The Business Behind Coachella

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Coachella’s rise

The origin story of Coachella is a screenplay waiting to happen. The first festival was announced a few days after the disaster of Woodstock ‘99 with just 60 days advance notice. That year, Coachella sold just 25,000 tickets at $50 each for the two-day event. It lost well over $1 million in 1999 and didn’t come back until 2001 thanks to a partnership with Goldenvoice, which organizes the event every year. Twenty-plus years later, Coachella has become a staple of American music culture.

The timing of the 1999 festival is remarkable. Imagine if a new cryptocurrency exchange platform launched the week after FTX collapsed. And then that platform became a marquee financial institution by 2035. That’s essentially what Coachella did.

Coachella has evolved from an alternative rock meetup to a mainstream pop ensemble. It has followed the common societal trend in the internet age: nerd culture became mainstream culture. This tracks with the rise in mainstream popularity of things like fantasy football, Comic-Con, video games, Formula 1, and even retail investing. (As someone who was in stock market clubs in the 90s, me “investing” in Oracle or Sony wasn’t as cool as people investing in FAANG companies today).

But unlike other trends and even other festivals, Coachella developed a brand that can sell itself. This festival could sell out tickets before announcing a lineup if it wanted to. Fans want the vibes. Fans was the lifestyle. The influencers, fashion, and activations will be there regardless of who performs on stage. In the early 2010s, the festival became a who’s who for celebrity attendance. Attending was a flex, like sitting courtside at a Lakers game.

Meanwhile, most music festivals, especially newer ones, need strong lineups to sell tickets. Those festivals are vehicles to push products (the artists) to consumers. After a while, enough festivals can give the audience an idea of what to expect, like Rolling Loud, but it takes time to get there

Listen to the full episode here or read below for more takeaways.

Who gets the most out of it?

One of the upsides of festivals like Coachella is the ability to reach new fans. This is true at all festivals, but Coachella’s brand and guaranteed audience help ensure that artists will reach new people. It’s especially true this year since all six stages will be live-streamed on YouTube for the first time.

The downside though is that those people who attend may not fit the profile of the artist’s fanbase. They may be less likely to become real fans. The influencers who are paid to attend the festival may be interested in the show itself. Festivals can be great for artists to get big checks and guarantees, but that upfront money avoids the long game selling hard tickets to an artist’s most passionate fans. This is one reason why Curren$y explained in our podcast episode that he doesn’t like festivals and prefers his own shows.

Headlining the show is great for many superstar artists, but at the highest heights there’s a tradeoff. In recent years, the headliners get $4 million per weekend (but I heard from a source that Bad Bunny got $5 million). The artist on the second row got $750,000 per weekend. That’s a great payday, even for an artist selling out arenas. But for an artist like Taylor Swift, who can likely gross $10 million per night on her own stadium tour, then she may be leaving money on the table. This is where the Coachella documentary deals play a factor. Beyonce was rumored to be paid $20 million for the Homecoming documentary on her 2018 show, which made the experience worthwhile for her (and the Beyhive).

For other artists, Coachella is a brand-building signal to keep getting looks. Cardi B performed in 2018 and was paid just $70,000 per weekend. She spent more on her production, but she saw it as an investment. Cardi now gets paid $1 million for private shows regularly. She used a Coachella performance the same way a speaker uses a TEDx Talk. Sure, they weren’t paid. But that high-quality video lives on YouTube forever and will be the proof point to land more lucrative speaking and career opportunities.

The economics: do people want more?

On our podcast, Tati said that she wouldn’t be surprised if Coachella adds a third weekend. I agree. Music festivals, like any form of entertainment, are subject to the power law. Most fail, and even those that succeed aren’t at the same level as Coachella, GlastonburyLollapalooza, and others. People may say they want a variety of festivals, but what they really want is more of what they already know. Festivals are like IP franchises in that way. A third weekend could boost revenue by 50%. It may be tough to get artists and their teams to stick around Coachella Valley for another week, but at least it’s close to Los Angeles.

Before we close out, here are my predictions on the 2024 Coachella headliners. I’m picking Madonna, who will be back in tour mode), SZA, who has been one of the best commercial years of any artist, and Usher, given the popularity of his Vegas residency.In the rest of the episode, Tati and I went in more depth on:

In the rest of the episode, Tati and I went in more depth on:

–  untapped opportunities for Coachella

–  how the rise of concert ticket prices impacts Coachella

–  festival lineups becoming homogenous

Listen to the episode here.

[1:20] Coachella’s brand sells itself

[2:19] Festival’s origin story

[7:09] Advantages and disadvantages of performing at Coachella

[9:09] Success by the numbers

[11:28] Coachella bump for brands, influencers, and local economy

[16:38] Untapped opportunities for future Coachellas

[22:02] How individual music show prices influence festival attendance

[24:22] Artists that are above playing Coachella

[27:08] The festival that’s the antithesis of Coachella 

[31:10] Festival lineups becoming homogeneous 

[39:36] Predicting Coachella’s 2024 headliners


[00:00:00] Tati Cirisano: Being a performer at Coachella has become almost like a badge of honor or like something that goes on your one sheet, you know what I mean? Like, it’s something that like gives you leverage as an artist and also is just, I don’t know, seen as like it has a certain level of prestige.

