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Influencing Coachella: How evolving demographics & social media stars shape the festival experience

Summer is coming and so are the music festivals! That’s right, festival season is upon us and this year, Coachella has been busy drawing crowds IRL and online. 

Take Sabrina Carpenter for example, who has been lighting up TikTok feeds performing her summer hit Espresso while flirting with her new beau, Barry Keoghan of Saltburn infamy. 

Taking place across two weekends, Coachella has been attracting thousands of music lovers since 1999, with approximately half a million attendees in 2023 and over 200 performances each year by icons such as Beyonce, Frank Ocean and Daft Punk. 

Coachella has long played an important role in culture. Its first iteration featured alternative rock legends Pearl Jam, Morrisey, Rage Against the Machine, and Beck. Its chill atmosphere and art installations gave the festival a Woodstock-vibe for a new generation of music lovers. 

As Coachella has become more mainstream, so too has the line-up. Recent years have seen more EDM, hip-hop and pop headlining the main stage, which naturally has had an impact on the audience.

This has presented major opportunities for Coachella to attract trendsetters across music and fashion. Coined the ‘influencer Olympics’ by Loren Gray, every year hundreds of established personalities and growing channels flock to the sacred grounds of Coachella to create content.

Screenshot of article on Coachella

Amongst the ring lights and shiny influences are the celebrities and brands looking to make their mark on the festival experience. And it’s these collaborations that can give us a sneak peek on how the evolving demographics are shaping the festival itself. In this blog, we’ll be taking a closer look at just that.

Grab your headphones and your hydration, and let’s explore how influencers are influencing Coachella.

The evolving demographics of Coachella attendees

If you want to understand how the evolving demographics of Coachella have shaped both the festival and its attendees, you need to go behind-the-scenes and dive into the data.

To do this, we ran two reports using Affinio looking at the transformation of the Coachella audience over the last five years. We compared the 2019 Coachella audience to the 2024 Coachella audience. 

image:  The Evolution of the Coachella Crowd: Comparing audiences from 2019 and 2024

Here’s the highlights:

  • Over the last five years, we’ve seen the number of men attending Coachella increase by about 6%, but women continue to make up around 58% of the total audience.
  • In 2024, Coachella successfully attracted more millennials than Gen Z, which isn’t quite what we expected. But looking at the festival line-up, it seems the headliners were tailored more toward that generation with Lana Del Rey and No Doubt on the main stage.
  • That said, Gen Z is clearly where Coachella is headed, with Gen Z favorites such as Reneé Rapp, Ice Spice and Doja Cat all appearing on the 2024 roster.
  • Compared to 2019, we saw significantly more TikTok personalities appearing as top influencers. This is interesting, as five years ago, many of the top influencers were all either famous models, actresses, or former famous models and actresses.

Image Top influencers Coachella 2024

  • A decline in legitimate fashion models influencing Coachella doesn’t mean that fashion no longer matters. On the contrary, our data shows that the 2024 Coachella audience contains a segment of fashionistas that is significantly larger than 2019, representing an ever-growing interest in festival fits. 
  • Similarly, a new segment has emerged called ‘LA lifestyle’, which consists of lifestyle brands and fashion influencers based in LA, showcasing Coachella’s increasing role as an influencer hotspot.
  • We’ve already mentioned that Coachella has transformed over the years from alternative rock festival to more mainstream acts including pop and hip-hop. In both 2019 and 2023, we saw that the audience has the highest affinity toward hip-hop artists, over and above any other music genre. This is reflected in the 2024 line-up, with Doja Cat and Tyler the Creator headlining, plus acts such as Ice Spice and Lil Yacht also appearing on the line-up.
  • Most interestingly, in 2019 we can see remnants of that original hardcore audience in the audience, with clusters such as ‘rock music’, ‘bass heads’, and ‘indie music fans’ appearing among the larger audience. But in 2024, these clusters have disappeared, demonstrating the shift in audience tastes.
  • Clusters come, clusters go, and in 2024 we saw a brand-new cluster dedicated entirely to BTS fans, the South Korean boy band that commands their very own ARMY online.
  • In 2024, we see a much bigger international segment, which considering the event takes place in California is pretty impressive. Coachella has increasingly become a landmark festival around the world, and over the last five years, this has been represented by the demographic shift of international attendees flying in for the show. 

