Insights | May 7, 2024

The Coachella Coaster

The desert dust has officially settled at the polo grounds in Indio. All the selfies have been posted on social media and the tastemakers have claimed who’s the “next big thing.” And with notable celebrity sightings, high-caliber guest performances (oh, hey there, Billie and Olivia!) Coachella has hit an interesting spot in its 23 years of existence. As Spin asked, “constant expansion and ceaseless one-upping energy, it does beg the question: can Coachella go anywhere from here?” Coachella’s producers, Goldenvoice will spend the following months leading into next year’s iteration on how to appease their festival-going audience when there’s an air of “seen it all.” So, like any annual event with a loyal fan base, Coachella has to ask themselves, are we at the top of the roller coaster?

Embrace The Ride

To keep with the roller coaster analogy, the drop has to happen. Hell, that’s the whole point of the ride. The drop is exciting because not only is it a thrill but the eventual returning incline is equally enjoyable. 

Events can follow this as well. A safely and strategically guided, tempered version of the event will gain credibility and earn the loyalty of the event’s biggest advocates as they get to experience a more intimate weekend full of brag-worthy, “saw them up close” type of reviews and memories. As our overarching entertainment consumption becomes more and more segmented there are less and less stadium-filling artists. While there will always be generationally influencing pop-stars that can bring that quantity of fans together in one place, why not embrace the other side of that paradigm shift and get very close with your audience, like, “offer them a mint” kind of close? That way, when that generational artist becomes available for your event, it pops bigger than if you kept trying to make “fetch” a thing. 

During Coachella, G7 provided fans up-close moments with artists at the White Claw Shore Club. Festivalgoers who visited the brand’s activation were treated to a surprise performance by S.G. Lewis, plus meet and greets with Kenya Grace and Bebe Rexha.

A fan meets Bebe Rexha at the White Claw Shore Club as they pose for a picture together during weekend one of Coachella.

Point to the real problem

The theory of first principles can be applied to an event trying to connect with its audience. First principles is breaking down a problem to its absolute core, its first, unbreakable truth. When an event producer asks themselves, “How do we make this event better?” The cheap answers are big name artists, flashier activations or enviable social media posts. But the true question is, “In one word, why’s your audience coming to your event?” The honest answer probably isn’t cheap. For Coachella, is it music or is it community? Is it exclusivity or is it experience? We’d surmise that the answer to both those questions is the latter. So you build from there. How do you make a community out of 80,000 people of diverse backgrounds? How do you give that same community memorable moments? After all, the answer to the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Fans enjoy colorful visuals and nonstop music near Coachella’s DoLaB stage.

Embrace the first timers

Annual events will always have the jaded, “last year was better” attendees, the Oscar the Grouches, if you will. But as anyone can tell you, he’s not the only muppet on the street. Instead of attempting to appease the crusty veteran, why not recognize the rookie? Disney World, for example, makes a first-timer’s trip a celebration. A commemorative pin worn proudly around the park gives that attendee special recognition by park staff and fellow attendees. It is literally and figuratively a badge of honor for any Disney fanatic. While I’m not sure an Instagram influencer will wear a Coachella pin (even if it was designed by Prada or Gucci), embracing a first experience will create residual effects. The event will have another repeatable fan and be one who’s interested in sharing their experience, singing the event’s praises. 

Shaking up an event doesn’t need to be an uber-like disruption. With enough care, consideration, and thought for the long-term life of the event, Producers can create years and years of an event that is deserving of an audience putting their hands up, screaming, and enjoying the ride.