Coachella ticket sales down: Why hasn’t this year sold out?


In 2015, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was one of the hottest tickets in town, selling out in record time: 40 minutes. AC/DC brought the house down with an electric set. Madonna planted a kiss on Drake on stage. Kanye West made a surprise appearance during the Weeknd’s performance.

Ahead of Coachella’s start on Friday, tickets for the second weekend of the festival are still available (it took a month for the first weekend to sell out), and resale tickets are going for well below face value on StubHub and other secondary resellers in an unprecedented year of sluggish sales — the slowest in a decade.

So what happened?

After the festival expanded from one weekend to two in 2012, it sold out almost every year since then — from that sub-hour whir in 2015 to four-plus hours in 2022 in its post-COVID return. The following year marked the first time in 11 years that the event did not sell out both weekends. At full capacity, the fest drew up to 125,000 concertgoers a day.

Dave Brooks, Billboard’s senior director of live music and touring, said the dip in sales and fan interest is “a natural off-cycle” for Coachella.

“I don’t buy that the Coachella brand is permanently diminished at all,” Brooks said. “Obviously this was an off-year, [but] it’s hands-down one of the best experiences out there.”

Drake, in a black T-shirt, holds his mic out to the audience at Coachella.

Drake headlined Coachella in 2015, wowing the crowd with special guests Madonna and Nicki Minaj.

(Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times)

Still, the Coachella craze from about a decade ago has notably faded. Rising prices, a less buzzy lineup than years past and stiff competition in the live music space are all likely to blame.

Although interest has decreased, Coachella ticket prices have not. Before fees, general admission tickets cost $499 to $549 and VIP tickets are going for $1,069 to $1,269.

With lodging, transportation, parking and food expenses each racking up hundreds of dollars, some might think the cost isn’t quite worth the experience.

But after a year when fans shelled out “insane amounts of money” for Taylor Swift and Beyoncé’s concerts, Stig Edgren, a live event producer and lecturer in music industry at UCLA, said the lineup is more likely to blame for this year’s slump.

The internet was divided after Goldenvoice, the festival’s founder and producer, announced the performers in January. Lana Del Rey, Tyler, the Creator and Doja Cat are headlining with special guest No Doubt, and Edgren said the demand for these artists “just isn’t there this year.”

Goldenvoice didn’t respond to The Times’ requests for comment.

Del Rey and Doja Cat both wrapped up tours at the end of 2023 and Tyler, the Creator performed at his Camp Flog Gnaw Festival in November, so fans may have recently seen the headliners at their respective shows and festival appearances.

This year’s artists also don’t have the same rabid fan bases as previous headliners, like last year’s international stars Bad Bunny and Blackpink, and Brooks said the lineup lacks the “commercially successful music stories” that past years have boasted.

Lady Gaga performs at Coachella atop a pyramid of six men, all dressed in black.

Lady Gaga, who performed at Coachella in 2017, is among recent notable headliners.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Other notable headliners include Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and Frank Ocean. The last caused a stir last year with his divisive performance and subsequent cancellation of his Weekend 2 set, which outraged festival-goers and possibly deterred future attendance.

There are also tough competitors in the festival space with flashier lineups than Coachella. Stagecoach, Goldenvoice’s popular country music festival, will take over the same Indio polo grounds starting April 26 with headliners Miranda Lambert, Morgan Wallen and Eric Church. The Lovers & Friends festival will hit Las Vegas a week later, boasting a lengthy list of headliners, including Usher, Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani, Snoop Dogg and the Backstreet Boys.

That same weekend is packed with festivals across the country. Headliners Post Malone, Stevie Nicks and Noah Kahan will lead the Lovin’ Life Music Fest in Charlotte, N.C. Weezer, Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters will take the stage at the Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta. Sting, Incubus and My Morning Jacket will perform closer to home in Redondo Beach at the BeachLife Festival. The Rolling Stones, Chris Stapleton, Hozier, Queen Latifah and more will close out the second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

The saturation in the concert and festival market that came with the spike in live performances after the pandemic may also be causing fan fatigue that could be hurting Coachella’s sales.