Like I would compare headlining at Coachella to like, in the same way that a lot of artists would love to get like a rolling stone or a billboard cover, even if like, regardless of whether that’s selling or regardless of what that does, just that as a concept has, is just something that’s like on a bucket list for most artists.

I feel like headlining Coachella, if you’re someone who’s trying to be a superstar, that’s like a bucket list item too. So yeah, it’s, interesting How entrenched this festival has become in the music industry when you really think about it.

[00:00:43] Dan Runcie Intro: Hey, welcome to the Trapital Podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more who are taking hip hop culture to the next level.

[00:01:25] Dan Runcie Guest Intro: Today’s episode is about the business behind Coachella and the unofficial start to music festival season in 2023. Coachella’s history is pretty impressive when you think about it. This festival started in 1999. It was announced the week after Woodstock 99, and the shit show that that festival. With just 60 days’ notice to then put on this festival that attracted just 25,000 people and ticket prices cost $50 each, and the headliner was Beck and the festival didn’t make it money that year.

Didn’t even make enough to continue in 2000, and it wasn’t until its partnership with Golden Voice in 2001 that it was able to get things back on track and slowly build up to the behemoth of a festival that we see today. It’s an event that attracts well over a hundred thousand people per day for the six days of the festival itself.

Two straight weekends and it attracts some of the biggest artists in the world. And this year they’re especially making its footprint scene on the global scene. The headliners include Bad Bunny, Black Pink, Frank Ocean. There’s also artists like Burna Boy, Calvin Harris, and many others that are making up this year’s lineup.

To break it all down, I’m joined by Tati Cirisano from MIDiA Research. We talk about what this festival does well, how it’s shaped music culture overall, and its broader impact on music festival culture. Here’s our breakdown. Hope you enjoy it.

[00:02:55] Dan Runcie: All right. Today’s episode is all about festivals and the granddaddy of them all, at least in the US, Coachella. We’re here to break it down with Tati Cirisano from MIDiA Research.

Tati, welcome back to the pod.

[00:03:09] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, thanks for having me, excited to dive in. 

[00:03:12] Dan Runcie: Yeah. One of the reasons I wanted to talk about this with you is because I feel like Coachella reminds me of some of the conversations we’ve had about, a lot of these platforms that they, in many ways have become the bigger brand and the destination than the actual creators on some of these platforms. And I feel like Coachella, at least from a music festival perspective, has some of that because at least in the US this is the most popular music festival.

We’ve seen it expand over the past two decades. And while most music festivals do rely so heavily on their headliners, Coachella is one of the ones that it’s still able to, in many ways, capture the same audience and just get a consistent following and culture around it. That doesn’t seem like it’s stood as dependent on the headliners, but they still get big headliners.

So how do you think that shapes the festival and how fans themselves interact with

that festival?

[00:04:10] Tati Cirisano: Yeah. I mean, just to like prove out what you’re saying, I think, I’m pretty sure Coachella tends to sell out or at least sell a lot of tickets before their headliners are even announced or before the lineup is announced at all. So you’re totally right. I think it’s become a big enough brand in itself that people are just kind of, ready to buy into it. And I think it’s because Coachella has It’s kind of created a culture. I remember kind of the celebrity era of Coachella when like, you know, Vanessa Hudgeons was like the queen of Coachella and you could go and run into Rihanna and Paris Hilton and like they kind of created that aesthetic of like the hippie style and all of these things.

And so, when people buy a ticket, it’s like they’re buying into a lifestyle and a culture more so than the music itself. I think a lot of people go for that experience and to dress up and like buy into that, that lifestyle, maybe even more so than the music. and it does seem like Coachella over time, maybe because of that.

The lineups have become a little bit more like crowd pleaser and mainstream to me. Like I was looking, just in preparation for this episode, like kind of looking at the history of Coachella and I didn’t realize that when it started, part of what Paul Tollett wanted to do was create like a more niche festival where you would bring together like a lot of niche artists and hope that they all have big enough individual following that, you know, putting all that together. Would be enough for a festival. and it seems like the complete opposite today. In many ways like I think Coachella still sometimes tends to have like more left of center artists that line up this year is like super diverse and interesting. But it does seem like they’ve maybe become a little bit more mainstream over time.

And maybe it is because the people are going not as much for the music as they’re going for, like the vibe of it all.

[00:06:02] Dan Runcie: Yeah, and dating back to that first festival, it’s kind of crazy that this even became what it is today because it starts in 1999. They announced this festival and put tickets on sale. I think it was two months before the actual festival started, so not that much time. They announced it the same week or the week after Woodstock 99, which is just a complete shit show, which said so much about where people viewed a festival like this and their headliner was Beck. They didn’t make as much money, I wanna say like 25,000 people showed. So they couldn’t even have a festival in 2000. They had to wait until the next year and do the partnership with Golden Voice and make it happen.

And then, yeah, fast forward to where we are today, where it is mainstream pop artists that are doing it. And what was once this niche culture of people that just really enjoyed indie rock music. It now is this mainstream thing. It almost reminds me of something like Comic-Con in that same way where it was this nerd thing with people that you know wanna do live action, role play, and Dungeons and Dragons, or dress up like Zelda.

And now every mainstream celebrity is there to promote their movie.

