Windish agency has booked dozens of buzzworthy acts at Coachella through the years. “Many festivals try to emulate the unique feeling of Coachella, but it remains in a class of its own.”