History Of Coachella Shows How A Single Concert Transformed Into One Of The World's Biggest Music Festivals

Music fans attend day 2 of the 2013 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 13, 2013 in Indio, California. AFP PHOTO / JOE KLAMAR (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images

As a native of the Coachella Valley, it’s been a pretty fascinating thing to watch how Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has evolved. The days of jumping our fence in the backyard to listen to a few good tunes are far over as locals are lucky to even get a shot at entering what has become one of the largest music festivals in the world. 

In 1993, Pearl Jam performed for almost 25,000 fans at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, which had never previously hosted a music festival. The concert sowed the seeds for what would later become the inaugural Coachella Festival, courtesy of Goldenvoice. The rest, as they say, is history. Take a look back at how Coachella has evolved through the years.

1999, The Start of It All

The first Coachella Fest was held in 1999 with headlining acts by Beck, The Chemical Brothers, Tool, Morrissey, and Rage Against the Machine. By booking acts based on artistry rather than radio popularity, Coachella earned the title of “the anti-Woodstock.” Originally, promoters hoped to make the event three days (Friday through Sunday), but after Woodstock ‘99 gave music festivals a bad rep with its massive riots only three months prior, Coachella wasn’t allowed to offer on-site camping. The festival was originally held in March, and tickets sold for just $50 a day with an overall attendance of about 37,000. Attendees were offered free parking and a free water bottle upon entrance. 

2001, Temperatures Drop & Ticket Prices Raise

In 2001, Goldenvoice moved the festival to the month of April in an attempt to beat the heat, as temperatures reached 120°F the year before. Organizers encountered difficulty booking acts for the festival. Just months before the event, promoters turned to Perry Farrell and reunited Jane’s Addiction for the event, which establishes the tradition of band reunions. Ticket prices were raised to $65.

2002 - 2003, Camping Tents Allowed

The 2002 festival featured the reunited Siouxsie and the Banshees, as well as headlining acts Björk and Oasis. The well-behaved crowd remarkably contrasted with the violence that had plagued Woodstock, and the strong supporting acts proved to the Coachella Valley that the event could bring in money and take place without conflict.

In 2003, Coachella started allowing tent camping as an option for festival lodging. The festival featured Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys,  Iggy Pop, and The Stooges. The event drew in the largest crowd yet, making it a worldwide interest, and put Coachella on the map.

2004, First Sellout

The 2004 event reunited the Pixies after 11 years and featured Radiohead, Kraftwerk, The Cure, Belle and Sebastian, and The Flaming Lips. It was Coachella’s first sellout with 50,000 tickets sold for both Saturday and Sunday.

2005, Strongest Coachella Lineup Yet

The 2005 festival featured some of the biggest names in music, such as Coldplay, Nine Inch Nails, Bright Eyes, the Chemical Brothers, Snow Patrol, Bloc Party, Arcade Fire, Weezer, M.I.A, and other well-known bands. The LA Times pop critic said the lineup “may be the strongest yet.”

2006 - 2007, Coachella Extends to a Three-Day Festival

The 2006 event featured Depeche Mode, Massive Attack, Tool, Daft Punk, James Blunt, Gnarls Barkley, and Madonna in her only Coachella appearance.

Finally in 2007, the festival was extended to three days and featured headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, and Björk, all of whom headlined for the second time. The event also featured a rare American performance by Jarvis Cocker and Scarlett Johansson, who sang with Jesus and Mary Chain. The festival hit a new record of more than 186,600 attendees, and grossed $16.3 million.

2008, Ticket Sales Drop

The 2008 festival featured headliners Prince, Roger Waters, and Jack Johnson, with notable appearances from Portishead, Death Cab for Cutie, and Adele. However, the event lost nearly $3 million due to tickets not selling out.

2009, Change in Dates to Coincide with Stagecoach

In 2009, the festival occurred one week earlier to collaborate with the third annual country music Stagecoach Festival, set to start the following week. The event featured headliners Paul McCartney, The Killers, and The Cure, with notable performances from Franz Ferdinand, M.I.A., and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. That year, McCartney’s show went over by 55 minutes, which lead to the proposal for a later curfew.

