Coachella 2022: True to tradition or TikTok makeover? | Way of life

SAN DIEGO — How many people will, without irony, wear One Direction t-shirts at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio this weekend and next weekend?

How many of the 125,000 daily attendees of the sold-out event will post videos of themselves on TikTok using a free commemorative Coachella NFT as a prop?

Both of these questions would have been almost unthinkable in 2019, the most recent year the world’s most popular and lucrative annual music festival was held before the COVID-19 shutdown.

Three years later, after canceling its 2020 and 2021 editions due to the pandemic, Coachella is about to return, bigger and more immersive than ever.

And, my, how things have changed, even though the recent arrival of the BA.2 variant underlines that the 2+ year old pandemic has not gone away. (The festival website states that attendees “voluntarily assume all risks of exposure to COVID-19”).

Either way, the pop music landscape looks at least a decade away from 2019. Three of Coachella’s four headliners in 2022 – Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and The Weeknd – illustrate how a festival that once thrived thanks to its cool and underground indie credibility has embraced pop music for a new generation.

“Beginning in 1999, Coachella changed the music festival landscape in the United States,” said Lollapalooza co-founder Marc Geiger. “But if you’re appealing to a Gen Z audience, Spotify and TikTok, you’re dealing with a different landscape.”

Is the festival going in one direction?

The 2022 edition of Coachella, whose annual six-day race will attract 750,000 people, has again sold out well in advance. As in the past, most tickets were purchased before a single artist was disclosed.

Additionally, many 2020 ticket buyers opted to hold on to their three-day passes until the festival can resume. There’s no better indication that the event itself has become the biggest draw. That’s a far cry from 2008, when Prince was a late addition to the lineup to boost ticket sales. (In 2010, Coachella stopped selling one-day tickets, opting instead for three-day passes. Attendance at the event, which consistently sells out in advance, has steadily increased with the growing size of the festival, which now covers more than 650 acres. .)

No longer considered a former lightweight boy band, ex-One Direction Heartthrob Styles have become an arena-filling solo act with a vocal win at the 2021 Grammy Awards for Best Pop Solo Performance under their belt.

His appearance as a Coachella headliner, which might have been laughable just a few years ago, seems timely now, commercially, if not artistically.

Perhaps even more notable is the impact on Coachella from TikTok, the video-sharing social networking app that lets users create and share music videos and now has around 1 billion monthly active users.

Although TikTok is primarily known for allowing users to post videos of themselves dancing and lip-syncing, it has also become a hot launch pad for young artists seeking musical stardom.

Major beneficiaries of TikTok include recent Grammy winner Olivia Rodrigo, Lil Nas X and Coachella 2022 artists such as Texas hip-hop sensation Megan Thee Stallion, Los Angeles singer-rapper Doja Cat, band Italian glam-rock Maneskin and singer-songwriter Conan Gray, who grew up in Texas but was born in Lemon Grove.

In another change that reflects changing trends and preferences, there will be well over 100 solo acts at Coachella this year, but only 39 bands.

The lineup includes a plethora of young artists who weren’t born when Coachella debuted in 1999 headlining sets from Beck, Tool and Rage Against the Machine.

Among the artists rising on this year’s bill are Mexican rapper Natanael Cano, English singer-songwriter Arlo Park, American rapper (and 2022 Grammy winner) Baby Keem, British troubadour- Filipino beabadoobee and Argentinian rapper-singer Nicki Nicole. They are all 21 years old.

Close behind, at 22, are Indonesian rapper Rich Brian and Texas singer Alaina Castillo, who has 850,000 YouTube subscribers.

Castillo first gained attention online with her hushed “sing you to sleep” covers of hit songs by Eilish, the Weeknd and others, which she performed in a format known as ASMR (abbreviation for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response).

Whispers and audible page turning are major triggers designed to help ASMR viewers and listeners relax and fall asleep. If the inclusion of Castillo, who sings in English and Spanish, at Coachella might have seemed like a farce a few years ago, now it isn’t.

Nor is the inclusion of yoga-DJ Cole Knight, pop chamber singer Still Woozy and South Korean hip-hop trio Epik High. Then there’s Bollywood-inspired soul singer Raveena Aurora, San Diego neo-surf-punk trio Beach Goons, Tijuana ranchera and banda group Grupo Firme and Los Angeles R&B duo Emotional Oranges.

These are just a few of the Coachella 2022 acts that may be unfamiliar to many music fans who attended the festival’s first edition in 1999 – or in the decade since.

First a bust, then a boom

The first iteration of Coachella was a two-day event. It attracted around 25,000 people and lost so much money that the festival did not take place in 2000.

It returned in 2001 but was not first sold out until 2004. The exceptionally well organized festival only became profitable in 2005. It expanded to three days in 2007.

By 2012, Coachella had grown to two consecutive three-day weekends. Attendance that year was 158,387 and the festival grossed $47,313,403, an amount dwarfed by the $114.6 million that Coachella brought in in 2017 (the last year for which figures were released by its producers).

There were a number of turning points that illustrated the growing appeal of the event. Performing at Coachella could instantly give performers a hip vibe. So could just be in the audience.

An early example was Madonna, who performed in the festival’s Sahara dance tent in 2006. She was followed, backstage, by socialite-turned-TV star Paris Hilton, who – from 2007 – became a regular participant.

Other celebrities and Hollywood stars followed, along with a horde of paparazzi. In 2011, YouTube began streaming some of the festival’s performances live, as it will do again this weekend. In 2015, H&M launched its Coachella-inspired clothing line (think affluent neo-hippies), followed by the introduction of an H&M boutique on the festival grounds.

Realizing that many young Coachella enthusiasts hadn’t attended a rock legends concert their parents grew up in, Coachella producers brought in headliners whose appeal inspired some parents who attended the festival. for the first time.

These legends included Prince and Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters both in 2008, Paul McCartney in 2009, AC/DC in 2015 and the reunited Guns N’ Roses in 2016. Having a heritage rock band in the lineup 2022 festival would almost seem shocking.

Madonna returned in 2015 for an appearance during Drake’s headlining performance. Coachella’s move into pop, at least for its headliners, solidified with Lady Gaga in 2017, followed by Beyonce in 2018 and Arianna Grande in 2019. That same year, South Korean trio Blackpink became the festival’s first K-pop act.

Before the pandemic, Coachella became an increasingly big commercial blockbuster that grew year by year. It now attracts a mass audience far different from the music enthusiasts and hipsters who made up a large part of the festival’s initial audience.

A key distinction is that the first decade of Coachella preceded the explosion of social media phenomena such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch and the increasingly popular TikTok. YouTube, which began streaming parts of the festival live in 2011, said it received 82.9 million live views during the 2019 edition of Coachella, the most recent to be held before the pandemic shutdown. .

If, for many, the event and the experience have become more appealing than the performers, well, that’s a sad reality. And if music now too often serves as a mere backing track when posing for selfies, the same is true at concerts, big and small, almost everywhere.

But whatever. Because for young people now — like in 2001, 2019, and every year in between — attending Coachella has become a prized rite of passage that comes with great bragging rights. Some things never change.

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