When It’s Right, It’s Right: What Coachella Can Teach Us About Branding as an Entrepreneur

With the close of the second weekend of the Millennial-stricken Coachella festival, brings along a close of another epic journey for its admirers. Known for upstanding itself year after year, the Indio-based festival is a true testament for exhibiting the confidence that it is truly the best-selling festival in the world. But where has this reputation come from? Has it evolved from the show itself? The acts it attracts? Or a rise along the constant innovation of social media and its influence on the global economy. No matter what you may think, here is my brief analysis on what the festival can teach us about establishing a brand and connecting with your consumers.

I’m a music lover myself, so I’m going to make the first point to be about the music. As a point of reference, here’s the line-up from 15 years ago:

Source: Coachella.com

Now, taking a look at this lineup, it’s pretty standard. Still, even then, you can see the versatility of the show, but there are a lot of acts which were mid-range, or perhaps have been off the tour bus for some time. But for a festival following up a previous festival’s budgetary deficit, it was on the road to salvaging Coachella. I still would’ve loved to see Weezer and the Chemical Brothers.

Now let’s look at the lineup from 2016’s show:

Source: Coachella.com

Ok, it’s still quite diverse, and a significant number of additional acts have been added. In addition, you can see acts which probably costed a pretty penny to be on the stage. And, on top of that, it’s over the course of two weekends, not one (something that has taken place since 2012).

So what has allowed the festival to become what it is today, and therefore allow acts which wouldn’t have been in question for years past? Could it be the partnerships in place with giants such as American Express, T-Mobile, Heineken, H&M, and SIRI? Could it be a shift of simply what’s “trendy”? Could it be a cultural phenomenon? The answer is, all of the above. So, with this in mind, let’s take a lesson for ourselves, and our companies, and how we can shift along with the graces.

Swimming with Big Fish

When you want to swim with the big fish, you need to either be competitive with the big fish, know a big fish who knows a big fish, or, in Coachella’s case, take a ride alongside them along the current. After some years financially problematic journey for Goldenvoice, they decided to hand over the reigns (well, half the reigns), to giant AEG. In this instance, AEG offered guidance and opportunity, while still allowing Goldenvoice to have a say on Coachella, and, most importantly, have their name on a future successful event. So in March 2001, during a time when the festival was doomed to fail before Janes Addiction’s reunion act, going with AEG was worth salvaging the Coachella dream. After a 2001 1-day show, which hardly was profitable yet again, 2002 could carry on as a 2-day festival with some confidence to back it up.

What does this say about brands? You are the kin you keep. AEG knows events, they know concert settings, and they know what it means to sell out a show. If what you’re doing isn’t working, or isn’t speaking to the people, it’s time to change directions. Whenever you hit a wall, turn left. And although many of you may be stubborn, always knowing what you want out of your company, and not wanting to give your baby away so that someone else can make it more like their baby — it may be necessary. AEG allowed for exposure to bigger acts, an adjustment in pricing and costs, and for the festival to again become a weekend-long festival. When we, as entrepreneurs, develop a brand, we feel we know what’s right. But the market is changing, there’s more variables than just what’s happening at the moment or is predicted, and the influencers are more than your team and investors. So, sometimes it’s ok to have someone say what direction you need to go in, just as long as you still have a say as well.

Go Along with the Trend, But Understand When It’s Time to Interrupt

With the rise of a reprised Woodstock, Art and Music become more and more interconnected. Coachella found a place in the scene. Music festivals were becoming a destination piece, as opposed to traveling tours of showcasing talent. The environmental selection of the hot desert in California allowed for a certain kind of freedom to its guests, and encouraged possibility. Though, only in a blooming age at the time of its conception, Millennials would eventually be society’s representation of everything the festival-goer attitude enveloped.


