The Coachella 2020 lineup is out, and unlike several people on social media, we’re not excited. It’s not because we don’t like the artists (Lana Del Rey will be performing and we are crying), but because we don’t want to support a festival owned by a billionaire who funds anti-LGBTQ+ groups in the US.
As reported before, Phil Anschutz of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) supported the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a group that “litigates cases to oppose abortion, same-sex, marriage, and civil unions.” Although Anschutz denied these accusations and called it a smear campaign against Coachella, a tax filing confirms that The Anschutz Foundation made a contribution to the ADF. He has also donated $134,000 to the Republican party in 2018.
Now that we’ve refreshed your memory on just how shady Coachella and Anschutz are, let us ask: Don’t you find it ironic that the lineup includes popular LGBTQ+ artists like Frank Ocean?
Ocean, an openly gay man, will be headlining Coachella on April 12 and 19. Aside from Ocean, other LGBTQ+ performers include the likes of Kim Petras and Lil Nas X. The notable allies we’ve seen so far are Lana Del Rey, Charli XCX, and even the LGBTQ+ icon of this generation Carly Rae Jepsen. (CARLY, WHY?)
This isn’t the first time Coachella tried to get on the LGBTQ+ community’s good side. They got Lady Gaga (2017), Beyoncé (2018), and Ariana Grande (2019) to headline the festival—all of whom are known icons and allies. Yes, it’s still disappointing.
You may argue that Coachella simply got a diverse pool of talented performers and that they don’t mean any harm. Some might even assume that Anschutz isn’t involved with the festival anymore—nope, he’s still the owner as of November 2019.
But if Anschutz is so problematic, how come no one has dropped out of Coachella despite his political leaning? Out reported that AEG is an influential multi-billion corporation that owns major event venues (Staples Center, The O2, and Barclays Center) and other music festivals like Tyler the Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival. Anschutz has also donated $1 million to Elton John’s AIDS Foundation in 2018.
It’s obvious that there are several people who are willing to overlook Anschutz’ problematic actions thanks to his philanthropy. An unnamed music industry publicist told Out that while there are no known artists that have turned down a Coachella performance, it’s also not a smart move to denounce the festival when they’re already booked. “If I were working with an artist on the bill that wanted to make a statement about it, I would advise them to do the festival and then make the statement at the festival, and then donate the money they made from it to a charitable organization,” they said, noting the time Halsey donated her Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show salary to LGBTQ+ organization GLSEN.
What this tells us is that Anschutz is trying to show everyone he’s supportive of the LGBTQ+ community when he’s not and uses festivals like Coachella to show off some semblance of inclusivity. It is an opportunistic move to capture the hearts (and money) of people who want to enjoy the music and see their favorite artists. The sad reality is that the festival-goers’ money is probably going to right-wing organizations that aren’t only anti-gay, but also anti-abortion, pro-gun, and ones that deny climate change.
Again, it’s unlikely that artists are going to back out and we don’t know if any of them would donate their earnings to important causes afterwards. What we can do is to continue raising awareness so people know if Coachella is really worth supporting.
Photo courtesy of Frank Ocean’s Instagram account
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