When it began in 1999, Coachella was far from the music festival juggernaut it had become by last decade.
The festival gained a reputation early on for curating exciting and diverse lineups that made it a critical darling and a favorite within the music industry. But unfortunately that cachet didn't translate to immediate profitability.
The first Coachella festival, October 9 - 10, 1999, featured Rage Against the Machine, Tool and Beck as its headliners. Yet the promoters, Goldenvoice, lost nearly $1 million after ticket sales fell far short of expectations.
Goldenvoice were longtime friends of Rage Against the Machine — having booked Morello's previous back Lock Up in the late-'80s — and Morello says the band agreed to grant the partial refund so Coachella could stay afloat and try again the following year.
"They had booked every back-alley show from day one," the guitarist explained. "They were the punk-rock promoters. They were just like bros."
But that doesn't mean Morello and Co. couldn't have asked for something a little more substantial in return.
"We should have asked for a piece of the festival," he added. "That's what we should have done. I'm not much of a businessman."
Coachella brings in about $100 million in profit every year. After the pandemic postponement, the festival is set to resume in 2022 with Rage Against the Machine once again as headliners.