'Coachella for old people' is big money-spinner

NEW YORK •One day in February, Mr Paul Tollett, the promoter of the Coachella music festival, was summoned to Mick Jagger's dressing room in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The Rolling Stones were on tour there and Mr Tollett had travelled from California. The band's involvement was vital to his idea for a new event: a once-in-a-lifetime festival of rock giants, including Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Who and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, all performing over three days at the same spot in the Southern California desert where Mr Tollett had built Coachella into the concert world's most successful franchise.

Jagger listened to the pitch and then shot back, as he later recalled in an interview on SiriusXM radio: "You mean it's like Coachella for old people?"

He was intrigued, though, and thus was born Desert Trip, a boomer-ready version of a 21st-century pop festival. The average age of the headlining performers is 72, leading to the mocking nickname "Oldchella".

Snark aside, however, Desert Trip - which begins the first of its two weekends on Oct 7, at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California - has already taken its place as one of the most ambitious and potentially most lucrative music festivals in history.

In part, that is thanks to the buying power of older fans, a demographic that has often been overlooked in the concert industry's festival boom.

Its two weekends will draw a total of about 150,000 concertgoers. Sales of tickets and amenities such as camping and food passes will reach an estimated US$160 million (S$218 million) - nearly double the US$84-million take from last year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

Concert executives estimate that Desert Trip, which is put on by Mr Tollett's company, Goldenvoice, a division of the global entertainment company AEG Live, could cost US$100 million to stage, including what representatives of several of the acts said were extraordinary paydays for the performers.

"The bands are getting what they deserve," Mr Tollett said.

Tickets range from US$199 for general admission on a single day to US$1,599, the highest tier for weekend passes to one of 35,000 assigned seats.

Mr Marc Geiger, head of music at the William Morris Endeavor agency, said: "Whatever ceiling there was in the concert business in terms of economics just got blown out of the water."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2016, with the headline ''Coachella for old people' is big money-spinner'. Print Edition | Subscribe