Coachella: Good Music, Good Vibes and …Tech?

‘TIS THE SEASON FOR COACHELLA.

At this point, you’ve probably (most definitely) heard of Coachella, officially named “The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.” Unless you don’t have any social media, don’t like music, or don’t have friends who like music, it’s pretty much impossible to get away from anything Coachella-related during this time of the year. It’s arguably the biggest, most renowned annual music festivals in the world, and it takes place in Indio, California. The festival has grown tremendously since its first year in 1999. Fun fact: It all began when the band Pearl Jam got into a dispute with Ticketmaster over their service fees, claiming that they were financially taking advantage of both fans and artists. Because of this, the band began to look for alternative venues until they finally found the Empire Polo Grounds, where the festival is held today. Over time, Coachella grew so immensely that organizers had to split it into two separate weekends in April. The first round of the festival took place this past weekend; hence, the inspiration behind my blog.

Although Coachella’s roots are grounded in music, it’s evolved over the years to become way more expansive. Now, the experience consists of art installations, iconic fashion statements, and technological revolutions. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably looking out for the most elaborate bohemian-inspired outfits (Vanessa Hudgens will forever be the queen of Coachella), and living vicariously through the Instagram stories of friends and celebrities living their best lives out in the California sun. I also find myself eagerly looking out for the lineup every year to see which artists are set to perform. Here’s a list of this year’s lineup to show you just how big of a deal this festival is.

But more than just raving and jamming out to your favorite artists like Ariana Grande and Childish Gambino, Coachella is the place where music meets technology. Produced by Goldenvoice, the festival offers an unparalleled and thrilling experience by incorporating the most innovative technologies to enhance both the artists’ sets and the experience for its dedicated attendees. From mind-blowing performances to futuristic experiences, Coachella has established a name for itself by staying at the forefront of technology.

2012 Tupac Hologram

The most memorable, legendary moment in Coachella history would probably have to be the time the late rapper Tupac appeared on stage in 2012, alongside Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. Except, it wasn’t actually him (obviously), it was a hologram of him. Considering the fact that this took place in 2012, it’s pretty breathtaking how realistic his hologram looked. The hologram, nonetheless, was actually a 2D image that was projected on an angled piece of glass, which then bounced onto a Mylar screen.

Here Buds

In 2016, Coachella partnered up with Doppler Labs to introduce a revolutionary piece of technology. Using the Here Active Listening System, these wireless buds allow festival-goers to customize their music experience on their phones through a smartphone app. Listeners can control, adjust, and personalize the volume, reverb, bass, and even apply various sound filters such as “Carnegie Hall” to completely alter how they are hearing the festival. You can even have a conversation with someone next to you and alter how loudly or softly you hear that person. The Here Buds allow you to transport yourself into your own world, experiencing Coachella in a very intimate, unique way by manually controlling the sounds of the world around you.

360-Degree Live Streaming

If you’re stuck here in Boston like me, dreadfully looking at the rainy weather forecast for Marathon Monday tomorrow, there’s good news: You can live-stream Coachella from the comfort of your own home and live out your Coachella dreams via YouTube. Say goodbye to FOMO. This year, not only will there be live-streaming, but the shows will also be captured in 360 degrees, so you won’t miss anything. Check out the official Coachella YouTube page for more details.

Augmented Reality at the Sahara Tent

The stage at the Sahara Tent is the first-ever Coachella stage equipped with augmented reality, let alone space-themed augmented reality. It allows attendees to use the camera on their Coachella app between musical sets to see a variety of celestial objects, such as astronauts, satellites, and comets. Once pointed towards the Sahara video screens, the camera will allow them to choose several AR filters that will react to the audio and physical space within the tent. It can make it look like the content is floating and flying above the crowd, interacting with each audience member. AR will continue to transform the realm of musical festivals, making it an increasingly immersive experience. 

Smartphone Apps and Smart Wristbands

The Coachella smartphone app is a crucial part of the festival experience, offering interactive maps, a customizable schedule of performance times, vendor listings, a real-time lost and found, and, as mentioned earlier, the Coachella Camera. All of Coachella’s vendors are equipped with Square, allowing smartphone users to use Apple Pay or Android Pay to purchase anything. You can also order food, drinks, and festival merchandise ahead of time with your Postmates account in the Coachella app, and pick it up when it’s ready at a designated Postmates pickup location. In addition, the smart wristband is enabled with RFID technology to grant you quick access into the festival. Although smartphone apps and smart wristbands are not necessarily new to the concert realm, it’s amazing to see how Coachella is swiftly advancing this technology every year to better cater to its festival-goers. It really makes me wonder what the future of music festivals will look like, and I look forward to witnessing it all unfold.

And to close out this blog, here is one of my favorite Vanessa Hudgens Coachella looks.

10 comments

  1. Very cool post Deb, I actually had no idea how much tech was integrated into Coachella! I definitely agree with you, the defining moment has to be the Tupac hologram. Such an amazing way to pay tribute to him and also show the power of technology to enhance an experience. I’ve gotta say though the Here Buds seem totally strange to me! I feel like part of the reason I would want to go to Coachella in the first place is to hear the music live, as in raw, unfiltered, unedited ! To me these seem like the would defeat the purpose. That being said, I’d love to give them a go and see how much the change or enhance the experience.