The role of social media influencers at Coachella

Influencer marketing has shaken up many industries, from beauty and retail to B2B and banking. It’s really no surprise that their power has spread to music festivals. Coachella is particularly receptive to influencers and brands, given its cultural cache as a creative and experiential festival that takes you beyond the music.

In the early years, Coachella may have been home to hardcore music enthusiasts. But the festival has increasingly become a fashion and culture hub, spear-headed by celebrities and social media stars.

Picture cowboy boots, sparkly accessories, and double denim. Coachella was no longer just about the music; it was about the vibes. As Gen Z are beginning to enter the market, we also see them influencing – and being influenced by – the big personalities attending big cultural events.

It’s obvious that social media played a major role in Coachella’s growth and international prestige over the last decade. Since the early 2010s, content creators and celebrities have been attending in droves, with High School Musical actor Vanessa Hudgens dubbed Queen of Coachella and the Kardashians becoming regular fixtures in the crowd.

In the age of social media, we’ve also seen the rise of Couchella, where fans stay home and live vicariously through the content of influencers via TikTok, YouTube, Snap, and more. According to the LA Times, Beyonce’s racked up 458,000 simultaneous global viewers during her set in 2018. TikTok has also led to a surge in TikTok content, from influencers sharing their fits to 500 clips of the same artist set from about as many different angles.

While this has arguably made the festival more accessible, it also comes with drawbacks. One of the biggest challenges Coachella has faced in the last couple of years is a lack of authenticity. 

With so many influencers rocking up courtesy of brand dollars, there’s been complaints that the crowds are dead and brands are ruining the fun. But it looks like 2024 successfully silenced the haters and experienced a resurgence online.

The future of festivals: How influencers & artists are shaping Coachella

It’s an equal opportunity world for influencers. Once upon a time, fashion trends were influenced by movie stars and pop princesses. Now, influencers are persuading your average consumer to buy bodycon dresses and hair oil that will change their lives.

We also see artists blurring the lines between musician and influencer. YouTubers such as Justin Bieber, Charlie Puth and Shawn Mendes started out recording covers and have become global superstars. Reneé Rapp has effortlessly transcended from the stage to the screen… and become a queer sex symbol that has launched a thousand TikTok thirst traps.

There’s also an interesting blend of generations that are shaping Coachella as we know it. Gen Z are clearly the future of the festival, but the youngest millennials are in their late 20s and are starting to enjoy the perks of disposable income, making it possible to get out to a four-day music festival in California.

To understand how influencers and artists are shaping Coachella, let’s take a look at some of the most successful influencer and brand collaborations from the 2024 festival. 

Adidas Campus x Bad Bunny

From Soundcloud sensation to making history as the first Latino headliner at Coachella, Bad Bunny is at the top of his game. Adidas decided to capitalize on this historic moment by collaborating with Bad Bunny on a brand activation.

They launched the Adidas Campus Experience, an immersive pop-up designed to bring a taste of spring to the California desert, using floor-to-ceiling floral installations including 50,000 flowers, imported Spanish moss and 70-year-old Japanese Bonsai trees.

@milesbaguette Come with me to the Adidas x Coachella Bad Bunny Campus @adidas #createdwithadidas ♬ original sound - baguette

The goal was to promote their latest sneaker drop, a new variation of their iconic Campus shoes, created in partnership with Bad Bunny. Festival attendees were invited to the pop-up for a chance to buy the sneakers ahead of the global release date – an exclusive perk that would likely cause major envy for Bad Bunny fans not lucky enough to be at the festival. 

