For music fans "Coachella" isn't so much a place in California as much as a collection of people there. It's a mega-event where 150,000 music lovers encounter more than 150 cutting-edge artists. Coachella would still be "Coachella" in another part of the Mohave but it would be something different without its usual mix of next-big-things, reuniting bands and shirtless bro's. "Who is Coachella?" matters more than "Where is Coachella?”, at least to the legion of breathless fans who speculate about the lineup before its release.
Now that the 2013 lineup has been released, it is clear that hiding behind the "who" of Coachella, is a distinct "where". Coachella artists tend to come from a very small number of places and more come from LA than anywhere else. What follows are descriptive highlights from my place study of this year's performers.
45 Percent 80 of all 176 Coachella acts come from Los Angeles, London and New York. The dominance of these three cities is consistent with other studies. The three cities dominated the geographic ranks of Pitchfork’s 100 Best Songs, as well as the standings for last year’s festival. Concentration in these three places was even more pronounced last year, where a full 63% of acts were from one of the three cities. While these three cities are very large, they export talent to the festival at higher levels than their population or musician populations would predict. In my next post I will consider why these three cities export critically acclaimed music talent at such a high rate.
Home Field Advantage? More of this year's acts (32) come from LA than anywhere else. 69% of these are "small print" acts- acts with the least amount of name recognition, as indicated by their small font on the festival poster. Only 57% of London's representatives are small-print acts and only 55% of New York's are. It would seem that less-known LA artists benefit from their proximity to Goldenvoice , the festival's LA- based organizers. Goldenvoice might also benefit from a local-pool of festival ready talent.
Large Cities Rule Only 14% of acts (24 in all) are drawn from places under a million people. Of these places, only 2 - Reykjavik and Kingston- are sending more than one artist to the festival. Only three acts are drawn from outside metro areas. Justin Vernon's The Shouting Matches comes from here, Allen Stone comes from here and Puscifer hails from this small-town in Arizona.
For all the diversity of Coachella artists in terms of genre and age, almost half of them come from the same three places and many more are drawn from large metropolitan areas. My next post will explore why global festivals like Coachella are so concentrated. After that, I will consider the role that mega-fests play in promoting local music scenes.