Rage Against The Machine returned half of its pay to Goldenvoice following the first Coachella in 1999, according to guitarist Tom Morello. This wasn’t part of the band’s iconic anti-capitalist ideology, however, but rather was more of a solid for a friend going through tough times.
Morello stated in a new interview with the Tuna on Toast podcast that the first incarnation of the now-prolific festival lost so much money that the production company, Goldenvoice, asked artists to take a 50% reduction on their performance fees.
“Coachella was so unsuccessful they asked for half the money back,” Morello said on the podcast.
Before it was the gold standard for social media influencers, Coachella was still steeply rooted in the underground. Goldenvoice had existed in the California underground scene dating back to the 1980s, booking punk shows throughout Los Angeles and beyond. In fact, it was because of that longstanding relationship that RATM agreed to give back half its pay. Goldenvoice had even booked shows for Morello’s pre-Rage band Lock Up.
“Because they were friends,” the guitarist said. “It was Goldenvoice! They had booked Lock Up shows. They had booked every back-alley show from day one. They were the punk-rock promoters. They were just like bros.”
Given the first Coachella lineup of Rage Against The Machine, Tool, and Beck, it’s hard to believe the festival lost money. According to reports, however, the first outing of the Indio, CA event lost close to $850,000 after only 37,000 people showed up for the two-day event, October 9th and 10th, 1999. The festival took the next year off, returning in April 2001, when it managed to turn a profit. Fast forward 22 years and Goldenvoice has the festival down to a science as it brings in 200,000-plus people and upwards of $10,000,000 annually.
“We should have asked for a piece of the festival,” Morello joked. “That’s what we should have done. I’m not much of a businessman.”
Rage Against The Machine is expected once again scheduled to perform at the festival that they somewhat helped finance, though the official lineup has not yet been announced. After taking off 2020 and 2021 due to COVID, Coachella is set to return to the Empire Polo Club in Indio, CA April 15th—17th and 22nd—24th, 2022. Visit the festival’s website to stay up to date on any announcements and join the waitlist for tickets.
Listen to the full Tom Morello interview via the player below. You can also check out full-show footage of the band’s set at the Coachella 1999 and decide whether they were worth the money.
Tuna on Toast with Tom Morello
Rage Against The Machine — Coachella 1999 — Indio, CA
[H/T Ultimate Classic Rock]