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What Happens When Coachella Is Just Another Concert

The two-weekend music festival kicks off on Friday amid questions about whether it’s losing its cachet with music lovers — and its status as one of fashion’s top marketing opportunities.
The two-weekend music festival kicks off on Friday amid questions about whether it’s losing its cachet with music lovers — and its status as one of fashion’s top marketing opportunities.
The two-weekend music festival kicks off on Friday amid questions about whether it’s losing its cachet with music lovers — and its status as one of fashion’s top marketing opportunities. (Getty Images)

Last month when Coachella tickets went on sale and did not immediately sell out, it touched off a bit of soul searching. The two-weekend music festival had, bit by bit and then all at once, built its identity as the influencer event of the year.

Those tickets did eventually sell, but there was still a lingering fear among the selfie set: if 150,000 people showed up in the California desert and their TikToks didn’t go viral, did Coachella really happen?

It’s a pressing question for fashion and beauty brands, too. Coachella has played host to some of the industry’s most over-the-top marketing activations over the years, and turned niche labels into Instagram sensations. Countless brands release “festival edits,” with a mix of new items and Coachella-friendly selections from their inventory (this year, prairie dresses and jorts are proving popular, while more dressed up styles, such as sequined dresses, are on the way out, according to retail analytics firm Edited). Festival sponsors make over gas stations, build party houses from scratch and host elaborate, all-day events with their own slates of musical artists. The Revolve Festival, hosted by the influencer-friendly online apparel brand since 2015, is a veritable institution at this point; the brand’s sales now top $1 billion.

This year, Revolve Festival is down to one day, from two (the status of the region’s gas stations remains unknown at press time). It’s contributing to a general sense that Coachella is less essential than it used to be. Music lovers, influencers and brands now have their pick of all-day concerts. Of retailers tracked by Edited, just one, Wolf & Badger, has released a Coachella edit, with others opting for a generic “festival edit,” albeit often with desert themes. Tecovas, a western wear brand that can thank Coachella in part for the surging popularity of its cowboy boots among non-cowboys, has no official presence at the festival, opting to sponsor the country-themed Stagecoach at the same venue later this month.

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Coachella is also feeling the effects of changes in the marketing world, particularly in how influencers build and monetise their brands. Take Aimee Song, a Revolve Festival regular, whose Song of Style collection has been sold by the company since 2019. She is independently launching a new luxury knitwear line, Amiya, and says she wants the clothes to be the main attraction, rather than her Instagram feed. Coachella doesn’t feel like the right place to market $1,000 sweaters.

That’s not to say the festival is a flop. Plenty of fashion and fashion-adjacent brands will be on site, with Paper and Nylon magazines and True Religion hosting events, among others. Levi’s still sponsors the Neon Carnival dance party, and Nike will be pushing its newly released Air Max Dns.

And if you still question whether Coachella still has a unique ability to draw attention, check out the frenzy over reports that Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce were making the trek to see Friday’s headliner, Lana Del Rey. The couple definitely weren’t in the audience for the singer’s stops in Huntsville, Alabama or Burgettstown, Pennsylvania.

“I am a Coachella guy,” Kelce told People.

The Week Ahead wants to hear from you! Send tips, suggestions, complaints and compliments to brian.baskin@businessoffashion.com.

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