Every year, over 75,000 people descend on the desert of Indio, California to bask in their love of music and art. This all-ages festival is in its 15th year and has grown leaps and bounds since it first broke onto the scene in 1999.
Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is one of the most famous and successful music festivals in North America and, according to Billboard Boxscore, grossed over $67 million in 2013. The festival consistently draws huge acts and this year, after only 20 minutes, general admission tickets sold out. Remaining tickets sold out in less than three hours – including VIP tickets, which can exceed $5,000 each.
This is an event that has tapped into what the people want and has resulted in tremendous success year after year. Looking at this sensation from our industry’s viewpoint, there are many aspects of Coachella that event planners can take note of along with many unique ideas that transcend, on a smaller scale, to corporate events.
Younger generations seem to take global warming and environmental issues more seriously than their predecessors, but it still comes as a surprise that a music festival which can evoke images of gluttony, excessiveness and superficiality can be a place where sustainability and responsible initiatives reign supreme.
Since 2007, Coachella has worked with Global Inheritance to create the 10 For 1 recycling program, where any festivalgoer can trade in ten empty water bottles for a free one. This year, they are expanding the program to include VIP upgrades, refillable Coachella bottles, cold waters, Coachella tees, sunscreen and ferris wheel passes as possible rewards to further encourage recycling.
CARPOOLCHELLA was an initiative also introduced in 2007. Participants who carpool with four or more people per vehicle and display the word ‘CARPOOLCHELLA’ on that vehicle have the chance to win VIP tickets to Coachella for life, as well as a range of other prizes.
The Saving Nature Arcade is set up within the Coachella grounds and allows people to compete against other festival attendees on environmental arcade style games for a chance to win daily prizes including concert tickets and Coachella merchandise.
All festival signs are now made out of wood at a solar powered factory and the event showcases trash cans decorated by artists from all over the world to encourage responsible disposal of waste. There is an energy playground present on the festival grounds where a few bounces on a seesaw can charge your phone and a giant Recyclosaurus Rex is always ready to collect empty recyclables.
Coachella sets a great example on the sustainability and responsibility front. Events of all sizes can take note and replicate these initiatives. Event planners looking to attract Millennial attendees, those who were born between the early 1980s to the early 2000s, must understand that these young demographics care about being “green” and sustainable.
Dealing with Demand
There is a fine line between increasing attendee numbers with financially responsible means and doing so while not covering costs. Coachella seems to understand this and through small changes each year, has managed to increase the size of the festival, while remaining profitable.
In 1999, Coachella started as a two-day festival, with no camping and the availability to buy single-day tickets. The festival became an annual event in 2001 and introduced camping as an optional add-on to tickets in 2003. Camping solved the problem of limited accommodation in close proximity to the festival grounds and allowed another revenue stream for event organizers.
By 2007, the festival was well established and it was time to add a third day to the program. In 2012, the biggest risk was taken by adding a second weekend – it paid off.
These incremental changes show how Coachella event organizers are willing to grow the festival but also how they took steps to minimize the risk of over expansion. At any event, risks need to be taken to grow and improve but they should be backed by research and trials.
Appealing to the Masses
One of the keys to the success of Coachella lies in its ability to appeal to a range of demographics – from people of all ages, income levels and music preferences to people of all cultures and nationalities.
Coachella showcases many established musicians as well as up-and-coming artist or reunited bands and includes rock, hip hop, indie, electric dance music and many other genres. The art installations and sculptures draw even more people out to the desert. Poetic Kinetics, Phillip K Smith, James Peterson and Kevin McHugh are just a few of the talented artists displaying their incredible work at the 2014 festival.
Corporate event attendees, like Coachella patrons, are extremely diverse in demographic backgrounds and preferences. As a result, engaging everyone can be tricky. Going the extra mile to appeal to as many attendees as possible without sacrificing quality is essential.
Keeping it Classy
As ticket prices have risen, event organizers have made sure to increase the perceived value associated with these highly prized tickets. Each year, the mailing piece, with tickets enclosed, becomes more elaborate with attendees checking their mailboxes on daily basis leading up to the festival. In 2014, a full color box with an image of Coachella Valley on the outside and with a lenticular lens, stop action, multiple frame, two second video of Helix Poeticus, the famous Coachella snail from 2013, on the inside of the lid, are featured on the mailer box. It also includes a radio frequency wristband that allows entrance to the festival, a Coachella themed calendar/ postcard, a Coachella sticker, 36-page welcome guide and a crafty Helix Poeticus dye cut diorama snail.
These are all small additions on the part of the organizers but give attendees the feeling of a higher valued package. Event planners can follow suit and provide high quality and innovative gifts or collateral on-site to complement the day, leading up to the event to elicit excitement and even post-program as a reminder of the great experience the attendees had.
The key lessons Coachella can teach an event planner are as follows:
- Sustainability should be at the forefront of all events. This is especially true when an environmentally conscious company or young group of attendees is involved.
- Risks should be taken to improve the effectiveness of events but only when backed by research and thorough logic.
- Events should appeal to a broad audience including a wide range of demographic profiles.
- Attendees should be rewarded with increased perceived value in some manner if event prices rise. This will be achieved through gifts, food, entertainment or venue.
Coachella is one of the most successful events in North America because the event organizers understand these aspects. Anyone involved in the event planning or meeting planning industry should take note and follow in the footsteps of these innovative organizers. JNR plans all of our events with trends in mind and we are happy to give you ideas if you send us an email at email@example.com.
Read about “The 5 Biggest Megatrends in Meetings and Events” for 2014 here.
Written by Stephanie Thomas
JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.