• What is Coachella? Brief history of the music, arts festival

    By: Kelcie Willis, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:

    INDIO, Calif. - For nearly decades, the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival has grown from a niche event to a yearly staple in music and pop culture. It’s come a long way from its more indie roots in 1999. 

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    Here are some facts about the music festival:

    First tickets were $50 a day

    In 1999, handing over a Grant for one day of a festival was expensive for a trip to the desert to see Beck, Morrissey, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Moby and others in the indie rock, electronic dance and pop rock space who were popular at the time.

    Festivalgoers attend the 2019 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival Weekend 1 Day 3 on April 14, 2019 in Indio, California.
    Festivalgoers attend the 2019 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival Weekend 1 Day 3 on April 14, 2019 in Indio, California.
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    There was no festival in 2000

    Money issues from the first festival, which saw a decrease in sales because of violence from Woodstock ‘99 months prior, meant there was no Coachella 2000. Goldenvoice, the company headed by concert promoter Paul Tollett, lost money. Tollett later said the first gathering cost $750,000.

    Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails perform at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Fields May 1, 2005 in Indio, California. Photo: Karl Walter/Getty Images
    Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails perform at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Fields May 1, 2005 in Indio, California. Photo: Karl Walter/Getty Images

    The festival was two days

    Except for the return of Coachella in 2001, which was only one day, the music festival started out as a two-day event. It has since grown to go across three days.

    Rap and pop has taken over electronic and rock music

    When Prince headlined the festival in 2008, the top-billed headliner tide turned toward more mainstream acts and away from mostly experimental electronic and rock acts. Jay-Z headlined the show in 2012 and that same year, a holographic image of Tupac performed with Snoop Dogg. 

    Rapper Snoop Dogg with a holographic image of Tupac Shakur is seen performing during day 3 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field on April 15, 2012 in Indio, California. Photo: Kevin Winter, Getty Images
    Rapper Snoop Dogg with a holographic image of Tupac Shakur is seen performing during day 3 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field on April 15, 2012 in Indio, California. Photo: Kevin Winter, Getty Images

    Still, alternative artists across multiple genres continue to perform at the festival, including Major Lazer, Erykah Badu, My Morning Jacket, James Blunt, Cardi B, M.I.A., Broken Social Scene, the Chemical Brothers, The xx and others.

    The first female headliner wasn’t until 2017

    Beyonce was initially announced as the history-making first female headliner for Coachella 2017, but when she dropped out when she was expecting twins, Lady Gaga stepped up.

    Beyonce Knowles performs onstage during 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Field on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella
    Beyonce Knowles performs onstage during 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Field on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella

    Beyonce became the first black woman to headline the festival at Coachella 2018, a feat that is chronicled in a Netflix documentary directed by the singer herself.

    The main stage lights up after dark at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival April 28, 2002 in Indio, California. Photo Credit: Sebastian Artz/Getty Images
    The main stage lights up after dark at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival April 28, 2002 in Indio, California. Photo Credit: Sebastian Artz/Getty Images

     

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