In 1999, the inaugural Coachella, an outdoor desert event in Indio, California, was introduced by Paul Tollett and his company, Goldenvoice. It was attended by 20,000 people on the first two days and earned almost a million dollars. Coachella tickets were sold out for the first time in 2004, and it became one of the most anticipated music events in the world. But how did it happen?
Music festivals have become more than just an “event for music”. Just like any type of product marketing, there are a lot of components involved for them to achieve cult status and be where they are today. This is especially true for massive events like Coachella, which has become such incredibly profitable one for music fans and celebrities alike. In this feature, we break down some of the reasons on how it became one of the most talked-about events in the world.
Coachella has been associated with celebrity sightings in recent years, so much so that street style photographers, media and paparazzi want to get in on the action for exclusives. The who’s who in Hollywood are invited to party and be seen at the festival, with hopeful fans and concert-goers hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars in the flesh. Just this year alone, Coachella saw non-performers like Nina Dobrev, Charlie Sheen, Noah Cyrus, Kate Bosworth, Hailey Bieber, Paris Hilton, Emily Ratajkowski, Billie Lourd, Winnie Harlow, Cindy Crawford, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Kylie Jenner and more... the list never ends.
Many celebrities are LA residents, so getting on the guest list and spending the weekend at Coachella becomes very easy for them. There are also big parties being held at hotels and private properties nearby, with guest DJs and performances by your favourite stars whom you see flooding your Instagram feed during Coachella weekends.
During the rise of street style fashion and photography in the early 2000s (think flower crowns, boho chic and army jackets), Coachella easily became the perfect place to be seen wearing the trendiest outfits to impress. Social media was on the rise and it went hand in hand with fashion to benefit the liveliness of this music festival. Brands were piling influencers and festival-goers with their latest pieces just to be seen, which in turn also made the #Coachella hashtag take on a new function, serving as a makeshift clothing catalogue for the festival.
Over the years, fashion companies like H&M and Revolve are known to host many exclusive pool parties that you might have seen on Instagram, attended by the most elite personalities in Hollywood. It was also H&M that managed to be the first high-street fashion brand to actually open its own boutique on Coachella grounds, featuring its latest festival collection.
Pairing fashion with music has eventually made its way to other festivals around the world, as people start wearing more eye-catching ensembles with hopes of being photographed for a chance to be the next influencer. That, in itself, is almost as important as catching their favourite music acts in action.
Coachella is famous for providing surprises, from Justin Bieber making his comeback appearance during Ariana Grande’s performance, to 2Pac’s hologram resurrection during Dr Dre’s set: the possibilities are endless. We have seen the music festival bring together reunions like Destiny’s Child, LCD Soundsystem, N.W.A., OutKast, At the Drive In, Pulp, Death From Above 1979, The Stone Roses and Guns ‘N Roses.
Besides the reunions, there are also the many guest appearances at each year’s festivities at Indio. This year alone, we witnessed Selena Gomez, Cardi B and Ozuna hop on DJ Snake’s set for their catchy collaboration, “Taki Taki”. Will Smith jumped on stage for “Icon” during his son Jaden Smith’s set, and of course not forgetting everyone’s favourite R&B star Khalid, who brought out Billie Eilish, Halsey, Benny Blanco, Normani and Marshmello during his performance.
Glorious Food Galore
You can’t have a festival without food. At Coachella, you’ll find over 40 of Los Angeles’ finest restaurants and food trucks. They have everything from meat, vegan and dessert options, ranging from oily, heart-attack inducing festival must-haves like fast food, ramen, tacos and ice-cream; to healthy options for the body-conscious, namely cleansing juices, poke bowls, antioxidant-rich acai bowls and more.
The food is just as great as the performances and celebrities roaming the Indio grounds. One of the biggest upgrades from previous years is the Postmates service, where people are able to pre-order their food from selected restaurants to be picked up without having to wait in line. There was also the exclusive pop-up restaurant from celebrity chefs Curtis and Luke Stone, and fancy four-course dinners at the Outstanding in the Field that required reservations.
The Exciting Vibe
The carefree energy from all the attendees at Coachella will make you feel at ease despite the overwhelming number of people. On top of the great weather, it is a very positive place to be with friendly festival goers, staff members and even the security. April is when it starts to warm up in North America, which makes it perfect to spend a weekend away in the desert with friends, dressed in your best outfits to dance and sing along to your favourite acts.
The layout of the festival is also well-thought out, as the two large stages are located on opposite sides, increasing your chances for interaction as you make your way around to watch your favourite acts in action with ease. Stroll through the grass and snap away at amazing art installations to share on Instagram. You will never be bored when you’re on the Coachella grounds.
Live Streaming on YouTube
For many of us who are unable to attend Coachella, it’s still possible to live vicariously through YouTube’s live streaming, which allows us to catch our favourites in action at the same time as the people on the ground. This makes Coachella’s appeal even stronger as conversations are being shared on social media (whether good or bad).
Indeed, one of Coachella’s biggest success secrets is to keep people talking, whether you are there at the festival or in the comfort of your home. It encapsulates the experience from as many angles as possible, monetizing coverage so smartly with the internet’s boundless reach in mind.
Cover Image: Timothy Norris / Getty Images for Coachella
Writer l JEM
I like Pina Colada and getting caught in the rain. Not into yoga. Wait, how does that song go again?