How Coachella Became Just a Place to See and Be Seen

How Coachella Became Just a Place

The music biz used to be the leader in pop culture; now, it’s just a follower

I’m sure everybody at Coachella had a good time last weekend, but I’m not sure it had much to do with the music. When did concerts devolve into a place to see and be seen? Probably when the festival paradigm took over. Now they’re events, not concerts.

My dad was a rule-breaker. Bottom line: Are you coloring inside the lines or outside them? All the winners color the exterior, while insisting you remain interior.

Now I’m not telling you to rob banks. But if you see a stupid rule, maybe you should break it. All innovation is about breaking the rules, which is why Coachella falls so flat. All the innovation there is non-musical; it’s about food and sculpture, whereas the acts paint by numbers (thank you James McMurtry!). Isn’t it funny that the past 10 years have been dominated by TV singing competitions where people tell you how to perform, where you’ve got to run the gauntlet to get noticed. Artists don’t do this.

New musical stars will emerge who will rivet the public. But they’ll be different. They won’t be focusing on sponsorship or fashion shows. They’ll cause us to look at the world just a little bit differently. That’s what rule-breakers do: They make us challenge our preconceptions. Coachella is a celebration; it’s not art.

There’s a very interesting interview with venture capitalist Fred Wilson on Business Insider. Fred is a thinker who has something to say. What fascinated me most were is comments on Instagram:

“There’s a lot of people who were in my Instagram feed a year ago who aren’t there today,” he said. “They’ve been replaced by brands. So now my Instagram feed is full of things like the New York Knicks and restaurants posting amazing photos of food. The young Facebook user-base who left Facebook to go to Instagram has now seemingly moved mostly to Snapchat, and my generation plus brands are what’s on Instagram now.”

Youngsters move on. For all their supposed love of brands, when ads appear, the young disappear. In other words, by time the mainstream starts touting something, it’s toast. Just ask Fred: His virtual deejay company died right after an insane wave of publicity.

The point is, if you’re in the tech game — if you’re in the popular culture game — you’re concerned with where the people are going. The music business is primarily concerned with where people have been, believing they’re going to stay, buy CDs, listen to radio. Building something from nothing, seeing the future and changing the world, used to be music’s job. Now, it’s the VCs. Which means that Fred Wilson is a bigger rock star than everybody appearing onstage at Coachella. He’s reaching more people, and thrilling them.

It’s a completely different world these days. Baby boomers think they run it, but they just live in it. Time is passing them by — because they’re all about leisure and lifestyle, and it’s very hard to keep your finger on the pulse of pop culture that way.

There was an article in BusinessWeek that the convertible is dying. You see, kids don’t care about cars. But they do care about going to the festival to see and be seen, to take selfies and upload them.

Once upon a time music led change and adapted to the new world. Now, concert companies are doing an incredible job of extracting dough from customers. Give AEG credit for making Coachella a foodie paradise.

Just don’t tell me it’s about the music.

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    1. Andrew Olsen says:

      I went to Coachella to have a good time. I did’t just go to post pictures on instagram, or send a shit ton of snapchats, I went because I wanted to dance my face off and meet new, fun, people who are just like me. So you can shove your negative opinion about Coachella and my generation up your ass about my generation and how we feel. Because you can’t just rope all of us into that category. Of course, there are some who do this. But what do you know about my generation, you are just another part of the baby boomer generation who wouldn’t know and like to complain about “kids these days and their robot music.”

    2. Nikos says:

      When you’re young don’t be too defensive about your generation (‘it’s our thing’, blah blah blah) or taunt your daddy’s either. Chances are, you will have the same argument in the future when another set of youngsters will do their own thing and you are at the ‘older’ end of things. It’s a silly cycle really. My advice: Just enjoy your trippings and let others enjoy theirs.

    3. kenmandu says:

      The author both both makes and misses the point. This year’s youth have their own way of doing it but in the end the joy and escape they experience is just as good and just as valid.

    4. MickyTheKnife says:

      Nothing wrong with taking pictures of yourself when watching bands. The Coachella downer for people of my generation (born 1971) is that your substances (food and drinks) are upsold, you have to drink in a contained and controlled area, and your freedom to really be wild and creative, alongside the bands, is supervised. Festivals in the 80’s – 90’s were much wilder, as I’m sure they were even more so in the 60’s. Coachella reminds me of partying at the airport. Not really a party, just a lot of preflight drinking at a very high price.

