Published on June 17th, 2011 | by Jim Dalrymple0
Supply, Demand and Sweaty Hipsters: Can Coachella Survive?
Did you get your tickets to Coachella 2012? Sales for California’s biggest sweat-fest stopped last Friday, but for next year’s event, organizers are trying a novel new approach to double the pleasure and double the funds.
As announced at the end of May, Coachella 2012 will be held over two weekends — April 13-15 and April 20-22 — in an effort to allow more people to attend. In response to previous fast ticket sellouts and people getting “gouged or totally scammed” on the second-hand market, organizers are going to “attempt to produce two identical festival weekends. That means same lineup, same art, same place, different people.”
It seems like a noble impulse. And given the killer line-ups that Coachella typically books, it’s reasonable to believe the organizers genuinely want to produce a better experience for more people. But for all the benefits a double event might have, it may also just be the writing on the wall for the event.
Festivals — at least the ones that focus primarily on music and cater to the youth and hipsters — don’t always have a long lifespan. I remember being a young tween in the ’90s and hearing about how lame Lollapalooza had become. Though it had successfully captured the ethos of a particular time, moods shifted, tastes changed and pretty soon Lollapalooza was no more. (And then it came back, but was different.)
Something similar seemed to happen with the revived Woodstock in the late ’90s — it initially seemed cool, then sort of imploded. In both cases, demand declined after initial growth, eventually dropping well below the potential supply of tickets. In the end, they just got too big, commercial, etc. to appeal to their target audience.
Coachella obviously is a very different beast, but neither it nor other similar American music festivals are all that old. Coachella officially began in the late ’90s while festivals like Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits started up even later. South By Southwest started in the ’80s, but today has become far more diversified than its counterparts. A decade is a decent duration for a festival to persist, but Coachella’s two-weekend plan raises questions about how important continued growth is for long-term success.
But perhaps the biggest and most obvious challenge Coachella faces is one of scarcity. In other words, how does it continue to grow and let more people through the doors (or, rather, gates), while maintaining it’s exclusivity? In the past only some people wanted to go to Coachella, and of that group a smaller subset actually got in. If at some point everyone who wants to go gets a ticket — or worse still if anyone who has the cash is free to attend — supply will certainly have exceeded demand. Or put another way, the festival will have finally gone “mainstream mainstream.” And who wants to buy a ticket for an easy-to-attend, mainstream festival? Definitely not the bunch of young, music-worshiping hipsters. ♦ ♦ ♦
Jim Dalrymple writes about crime for the Daily Herald, based in Utah. He also is a culture writer for Revolv Magazine and Rhombus Online Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @jimmycdii.