The Outrage Over Coachella’s Radius Clause Is Misguided And Uninformed

Deputy Music Editor
04.11.18

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Festival Frequency is a monthly look at music festival-related topics that step beyond the shadow of the Ferris wheel, discussing everything from the performances to the inner workings that make this a global phenomenon.

This weekend, music festival season will kick off in earnest. Sure, the music festival industry has become a year-long enterprise, especially with Houston’s Day For Night now owning the month of December and events like Okeechobee, Treefort, South By Southwest, and Ultra already in our rearview mirror. But you don’t need to work in the music industry to be aware of Coachella‘s symbolic meaning. It’s oftentimes the launch of what many artists will be bringing to festivals around the world for the year, with this installment featuring the likes of The Weeknd, Eminem, and Cardi B unveiling their big, new shows. In Beyonce’s case, it will be a performance that won’t receive an accompanying tour, as her summer stadium run with husband Jay-Z will be a different beast entirely.

Of course, the focus this week isn’t entirely on the live performances and summer style that is set to debut this weekend. A report circulated yesterday that Coachella is facing a lawsuit from Portland, Oregon event Soul’d Out Festival regarding Coachella’s long-established “radius clause.” For those unfamiliar, a radius clause is a contractual stipulation for an act to not play within a certain region within a certain timeframe as the festival that employs it, and isn’t a rarity among the biggest players of the industry. And on paper, it is a little questionable that an event that takes place more than 1,000 miles away from Coachella could be affected by the event, but things are a little murkier than what is being displayed in many of the reported stories, leading to an outrage that isn’t entirely informed.

First, let’s get the facts straight. According to the court documents, the radius clause of Coachella runs from December 15 through May 7, directly applying to “music festivals or themed events,” and encompasses the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington. That doesn’t mean standalone concerts aren’t subject to stipulations, too, but that’s not really what we are discussing here. But a number of publications that rolled out this story are blurring those facts.

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