While few people expected that the Coachella and Stagecoach Festivals would actually take place in October, it’s now become official: Riverside County public health officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser announced that the festivals will be taking place next year at the earliest, and multiple sources tell Variety that promoter Goldenvoice is in the process of informing performers.
“The Coachella Valley Music and Artist Festival and the Stagecoach Country Music Festival are hereby cancelled for the calendar year 2020 … as a result of the worldwide epidemic of COVID-19 disease,” the order reads, noting that Riverside County has 9,590 confirmed cases and 365 deaths thus far.
Coachella, initially planned for April with headliners Travis Scott, Frank Ocean and Rage Against the Machine, had been scheduled to return to the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, Calif. on the weekends of Oct. 9 and 16, with Stagecoach the following weekend.
“I am concerned as indications grow that COVID-19 could worsen in the fall,” Kaiser said in a statement on Wednesday. “In addition, events like Coachella and Stagecoach would fall under [California] Governor Newsom’s Stage 4, which he has previously stated would require treatments or a vaccine to enter. Given the projected circumstances and potential, I would not be comfortable moving forward.
“These decisions are not taken lightly with the knowledge that many people will be impacted. My first priority is the health of the community.”
Sources told Variety earlier on Wednesday that Coachella promoter Goldenvoice has long known that October of this year would be unfeasible for the festivals, and is still considering whether to hold the festival in April 2021, with a diminished audience, or October of next year with a full audience.
A rep for Goldenvoice did not immediately respond to Variety‘s requests for comment.
The festivals, originally planned for April, were moved to October early in March. But as the pandemic took hold, it soon became obvious that short of some unforeseen coronavirus-quashing miracle, the soonest the festival could take place with an audience of any major size would be next year. Governor Gavin Newsom said in mid-April that large mass gatherings are not likely to resume until sometime next year at the soonest, and sources have said for weeks that the only reason Coachella promoter Goldenvoice has not officially announced another postponement is because it hasn’t yet confirmed whether even April, the month the festival traditionally takes place, will be safe enough for the kind of tight crowds the festival draws.
Coachella, which sprawls across two weekends and is the biggest music festival in the U.S., regularly sells out its 125,000 per day tickets immediately and nets between $75 million and $100 million each year. Sources say that 40% of this year’s ticketholders have requested refunds, and Goldenvoice is said to be still considering whether to hold the festival in April at 60% capacity. However, multiple sources stress that no decision has been made, and the ultimate decision lies with Coachella cofounder and Goldenvoice CEO Paul Tollett, who is known for playing his cards close to the vest.
And while the U.S. and much of the world is slowly “reopening,” what exactly that will mean for the future of the concert industry remains to be seen. Governors and mayors regularly say that concerts and major sporting events are among the last public gatherings that will return to pre-Covid status, and the immediate future is so vague that Recording Academy chief Harvey Mason jr. told Variety on Tuesday that the organizers of the Grammy Awards, scheduled for Jan. 31, 2021 at the 20,000-capacity Staples Center in Los Angeles, are actively planning for three show scenarios: one with a full audience, one with a reduced audience, and one with no audience.