Back in April 2018, Nicholas Harris and Haytham Abdulhadi of Soul’d Out Productions–the group behind Portland, Oregon’s Soul’d Out Music Festival–filed a lawsuit against Goldenvoice pertaining to its Coachella Music & Arts Festival property through a U.S. District Court in Oregon. The suit claimed the springtime pop music festival operates with a monopolistic-like radius clause that prevents artists from playing shows in west coast markets like Oregon for up to five months before or after Coachella.
Specifically, the suit argues that because Soul’d Out Music Festival takes place more than 1,000 miles away from Coachella in Indio, CA, artists should have the contractual freedom to play both events. Harris and Abdulhadi had attempted to book SZA and Tank and the Bangas for their own event, but both artists were eventually unable to play Soul’d Out Music Festival due to complications stemming from Coachella’s performer radius clause.
The suit was dismissed in 2019 by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman due to lack of standing since Soul’d Out was not specifically included within the Goldenvoice performance contract that artists sign when they agree to perform at Coachella. Soul’d Out Productions then took their suit to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where a three-judge panel decided to reverse the case’s initial dismissal.
Then, on Wednesday (August 19th), Mosman ruled Soul’d Out Productions’ lawsuit can proceed, and the case will now likely end up as a trial in court with the AEG-owned company on the defense of its most profitable property.
The decision from the appeals court reads, “Soul’d Out is seeking to vindicate its own rights – namely its alleged right to enter into contracts with artists free from AEG’s wrongful interference. No plaintiff is better suited to assert the tort claims alleged here, and there is therefore no prudential reason to deny Soul’d Out standing.”
The next step in this unique concert industry case against arguably the largest popular music festival in North America will see Soul’d Out’s lawers likely subpoenaing Coachella’s artist contacts to be analyzed by the court.
“We are pleased that the court has agreed that Soul’d Out’s complaint was sufficient and that the case can go forward,” Nika Aldrich, a lawyer representing Harris and Abdulhadi, said in a statement following Wednesday’s decision. “We expect that, after complete discovery, a jury will find that Coachella’s radius clause is unreasonable, and that AEG’s use and abuse of that clause to hurt local music festivals was unlawful.”
The lawsuit makes for the latest round of unfavorable news for Coachella organizers at Goldenvoice and AEG. The 2020 edition of Coachella (along with its country music sister festival Stagecoach) was officially scrapped and pushed back to April 2021 following an attempted October 2020 reschedule due to COVID-19, resulting in an expected loss of tens of millions in revenue for this year. Back in June, it was reported that AEG enacted large-scale employee cuts, including hundreds of layoffs and furloughs, leading to more uncertainty about the future of the industry-dominating corporation.