- The Coachella Music & Arts Festival takes place over two weekends in April at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California.
- I decided to go to Coachella for the first time this year.
- One of the best parts of the festival, for me, was how well the organisers chose set times for artists: The musical styles at each stage alternated, which encouraged festivalgoers to not stay in one place the entire time.
- That made it easier to get a great position for the artists I really cared about seeing.
- Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories or check out more of our coverage on this year’s edition of Coachella.
Picking the set times for a festival has to be one of the most stressful jobs at Goldenvoice, the company behind the Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Indio, California. It’s akin to making the world’s longest playlist and large-scale social engineering at the same time.
Festivalgoers are there to see a dozen of their favourite artists or more, which means questions like which artists’ fan-bases are likely to overlap, which artists are ready for a main-stage spot and which would be better off in a more intimate venue, and which artists can bring up the energy at the end of the festival all need to be considered. And that’s not to mention how you can make sure that the 100,000 people attending the festival don’t all end up at the same stage.
I’m picturing the Goldenvoice team looking a little like this at the end of it:
After attending Coachella for the first time this past weekend, I came away with the impression that Goldenvoice has schedule-building down to a science.
Generally speaking, Goldenvoice seems to alternate different musical styles at each stage. This, I found, both encouraged casual fans to move around the festival to see different artists, while rewarding die-hard fans who wanted to get a great position to see their favourite artist.
On Friday, the end-of-day lineup for the main stage was, in this order: Kacey Musgraves, Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals, The 1975, Janelle Monae, and Childish Gambino.
As a major fan of Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals, I got to the front of the main stage during Kacey Musgraves’ set and found a great spot against the fence of the first section (the field is divided into multiple sections for the first few hundred feet).
It was perfect for seeing Anderson .Paak and it would have been for seeing the rest of the night’s lineup, but I had to make a choice. After Anderson .Paak was the 1975, an English pop rock band that’s not exactly my cup of tea. Did I care enough about having an amazing spot for Janelle Monae and Childish Gambino to stick around? In my case, I did – but most, I suspect, didn’t make that choice. As I watched the crowd around me, it almost completely turned over from set to set.
I, like the few dozen diehards who stuck with me, was rewarded for the patience. I ended up getting a view of Childish Gambino that would have cost me hundreds of dollars alone if I went to his solo tour.
Some of that turnover happens naturally at a festival. There are a lot of artists playing, and people like sampling the music. But the amount of movement I saw at each stage each day indicated to me that Goldenvoice had made some smart choices to move the crowd around.
At other times, the schedule design showed up in subtle ways. Sunday, for example, featured laid-back acts like boy pablo, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Dermot Kennedy, before cranking up the energy with the electro-house of Zedd. I watched a crowd of lethargic people instantly put their fists in the air as Zedd started blasting over the speakers. It brought the whole crowd back up for Khalid and Ariana Grande on Sunday night.
To give an example of how this could go the other way, when I attended Governors Ball in 2017, the festival scheduled Childish Gambino for a Saturday headlining set at the same time as indie pop titans Phoenix. While Childish Gambino sits somewhere at the nexus of hip-hop, funk, and indie, his fans in New York tends toward the same hipsters that adore Phoenix. My partner was so torn between the two that she ran out of Childish Gambino’s set two-thirds of the way through to try to catch the last third of Phoenix’s performance. By the time she made it to Phoenix, the band was finishing its last song.
I’m sure this article will elicit responses in the vein of, “But actually, the scheduling was terrible because two of my favourite artists were playing at the same time.” If you ask me, that’s inevitable with any festival. With 100,000 attendees, there will be overlap.
But, on the whole, and I noticed this at Goldenvoice’s now-defunct New York City-based Panorama Festival, the team seems to thoughtfully pick where to put each artist. It made a big difference in my experience at the festival.
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