Glastonbury and Lollapalooza may have come first. Bonnaroo and Bestival may have more indie cred. But no music festival offers a mix of undone glamour, across-the-board genres and good weather quite like Coachella--making it the most "fashion-y" festival of them all. Yet the sponsorship-heavy event is polarizing: Even a passing mention of this Southern California musical festival elicits a range of emotions, from nervous excitement to downright anger. The cool kids think it's overwrought with hype and inappropriate feather headdresses, yet hardcore festival goers can't get enough.
Still, fashion bands are clamoring to be involved with Coachella--whether by sponsoring an event, or landing a coveting spot in a festival style market story. So it is still worth it?
In 2012, Coachella generated more than $47 million in ticket sales, according to Billboard magazine. This year's sold-out festival—which takes place over the next two weekends—is on track to generate even more revenue. (Packages started at $399.)
On top of that $47 million, the festival organizers make quite a bit of cash on sponsorships. Unlike some festivals, which plaster dozens of brand names all over the venue, Coachella keeps its sponsorship pool small. This year there are only six lead sponsors: Heineken, H&M, JBL, Red Bull, Fruttare, and Playstation. The official sponsorships likely reach seven figures, but many brands host events offsite, too, which vary in price. (This year Guess, Harper's Bazaar, and Diesel are just three brands of dozens doing offsite events.) While they're not as expensive as being inside the festival grounds, these parties can be pricey, too. "If it's a cocktail thing for an hour it could be $10,000. If it's taking over an area or doing an after party, I'd say upwards of $50,000. Or it could go up to $500,000," says one industry exec about these "unofficial" events.
H&M, the only fashion brand on the roster, is taking big advantage of its position. Not only will the fast-fashion firm promote its new Conscious Collection around the polo grounds, it'll also host its very first VIP event. "We have watched first-hand how music and fashion inspire and change trends," says H&M spokesperson Jennifer Ward. "After three years of presence on the polo fields, we decided it was time to host our own private VIP event in addition to the sponsorship." The brand will host its event April 13 on a private estate in La Quinta, CA, with performances by Santigold and The Dough Rollers.
It's a tactical—and savvy—move on H&M's part. After all, Coachella is the first big festival of the season, which means blogs, magazines and e-commerce sites use images from the weekend to generate hundreds of "Get the Look: Festival Style" type stories. "It's become like Mother's Day," says the aforementioned industry exec. "Every PR agency has it on their pitch calendar." And H&M has been a big part of that movement. It's "Fashion Against AIDS" collection, which was showcased at the festival last year (with proceeds benefiting AIDS awareness), was inspired by Coachella.
Will the hype ever die down? While the cynical might be sick of Coachella, it's still a safe bet for brands looking to invest in a big summertime event. After all, for every kid who is "too old" or "too cool" to come back, there's another just dying to get in the door.