[00:07:19] Tati Cirisano: Yeah. And in the same way, you’re going to dress up, you’re going to like, kind of put on a costume, Coachella, it is kind of a costume for most people and like have that experience regardless of who’s playing.so yeah, I totally agree. And I think the other thing, like over time Coachella has gotten to a place because of all that we’re talking about, where it has such a, power on the festival market, like written into its contracts, like it has a radius clause that they get to release their lineup first.

They are the first festival of the season, mid-April is like pretty early, so there’s also now like I think built in ways that Coachella tends to be kind of the North Star for all of the festivals, and so it’s just the one that people are going to regardless of, yeah, regardless of who’s playing.

[00:08:09] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I also feel like because it has a bit more of that brand and that audience command, regardless of who the artist is, I almost feel like it has a little bit of that Super Bowl effect where artists want to be able to perform on that stage because sure, they may bring some fans themselves, but they’re likely gonna be reaching a new audience and having exposure to people that may not necessarily have tapped in general compared to, and I think Coachella is similar, but if you compare that to some of these other festivals that are so heavily reliant on that headliner themself. There’s a case to be made that, okay, well if the headliner pulled those fans into the festival, then they have to then share those tickets essentially, you know, soft tickets with everyone else.

How does that compare to actual hard tickets that they could have done themselves? So, I feel like there’s a Coachella advantage there. 

[00:09:01] Tati Cirisano: And there’s also a disadvantage in that you don’t get, I mean, I know that I’m pretty sure already, like the data that you get on who’s in your seats at shows is pretty minimal. But when you go to a festival, you don’t really know who’s going to see the festival for you and you don’t really know who dis how many people discovered you or how many people came to your set. It’s not the same as like if you sell out an arena, you know, the number of seats that were there, you know what I mean? So that’s also an interesting thing is like you are probably getting a greater audience and this artist might be the whole reason the festival is selling tickets, but nobody’s actually able to quantify that.

[00:09:34] Dan Runcie: Right. And I feel like for some artists too, there’s almost a bit of risk mitigation that can come with doing a festival. Risk mitigation may be the wrong word, but I think that’s certain artists that have a lot of buzz or may have a lot of fanfare, it may be a lot harder for them to sell hard tickets.

But if they could perform in front of this large festival crowd, they get a big advance or they get a big guarantee with the, promoter and through their agent as well, they can feel much more confident performing in front of, you know, thousands of fans or maybe even tens of thousands of fans on stage, even though they may not be able to sell, you know, sell out a house of Blues for instance.

[00:10:14] Tati Cirisano: Totally. Yeah. No, and it also feels like being a performer at Coachella has become almost like a badge of honor or like something that goes on your one sheet, you know what I mean? Like, it’s something that like gives you leverage as an artist and also is just, I don’t know, seen as like it has a certain level of prestige.

Like I would compare headlining at Coachella to like, in the same way that a lot of artists would love to get like a rolling stone or a billboard cover, even if like, regardless of whether that’s selling or regardless of what that does, just that as a concept has, is just something that’s like on a bucket list for most artists.

I feel like Coachella headlining Coachella, if you’re someone who’s trying to be a superstar, that’s like a bucket list item too. So yeah, it’s, interesting How entrenched this festival has become in the music industry when you really think about it.

[00:11:02] Dan Runcie: Yeah, let’s look at some of the numbers here, cuz I think that’s another fascinating piece. So we don’t have hard numbers for this. A lot of it is based on past things that have been shared. But in 2017, this festival grossed to 114 million. And they had around 125,000 people coming per weekend.

So if you roughly do the math thing, you look at ticket sales, I feel like that’s like just under $500, like per attendee that ends up coming to the festival. And we likely saw similar, maybe even greater as well, because that doesn’t take into account sponsorships that doesn’t take into account these brand activations and other things as well.

And I know that Coachella is a festival that has taken some shit for not paying artists well, at least the artists that are further down that list, that have much smaller font size, I think it’s seen as paying the headliners. Well, at least I was talking to, someone that understands the business well, and their estimates were that the headliners this year, so you have Bad Bunny, Black Pink, and Frank Ocean.

Their thought was, Frank Ocean and Black Pink got 4 million per weekend, so 8 million total and that Bad Bunny likely got 5 million per weekend. So then 10 total and then I believe that Calvin Harris’s name was, towards the bottom of that list, like returned to the desert, Calvin Harris, I think he got one and per weekend. And then the artists that are on let second row, like Burna Boy and a few others, I think it was around like seven 50K per weekend but then it’s a steep drop off after that, right? I mean, I remember hearing from Cardi B, this was, you know, after invasion of privacy, but still before, you know, she blew up, blew up. Or maybe it was the year before that, I forget. But she talked about how she was paid 70K, but she saw it as an investment in her career as an opportunity to pull up and get more. And obviously she’s someone that you know, is now getting a million dollars. Private shows where she’s doing 35 minute sets, but I feel like that like plays into that.

So I don’t know if all of those artists are getting paid, but yeah, I think some of them are willing to take that because of the exposure. 

[00:13:14] Tati Cirisano: Right. Yeah, I think you’re probably right. And the number that I would love to know is like how much money that, cuz I know you, you were also talking about the boost of the local economy and that I think it was400 million, in Coachella Valley. I’m also wondering, like, even outside of that, just the whole business of it, like you mentioned the sponsorships, the influencer deals, you know, H & M having a Coachella section in their store.

