One week after the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival lineup was announced, the show sold out. The Saturday announcement, a disappointment to the tens of thousands of fans who had yet to buy their tickets, was both unexpected and unheard of.
Coachella, a three-day monster of a music show, annually boasts big-name headliners and a slew of smaller up-and-coming acts. Despite its notoriety as being California’s entertainment event of the year, it shocked fans and critics alike to see event passes sucked up as quickly as they were.
This begs the question: Why did Coachella sell out so fast?
Facebook gossipers and forum ragers point to this year’s lineup as the cause. And who could blame them?
Kanye West, Kings of Leon and Arcade Fire — among many others — are known for drawing large crowds. But popularity isn’t solely to blame.
Why not? Because there are still many ticket opportunities for those wanting to go.
Scalpers are the ones who have bought out nearly all of the over 75,000 tickets. A quick check across eBay, Craigslist and Stubhub reveals plenty of tickets available, if you’re willing to pay at least three times the tickets’ original price ($269). The generous scalpers also have a bountiful number of camping permits available for the three-day event —with bids averaging around $300.
As ludicrous as these jacked-up prices are, perhaps the most infuriating detail to this story is where the scalper’s bread crumb trail leads back to: the original ticket salesmen themselves. Since the 1980s, Ticketmaster has developed itself into a giant in the ticketing oligarchy, now selling tickets for 27 of 30 NHL teams, 28 of 30 NBA teams, and numerous other high-profile stage events, including Coachella.
The ticketing tyrant plasters its ticket sales with absurdly high service charges — charges that have amounted to up to 50 percent of the ticket’s actual worth, in some cases.
On top of the back-breaking prices come questionable business practices.
Ticketsnow.com, a subsidiary of Ticketmaster, serves as a secondary sales place for tickets — in other words, a scalper’s market. Multiple lawsuits have since been filed alleging that Ticketmaster conspired to divert tickets sales to Ticketsnow, so that the brokering website might “resell” the tickets at higher prices.
In a move that would just about monopolize the industry altogether, Ticketmaster sought to merge with Livenation, another ticket sales company, back in February 2009.
All that stands between the two is an anti-trust investigation by the US Department of Justice.
Now here’s the punchline: Back in 1993, alternative rock band Pearl Jam first performed at the Empire Polo Club grounds, the site that would later play host to the annual Coachella Festival. The performance, which attracted an audience of about 25,000, was a move meant to boycott Ticketmaster. How’s that for irony?
The moral to this story comes from feeding the scalper culture. The best move that we, as music-loving consumers, can do is simply not buy their tickets.
So the real question isn’t “Why did Coachella sell out so fast?” It’s “How badly do you want to go?”