  2. dilillomelissa · · Reply

    No wonder Coachella is such an experience! I have friends that attend every year and they all tell me it’s a must-do. Your explanations of all the types of technology are honestly mind blowing. I like the idea of these technologies enchancing the experience, especially the Here Buds. I think this is such a cool idea. Whether you are front row, or just chilling on the grounds of the desert, it would be nice to be able to feel the full experience of the concerts at any point in time. I wish they had these at all concerts! On another note- I totally second you on Vanessa Hudgens always looking her “Coachella best”. She’ll definitely be my inspriation for my looks when I finally get to the festival!

  3. This was a really great post and shed a light on a side of Coachella that I had never really thought about before. While I had definitely heard about and watched video of the Tupac appearance and have used an RFID wristband for entrance and payments while at another festival, the rest of the tech you talked about was definitely new. Like some of the other comments, I think the Here Buds sound like such an interesting touch. At festivals like this, there tends to be a wide variety of artists, meaning a wide variety of performances with all different types of sounds, so having the opportunity to hear them in a way the best suits each individual is a really interesting concept. Often times there are two performances taking place at the same time that someone is interested in seeing, so I wonder if this technology could be used to be able to listen to one in one ear while being present at another stage and listening to them with the other? I’m not sure how Bassnectar and Maggie Rogers would sound at the same time, but hey, to each their own.

  4. Great post especially at a time when Coachella has taken over all social media feeds! I had no idea there was so much cool tech behind this festival since, as an outsider, I tend to focus mostly on the fashion and performances. The earbuds are really cool and innovative considering that was back in 2016. I think there is an expectation that Coachella will get bigger and better every year, so it has been really cool to see the tech evolution that has taken place over the years. People pay hundreds of dollars for tickets so I am sure they expect top notch quality, especially considering how horrible Fyre Festival was. As an outsider who may never attend the festival I still admire how elaborate all of the sets look and how professionally the entire festival runs. Really great post and I loved to learn more about the ins and outs of such an iconic festival!

  5. I feel like each year I am too distracted by the awe-inspiring fashion and insta-worthy food posts to even pay attention to the music aspect. I could not even guess who was part of the line up this year if I tried, but I could describe in detail all of the looks from a few of my favorite influencers. So needless to say, I had no idea the festival boasted some seriously savvy tech advancements. But it makes so much sense. If people are experimenting with fashion and art, what could be a better place to experiment with technology. Festivals are all about the experience, and in this modern world that means tech.

  6. This is so cool! I also had no idea tech was this integrated into the festival. It honestly makes sense though when you think of the age demo of people attending the festival. Teens and young adults’ lives revolve around technology so it would seem like something was missing if there wasn’t a fantastic tech integration. I think the team behind Coachella would benefit from taking a look at the Disney Magic Bands that we talked about earlier in the semester. Coachella is basically a Disney land for its visitors and they could take their tech integrations way further than they already are.

  7. I had always known that Coachella was at the forefront of the music festival world. As a huge fan of Lollapalooza, I appreciate a great festival experience. While I had obviously heard of the Tupac hologram, the headphone concept was very new to me. This sounds like a great idea, not only for the consumer but for Coachella as well. At festivals like this, especially where there may be more than one concert going on at a time, it can sometimes be hard to clearly hear the musician. This technology would not only benefit the attendee. I imagine the festival will benefit from increased food/drink revenues due to people staying longer to hear their own tailored experience.

  8. Really cool post! I think it’s so interesting to see the different relationships that individual festivals and similar community events choose to have with technology and technological advancement. Coachella, as you describe, seems to truly embrace technology as an extension of its art- and music-forward identity, while events like Burning Man in Nevada have built a brand and an experience around “non-commodification,” “self-reliance,” extreme surroundings, and a general distancing of oneself from modern society (at least temporarily). Speaking from personal prefernce, Coachella’s positive view of, and leadership in, experience-enhancement technology seems to be the more attractive option – with each new feature, whether it’s a more personalized delivery of performances or simply more AR and visual “glitz,” Coachella is able to further differentiate itself and keep moving the proverbial finish line further ahead for existing competitors and new upstarts alike.

  9. The notorious musical festival world – I love it and am a big fan myself. I went to Bonnaroo in Tennesse back in 2012. We were mailed our wristbands and there was not nearly the amount of technology nor digitization that we are seeing now at these festivals like Coachella. As much as Coachella is an in-person, out of this world experience, technology, apps, and social media have allowed us to access content on live performances and artists that we would have never been exposed to before. It is vast and so nice to be able to have access to the best music festival at our fingertips. As we continue to digitize, we may have local events that stream these festivals and bring them to the comforts of our home. No longer do we have to envy those that are there, if we are not. Social Sharing is part of our ecosystem and will continue to enlarge as we partake in this.

  10. I would love to go to this one year – what a great way to break down all of the coolness of Coachella. My one hope and fear after reading this post is that the coolness will begin to be exploited more and more by large organizations and subsequently killing to cool vibe. With this much tech happening in one place with so many people it seems like its a prime opportunity for large scale marketing and advertising to infiltrate utilizing tech. For example, what if that cool Tupac hologram was sponsored by a denim company or shoe company? Would it have the same cool factor? Needless to say, it seems this is a vibrant creative culture with top-notch technology and I hope it stays that way.

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