From a sea of phones in the crowd to influencers being papped at every turn, Coachella 2024 proves that we have forgotten festivals are about music, not content.

As the sun sets over Palm Springs, English rock veterans, Blur, took the stage for a slot that was set to send the desert ablaze. All was well, initially. ‘Song 2’ saw sizzling guitars tear up the speakers, and the crowd give lead singer Damon Albarn some strings of hope. However, as soon as the melody of ‘Girls & Boys’ reverberated through the sound system, it became clear that the tables were about to turn, as a deadpan silence swept over the saturated crowd. In return, Damon bellowed,You’re never seeing us again, so you may as well f**king sing it.”


Such gloomy happenings were everywhere at Coachella 2024, especially weekend one, which was marred by a series of technical mishaps that reached its peak on Saturday. From Grime’s tracks blaring at double speed, to Lana Del Ray battling persistent issues with her microphone, surely Coachella can get their act together and invest in more reliable sound systems? After all, attendees are forking out $499 for a general admissions ticket, and that’s not factoring in the cost of accommodation, flights and the eye-wateringly expensive food and drink on site.


What’s interesting about Coachella, dubbed as the music industry’s Disneyland, is its consistent ability to draw a star-studded line-up. Last year the festival boasted an eclectic mix ranging from blink-182 to Björk and Charlie XCX, and this year proved no different, with notable names like Tyler the Creator and Doja Cat gracing the desert. Yet despite the line-up, Coachella always falls short of being the ultimate ‘It’ festival. And we think we’ve found the culprit. Yes, you guessed it, it’s the Influencers.

When Coachella debuted in 1999, it embodied grassroot values, devoid of sponsorships. Initially a one-day affair flying under the radar, attendees sported band tees and casual summer attire, with a focus on practicality—and of course the music. Fast forward to today and Coachella’s landscape has dramatically changed. What began with H&M and Heineken partnerships in the early 2000s has morphed into an Influencer Olympics. Leading the charge is fashion retailer Revolve, now synonymous with the festival. So much so that they created the Revolve Fest, an event that occurs a few days before Coachella, nothing short of a must-attend attraction for both celebrities and influencers alike, many of whom get dressed heat-to-toe in the brand’s festival-ready designs.


Ever since Revolve made its mark at Coachella, it’s sparked a frenzy where every fashion brand wants a piece of the action. From White Fox to Pretty Little Thing, they now shell out for a squad of influencer heavyweights to join them at their Palm Springs mansion, decked out in their apparel, creating content. This year, the scene was swarming with LA It Girls like Devon Lee Carlson and Stassie Karanikolaou, alongside English influencers Madeline Argy, Lila Moss and Saffron Barker— all flown out by brands with all expenses covered, to add a touch of ‘glitz and glam’ to the festivities.


In fairness, It’s a good gig for these social media influencers. Getting paid to jet off to LA, attend a major festival and have every expense covered is a dream come true. Yet, they’re taking over Coachella, leaving little room for music heads to have their share of the pie.


What’s interesting to note is the stark contrast between festivals in the UK and the influencer-dominated scene elsewhere. Here, festivals are more about genuine passion for music, rather than a content opportunity. Attendees flock to these beloved events to immerse themselves in the music, not for the sake of aesthetics or Instagram posts. In fact, excessive uploading of festival footage is often frowned upon, and deemed ‘uncool’ by peers for not living in the moment and embracing the music.

So much so that UK festivals are showing signs at going phone free all together. In 2019, Skepta’s Manchester International Festival event, DYSTOPIA987, hosted a night that banned the use of phones, providing lockable cases for guests to store their devices, with the aim to “enable a real time, in the moment experience.” This movement to facilitate in the moment presence, is also evident in UK clubs like Fabric, The Box and Fold, which, while not enforcing phone bans, encourage attendees to tape over their phone cameras upon entry—a practice already established in Berlin’s club scene.


Perhaps due to influencer fatigue, or other factors, but this year saw the slowest ticket sales for Coachella in a decade, despite boasting headliners like Lana Del Ray, Tyler the Creator and Doja Cat. Once renowned for selling out their general admission tickets on the same day, the festival this year took 27 days to move 125,000 tickets for the first weekend—a far cry from last year’s sell-out within four days.


If Coachella tread the same path, creating a playground primarily for the rich and famous, it may struggle to stand the test of time. Perhaps it’s time for Coachella to reconsider its identity as a music festival. After all, it has morphed into more of a cultural phenomenon, attracting attendees primarily for content rather than the music. Maybe then people will admire the festival for its honesty, and bands like Blur won’t have to endure Coachella’s sombre crowds.


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