Kanye West Cancelled Coachella Because They Wouldn’t Build Him a Giant Dome In the Middle of the Festival

Coachella at Night (photo Malcolm Murdoch CC 2.0)
  • Save

Coachella at Night (photo Malcolm Murdoch CC 2.0)
  • Save
photo: Malcolm Murdoch (CC 2.0)

How much is a superstar headliner worth?  Apparently, not this much — at least for Coachella.

Kanye West was rumored to be part of Coachella’s 2019 performer list.  But when the official festival slate was announced last week, West’s name was nowhere to be found.

Subsequent stories pointed to a diva-like outburst that prompted the rapper’s cancellation.

TMZ first chimed in with a report claiming that petulant demands by West to expand the size of the standard Coachella stage forced the cancellation.  But now, the diva demands appear to have been far more extreme.

According to a report from Billboard, West demanded that Coachella construct a massive dome for his performance, right in the middle of the festival’s grounds.  West also demanded that the dome be designed and supervised by John McGuire, who has collaborated with Kanye before.

And all of this needed to be completed in time for Coachella’s start date of April 12th.

The demands, apparently issued on New Year’s Day, were met with quick resistance from Coachella parent Goldenvoice (now owned by AEG Live).  With the mega-festival just months away, it was explained that building a monstrous dome would force the relocation of other stages, areas, and massively disrupt the broader layout.

One serious concern: the dome would force Coachella to completely relocate a large port-a-potty area, which is connected to various sewage, water, and treatment lines and facilities.

It was a no go.  End of story.

Undeterred, Kanye reportedly barked back his demands again, and furiously insisted on having his creative vision met.

Toilets were Coachella’s problems, and had nothing to do with Kanye’s art.

“When senior executives from Coachella parent Goldenvoice explained that the dome would be impossible to build in four months and would require the AEG-owned concert promoter to rearrange the entire festival site and remove a large section of portable bathrooms, West became irritated, declaring that he was an artist with a creative vision who shouldn’t be spending his time talking about port-a-potties,” wrote Billboard’s Dave Brooks.

Kanye offered a quick ultimatum: no dome, no appearance.

Within 24 hours, Coachella had apparently slotted Ariana Grande into the headlining role.  Ironically, Billboard noted that ex-Kanye manager Scooter Braun, who also manages Grande, helped to facilitate the save.  But Braun, fired twice by West, had little chance of mopping up his former client’s mess.

This isn’t the first time a high-flying diva has made extreme demands.

But it looks like Coachella and other festivals have a far smaller tolerance for them.  One reason is that festivals are, by their very nature, diversified events.  Sure, superstars draw crowds and revenue, but Coachella isn’t reliant upon one artist — or even group of artists.

Perhaps missing the shifting power dynamic, West furiously flexed his muscles and lost out on millions.  Coachella, which has already sold out both of its upcoming weekends, figured out a backup plan in less than a day.

Other festivals may have stopped short of entertaining the special demands at all.  Pasquale Rotella, founder of Insomniac, has famously focused away from superstars in favor of the broader festival experience at events like Electric Daisy Carnival.  But even Coachella is fairly strict with its own demands surrounding radius clauses and other contractual restrictions, even with superstars.

And the bigger the festival, the bigger the ability to just say no.