Like all of these things, I’m almost more fascinated by all of these kind of like satellite businesses around Coachella than the business of Coachella itself like I would love to know the total number for how much revenue this festival is just kind of generating for all these things outside of it, if that makes sense like, cuz it seems to go so far, like e every store has a festival section in March and you know that what they’re really talking about is Coachella.

[00:14:06] Dan Runcie: Definitely. Yeah. Like, could we look at, I’m sure they wouldn’t share this, but if Forever 21 and H & M and those types of stores shared, how much more do they get from, you know, their festival and attire, whether that’s, you know, the flower headdresses or whatever, you know, the crowns and the stuff that people wear or just shut general outfits as well. And then I forget the name of the brand, but there’s one of those brands that I’m sure many of them do, but they pay for all the hotels that are in Palm Springs, that are in Indio in the general area, put all the influencers there, buy all the clothes for them, and then buy all their tickets and just have them work almost the same way a reporter

would work the festival. 

[00:14:47] Tati Cirisano: Yeah. like what is the influencer economy around Coachella specifically? Like how much money is there? I would love to know.

[00:14:56] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I feel like, because if you count that, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re over a billion, especially

like just when you count the overall impact for sure. 

[00:15:05] Tati Cirisano: did you happen to see the price of the first Coachella ticket? When you were doing your research, 

[00:15:12] Dan Runcie: I saw this a while ago, but I forget now. How much was it? 

[00:15:16] Tati Cirisano: Guess, guess, 

[00:15:17] Dan Runcie: oh, guess. Okay. I’m gonna guess it’s like $75.

[00:15:20] Tati Cirisano: It was $50

[00:15:22] Dan Runcie: Oh, wow. 

[00:15:23] Tati Cirisano: Was and this year’s was $550 and that’s before, so 

[00:15:28] Dan Runcie: Wow. Wow. What a come up 50 bucks to see all those artists and then only 20 other 25,000 other people there. 

Wow, that’s something crazy. Yeah. I mean, so 10X there, everything’s grown. And then even just the expansion, right? Because I think it was around like 2007 or so that they first went to multi-day, then they went to multiple weekends. Yeah

[00:15:51] Tati Cirisano: I wouldn’t be shocked if they added a third. I think anything more than a third weekend would be kind of overkill and maybe wouldn’t be special anymore, but I actually would not be shocked if they made it a three weekend thing. 

[00:16:02] Dan Runcie: Yeah, 

[00:16:02] Tati Cirisano: One of these days. 

[00:16:04] Dan Runcie: I feel like it, because if you look at the opportunity, we can talk about this now, but if you look at the livestream play that’s been happening, they’ve only been expanding that. So this was the first year that. So YouTube has been partnering to livestream this show since 2011, I believe, but this is the first year that all six stages are now gonna have a dedicated stream.

And I think the pattern that we’ve seen now is you have a artist like Beyonce, she obviously gets the full recording of her show. She then sells that to Netflix for 20 million dollars or however much that deal is, and then she ends up monetizing that. I assume that there’s likely some compensation or some participation that Coachella and more broadly golden voice get from that piece of it.

But what could the stepped up livestream look like further. I mean, I’ve watched it in past years and it’s nice, but could there ever be a Super Bowl level production that goes into at least some particular part of these artists sets? Because they’re clearly putting more and more into it as it does become a big stage and you do have a little bit more flexibility of Yeah, it’s not a 13 minute set, it’s a hour long thing and the higher the production value, the more fans are gonna wanna see it, the more YouTube can get more ad dollars for it and the more goes to Coachella too.

[00:17:26] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, no, I think there’s definitely an opportunity for that and not just higher production quality of filming the show, but also when you mentioned the Super Bowl, like having like commentators and doing interviews and there’s like know what I mean like there’s like a halftime like conversation.

I could see there being like hosts and like interviewing fans and things like that. I feel like that’s probably happened at festivals before. before. I haven’t watched that many festival live streams but I’m trying to remember, like Glastonbury’s was really good, this past year and it was everywhere like, because they did such a good job with the live stream. There were clips on every social media app I looked at. It was all over the news. Like it really became this cultural moment.so I think, yeah, I think there’s definitely an opportunity to like have a higher quality live stream that people will pay for.

I also think on the other end of things, I wonder how much more. Like UGC Live streams will come into play. I was thinking about this because, bill Wordy, who’s the former, billboard, like editor-in-chief, he has a newsletter, you probably know, what is it 

called? Full Write No Cap 

[00:18:28] Dan Runcie: Full Rate, No cap. 

[00:18:30] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, he spoke recently, or he wrote recently about how so many Taylor Swift fans are live streaming the entire. concert for the Eras tour on TikTok and on YouTube and getting tips for it. And these streams are like pretty low quality and they’re often like from the nosebleeds and you can’t even see Taylor, but they’re getting like thousands of viewers and people are paying them to do it, and he kind of suggested, like what could the opportunity be here, whether that’s artists partnering with TikTok to livestream it or what I think is more interesting maybe is like partnering with creators to do this. If they’re already doing it, why not create an infrastructure around it? But then I also don’t wanna advocate for like, everybody to be at the show live streaming the entire show and like have their phones in their faces and like I know artists hate that.