    5. So much Coachella hate out there. It’s good for pageviews. Especially from those people who weren’t there, but know exactly what is going on.

      I went for my first time this year, and at 33, definitely consider myself the old guy in the crowtd. There are valid critiques of music festivals to be made, but this definitely sounds like a generational rant. And it’s clickbait. People are searching Google for any Coachella news, so this story gets a natural SEO boost.

    6. Okay so first of all, this article is not only age based , but it is biased. Ten years ago if that generation of “youngster” would have had cellphones and the ability to upload pics of their Nirvana concerts then I bet they would have. Secondly, there were some AMAZING Artists at Coachella this year, and people spent their hard earned money ey to be free and live amongst other like minded people, to escape from the bruding realities they lives. Sure their may have been people there who were all about being seen, but that doesn’t include everyone. I am sorry to the older people who have a hard time understanding the passion and joy this kind of music attraction brings to UA younger people, but that’s what music does, it evolves with time to add new sound to our lives. I personally, love dsunstep because it takes my mind to a level of creativity and freedom that somti ea other music simply can’t do. And just like my mother loves GU s and roses because it reminds her of her youth. Its not our problem that older people don’t understand what this generation feels from these festivals, but don’t ruin our joy by shit talking something JUST because your mind can’t comprehend the new ways of music and art and venues. This article is babble trash.

      • kenmandu says:

        That ‘s the point he both makes and misses. This year’s youth have their own way of doing it but in the end the joy and escape they experience is just as good and just as valid.

        • Amber Davila says:

          I mostly agree with you, but I do need to point out that Nirvana concerts were 20 years ago, not 10 years ago. Also, Coachella has seen MANY generations of young people come and go, we didn’t just invent Coachella in 2014! I had a blast at Coachella 10 years ago and have no pictures to prove it, so I guess that says something about technology changing the way young people experience things. Not good or bad, just different.

    7. adizztang says:

      but…FIRST….let me take a SELFIE!!! coachella rocks! music, friends, fun! whats not to like? I hope less people like you go, so more FUN people can live it up! Stop sipping that haterade!

    8. Josh says:

      Did anyone else read this in old-angry-dad voice?

      Bitter much?

    9. This is so unbelievably true, but why not make a market out of this? You could have more conerts/events where celebrities simply just show up and people pay phenomenal amounts of money just to be in vogue!

    10. Kari says:

      Uhhh. . .I go to festivals for the music. So do a ton of people. It’s become fashionable, however, to declare everyone’s just being a druggie trendwhore. When is this opinionated blather I keep seeing about festivals going to be backed up with some actual data? Because until you do that, you’re just another trendwhore yourself.

    11. sorry but you’re a couple of generations late with this. Woodstock was the last festival that was all about the music. Madison Ave. has been at every festival ever since…

    12. dana says:

      What a great commentary on contemporary society – as evidenced by the “music festival” culture. My first and only experience at Coachella was in 2008 and I haven’t been back. My friend and I were motivated to buy tickets to watch Roger Waters play “Dark Side of the Moon” from start to finish. It it one of my favorite albums of all time, so much so that when she couldn’t go because she got sick, I went anyway – by myself. What an amazing experience it was! People in the campgrounds were friendly – there were groups of people who had traveled alone and met up there – sharing resources – kinda like the hippiness of a music festival that you would imagine.

      Now, I certainly don’t begrudge the fact that music festivals and this one in particular have gotten more popular over the years – a festival continuing to operate at a profit is one of the things that keeps them running year after year. In fact, we’ve seen far too many great music festivals shut down because they just couldn’t sustain themselves… but I agree wholeheartedly that the evolution of what Coachella (and by extension, daily social media life) has turned into, is disheartening. That picture says it all! There are no less than 8 people who no doubt either waited all day or fought their way to the front who are taking pictures of themselves instead of enjoying their experience (and oh yeah, the band they came to see).

    13. Talisha Harrison says:

      Reblogged this on Mia Musicología.

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