With the rise of social media, the famous festival seems to have shifted from a musical experience to just another Instagram post
Love it or hate it, it’s pretty much guaranteed that every April social media will be taken over by photos and videos from Coachella Music Festival. Even those who have never been can recognize the famous Ferris wheel, know at least a handful of the acts and can’t help but see what celebrities and influencers attended different sets. While Coachella has transcended into something of a cultural pilgrimage for millennials, it begs the question: is it even about music anymore?
Coachella started in 1999 and, with the exception of 2000, has gone strong ever since in creating one of the most popular music festivals. The festival began with founders Paul Tollett and Rick Van Santen and the music promoting company, Goldenvoice. The founders believed in 1999 “a combination of niche audiences for music unable to get on pop radio will attract the 70,000 people they need to turn a profit with just $50 daily admission fees.” Coachella’s roots are in showcasing under-the-radar artists and celebrating music.
Now though, Coachella has been dubbed the “Influencer Olympics” because of how the focus of the festival appears to have shifted from simply enjoying artists and music to who can have the best outfit or get the most attention on social media.
To be fair, the festival does still try to focus on music, continuously drawing some of music’s biggest names. Past acts include the talents of Kendrick Lamar, the Arctic Monkeys, The Lumineers, Calvin Harris and, of course, Beyoncé. And that’s the initial appeal of Coachella, and all festivals really: a chance to see a multitude of performers in one location at one time. Today though, it feels as if the festival and its performers serve as merely a backdrop for an Instagram photo.
This is especially true for actual influencers, Instagram celebrities with thousands or millions of followers, who have built Coachella into the cultural event it is today. I myself follow a small handful of influencers on Instagram and heavily debated muting their stories at one point, because I was tired of seeing them post about their outfits, makeup and sponsored parties.
But, for influencers, it really is their version of the Olympics because of how much brands will pay them for a single mention. In 2017, Forbes reported L.A. based fashion brand, Revlon, “… dressed 416 influencers, booked an entire hotel and opened a pop-up shop for guests to snap pictures and share it with their broad audience. The result? Revlon supposedly generated 4.4 billion social impressions, which was five times more than the festival’s underwriter H&M.”
While Coachella is about posting pictures and promoting brands for influencers, I hope the emphasis stays on the music for the sake of regular attendees. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a couple of pictures or videos to post later. I do that too when I attend concerts. But, when the performances come second to waiting in lines for photo ops or spending time during a set thinking up the perfect caption, it might be time to rethink why you’re spending all that time and money.
I have no problem with people taking and sharing photos. My problem is that Coachella has been taken over by hashtags and likes instead of being a place to experience some of the best performers in the world. Music festivals are established on the idea that people want to escape the world for a fleeting moment to let loose and enjoy great music. Coachella already has the star power and cultural relevance to keep it sustained for years to come, so let’s hope Coachella, and those attending, bring it back to the music.