I know fans hate that, I hate that. So it’s an interesting question and I don’t know exactly how it would look, but I feel like UGC live streams could come into play like on the opposite end of these, like more high production shows or live streams. 

[00:19:34] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I think so too because you, of course, there’s always gonna be something for the high production quality camera that you see, and even that I still do believe is under monetized to a lot of extent. I mean, we don’t have public numbers, but I could just assume based on what you see from sports and other rights.

But the UGC thing is huge because I just feel like you could have some unique angle. You’re getting the experience yourself. I’d love to know like what those tipping numbers do look like. But yeah, I think it’s huge because while a tour. I think there may feel like a less scarce aspect for that, and just in the fact that, yeah, you know, Taylor is only doing this once, but she’s doing roughly 50 shows, right?

But there’s only gonna be two of these times that, at least right now, that Frank Ocean is gonna be doing this headline set and it’s, you know, when we release this podcast, it’ll be right in this timeframe but like that’s it. Like there’s scarcity around that people wanna see that they’re gonna wanna go back and watch it time and time again.

So I think there’s something there. I feel like we start to see some of this where, I’m sure you’ve seen it. Artists are starting to record one of the shows from their concert and then have that as something that you could watch on Amazon or something you can watch on HBO Max or Hulu. So we’re seeing some of that, but I still feel like there’s an opportunity to get more fan, like even if you get fan views in there and get them, have some type of participation from when the doc ends up getting sold or whatever that is. I feel like there’s a few interesting ways to do it.

[00:21:04] Tati Cirisano: I mean, I even think about like YouTube reaction videos and how like that’s such a huge space of people. For all sorts of things, like listening to the new Taylor Swift album and live reacting, and people watched that and I could see a similar thing at a festival like live reaction to the Frank Ocean Set.

And then afterwards you’re like telling everyone what you thought. Like again, I don’t wanna advocate for more phones at shows, but I feel like people are already doing this and so maybe it’s a question of like how to support it and make it a better experience. I don’t know.

[00:21:36] Dan Runcie: Yeah, it’ll be interesting to explore. I feel like the other unique thing about Coachella, we can talk a bit about pricing. You mentioned itself the price is 10X’d in 24 years since the first Coachella. But as this festival becomes more expensive as touring itself, especially to see these headliner type artists becomes more expensive.

You talked a lot about, or you mentioned how does that impact the actual experience and how does that impact what fans may wanna do? Like how do they justify buying separate tickets to see just one artist versus being able to see multiple ones in a festival?

What are your thoughts on that?

[00:22:13] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, no, I mean, I think there’s multiple factors kind of pushing toward festivals. Being a kind of solution for a lot of fans today. One is, as I’ve, you know, shouted from the rooftops in so many of our conversations, like listenership is really fragmenting and people tend to listen to way a wider spread of artists today, making it kind of hard to have a mainstream or a superstar, or harder to have a superstar.

And they’re also focusing more on songs often than artists. and then on top of that, costs for pretty much everything are skyrocketing. So yeah, if you’re someone who listens to a wide range of artists and you’re more likely to be, to kind of center your fandom around songs than artists themselves, and you also are not maybe able to afford going to five different shows anymore, why would you not rather go to see a festival?

And not that festivals aren’t expensive, cuz their enormously expensive, especially when you factor in travel and the outfits like we’ve talked about and all of these things. But I just given all the trends with, listenership that we’re seeing, I feel like festivals will become even more popular for consumers.

[00:23:23] Dan Runcie: I also think some of this may shift genre by genre, and to some extent I do look at it. A bit bittersweet to some extent because I look at festivals like, let’s look at two of them rolling Loud and this Lovers and Friends Festival that I know had been canceled and I know they, had recently had one rolling loud, of course, is primarily rappers and hip hop artists, lovers and friends is more of that R and B that I think that a lot of millennials and even some,younger Gen X folks grew up with.

Because those festivals exist in that same way. It’s great to be able to bring those artists together. I do wonder though, has that dynamic hurt any of those artists impact to be able to generate not just real fans that may definitely wanna see them by buying hard tickets, but how does that help them grow the fan base in a way that doesn’t make them just reliant on doing, rolling loud and then just getting an upfront check to do that as opposed to the long-term gains that could come from. Okay, yeah, you may not be performing for as big of an audience relative to your social following, but what could that build up to down the road? And I think even for some of these legacy artists that are doing lovers and friends fest, I remember I was talking with someone, about this recently and they were like, yeah, you know, as much as you like lovers and friends fest like t hose artists are the more indirect way, seeing them all the way they do now. 

[00:24:48] Tati Cirisano: Right, like the festival makes a lot of like on paper, logical sense for consumers, but does it make sense for fandom? Like is it actually helping artists nurture fan bases or is it just feeding more into what I was saying about, you know, a lot of people just kind of listening to songs and not artists So yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense and a lot of these artists that are playing. Those smaller, more niche festivals are playing a ton of them. And if it’s like Megan Thee Stallion is playing at 10 different festivals, why are you going to buy a ticket to her tour? Like, I think it could kind of cannibalize some of those sales or like diminish people’s interests in, going to the tour as well, or maybe they go and they’re like, oh my God, Megan was incredible during her shorter set. I want to go see her on tour like, I don’t know, maybe it, goes both ways, but I do think that we might see more and more of those smaller and more niche festivals for all of the reasons that I’ve mentioned.

