The Coachella Music and Arts Festival in California is the first of the big summer music festivals. And fashion brands are seeing it as a golden opportunity. By Neil O'Keeffe.
In November 1993, Pearl Jam performed before almost 25,000 fans at the Empire Polo Club at Coachella. The venue had not been used to hold that kind of capacity before this. The reason for the bands unusual choice of venue was a boycott of Ticketmaster and the venues it controlled. But it proved that if you build it, they will come. Almost seven years later in 1999 Paul Tollett and Goldenvoice (a subsidiary of AEG Live) hosted the first Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The annual two-weekend, three-day music and arts festival held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California eventually built up to accommodate 75,000 people each day, and an estimated 225,000 per weekend.
Year on year, Coachella has attracted the best of the world's music talent, all genres welcome. So it wasn't long before fashion and youth brands happened upon this gathering of cool. This kind of market targeting was like shooting fish in a pond. The music on stage at Coachella suddenly became secondary in the social mediascape. The celebrity spotting and style analysis of the stars began to grab more headlines. This year the official fashion-related sponsors of the event include H&M and Sephora, but other brands set up locations at the periphery of the festival to host their own parties. Lacoste, Opening Ceremony, Old Navy, Aerie, Harper’s Bazaar, Nylon and Forever 21 are all setting up their tents around Coachella with their own celebrities and guest lists. And the ones who haven't secured this precious real estate? They simply launch capsule Coachella-esque collections in stores. NastyGal, Urban Outfitters and a plethora of high street chains are cashing in on the bohemian/navajo/desert/hippy vibe.
Then there are the paid sponsorships of celebrities. Some worth the money, others not so much. This year, Lea Michele gets 20k for wearing Lacoste, Vanessa Hudgens gets 15k by McDonalds (how the brand is visible on her we do not know) and descending stars like Kate Bosworth will attend if a brand coughs up 30k. Many brands seem to get into a bidding war with these c-list stars out of panic more than anything else. Will Lacoste get the coverage they need from Lea Michele's Glee fan base of 65k Instagram followers? Maybe. Is it good just to be included? Yes. Because Coachella is cool and brands that align themselves become cooler and present.
Unlike music festivals in the rest of the world, Coachella seems to be more about commerce than actual musical integrity. Glastonbury in the UK will make the focus about music, new stars and a helping of headline acts. Has Coachella missed the point, or are they doing things way ahead of the pack? We think the latter.