It’s official – Kanye West is no longer headlining Coachella and sources tell Billboard the search for a replacement act to close out the festival is underway.
There are a lot of names being floated: The Weeknd and Silk Sonic, the Grammy-winning duo featuring Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, are getting plenty of mentions from industry insiders, along with a dozen other suggestions covering every genre of music.
Within an hour of TMZ breaking news that the artist now known as Ye was off the festival lineup, agents began reaching out to Goldenvoice President Paul Tollett to share availability of their top clients interested in filling the dual weekend headliner slots on April 17 and 24.
That includes agents from CAA, which represents Ye and a number of other artists already performing at this year’s festival, including Harry Styles and Doja Cat. But being the agency representing the previous headliner does not give CAA any advantage a source tells Billboard.
“You don’t book a spot and keep it,” one source tells Billboard. “[Tollett] will book whoever he wants.”
Festival promoter Goldenvoice has replaced headliners who dropped off the festival before. In February 2017, it was announced Lady Gaga would sub in for a pregnant Beyoncé. And in 2019, when a plan to book Ye collapsed just days before the scheduled January lineup announcement, Ariana Grande was quickly booked into the headliner slot as his replacement.
Whoever replaces Ye this year will not have much time to get ready. As of now, any new act has less than 13 days before they take the stage. Most likely, that means whoever replaces Ye will already be on tour or is preparing to go on tour — which is not Goldenvoice’s preference. Typically, most artists playing the festival must agree to not perform at competing festivals before Coachella or announce West Coast touring dates until after the festival ends. Goldenvoice will drop the requirement if it needs too, but that does not mean a competing promoter would waive its exclusivity rights to accommodate Goldenvoice.
A good example would be The Weeknd, who is launching a Live Nation-backed stadium tour in early July. It’s possible that The Weeknd’s contract includes a radius clause preventing him from playing Coachella. Live Nation could waive the requirement and make a one-time exception for one of its most successful artists – after all, many of the Weeknd’s West Coast shows are already sold out. Or Live Nation — the leading competitor of Goldenvoice’s parent company, AEG — could simply say no and prevent the Weeknd from playing Coachella or any other non-Live Nation festival.
That’s unlikely and could result in negative attention for Live Nation, which has a partnership with The Weeknd’s manager Wassim “Sal” Slaiby. And Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino has accommodated Coachella in the past, both for Grande in 2019 and for Swedish House Mafia this year.
Besides, headlining Coachella can help a tour sell more tickets because of the festival’s massive audience and global reach through its streaming partnership with YouTube. For most artists, a headlining slot is bucket list item and validation of how far they have come in their careers. While Tollett doesn’t have time to waste, he should have a fair number of good options to choose from and is expected to decide in the next couple days.