Like I think we’ve seen more and more, there’s so many nostalgia festivals now there’s so many, like speaking to a very specific scene, like, I forget what it’s called, but there was one that was almost like, it was kind of like emo night, but as a festival, like I think we’re, I think we’re probably gonna see even more of that, and those are gonna be the ones that don’t cost you, you know, two grand to go to Coachella.

 and it’s maybe a little bit more accessible. so yeah, I think, I think we’re probably gonna see more of those type of niche ones.

[00:26:14] Dan Runcie: Do you think that there’s certain artists that don’t need Coachella? I know we talked about how it’s beneficial for headliners, but I thought a lot about the weekend doing Coachella last year, and he was a late edition, Travis Scott was supposed to be the headliner, but after Astroworld and the tragedy there, he didn’t do it the weekend does it?

The weekend already had this tour planned. He did that tour in Southern California, he had still performed at SoFi Stadium later on that year. I don’t know how the radius and the timeframe works out there, but I’m sure there must have been enough time there. But I wonder if, okay, beyond the $8 million, we could assume that he got from that.

I mean, that’s roughly what he would make from one of these stadium rougnights that he would do on his own tour. Did that benefit him in the same way? I don’t know. I mean, I think I can clearly see the benefit for Black Pink or even Bad Buddy and others where, hey, this is a statement. You’re here on one of the biggest stages we have in the US and you aren’t from this country and you don’t live here.

There’s a big, influence that that can have, but does it make sense for the weekend, right? I know that people have often talked about when would Taylor Swift do it, and whether that’s talking about the Super Bowl or even Coachella, but even if we just talk about Coachella even if you paid Taylor 10 million dollars or 12 million dollars, is that going to be more beneficial for her when she can sell out football stadiums herself doing her own thing?


[00:27:47] Tati Cirisano: Right. It’s been more important for Coachella than it is for Taylor Swift. to be at Coachella, I guess.

[00:27:54] Dan Runcie: I would think so, because I mean, on one hand, yes, we know Coachella is gonna sell out regardless, but they could get more of those fans that may do participate in other, you know, economic, you know, aspects of the festival.

[00:28:08] Tati Cirisano: Totally. Yeah. And they have more control over things and everything. Yeah, I think, you’re right, for an artist like The Weeknd or Taylor Swift, it’s probably more about like checking off that bucket list item or like having that prestige of performing at Coachella than it is like a material benefit.

I think you’re probably right to question that, but then you’re right. for an artist like Black Pink, it means a lot more and is probably a lot more impactful in terms of like revenue and fan building and things like that.

[00:28:35] Dan Runcie: Another topic you brought up about festivals right before we had started recording, you’re talking about a festival you had went to recently in Knoxville, Tennessee, and it was spread out across different music venues in the city itself. And you also said you’re done with festivals on festival grounds.

So can you talk a little bit about that? Cuz I think that could be interesting to dig into a bit.

[00:29:01] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, no, it was perfect timing to do this episode because I went to the antithesis of Coachella last weekend, which is, a festival called Big Ears in Knoxville, Tennessee it was a 10 year anniversary of this festival and in terms of the types of performers there, it was a lot of kind of like experimental and independent and folk music, instrumental artists, like Sun Ra Arkestra was one of the performers.

I also, my favorite performer was a rock band from Niger called Atron Delea, like it was all these kind of like from all over artists and so that was one part of it that was cool. It was very niche and it was very much a scene, kind of like I’m talking about having these like more niche scene oriented festivals and it was held across the venues in Knoxville, of which there are like, 10 or 15, and they’re all about a 10 minute walk from each other.

And they also had performances in movie theaters and in cathedrals and in these sort of like non-traditional spaces and. It was just such a more enjoyable experience to me than being locked in a pen in like a parking lot and like, you know, having to pay $10 for water and like feeling very Lord of the Flies for 12 hours like, it was such a better experience and it also struck me how much it could be, you know, a big thing for the venues in that area. It’s a big thing for the community and for the culture of the city, like, I don’t think you could like turn Coachella into a festival, like across the venues in LA or like New York or something like, I don’t think it would work for something at that scale, but it did make me think that, there could be more of, I think, and I’m sure that there are, I’m sure others exist, but that there could be more of these types of festivals that are a bit smaller, a bit more niche, and are held in a city.

And you’re also bringing the music to consumers rather than people having to travel to someplace like LA like just having these festivals in smaller cities. I just think there’s a big opportunity there and also just to innovate the festival experience in general. Like, why do we have to be, you know, in a parking lot and, you know, all that kind of stuff.

There’s been better. Innovations in like, like I know the food at festivals has gotten a lot better over time. It used to be like frozen pizza was like your only option, and now there’s like crazy food tents. But yeah, it just got me thinking about like how to innovate the festival experience and what the future of things looks like.