Poppi x Alix Earle

Considering they describe themselves as ‘a modern soda for the next generation’, it’s no surprise that soda brand Poppi decided to partner with TikTok’s latest IT girl Alix Earle for a fresh Coachella collaboration. Even their website looks like a vibrant social media feed.

Screenshot of Poppi website

They teamed up with Alix – who has over 6 million followers – to create the Poppi House. The plan was to celebrate the launch of their brand-new lemon-lime flavor in a suitably festive mansion. Decked out in zesty branding, Alix brought along a bunch of her influencer pals for a weekend of content creation, including makeup artist Patrick Ta, sister Ashtin Earle, and best friend Kristin Konefal.

@alixearle Welcome to Casa Poppi #coachearlea 🍋🍋‍🟩 @Ashtin Earle @kristin konefal @sallycarden @zz @patrick ta ♬ TiK ToK - Kesha

Throughout the first weekend of Coachella, Alix could be spotted sipping drinks and even coined the term CoachEARLEa to describe her Poppi-fueled Coachella experience. Plus, thanks to the hyper-personalized experienced provided by the brand to Alix and her friends, they were able to get an entire weekend’s worth of content and strengthen the affinity between their brands and Alix’s hugely engaged followers. 

AMEX Festival Fortunes x Reneé Rapp

You’re definitely like, in love with her. Reneé Rapp has caused a social media stir after the release of Mean Girls: The Musical movie in early 2024. AMEX worked with Reneé to make the most of her set at Coachella, with their Festival Fortunes activation.

They created a winter wonderland room, inspired by Reneé’s breakthrough album Snow Angel. Visitors were able to manifest their perfect Coachella experience through Reneé’s Reading, a fortune-telling experience that could only be accessed by taking a Coachella-themed quiz.

@americanexpress A peek inside the Amex Experience at @coachella ♬ Canyons - Official Sound Studio

They also worked with a range of influencers including Madeleine White – who has 4.6 million followers – to promote the pop-up, a great way of reaching more Gen Z readers who may soon be applying for their first credit card. 

@madeleine_white Back with @American Express and it's FAB this year! At the Amex Experience you can get your fortune read by Reneé Rapp, an exclusive Non-Alch , small business night market, mystery merch and so much more.. don't miss the fun #withAmex at Coachella!! #AmexAmbassador #ad ♬ Ice Cube - Lolo Zouaï

Another excellent touch for this activation was the debut of AMEX’s Merch-To-Window. Existing cardholders could claim a mystery box of festival-themed artist merchandise, including merch for Rap but also other artists such as Tyler the Creator, alongside official Coachella merch.

What’s next for Coachella?

While several outlets are forecasting a downward spiral, claiming music fans feeling disheartened by the mass of influencers descending each year, we’d argue that this dip in interest presents a perfect opportunity to shake things up in the roaring 20s. 

The future of Coachella isn’t just about influencers. It’s about the artists and the devoted followings that will bring the festival to the next generation, as well as harnessing influencer power for good.

But how? It’s clear from 2024’s activations that a great influencer marketing campaign depends on three key ingredients: authenticity, creativity, and community engagement. It’s no longer enough to pay a macro-influencer to post one photo and call it a day, you need them to be truly engaged and passionate about what they’re promoting.

The golden thread that brings all of these moments together is the emphasis on creating genuine collections – between influencers, their followers, and Coachella itself – and empowering creators to feel free in the content they create. Strict brand guidelines are out, the ability to express yourself is so in.

And remember, it’s not just about Gen Z. While they’re the hot new topic for marketers the world over, they’re not the only market. Young millennials are just starting to hit their stride in terms of disposable income, stability, and desire to enjoy the finer things in life. Now is the time for luxury brands to make their case, especially in the context of a glamorous festival like Coachella.

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