Coachella's Red Hot Chili Peppers Booking Came 'Down to the Wire'

Band's manager suggests that a Rolling Stones headlining slot wouldn't have fit the festival's business model

Red Hot Chili Peppers
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Anthony Kiedis of The Red Hot Chili Peppers
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The Red Hot Chili Peppers signed on to headline Coachella about an hour before the annual Indio, California, festival announced its lineup last night, one of the band's managers tells Rolling Stone. "We've been in talks for months," says Cliff Burnstein, whose firm, Q Prime, also manages Metallica, the Black Keys and other top rock acts. "It goes down to the wire. It's a negotiation."

The Peppers, who have played Coachella twice before, abruptly emerged as the Sunday-night headliner for both the April 12th and 14th weekends after weeks of rumors that the Rolling Stones would play the festival. But Mick Jagger earlier this week told NME: "We're not gonna do Coachella, 'cos it's too early. There was a rumor we were gonna do that one, but it's very early, Coachella. It's April or something, isn't it? And we're not gonna be ready to go by April. But we're not gonna stop."

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Burnstein suggested the Stones' gross revenues for recent shows didn't square with Coachella's philosophy of "financial discipline" and "pricing integrity." (Last year's Coachella cost $285 for a three-day pass for dozens of bands, while, according to Pollstar, tickets for the Stones' four arena shows in North America last fall averaged $520.) "I heard the rumor, too," Burnstein says. "I discounted it, because I didn't think [promoter] Goldenvoice would pay the Stones' price. I mean, it's as simple as that."

Although the Peppers played the Coachella mainstage in 2003 and 2007, Burnstein says their current lineup, including two-year guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, gives renewed energy – the band's L.A. alt-rock radio play and Spotify numbers among young listeners are high for a veteran band. "We'll be right in the target demo for Coachella. It's surprising, but it's true," says Burnstein, who adds that the band plans to start writing a new album this year. "We figured out if they have 180,000 people over the two weekends, there's a good chance that 10 percent or less would've actually seen the Chili Peppers at a previous Coachella. It seemed like it would actually be, in many ways, a very fresh thing."