My nine-year-old daughter loves music almost as much as I do. Despite a tremendous difference in what we choose to listen to, we can agree on one thing; we both want to go to Coachella.
The multi-day music festival, which concluded this week in Indio, California, welcomed more than 250,000 visitors from around the world and generated a local economic impact of more than $700 million.
So how did a music gathering that barely met half of its attendance goal in its inaugural year (1999) become the world’s most popular music festival? More importantly, what would make a 39-year-old man and nine year old girl want to attend the same festival?
There are a number of different answers depending on with whom you talk.
If you ask me, it’s about the music. It’s the opportunity to see acts such as Courtney Barnett, Haelos and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. While for my daughter, it’s the chance for her to be a fashionista and see acts such as Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding. But it’s also – and maybe more importantly – an opportunity for her to see her favorite celebrities.
Music experts are quick to point out that the festival’s success has to do with the types of artists that were booked in its early years. In year one, festival planners chose to book non-traditional radio friendly musicians such as The Chemical Brothers, Morrissey and Massive Attack, earning Coachella with the nickname the “anti-Woodstock”. That type of booking appealed greatly to music snobs and earned the festival the reputation of the “it” place to be for real music fans.
While the festival has become less alternative in nature – and more of a venue to check out emerging Electronic Dance Music (EDM) artists – one thing has remained the same, you won’t recognize a lot of artists from the radio.
Sirius Radio’s Howard Stern will tell you Coachella has become all the rage due to the celebrities it attracts, such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Taylor Swift, Orlando Bloom and others that swarm the festival’s Polo grounds under the warm California sun. During a recent show, he went on a tirade about the phoniness of these celebrities, only to admit the next day that he was just jealous that he wasn’t invited.
Despite differences as to why one attends, it seems as though almost everyone can agree on one thing: the festival makes you feel like you’re part of a larger community. Who doesn’t enjoy that feeling?
Many other festivals have tried to replicate Coachella’s footprint, including Bonnaroo, the Hangout Festival and others. While these new-school alternatives might attract more people, make more money and have better artists, not one festival can attract as diverse an audience and the popularity that Coachella has received.
It just might be time for me to book a music outing with my daughter.
Mike Rieman is a vice president at Cookerly PR.