Coldplay’s Manager (and Chris Martin, too!) Answer Our Questions

A few weeks ago we were contacted by a member of Coldplay's digital team about editing the setlists for their current tour to reflect the band's vision - which breaks the 23-song show into four acts across three stages. The setlist community reverted these edits almost immediately, citing "consistency." While trying to come up with a solution (still working on it!) we saw the opportunity to ask what it's like to be a key player on Coldplay's team, and how they put together setlists for such a massive show. We were fortunate enough to be connected with "the fifth member of Coldplay," Phil Harvey, who is their manager, creative director and has basically been around since the inception of the band.

What's your position on Coldplay's team, and what do your days look like?

Phil Harvey: I’m Coldplay’s manager and creative director. When the band are on tour, I liaise between the band and our incredible crew to make sure that every concert is the best possible experience for everyone involved, especially the fans.

How many Coldplay concerts have you, personally, been to?

PH: According to, the band have played a total of 1338 concerts. At a guess, I’d say that I’ve been at about 900 of them.

What was your FIRST Coldplay show, and what do you remember about it?

PH: I was at their very first show on January 16th, 1998 - when they were called Starfish. I remember being amazed how many people were there - definitely more than 150 - and the fact that they played a song called "So Sad" twice, because they only had 6 songs at the time!

Coldplay's first show

What can you tell us about how the band build their setlists?

PH: The setlist process starts many months before the tour starts. Chris sets out his vision for the sweep of the show, and then - between the four of them - they pull it apart and put it back together again. Then they rehearse it over and over again until they feel they have the perfect flow. Once the show's template is established, they don’t deviate too much - although they always have several moments in the show where they can rotate songs or be completely spontaneous - especially on the B and C stages.

Can you tell us more about the creative vision behind the show being broken into "acts"?

PH: I knew you were going to ask this questions so I asked Chris to give me the proper answer.

Chris Martin: It’s split into 4 acts because it’s a journey traveling outwards into the unknown to then come home having learned something new. This is represented both visually and with what songs fit into what act. Act 3, for example, represents being inspired by meeting totally free aliens, into being /loving oneself and therefore being able to love others of all creeds and colours.

Act 2 is more of a struggle section; life /the universe is rough and gritty sometimes

Act 1 is knowing there’s a bigger magic out there /in there somewhere and choosing to go and look for it

Act 4 you return knowing/loving yourself a bit more, super inspired by others that do, and able to see all beings as Biutyful.

What has to happen for you to feel like, "that was a great show, we nailed it!”?

PH: Two things: I have to see that the audience are having a great time, and that the band are having a great time. Of course, those two things are highly inter-connected.

Coldplay shows have gone from seemingly simple to high production, immersive, inclusive and sustainable. Given all that you've accomplished, I feel strange asking this but... what element would you like to include in future tours?

PH: I hope we can keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in a stadium show, making people feel good, minimising our emissions and harnessing the mighty power of our fans.


The Music of Spheres tour, currently in Wales, is making headlines for their innovative sustainability initiatives. Record-breaking improvements, even. See the most recent setlist here.

Coldplay's world tour runs through November 22 - get dates and details via their official website here.

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Last updated: 22 Sep 2023, 08:48 Etc/UTC