[00:31:23] Dan Runcie: That’s a good point because it makes me think of the film festival variety that we see where there’s different vibes, but a lot of it is based in existing venues, and it does bring a bit more traffic in general activity to that area, but it’s a bit of a different experience, right? Whether it’s, you know, Tribeca or even here in San Francisco or in Sundance, I mean you could also get a little bit of a different vibe too, where, okay, if you wanna go skiing in Park City, then you can go to Sundance in January, right? If you want to go on the French Riviera afterward, you can go to Cannes like there’s so many different vibes, but I feel like in general, when people think of music festivals, it is wearing that Coachella outfit and being somewhere in an open field with not a lot of shade and, you know, like that type of thing. So I feel like it couldn’t then, yeah, it could just bring a little bit more variety to some of these things. And the fact that it already exists is good, but it could probably bring a bit more, you know, boom, to some of these other areas that may want something unique and ideally, if they’re not overlapping on headliners, which is another thing that I know is an ongoing challenge with these festivals. I feel like when Outkast did their whole festival run where I forgot how many they did in 2014, that was the first year that stuck out to me where I was like, oh, some of these artists are just going boom, boom, boom.

Same festival. Same festival. So you have that some artists that would do it in the same years, but then you also have some artists that will just come back and do the same festival time and time again, and it really isn’t that much different.

What are your thoughts on that? 

[00:33:02] Tati Cirisano: Yeah. I wanna say one more thing about the big years thing, really quick before that question, which is, how that kind of festival could expand the audience, like the tam of festival goers like I would say about half of the people at Big Year’s were 55 plus, these are not people that are going to Coachella, you know, like, I mean, maybe they are, but I, I think there’s other demographics and other age groups that would enjoy going to a festival if there was a bit of a different experience.

So I feel like there’s a lot of groups that were not hitting with the traditional festival market. and like this venue model could be kind of like that. but yeah, in terms of festival lineups getting a lot more homogenous, I kind of can’t help but attribute it to the fragmentation trend that we’ve been talking about and how much harder it is to create a new mainstream superstar today. Like, y eah, I think that a lot of festivals are finding it harder and harder to find these kind of crowd pleasingheadline acts and there aren’t as many new ones coming up. And it also seems like, festivals are kind of continuing to dip into these legacy acts from times when the industry was less congested and less fragmented like the Glastonbury lineup, it’s Yeah, Arctic Monkeys, Elton John and Guns N’ Roses. And it’s like this could be the lineup a decade ago. So it does feel like not only are festival lineups becoming more homogenous, but a lot of them are tending to book legacy acts rather than newer, mainstream stars. Maybe because there aren’t as many newer mainstream stars, I don’t know.

[00:34:43] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I think that, that headline spot is probably where some of, I don’t even wanna say contention, but some of that decision making can lie in, maybe a lot of this applies to festivals that aren’t like Coachella a bit because they are a bit more reliant on the headliners themselves, and because of that, they’re more likely to make, what they feel is safer picks and unfortunately, a lot of these safer picks end up being more male, more white, and more legacy acts that have likely been there before. So if they’re like, okay, well we knew that Arctic Monkeys were, you know, huge in 2012, then let’s bring them back in so we can try to command some of that same audience that is like, well, you also have local stars and others around the world that don’t fit into those same categories that could do it. But they feel like that’s a risk, unfortunately, and then if they do invite those folks, it’s for less money and their name is smaller and they’re not presented as a headliner in the same way. So I think that’s one of the downsides of it.

And the fact, I think fragmentation plays into this, cuz I think, you know, regardless of who you are, it has just become even harder to have artists break out. The artists that do break out, they’re more likely to maybe break out within their particular region. It’s harder to have that same global appeal in that same way and I think we’ve seen maybe a few outlier examples of that more recently.

Especially when you look at Coachella’s lineup this year with Burna Boy and Black Pink and Bad Bunny all having prominent placement in their festival. I’m curious what that looks like in future years. How do you maintain that? Because even from that perspective, yeah, there’s other artists that are huge, but they’ve already kind of gotten some of the biggest ones that we’ve at least had at this particular moment.

But there’s others. I’m curious. I forget if Dual Lipa has headlined one of the big, huge festivals in the world, I don’t think she has yet, right?

[00:36:41] Tati Cirisano: That’s a good question. She hasn’t headlined Coachella, she definitely had a big set at Glastonbury, but I don’t know if she headlined. I don’t know. 

[00:36:48] Dan Runcie: Right. Yeah. I feel like that may have been a few years ago, but I forget if that was like before or after, 

[00:36:53] Tati Cirisano: Oh yeah. 

[00:36:53] Dan Runcie: of Nostalgia tour and then after that, just thinking of other artists that have gotten huge in the past recent years, whether you have Billy Eilish or SZA, I mean, there’s a few but.

I’d be interested to see whether or not those names have become headliners, maybe we’re seeing some of these festivals do this now, where outside Lasnier, which is, you know, right here in my backyard of San Francisco, their most recent poster. Instead of having three headliners, one per day, they have 10 artists that have big font size names, and then they have the other 60 or 70 that all have, you know, smaller, but it’s all kind of the same.