2010 - 2011, Three-Day Tickets Only

In 2010, the festival did away with single-day tickets and instead offered three-day tickets only, drawing mixed reviews. 2010 also introduced many new features, such as re-entry from the campsite to the festival grounds, parking next to your tent, and recreational vehicle camping spots. Headliners included Jay-Z, Muse, and Gorillaz. Other notable acts were Fever Ray, Atoms for Peace, MGMT, Arcade Fire, Florence and the Machine, and more. The festival drew in more than 75,000 spectators each day.

In 2011, Coachella tightened up the security with wristbands that were scanned with entry. Headliners for the event included Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire, Kanye West, and The Strokes. Other performers included Duran Duran, Mumford & Sons, and the reunited Big Audio Dynamite, among 190 supporting acts.

2012, Coachella Extended to a Double-Weekend Festival

In 2012, the festival reissued single-day passes and revamped the facilities with recycling, a general store, showers, mobile phone charging stations, and an Internet cafe with free WiFi. But the most exciting change of the year was when Goldenvoice announced that Coachella would be expanded to a second, separately-ticketed weekend, with identical lineups for each. Rolling Stone called it a “very risky move,” and said there was “no guarantee that demand [would be] high enough to sell out the same bill over two consecutive weekends,” but 2012 tickets sold out in less than three hours. 

The 2012 festival featured many big named artists like Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Radiohead, The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys,  Frank Ocean, St. Vincent, and more. There were even a few surprise guest appearances by Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Warren G, Rihanna, Usher, and others. Goldenvoice also announced their purchase of 280 acres of land at the festival site to extend property grounds.

2013, Coachella Hits New Record

The 2013 lineup included major artists such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Stone Roses, The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, The Postal Service, 2 Chainz, and Wu-Tang Clan. General admission tickets were sold for $349, a $34 increase from the previous year, and the festival grossed $67.2 million in ticket sales. The attendance toppled over at 180,000 people, making it the largest music festival in the world.

This was also the year that Coachella was known for having a “style.” Worldwide people began posting photos of outfits worn at the festival, and soon stores everywhere began selling Coachella attire and accessories. Personally I think the style was taken on by the locals. In a city that never drops below 40 degrees, everyone tends to wear little clothing all year around. And since most of the people who used to attend the festival were teens with a love for underground music, they were already pretty hip. Thus evolved the retro and revealing style of Coachella fashion. 

2014, Fastest Ticket Sellout

The 2014 festival featured 184 artists. Headliners included the reunited Outkast, Muse, and Arcade Fire. The festival also featured an over-the-top lineup with Lorde, Pixies, Kid Cudi, Nas, Motörhead, Haim, Aloe Blacc, Bastille, MGMT, Foster the People, Ellie Goulding, and Lana Del Rey, among others. Beyoncé made a surprise appearance during her sister Solange’s performance. Justin Bieber made an appearance alongside Chance The Rapper, while Jay-Z and Diddy also made surprise appearances during Nas’ set. But Pharrell Williams takes the cake of having the most guests, which included Nelly, Snoop Dogg, Gwen Stefani, Diplo, and Busta Rhymes. The 2014 general admission tickets sold out in less than 20 minutes, and VIP tickets in excess of $5,000 sold out within three hours. 

2015, Stay Tuned

On January 6, 2015 Coachella announced the official lineup for their 2015 festival with headliners featuring AC/DC, Drake, and Jack White, with additional performances by Clean Bandit, Florence and the Machine, Hozier, and many more. General admission tickets once again sold out in less than 20 minutes.

The Stats

Since the start of the festival, general admission tickets have increased from $50 to $375.

The overall attendance has increased by nearly 153,000 people. 

The festival originally featured 75 artists during the two-day event, but now features more than 200 musical performance over the span of six days.