As the Coachella festival enters its final weekend, the buzz is less about the music and more about whether it has lost its mojo. Critics claim that despite the undeniable commercial success of the 16-year old music event (ticket sales alone account for over USD 50 million) it has become more about celebrities, fashion and brands. And it’s easy to understand why, given the evidence from last week…
Firstly, we had the likes of AC/DC and Steely Dan headlining. That’s all good as far as I am concerned but I’m a Boomer. Question is, do Millennials even know who these bands are? Or care? And then we have the middle-aged Madonna sticking her tongue down the throat of Drake which (given the video footage) clearly made him gag (and it seems most of the audience too).
Then we had the usual slew of so-called ‘celebrities’ invading the festival desperate to look ‘bohemian’ and ‘edgy’ but basically just coming across as desperate. Cue the extended Kardashian clan (although in fairness they turn up to the opening of a letter), Bradley Cooper with this week’s model squeeze in tow (naturally) and most bizarrely Clint Eastwood. Who is 84. Although I’m pretty sure he didn’t show up to look either bohemian or edgy.
A significant volume of journalistic space is also attributed to what these celebs actually wear whilst strutting around Coachella in their multi-coloured feathered headdresses and glittery bindi’s. Vogue and In-Style are just two magazines doing features on whether your cut-off denim shorts need to be a tad longer at Coachella this year or whether flat ankle boots are preferable to gladiator sandals. A case of fashion style over musical substance?
The fashion brands have been keen to capitalise on this opportunity to connect with their consumer base and the likes of H&M (as an official sponsor) plus Diesel and Guess are also plying their trade in the desert with their own associated activity.
Interestingly, beyond fashion, some other brands have also invaded the space… the likes of Samsung, Heineken and American Express have all invested heavily in creating a unique presence at the festival.
All this considered it is no wonder that the real cool kids are becoming a little cynical with the whole thing and are increasingly bypassing the music festival entirely in favour of the parties that pop up around it. Rather than pay the extortionate cost of a ticket (equivalent to the cost of an iPhone) many of them are forgoing the main event to attend the concert-free party circuit called “Nochella.” Clearly that’s why the hashtag #nochella2015 was trending so highly on Twitter last weekend. As the New York Times tweeted “Come for Coachella stay for #Nochella.” Word.
So can we conclude that the whole thing is getting a bit too big for it’s (sparkly, thigh high, leather) boots? Have Bonnaroo and Bestival stolen Coachella’s cred? And if that’s the case, what does the future hold for the event?