Coachella: The Canary In The Increasingly Crowded Festival Coal Mine?

A statistic that I probably could have ballparked solely from my personal observations of this year’s Coachella Music & Arts Festival: Year-to-year ticket sales were down by 30,000, with 150,000 people attending the three-day sweatfest, according to promotion company Goldenvoice. The last-minute addition of Prince to Saturday’s bill reportedly helped swell that day’s attendance to 60,000, and Goldenvoice founder Paul Tollett claimed that Roger Waters’ litter-filled set was one of the festival’s “best ever,” so I’m guessing that the tumbleweeds rolling through the Empire Polo Field on Friday (headlined by Jack Johnson) were not, in fact, desert mirages. All this number-crunching brings up the whole question of sustainability in the festival market once again, since “oh, why don’t we just book Prince one more time” is not a viable long-term plan if only for reasons of crippling cost. (Just ask the people who book the Super Bowl!) [The Desert Sun]

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  • Artie Fufkin

    Maybe it wasn’t Prince but the fact that it was a Saturday, so no work conflicts. I’m guessing Saturday would be the most populated of any festival that sells day tickets.

  • BakerStreetSaxSolo

    I find this bizarre. In the UK all the big festivals sell out in hours… they are more expensive, with less big-name acts, are further away from major metropolitan areas, usually have shitty weather (and everyone camps)…

    why do Americans hate music festivals? (and why does nobody camp despite it being SO comfortable)?

  • Michaelangelo Matos

    @BakerStreetSaxSolo: because Americans like shopping malls way too much for their own good, maybe?

  • Dan Gibson

    @BakerStreetSaxSolo: Please don’t give festival bashers an opportunity to opine about how they hate to go outside, pay for water, etc.

  • moomintroll

    I kind of think that festivals with a big “hippy” granola vibe will always be O.K (Bonnaroo etc.)
    People go to those kinds of festivals for the “experience”, sometimes with no regard for the actual lineup. Festivals like Coachella (which has camping but a large percentage of people don’t camp…although Coachella camping is the fanciest camping ever) and Lollapalooza (no camping) might suffer. I personally go to festivals based solely on the lineup, I couldn’t care less about the “experience” if it means seeing Jack Johnson. I think British festivals are so well established that they pull both the “experience” people and the hardcore music fans, but even they are starting to suffer aren’t they?
    Oh and yeah…the ECONOMY, which is to blame for everything! I’m sticking close to home for my festivals this year, Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, etc. Not everyone lives in a city with festivals, and traveling costs are insane this year!

  • mackro

    @moomintroll: Well said.

    Bumbershoot in Seattle I’m avoiding again due to the asstastic lineup, and I’m going to the Sub Pop 20 and Decibel festivals here instead. (Had to pass up Sasquatch this month for time/money reasons, as much as I wanted to go.)

    ..BUT even with non-WOW-AMAZING-ZOMG lineups, I still really liked Bumbershoot because music was not the only thing going on.. there’s Flatstock, an exhibition of rock posters which is like a mini-convention within the festival, all the movies, comedians, book readings, and mainly the fact that, with a perfect enough crowd, Seattle Center is a WONDERFUL PLACE to spend a weekend, period.

    The crowds and band bookings and ticket prices have ousted me now, but I will happily defend any Bumbershoot show up until 2006.

    Anyway, yes, Coachella is an annual primarily uni-dimensional circus. Find a huge space to rent and put a shitload of bands everyone wants to see there except-never-mind-most-of-them-will-conflict-anyway-lol and charge big bucks. It isn’t sustainable, period. Kudos to those of you who have gone and tolerated the heat.

  • moomintroll

    @mackro: Thanks, yeah, I went to Coachella last year because it was the perfect storm of bands for my particular tastes (Damon Albarn AND Jarvis Cocker), but I feel like Coachella is largely dependent on lineup, unlike Bonnaroo…which is largely dependent on hippies. Pitchfork is always a favorite festival of mine because it also has Flatstock, and is very inexpensive. This year’s Pitchfork has an awesome lineup too…Jarvis again, Dizzee Rascal, and Spiritualized! To be honest the only thing that made me get a Lollapalooza ticket was Radiohead headlining, I spent that much to see them on their own (thanks to some creative scalpers and them playing at a very small venue) so I figured spending $200 to see them (and maybe fall in love/ learn to despise MGMT) was worth it.

  • catdirt

    first of all, palm springs desert sun, holla! best rss feed in the so cal region!

    second of all, i’ve been going to coachella since the second edition and i think alot of the decline this year was due to the economy- coachella is an expensive dealie.

    finally, i noticed that the vip area was way, way more crowded then it has been in past years. not sure what to make of that.