Mega-event promoter Goldenvoice just christened a cruise offshoot to their popular Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The news may seem odd at first glance, but cruise music festivals are nothing new, and based on that prior experience it's not a good idea for Coachella to join them.
First off, if this Coachella's plan to get out of the dusty exurb of Indio, California — which they've been thinking about since 2008 — they could do better. The news comes shortly after Goldenvoice threatened to pack up and leave if Indio city councilmember Sam Torres had his way with a proposed ticket tax. Torres since dropped his tax push, but Goldenvoice is still considering moving the festival elsewhere, according to The Desert Sun. To state the obvious: a boat won't replace the expansive, grassy Coachella Valley.
Similarly, if they're trying to framgent their audience to avoid this year's two-weekend fiasco, that's not gonna happen either. The number of people who want the desert experience will continue to rise. The number of people who jump ship for this cruise won't be enough to whittle the audience back to one-weekend levels. Goldenvoice might want to address these basic structural issues before trying their hand at seafaring.
There are also more intangible reasons for not embarking on this cruise venture. It's obvious that Coachella has an image problem. Many music fans complain that it's too expensive and exclusive. Putting a small-scale version of the festival on a cruise will only drive up costs and increase the barriers to entry. Another typical complaint about Coachella is that the event itself trumps the music. It's portrayed as a place where rich, idle kids go to be seen—not to listen to emerging artists. A cruise, with all its leisurely trappings, will only push musicians further into the background.
Then there's the issue of scale. Cruise festivals may make sense for niche audiences, because they build a sense of community through proximity. Cruises catering to fans of garage rock, metal and EDM have been successful in recent years. They even work for standalone bands like Weezer, who big, rather homogenous fanbases.
Cruises make less sense for a general, catch-all festival like Coachella, which intends to provide something for every taste rather than uniting people who all share the exact same interests. Cramming all the different types of people who attend Coachella onto one boat just sounds awkward. Expect plenty of questionable headdresses.
This announcement is sure to attract plenty of media attention. But when you pick apart all the arguments against launching S.S. Coachella, the whole thing starts to look like a supposedly fun thing Goldenvoice shouldn't do in the first place.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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