You know that magical time of year when musicians start announcing they’ll be at Coachella? When celebrities and influencers start wearing a lot of fringe, crochet, and flower crowns like they’re gearing up for Woodstock? And your heart cries a little because it seems like everyone’s going to Coachella except you. Coachella basically qualifies as its own fashion season now. It wasn’t always this way. So, who started Coachella, and how did it even begin?
These are important questions to ask if we want to understand the real cultural effects Coachella has on society. Let’s take a look at how Coachella got started and what the founders’ visions were for the festival. Then, we want to talk about where it’s at now and where it might be going.
How did Coachella begin
Everything has to start somewhere, and like many current cultural forces, Coachella has humble beginnings.
Coachella began in 1999 as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. It was started by partners Paul Tollett and Rick Van Santen, two promoters who headed Goldenvoice, the company that produces Coachella. It was modeled on European festivals and billed as a focus on art – not radio popularity.
The promoters Tollett and Van Santen are the ones who started Coachella. They put on their festival only a few months after the total and unmitigated disaster that was the 1999 Woodstock festival.
Since Van Santen had passion to spare for punk and alternative, it makes sense that their original lineup included bands like Rage Against the Machine, Beck, and Morrissey. Goldenvoice wanted to start Coachella as a way to showcase talent, not fame.
When Van Santen and Tollett started Coachella, they wanted it to be a quality show that featured groundbreaking and interesting artists and showed a wide range of genres. When the dust settled, they were successful but far from profitable, selling only a third of the tickets they needed to sell. Luckily, things are different now, and today Coachella is one of the biggest names in music festivals.
When was the first Coachella
Coachella is a household name now, but it hasn’t been running for very long in relation to other well-known festivals.
The first Coachella happened over a single weekend on October 9th and 10th of 1999 at the Empire Polo Club in California. It received relatively little attention, which is why it was actually canceled in 2000 before being brought back in 2001. Since then, it’s only gained popularity thanks to celebrity attendees.
The first Coachella was in 1999. Coachella is 23 years old as of the writing of this article, which means it’s old enough to drink and vote. But, it’s because of how prolific and popular it has become that you feel like it’s been around forever.
We want to talk about Coachella’s break from its roots later, but for now, let’s finish up the facts.
Why is it called Coachella
Even Coachella’s name sounds boho and exclusive. And there is a bit of debate and controversy over the meaning of the name itself. But it’s pretty clear why the Coachella festival is called Coachella.
So, where does it come from? Today, we tend to think marketing teams come up with everything. Well, not Coachella!
Coachella is named for where it takes place, the Coachella Valley in Indio, California. The venue that hosts Coachella is the Empire Polo Club. The full name is the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival because Coachella isn’t just for music. They’re also famous for Robert Bose’s Balloon Chain and so much more.
How many people attend Coachella
Because Coachella is so many things at once (concert, art exhibit, festival experience, and more), it has a huge draw. So, just how many people attend Coachella every year?
In 2017, 250,000 tickets were sold for Coachella. Goldenvoice set a record for themselves, pulling in around $115 million in sales according to Billboard. Generally, the attendance number has been between 150,000 and 200,000. In 2020 and 2021, the festival was canceled due to Covid-19.
Numbers aren’t formally published for 2020, and 2022 hasn’t wrapped up yet, but considering tickets were sold out again, we can assume the same numbers. The number of people attending Coachella 2022 is likely around 200,000, but that’s to say nothing of digital experiences.
In 2022, Coachella is rolling out a new feature called the Coachellaverse, which gives ticket holders access to online content. There’s also a Fortnite integration with costumes that look like fashion you’d see at the festival and a few more perks listed on their website.
Right now, most features seem available only to ticket holders. But, will we see these perks for sale in the future for non-attendees? If so, it could blur the line when it comes to their numbers just like streaming has blurred the line for movie releases at the box office.
Coachella 1999 lineup
Let’s take it back to the original Coachella 1999 lineup. Who was there?
The lineup for Coachella’s 1999 weekend included some familiar names. Beck was the headliner, and some other artists include Morrissey, The Chemical Brothers, Tool, Moby, and Modest Mouse. There are a lot of DJs and alternative artists, owing to their punk and alternative leanings. Today, there’s much more pop.
1999 Coachella Setlist
- The Chemical Brothers
- Perry Farrel
- Art of Noise
- Rage Against the Machine
- Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals
- Gus Gus
- And more!
Coachella’s website has published all past setlists on their website. There’s been everything from chamber pop to hardcore punk, and everything in between. Check them out, and let us know in the comments which one you’d go to if you had a time machine. For us, it’s got to be 2008 for Prince alone.
Coachella 2022 lineup
This year, incredible acts are coming to Coachella. The well was dry in 2019 and 2020, but now the artists are back in full force. Let’s talk about who is going to Coachella this year.
Coachella’s 2022 lineup includes Harry Styles as the headliner. Billie Eilish, Carly Rae Jepsen, and rappers like Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion will be there as well. Some artists who trend less pop include legendary composer Danny Elfman, Mongolian metal band The Hu, Nathy Peluso, and Swedish post-punk band Viagra Boys.
Long story short, there’s a lot to love about this year’s Coachella lineup.
Is there anyone you thought should have been included? Build your dream lineup in the comments, and tell us who you’d love to see at a festival – the more obscure, the better!
Fun facts about Coachella
Here are some fun facts we have to share about Coachella. Sound off in the comments! Did you already know any of these?
- Coachella 2012 was when Holographic Tupac made his appearance
- The cost of a ticket has gone up almost 1000% in 20 years, from $50 to almost $500 this year
- Coachella’s success spun off several other Goldenvoice festivals. Stagecoach Country Music Festival even takes place in the Coachella Valley
Who started Coachella: Final thoughts
One of the most iconic music festivals in the United States certainly came from humble beginnings in 1999. But, now it’s a who’s-who of cultural tastemakers attended by everyone from celebrities to influencers to plain old fans.
The price of going to Coachella has gone up over the years, making it pretty cost-prohibitive for the average person to have a shot at attending. Still, with such massive acts and such a large influence, Goldenvoice would be hard-pressed to find a better way of keeping attendance from getting wildly out of control.
Could there be a solution waiting in the wings? They seem to be ready to test the waters of virtual attendance with the digital experiences being added to this year’s ticket holder perks. Will virtual reality open the doors for more people to experience Coachella? Give us your take in the comments.