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Published on March 29th, 2012 | by Staff 12-13

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Big names under the sun: Coachella commercialized

WHAT A DIFFERENCE: At its start in 1999,Coachella was all about the music; now it's all about commercialization. (Alison Guh/The Samohi)

Madelyn Shaughnessy
Staff Writer

What began as a low-cost celebration of music with fans that rejected the commercialization of the big arenas, has now become a teen phenomenon that is nothing but commercialized.

Coachella is a music festival set among the wide open acreage of the Empire Polo Club in Indio, a tiny city just outside Palm Springs.  Indio was chosen for the first small “protest” against Ticketmaster’s growing monopoly of many Los Angles area venues, by the band, Pearl Jam and many of its devoted fans.  On Oct. 9 and 10 1999, the first official Coachella Music Festival was staged as a two day event, drawing in about 25,000 fans.  It was, however, not financially successful.

The core concept of Coachella remains: to go around from stage to stage and for twelve hours a day, watch different bands perform. The whole weekend is a giant buffet of musical tastes.  Nevertheless, commercialism is beginning to slowly creep in.  For the first time last year, fans could not buy separate tickets for each of the days—only a three day package was available.  This year, the single weekend has become two weekends.  True, this means twice the music for twice the number of fans, but also it means twice the money and opportunity to merchandise.

This once innocent commemoration of music has become a cynical money machine making, profiting off of its image.

Coachella attempts to follow the model of the infamous 1969 Woodstock where over half a million people came to see Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and 30 other performances in the four days it ran.

Many teens desire to mirror that “vintage” quality, the  tube-top shirts, sun glasses and sun hats, which is now more widely known as the “hipster” look.  The pictures make great Facebook albums, appearing “indie” and cultured.

Coachella, however, doesn’t carry Woodstock’s principles.  Woodstock was free and accessible to all people.  Coachella is a money making brand becoming more about commercialization than the music.  The psychedelic Volkswagens of Woodstock have been nosed aside by the corporate jets crowding the local airports.

Getting bigger band and artist names to attract more people and selling more souvenirs serve as only two examples of this commercializing factor.  Of course, I understand the point of a business and am not suggesting anyone lose money especially after the amount of work it takes to put on Coachella, but there has to be a compromise between good business practices and gross over exploitation.

Jan. 13 of this year, at 10:00 a.m., tickets went on sale ranging from $300 to several thousands for the exclusive VIP passes. By 1:00 p.m., three hours later, all six days of the concert were sold out.  This year’s Coachella dates will be Apr. 13-15 for the first weekend, and Apr. 20-22 for the second.

Thanks to an early graduation gift, senior Sarah Krenik will be attending Coachella for her first time this year.  According to her, the popularity of the event has drawn people to want to experience this musical festivity.  While she does believe that most of the people go for the music, she believes that a lot of the attendees are there for  the “image.”

“I think that if Coachella was less expensive and more accessible, the people who would attend would be the ones that are familiar with the bands and are going for the performances,” Krenik said.

The exclusivity and popularity of the event adds to the desire to attend.  Because many fans fight for that golden ticket,  people lose sight of the true meaning behind the concert: to hear the music.

Teenagers are desperate to maintain a certain image and will therefore follow whatever appears “cool,” or in this case, “indie.”

“[Coachella] should be considered a trend.  If one were to say it isn’t cool then people would follow until Coachella would become a ‘been there done that,’” junior Amelia Hammond said.

With rising prices and impossible-to-obtain tickets, Coachella is becoming the very thing it set out to challenge.  Golden Voice, Coachella’s promoter, is Ticketmaster in another guise.

To the Samo students who want to go to Coachella but don’t have the resources to get there, do not fret. Who knows, maybe soon, in another protest or something of sort, a new Pearl Jam will play a concert for a few hundred devoted fans in some other barely heard of town. Soon enough, that will be the next craze.

Coachella or not, music, just like every other art form, involves money.  But with the commercialization excitement attacking Coachella, it becomes distracting for fans who want to sit back, relax and truly enjoy the tunes under the warm Indio sun.

mshaughnessy@thesamohi.com


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