So, Coachella followed the trail of providing a space of music festivities, but did what the 1999 Woodstock couldn’t do well, make bohemian cool again. With this seemingly new attitude, which people could truly fulfill at Coachella, there came along new outlets of opportunity to expand the specifications entailed in a music festival. The bohemian trend could easily go hand-in-hand with the music festival attitude. Once Coachella’s attendees found an outlet for freedom, boho (as we call it) also found an outlet to be exposed.

But not only has fashion been easily exploited through Coachella, so has art. As a former venue for exhibiting artists and their work, Coachella shifted to become a figure of art in itself. Traditional art, sculptures, and even artwork are present in the shows themselves (such as the monumental Daft Punk PYRAMID in 2006). As of 2010, and with an advancement in funding, Coachella could provide a place in which artists could assemble pieces on the Coachella ground itself. Does anyone remember the giant astronaut floating around in 2014? As a place representing anything from local to international artists, Coachella isn’t just a music festival, it’s a place that supports its flourishing music scene with something else already going inside a creative’s mind — all that needed to be done was to trigger it.

Source: http://www.youredm.com/2015/04/23/most-shamed-songs-of-coachella-kashered-shatters-attendance/

Alongside fashion and art comes an unlikely partner, environmental friendliness. With the rise of the tide of the sustainability movement, Coachella paid mind to take a part in the mix. The festival’s partnership with Global Inheritance opened a channel to encourage its attendees to reduce their carbon footprint. The amount of litter produced during the festival is uncanny, so it only makes sense to act as a supporter of the longevity of our beautiful planet earth. The festival’s realization of joining this cause is just another token of its expansion of possibility in innovation.

So what does this teach us? When your brand has something good going on, there’s always room to improve and make it something bigger than itself. The only way to expand is to break some current barriers. Coachella didn’t see being categorized as a “music festival” as a barrier, but rather, as a starting off point. When there’s room for opportunity, all that needs to be done as see how it fits what you want out of your brand, and to push forward with a little bit of creative thinking. And, on top of that, a brand must understand all that is currently a piece of the bigger picture. Innovation doesn’t need to take place from the overall brand’s focus, it can also derive from areas within, and therefore support the overall growth.

Think Outside Your Target Audience

My last point is about your audience. When branding, your audience is a huge focus. And I don’t suggest thinking outside your target audience right away, a lot of times this is a trial and error type of situation. So, with this in mind, let’s see how things have changed from Coachella’s POV.

I don’t know about you, but when I think about some of the earliest music festivals in history, I do not also picture Gigi Hadid or a bleach blonde Justin Bieber amongst the setting. It’s hard to say why music festivals attracted the likes of celebrities, and reasoning for making their presence there known. Why does it seem appealing to us that this is the case? The fact of the matter is, that we are now living amongst a tabloid-worshipping world, and knowing you are “amongst the stars” is just another reason as to why you want to be in a place. Coachella hasn’t always been a place where this held some importance, but it is now. And you know what? It’s working. Once an event with a target market of music enthusiasts, now a place which attracts fashion bloggers, Snapchatters, and gossip magazines alike. And as much as the music-geeks wouldn’t want to be associated with these types, and I know some of you reading this article are rolling your eyes when I say that having the Kardashians at an event is a good. thing, it helps the overall image and means of promotion. Think of it this way, a holographic Tupac would have never occurred without some additional funding, support by some necessary promotion, which has helped through the mass media explosion of the festival. No matter what, the more photos, videos, and memories captured of the event, the more it’s reputation spreads, and the more people are aware of it, extending to future clients.

The lesson from this? Exposure, from any angle, can be good. And for a brand who wants to make it big, some inadvertent celebrity promotion can be worth having. So, just to laugh a bit about this point, here’s a depiction of Funny or Die’s interpretation of this reputation the festival has gained.


Interested in continuing this discussion? Think that my points are valid? Feel the need to put in your two-sense? Drop me an email at va@soply.com and let’s chat a bit.

Additional Sources:

Wikipedia Forbes