- Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival has been held in Indio, California, for 20 years.
- The festival is now internationally known for its trendsetting in music, art, and fashion.
- Major musical acts, brands, and celebrities flock to the desert for this two-weekend event, making it one of the most widely covered events on social media.
- Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.
2019 marks the 20th anniversary of Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival.
The first-ever Coachella was held in October 1999 at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, California. Paul Tollett and Rick Van Santen of music promoter Goldenvoice founded the festival, hoping to attract the likes of 70,000 fans with a wide-ranging lineup of artists. The first Coachella lineup spanned multiple genres with standout performers like Beck, Rage Against The Machine, and Tool.
Though Coachella popularised the idea of music festivals by distinguishing itself from the disastrous Woodstock ’99 festival that happened just months prior, the first Coachella was almost the last. The 1999 Coachella was ultimately not profitable, with the festival only selling around 25,000 tickets in total. The festival was canceled in 2000, but returned again in 2001 and has been charting its upward course ever since.
Here are seven major ways Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival has changed over its 20-year run.
It now runs across two consecutive weekends, but it used to only be one day.
When the festival returned after its brief hiatus in 2001, it featured a one-day lineup. Held on Saturday, April 28, 2001, audiences came to see headliners like Janes Addiction, Weezer, The Roots, Paul Oakenfold, and Fatboy Slim. This 2004 show also popularised the notion of band reunions, with Jane’s Addiction appearing together amid a breakup.
In 2012, the festival expanded to two weekends for the first time. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg conjured a holographic version of the late Tupac Shakur, who NPR referred to as, “probably the single most talked about musician who performed at this year’s version of the festival.” Fans were blown away by the realistic hologram and launched Coachella into mainstream discussion.
Coachella was once a more affordable option for music-lovers.
A review of Coachella 1999 published in Rolling Stone revealed that the festival was an affordable choice for concertgoers. The entrance fee was $US50, which included parking and a complimentary bottle of water.
Those looking to attend the three-day festival this year can expect to pay $US429 for a General Admission pass. This admits one person to all three days of the festival, and grants access to on-site parking. If you want an upgraded experience, a VIP package costs $US999 and allows access to exclusive areas of the festival grounds.
The festival was originally held in October.
Though Coachella now marks the start of festival season, it wasn’t always held in April. The first Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was held on October 9 and 10 in 1999 and reportedly topped 100 degrees each day.
Since then, the festival has been held in spring so that audiences can enjoy more tolerable weather with a monthly average high of 87 degrees. Over the years it has been held in May (such as in 2004 and 2005), but typically falls in the middle two weeks of April.
Coachella 2019 reportedly sold out in under an hour, but that wasn’t always the case.
Following a slow start with low attendance numbers, Coachella sold out for the first time in 2004.The 2004 festival was held across two days in May and featured acts such as Radiohead, Pixies, The Cure, and the Flaming Lips. This iteration of the festival saw its highest numbers in its (then) five-year history, drawing a crowd of 120,000.
The first weekend of this year’s festival, featuring Childish Gambino, Ariana Grande, and Tame Impala as headliners, reportedly sold out in 40 minutes. Both weekends of the festival were completely sold out within six hours of tickets going on sale.
Technology changed how audiences experience the festival.
In one of the most well-known photos from Coachella’s 20-year history, you see Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips above the crowd in a transparent “space bubble.” This defining moment was captured on camera, but what’s missing from the shot is personal cameras. There are no cell phones in sight, just people enjoying the festival.Camera phones were not released until 2002, and smartphones didn’t become popular until at least 2007 following the release of the iPhone.
Now, attendees, artists, and celebrities alike join in on snapping photos and sharing content with followers. The festival, like many others, has incorporated interactive activations and installations for photo opportunities. This includes special art exhibits, food trucks, a Ferris wheel, and brand-sponsored tents. In 2018, the first weekend of the festival is reported to have a total Media Impact Value of over $US116 million, and over 460,000 posts on social media.
Coachella used to be a place for niche audiences to join together. Now it live streams to millions.
Alongside user-generated Coachella content is traditional social media content being created for the official festival channels. They announce the lineup on social media, answer fan questions, and share festival-related announcements with followers.
In the last eight years, Coachella has also provided a live stream of the first weekend of the festival to viewers on YouTube. Last year’s performance by Beyoncé shattered records and largely contributed to the Saturday stream becoming the highest-ever total for a music festival live stream. Her performance has garnered over 41 million views and is the most-watched live-streamed event of all time. The historic performance was also released as part of “Homecoming,” a film by Beyoncé, available on Netflix on April 17.
2019 is the first time Coachella will be streamed live on both weekends, giving fans two opportunities to tune in.
The festival is now a haven for brands and celebrities.
The first occurrence of the festival was barely publicized – in fact, not even many photos exist of it.
Now, since the festival is covered so extensively, many major brands have used Coachella as a launchpad for social campaigns. Coachella has become an annual gathering spot not only for the most in-demand artists, but also as a marketing opportunity for brands and celebrities. The festival has become saturated with highly exclusive sponsored experiences, including influencer pool parties,braid bars with celebrity stylists, pop-up concerts, and more.
The festival’s position as a destination for brands to get their products distributed to a mass audience through influencer marketing has given way for the rise of #Nochella– a trend where brands bring experiences off festival grounds and create “moments” for social media exposure.
For example, fashion brand Revolve invites Instagram “it-girls” to the festival and dress them in Revolve clothing. They also put them up in a hotel, create unique photo opps, and then use influencers’ content to reportedly generate billions of impressions in a single year at the festival. On the subject, Revolve co-founder Michael Mente likened Coachella to Fashion Week saying, “Coachella, and more broadly festivals, have become the new fashion week for millennials. It’s authentic, experiential; an environment where everyone is expected to have fun and push the envelope with their fashion choices.”