It was the heart-wrenching question every Coachella ticket-holder and BeyHive member was asking this month: How the hell is Beyoncé going to play Coachella when she’s, like, eight months pregnant … with twins?
Indeed, the news broke, and at the doctor’s orders, Beyoncé was forced to cancel her headlining Coachella performance. While her due date is not known, it has been speculated that by Coachella, she will be about 30 weeks pregnant with twins. While her mindblowing Grammy performance pacified us with some hope that a mid-maternity concert was possible, we now feel like naïve fools for thinking Mrs. Carter would risk her water breaking onstage. But that’s where one can’t help but wonder—didn’t Coachella know she was pregnant before the official Coachella lineup was announced? Would they really be so unethical to know their headliner was going to cancel, and fake the fans out to sell tickets anyway?
Let’s quickly review the timeline here: Coachella announced the 2017 lineup on January 3, which featured Beyoncé. Beyoncé announced that she was pregnant with twins on February 1, with a photo of herself looking visibly far along. Just look at how much she was showing in that photo (see below). Assuming the photo was taken that same week, would anyone in their right mind believe that she wasn’t aware that she was pregnant a month prior?
Furthermore, we can be certain that Knowles and her management knew she was pregnant. The only question now would be whether they let the Coachella organizers know before the poster was released. It’s highly likely, because on this massive scale of business, we can assume Bey’s management team would be somewhat professional here. You don’t just book a (probably multi-million dollar) headlining festival performance and then let the festival organizers find out that you’re in your second trimester via TMZ a month later.
Now, music nerds have known for months now that Beyoncé was slated to headline Coachella 2017. It’s more than probable that she was booked before Jay-Z even poured the Bisquick with the intention of making pancakes.
That being said, there are a number of ways this could have transpired. The first possibility is the (highly unlikely) scenario that Beyoncé is the unethical, unprofessional one here, and she booked her performance without notifying Coachella at all of her pregnancy. The second possibility is that she booked her headlining slot, and then later got pregnant, at which point she notified Coachella that she would have to cancel, but Coachella decided it would be better to just pretend they didn’t know. In other words, Coachella was confronted with a dilemma: Find a replacement headliner as big as Beyoncé last minute, or just keep her on the bill knowing that she would cancel. In this case, they probably just said “fuck it,” and put her on the bill anyway, and watched the money pour in.
For those that point out that Coachella would sell out regardless of Beyoncé: this doesn’t change the fact that they still duped a mass of Bey fans. These were people that may have never had any interest in attending Coachella, a music festival once known for booking indie and more obscure acts (not mainstream pop acts). It’s undoubtedly a smart move from a marketing and business standpoint—book the biggest pop act in the world (well, maybe next to Adele … too soon?), and gain a whole new Coachella fanbase layer that will drop loads of cash just to be in the presence of a pop star… $$$CHA-CHING$$$! For example, people will shell out anywhere from $182 – $1400 a day just to gain entry to the iHeartRadio Music Festival, where fans get to see the biggest names in the world (Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift) perform for a measly 15-20 minutes (and that’s with about 10 performances a day). Coachella, on the other hand, charges $400 for a three-day weekend (that’s roughly $133 per day) jam packed with acts that play 30+ minute sets. All things considered, it’s obvious why Coachella would keep the Beyoncé brand name on the poster, even knowing that she’s inevitably going to cancel.
How could they get away with this? Well, you’re the one that bought the passes even though the festival warned you that the lineup was subject to change. Traditionally, festivals give about 10 percent of a festival payment in advance, so for all we know, they might have allowed Beyoncé to keep her advance money even after cancelling, as long as she allowed them to use her name for ticket sales. Is Coachella completely within their rights to yank out a headliner from under fans? There is something about a group of festival organizers promising the people Beyoncé, knowing that in the end they will never really get Beyoncé, that feels exceptionally evil.
For most attendees, Coachella is the most expensive weekend of their year, so it’s more than safe to assume that Beyoncé leaving the lineup is a downright deal-breaker for thousands. Do you have any idea what some people are willing to do for a chance to witness her majesty in the flesh? No one paid hundreds of dollars to car-camp and stand for hours in the 110-degree hipster desert mob just for DJ Snake and Two-Door Cinema Club. Thanks so much for confirming that she will headline in 2018, Goldenvoice, but what about the people who bought tickets to see Beyoncé in fucking 2017?
So finally, as of February 28, Coachella has announced that that Lady Gaga will replace the irreplaceable. This is an artist with innumerable hits, and her Superbowl halftime performance certainly stirred plenty of fanfare, but let’s be honest and ask ourselves—is this really a worthy consolation prize? Will Lady Gaga really bring the inferno of excitement that Beyoncé was capable of in the wake of Lemonade? One thing we know for sure is that Gaga’s latest album, Joanne, was far below the bar that Bey set in 2016. She was Beyoncé’s greatest threat during The Fame era, but when assessing whether Coachella’s ol’ switcheroo was acceptable, it’s necessary to acknowledge the slow decline Gaga has been on ever since Artpop.
If Coachella were a truly ethical festival, they would offer every 2017 pass holder the opportunity to exchange their ticket for a 2018 pass instead. This would be the only fair offer to those who bought tickets strictly for Beyoncé (besides a refund, which we know they would never even dream of allowing). Obviously, things happen. If Thom Yorke completely lost his voice, or Kendrick came down with the measles a week before the festival, no one would have reason to be upset at Coachella. But a pregnancy is a nine-month process—one that a celebrity as colossal as Beyoncé probably plans out pretty thoroughly around her career. Are we going to just accept the vast likelihood that we’ve been given the runaround? Are we even going to ask Coachella to explain themselves here?
Words: Jamie Lawlor