The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (also known simply as Coachella or the Coachella festival) is arguably the largest and most popular music and arts festival in the world. It is conducted at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California in the Coachella Valley in the Colorado Desert, which is why it is called so. It was founded in 1999 by Rick Van Santen and Paul Tollett, organised by a subsidiary of AEG Presents called Goldenvoice.
However, before it was a formal venue, Pearl Jam conducted a concert there in 1993 for an audience of over 25000 people. It was a very big event because they were boycotting venues by Ticketmaster. Pearl Jam refused to play under Ticketmaster after they got into a dispute over service charges applied to ticket purchases. They needed a large enough stage, and found it in the Empire Polo Club. The band went on to state that the venue had scope for a larger audience and this set the stage for what happened next.
Around 1997, ticketing company Goldenvoice was struggling to book tickets against the big companies that were prevalent at the time like SFX Entertainment. They were losing a lot of bands and could not compete in terms of money. It was at this time that Paul Tollett came up with the idea of a music festival. He, along with the Goldenvoice co president Rick Van Santen, began brainstorming ideas for a music festival with multiple venues. They decided to hire a group of artists who weren’t exactly chart toppers, but were trendy enough to be noticed. They rightfully predicted that a large number of people would be attracted to such an event. In 1997, Tollett went to the Glastonbury Festival and distributed pamphlets showing the nascent idea of a music festival at the Coachella Valley. One of the main reasons why Coachella is such a big festival today is because of the weather of Glastonbury. Compared to the muddy rainy atmosphere there, Coachella was in the Colorado Desert. This appealed to a large section of the audience. A total of 70,000 were expected at the venue, but only 37000 tickets were sold. However, the Coachella Music Festival delivered what it had promised: it was calm and peaceful throughout, earning it the title ‘Anti-Woodstock’. This would later prove to be quite helpful in the long run.
The inaugural Coachella festival was conducted on October 9th and 10th, 1999. The event was headlined by Beck, Tool and Rage Against The Machine; with other acts including Chemical Brothers, A Perfect Circle, Jurassic 5, Morissey and Underworld. However, Goldenvoice lost a staggering 850,000 dollars organising the event and barely pulled together as a company for 2 years. However, the initial anti-Woodstock sentiments worked and more and more people came in year after year,making it the world’s largest music festival.