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Coachella 2024: How the star-studded performances can’t save one of the world’s biggest music festivals from nearly running its course

This year’s Coachella returned to the California desert with its usual line-up of the biggest and rising artists and unusually dead crowds. There is no doubt that the festival remains one of the biggest attractions for global fans where the fusion of music, art, and fashion delivers one-of-a-kind entertainment. That being said, slow ticket sales and low crowd excitement reflect how the festival struggles to live up to fans’ expectations given its rising attendance costs.  


With Lana Del Rey, Doja Cat, and Tyler, The Creator headlining, alongside 90’s rock band, No Doubt, reuniting on the stage, the line-up seemed promising. Lana Del Rey’s entrance on motorcycles, crowned by TikTok users as the “most iconic Coachella entrance,” was followed by surprise appearances from Jon Batiste, Billie Eilish, and Camilla Cabello. Saturday’s headliner – Tyler, The Creator – went extra with four surprise guests including Childish Gambino and Kali Uchis. As Doja Cat wrapped up the last day, she took over the stage, not only with her bold fashion but also accompanied by 21 Savage and A$AP Rocky. Finally, Christina Aguilera’s return with No Doubt was, undoubtedly, reaching out not only to the 90’s bands’ fans but also to Gen Z with Olivia Rodrigo hitting the stage amid her sold-out Guts World Tour. Despite no Latin American artists headlining this year, the Spanish sound was still strong with the likes of Bizarrap bringing highly expected Shakira, and J Balvin throwing a viral alien-themed set with Will Smith in his “Men in Black” persona. However, to the fans’ disappointment, artists experienced technical problems throughout their performances – a note to organisers to soundcheck properly to live up to crowds’ expectations. 

For the first time in 11 years, the organisers struggled to sell 20% of tickets


Coachella has a reputation as North America’s biggest festival and is a culturally important destination for influencers and brands. Despite this, for the first time in 11 years, the organisers struggled to sell 20% of tickets. The demand dropped by 17%, reflecting the high cost of attending – from general tickets starting at $499 to inflated accommodation, travel, and food costs making it harder for fans to attend. 


Aside from prices, the lowered interest could be attributed to the headliners themselves. Both Lana Del Rey and Doja Cat toured their latest albums last year, prompting a guess that their fans had already seen the performances. In general, as many artists have been touring since the pandemic and participating in many other festivals, LA Times suggests “fan fatigue” with live performances and associated costs might explain Coachella’s lower attendance.  


Additionally, this year’s line-up didn’t include the biggest touring artists that would attract larger fan bases (hey, Swifties!). Coachella might have failed to become a stop in Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour and here lies another cause for the festival’s lower attendance. Billboard reports that, for artists, headlining festivals are just not as profitable as touring their own shows. With ticketing agencies developing ‘dynamic pricing’ – a strategic move of increasing the price of most demanded tickets, tours now naturally bring more revenue. From earning $3.6 million on average per show in 2017 to $5.7 million per show in 2023, would artists bother betting on festivals these days? Perhaps, this is why Swift was seen rather casually singing along in the crowd. 


The disengaged crowds suggest festival culture might just be dying


Nevertheless, Coachella remains a platform that brings high exposure to rising artists. For Palestine-born musician, Saint Levant, the Coachella debut allowed him to honour his roots. Additionally, Sabrina Carpenter performed her new song, ‘Espresso’, a predicted song of the summer. The festival served as a vital platform to be seen.  


In the meantime, whether this year’s headliners were not “expected” enough to sell out or the costs of attendance were over the budget, the disengaged crowds suggest festival culture might just be dying. Festivals worldwide are being cancelled this year due to increased operation costs and underperforming ticket sales in the cost-of-living crisis. In the UK alone, more than 100 festivals are expected to shut down. The upcoming Glastonbury festival, however, is doing something right as it was sold out in under an hour with Dua Lipa, Coldplay, and SZA headlining.  


While we can only guess if the death of the festival romance is going to be inevitable in the coming years, the organisers, probably, need to book the biggest talents in the game and keep the costs budget-friendly for such a festival as Coachella to not run its course. 


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