And, you know, you just look at the names of these artists. I’ll just say right now for outside Lasnier, Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters, Odessa, Lana Del Ray, the 1975, Megan Thee Stallion, Zed, Janelle Monáe, Maggie Rogers, and Fisher. and I mean, I’m, I’m not shy to be mean, I’m not trying to call anyone out, but there’s certain artists on that I just mentioned there that would not headline outside lands if it was presented as, oh, these are the three headliners. And they may not even be on that second row either, but. Is that in some way reflective of where things are, where it may make it easier, and of course you could probably guess based on the order of those names, Kendrick Lamar’s name is at the top, you know, of this list. But still like, is this some type of reflection of this fragmentation where you have all these different genres, most of these artists, more modern, current artists, except for, you know, Foo Fighters, a bit more legacy that has continued to play on but I wonder how often we’ll see that with other festivals that are maybe closer to outside lands and Coachella where, you know, still a major huge festival, but they’re not getting the same headliners that Coachella is.

[00:38:42] Tati Cirisano: Yeah. No, I think, you’re absolutely right and I think we’re gonna see that type of lineup more, at the same time as we’re seeing that, there are fewer of these like Beyonce level mainstream stars, we’re seeing a growth in the middle tier. We’re seeing a lot more of these like, cult stars and also artists on that list who are huge but aren’t really at the level of, you know, some of like Madonna or you know, these artists of the past, these icons of the past.

So I think it makes more sense rather than having, you know, three headliners to have like six, not as huge artists still have a really big following. I think that makes a lot more sense, for the festival, the people going, and I think we will start to see more of that just because of the way that fragmentation is playing out.

Yeah. I also wonder, when we’re gonna start to see like the millennial version of legacy artists start to perform, like, was funny when I saw like the lovers and friends line up, I was like, oh my God. when you start getting an nostalgia festival marketed to you, that’s when you know you’re getting old.

That’s when you know you’re no longer like the youngest And like, I wonder, when we’ll start to maybe tap into like 90s and 2000s era. Sort of icons, like I would love to see like Missy Elliot headline, Coachella, like that type of thing. And I wonder if that’s gonna be like the next step once we’ve exhausted all the times that like Foo Fighters can possibly headline a festival 

[00:40:09] Dan Runcie: I know, right? Like 

[00:40:10] Tati Cirisano: Who are also that era but, you know, what I mean, like. 

[00:40:13] Dan Runcie: For sure. For sure. Yeah, because I feel like we saw. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg were headliners maybe around 10 years ago, and then they had brought, the Tupac hologram out infamously. You remember that? So, we did have that. And of course, you know, that kind of reminds me of the Super Bowl that, from a couple years ago.

But I do feel like there’s a sweet spot there, given. Where Usher is right now, the popularity of his residency, I wouldn’t be surprised if he jumps back on this circuit and he’s doing less of the lovers and friends and he’s doing more of the headlining major music festivals 

[00:40:49] Tati Cirisano: He would be amazing. 

[00:40:50] Dan Runcie: There’s a huge opportunity there.

Yeah. Great performer. I think he still does great stuff. I wanted to see if I can go make it to Vegas to go catch this, residency before it ends. But yeah, I I think that there is a sweet spot there for that. I mean, you think about other artists, I think Justin Timberlake has probably done some of these already, so we’ve seen him do them.

I don’t know if Britney Spears would probably perform in that same way. But we’ll see. I feel like there’s a number of artists that they can tap into from that era.

[00:41:18] Tati Cirisano: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. 

[00:41:21] Dan Runcie: And yeah. I guess before we wrap things up, are there any predictions you have then for let’s predict what 2024 would look like? Three headliners. Who would you think would most likely be a headliner for Coachella 2024? 

[00:41:37] Tati Cirisano: I would say SZA, probably, I would say Dua Lipa I think she makes a lot of sense as a headliner too, just in terms of like how, I hate like, I don’t wanna say like crowd pleasing or mainstream, but like, cause I feel like that sounds like I’m giving her shade and I’m not. I think she’s incredibly talented, but like she would please a, a big swath of people with her music and she’s a cool performer and she has some time now, I think, since she’s not touring. but, okay. So Du Lipa, SZA, This is about to be an all female headliners. This is a bit of wishful thinking, but I would love to see, cause I don’t know if she’s ready for this yet, but I would love to see Rosalia, headline Coachella.

I think she’s getting there and I actually saw her in 2019 at Coachella. She was playing the tiniest stage ever and she treated it like she was in a stadium. Like the production quality and the dancers and just like everything she put into it was incredible. And she’s risen a lot over the past few years.

So, yeah, that’s my trio.

[00:42:35] Dan Runcie: Nice. Nice. All right. We have one in common. We have SZA, so I’m gonna go SZA, Madonna, and Usher. I think that’s gonna be my prediction, I feel like, Madonna has this tour coming up. Maybe she’ll cap things off with a Coachella performance. But I feel like yeah, if you’re gonna have this tour, I forget the name of it, you’re gonna go back through all her eras.

I feel like there’s something unique there, so, so, 

yeah. I know, I know. And we’ll have to revisit this. We still have a number of festival lineups to get announced this year, so we’ll have to check back in and see how do these continue to develop, what continues to shape in how these festivals continue to evolve over time.

So tati, this was great. Thanks for coming on.

[00:43:17] Tati Cirisano: Yeah, Thanks for having me. Oh, it’s a pleasure.

[00:43:19] Dan Runcie: Yeah.

[00:43:20] Dan Runcie Outro: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat. Post it in your Slack groups. Wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That’s how capital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you’re at it, if you use Apple Podcast, Go ahead.

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Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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