Bill Werde, the director of Syracuse University’s music business program and author of the industry newsletter “Full Rate No Cap,” said the pandemic affected the promotion of festivals and concerts and fans’ purchasing habits. As the availability of Coachella tickets ahead of its opening weekend shows, fewer people are buying tickets well in advance of events, Werde said.

“People want to look at something like this and want to pronounce the death of Coachella and it’s just too soon,” Werde said. “This is one of the strangest times we’ve ever experienced in live music in the history of the business, which is to say, specifically, this rebound from a period of not having shows for a couple of years. Finding out what the new normal looks like is going to take a couple more years.”

Beyoncé, in a pink sweatshirt embellished with “ΒΔΚ” and denim cut-offs, performs on stage at Coachella.

Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella performance — the subject of her Netflix documentary “Homecoming” — is one of the most popular to date.

(Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for Coachella)

Werde said the lack of early commitment from ticket buyers coupled with the increased cost of putting on a show creates a “dicey environment for festivals.” Other major fests across the country, namely Jay-Z’s Made in America Festival, have been canceled this year.

Another factor for those hesitant to take the plunge could be the allure of the “Couchella” experience. Thanks to Goldenvoice’s partnership with YouTube, fans can livestream performances from up to six stages from the comfort of their homes. Beyoncé’s 105-minute set attracted a record 458,000 simultaneous global viewers on YouTube in 2018. The festival’s opening weekend amassed 41 million unique viewers.

“When you’re standing at the back of 50,000 people, it’s like, ‘Well, shoot, I can get a better seat at home and then I can do Uber Eats and have seven margaritas and this will be great,” said Tommy Dietrick, founder of the Desert Stars Festival in Joshua Tree.

The target audience for Coachella, the die-hard music fans who once duked it out for tickets, may have also changed their concert-going preferences.

“The consumer may be growing up a bit and may not want to be standing in a mud pit or in the hot sun,” Edgren said. “When you go to Coachella, you’re basically standing up the whole time and it’s an ordeal.”

Dietrick, who also produces music at Joshua Tree Recording Studio, noted that Coachella attendees now get an experience that is removed from the “community element that music is actually really all about.”

“They’ve squeezed too hard on the class of people that were going there to escape and have fun,” he said.

Coachella also seems to attract a different kind of music fan today than it did at its inception and in its early years, when it boasted legendary headliners like Paul McCartney, Prince, Nine Inch Nails and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. With fewer rock bands and more brand partnerships, the festival has been criticized for becoming a “plaything for influencers,” as Werde put it.

Beyond the changes to Coachella’s audience, the music and entertainment industries are also experiencing shifts in terms of what it takes to become famous and build a following. Werde said the music world is facing “enormous fragmentation” because of the volume of musicians creating and sharing their work online. He called this new phase “the age of a thousand niches” and noted that fans’ following of celebrities is getting wider, not deeper.

“These are real changes that are happening in the star system, and festivals are dependent on the star system. Festivals create this experience around all these stars and if those stars get smaller, those festivals get smaller. If those stars get fewer, those festivals are going to struggle.”

In its 23rd edition, Coachella seems to be reaching a stabilizing point where it is no longer the hottest ticket of the year but is still attracting a wide audience.

“The form of struggle that Coachella is having is probably a form of struggle that a lot of people would kill to have,” Werde said.

Like fellow long-running music festival Lollapalooza in Chicago, Edgren said Coachella has “settled” into a new phase and will likely continue to experience ebbs and flows with its sales in coming years.

“There’s no way any event or festival like that can sustain that kind of success forever. There’s just no way,” Edgren said. “There has to be dips, some years are slightly better than others. They’re not the new kid on the block anymore.”


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