Culture / Music

Is Coachella still worth it?

coachella 2024

For the first time in over a decade, Coachella hasn’t sold out, prompting the question: has the once-iconic Californian music festival lost its shine? We sent contributing features editor Isabelle Truman out to the desert to find out. 

In 2015, Coachella sold out in 40 minutes with performances by AC/DC, Madonna, Drake and Kanye West. It took three hours in 2018 when Beyoncé became the first Black woman to ever headline – a set, with cameos by Destiny’s Child, Solange and Jay Z widely recognised as one of the best live performances in history. And four-plus hours in 2022, with Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and The Weeknd topping the bill after a two-year pandemic-enforced hiatus. 

This year, for the first time in 11 years, tickets to Coachella’s second weekend are still available and the first – historically, the most popular of the two – took more than a month to sell out. People online were quick to dub the festival, which takes place just outside of Palm Springs California across two consecutive weekends in April, dead. And, honestly, it’s surprising it took this long. With a surge in influencer content and brand activations over the past seven years, a ticketing strategy that heavily favors those with either the right contacts or the salaries to afford the pricy VIP options for better access, it’s strange Coachella wasn’t cancelled long before now: a party full of hot, young rich people and coked up celebrities cordoned off from the crowd sounds like the kind of capitalist nightmare that would’ve gone down in smoke during the 2020 eat the billionaires awakening. (Jeff Bezos, a regular Coachella attendee, was there this past weekend).

But does a slowing ticket sale rate really mean one of the most historically iconic festivals in the world is over?

There are plenty of reasons for dwindling sales being specific to the current climate — and not something signifying Coachella's demise. People across America recently spent thousands for tickets to Beyoncé and Taylor Swift's stadium tours, with many flying across country and paying for accommodation (and a lot of merch) in the process. And with TikTok and social media providing new ways for up and coming musicians to reach audiences, now, more than ever, we're in an era that is conducive to people liking niche, smaller artists — and buying tickets to their shows — instead of the world being united by specific singers and bands in the kind of way it was in the past. (Taylor Swift being perhaps the biggest exception to this rule). Coachella's stage production — Beyoncé comes to mind, but both Tyler the Creator and Doja Cat pushed boundaries this year, too — and its promise of big name cameos are two ways it overcomes this trend, and if the bookers lean into prioritising these smaller names with extremely dedicated fans throughout (Charli XCX — a non-headliner in 2023 — was one of the reasons I went), it will do them a world of good.

Online, many mentioned Coachella's lineup wasn't as strong as year's past. I'll admit, I found 2023 more exciting personally, and it doesn't help that Lana Del Rey and Doja Cat recently toured while Tyler the Creator played in L.A. last November. But when there, with Del Rey in her full ethereal, whimsical glory on Friday, Tyler the Creator giving insane energy (and cameos) on Saturday, No Doubt reviving the early aughts perfectly, and Doja Cat, the first female rapper to ever headline, closing on Sunday in an incredibly choreographed, brilliant performance, there was certainly no shortage of major music moments during weekend one. Not to mention, a cameo then secret set by Billie Eilish, cameos by Shakira, Olivia Rodrigo, Kesha, Childish Gambino, A$AP Rocky, and Nelly Furtado.


The celebrity and influencer elements of Coachella can be something to eye roll at. But at the same time, it can be nice to see how many people come to stand in a crowd in the heat to watch live music, be fans, and support their friends — albeit almost always from a VIP area. And as much as we'd like to act like we're above fandom, the idea of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce walking through the festival grounds and Rihanna doing shots on stage at an after party with A$AP Rocky while Billie Eilish eats pizza nearby will never not be something that adds to excitement levels. (Personally, I had to profusely apologise to my friends in the car home from the party for the way I behaved when I realised Rihanna was drinking and dancing nearby).

What adds to the allure of Coachella is its surroundings: booking an AirBnb with a pool and lounging beside it all day feeling as though you're on a relaxing holiday at the same time as being at a music festival. The accessibility from L.A. — a two-hour drive for locals making it an easy weekend trip. The day parties where (if you can wrangle an invite) you can see acts like Sean Paul, Ludacris, T-Pain, Sean Paul and the Ying Yang Twins before even setting foot inside the festival, and the after parties that go long into the night (Guess' star-studded event on Friday night was, according to my friend, shut down by police around 6am).

On the final night, during Doja Cat's set, I turned to my British friend Andy — a veteran music promoter and first timer at the festival. "What do you think? Do you think Coachella is dead?," I asked. Andy paused, then said. "I think it's alright, yeah." Later, over cold delivery McDonald's, we all agreed we'd come back again, and that if they can nail their lineup next year, the crowds will almost definitely be back, too.

Want more from Coachella weekend one? Here's a recap of every major moment you might have missed from Coachella 2024.

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