Coachella 101 - What is Coachella

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Article Summary

  • Coachella is a music and arts festival occurring in Indio, CA every April
  • Coachella presale tickets go on sale in June and the general ticket sale happens in January (along with the lineup)
  • Tickets sell out incredibly quickly so you must be on top of it
  • The festival occurs in Indio, CA but people also stay in the nearby areas of Palm Springs, Palm Dessert, Indian Wells, and Rancho mirage
  • Coachella is typically very hot with temperatures in the 90s and up often

Coachella is different things to different people.  For some it’s a music festival, which brings together an eclectic lineup of old and new rising artists every year.  For others it’s a fashion show and a place to be seen where they can post an obnoxious amount of photos on Instagram of them doing stupid poses.  For others it’s a great, giant party.  Whatever Coachella is for you there is no doubt it is a cultural phenomenon.  Hundreds of thousands of people flock to little Indio, CA each year for the festival and it only continues to grow in popularity.  This article is for those of you who are attending Coachella for the first time, or are thinking about it.  This is Coachella 101.

General Coachella Questions

What is Coachella?

I think I can say it is inarguably the biggest music festival in the United States.  Each year the festival gets the biggest names in rock, hip-hop and EDM for a three day musical bash.  In total Coachella usually has between 110 and 135 music acts each year, so there really should be something for everyone.  Hell, at this point the festival has become so popular that people just go to be seen and don’t even care about the music, but that’s a rant for another day.

Why is it called Coachella?

The festival takes place in the Coachella Valley, which is part of Riverside county in California.  It’s basically a hundred miles east of Los Angeles.

How do I pronounce Coachella properly?


How many people go to Coachella?

The reports vary but right around 100,000 a day, which is going to increase in years going forward after the city of Indio approved it in 2016.

When is Coachella?

Coachella has grown so large it now occupies two weekends in April.  In 2017 the festival will be April 14-16 and April 21-23.  Typically Coachella is the 2nd and 3rd weekend of April but it can change around a little bit from year to year.

When does Coachella announce the lineup?

January, usually early in the month.  The last two years it has occurred the first week of January. For example, in 2017 the Coachella lineup was announced on January 3rd.

Where is Coachella held?

Every year Coachella is held at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, CA.  If you have never been to Indio just know it is extremely hot during Coachella.  It can range but typically it is going to be in the 90s, and with 130,000 people surrounding you it can feel like the 100s.  Just prepare to be hot.

What hours does Coachella run?

The festival will open around 11 a.m. each day and will usually run until 2 to 3 in the morning.  The headliners typically will play around 10 p.m. and get two hours of playtime.  There are usually a few artists who are still playing after the headliners conclude.

How long does each band/act play for at Coachella?

Typical set times are 40 to 55 minutes for all non-headliner acts.  The headliners are given two hours to perform.  Don’t bother cheering for an encore, Coachella has extremely strict set times and will pull the chord on artists if they go over their time allotment.

When do they announce the schedule of the shows?

This is one of my few beefs with Coachella – they announce the set times really late.  The festival begins on a Friday and they usually will release the set times of the festival on Tuesday or Wednesday that week.  This sucks if you’ve spent months listening to a band since the lineup came out in January and you now see you have a conflict and won’t be able to see them.  Sadly this is just part of Coachella.

How many stages are at Coachella?

There are eight stages – the Main Stage, Outdoor Theatre (personal favorite), Gobi Tent, Mojave, Sahara, Yuma, the Sonora Tent and the Do Lab.  There are sometimes some other random areas playing music like in 2016 with the Despacio tent but in general these are your staples.  With the aforementioned Coachella expansion they will be adding more stage(s) to the festival. 

Who produces Coachella? Who plans Coachella?

Coachella is a Goldenvoice music festival. Generally there are two main producers of music festivals in the United States: LiveNation (ACL, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo) and GoldenVoice (Coachella, Hangout, FYF, etc.).

What weekend of Coachella is better?

Another popular question that we have a full guide on. The short version is there really isn't much difference between the two. In 2017 I went to both weekends of Coachella and probably had a better time Weekend Two, but it really doesn't matter. Both weekends are crowded, both have the same shows going on, both have surprise guests. The grass is nicer Weekend One as it hasn't been trampled yet but Weekend Two you can read reviews of who was good and get the set times further in advance. There are advantages to both weekends.

When should I arrive at Coachella?

This depends on when the first show you want to see is. Generally I advise to get into Coachella before 3 or 4 p.m. as the line to get into the festival can get pretty nasty around then. I usually get in around 1:00 p.m. and walk right into the festival with minimal time spent waiting in line.

How many days is Coachella?

Coachella always runs from Friday through Sunday, so it is a three day festival each weekend.

Coachella Tickets Questions

When do tickets for Coachella go on sale?

Tickets go on sale in two major batches each year.  The first is the presale, which happens in late May or early June.  If you buy tickets at this point you will be buying tickets without knowing what the lineup is as that isn’t announced until January.  For absolutely everything you need to know about Coachella presale visit our article on the subject here.

The general sale of Coachella tickets occurs in January.  This is when the remaining tickets go on sale that they didn’t sell during the presale.  The date varies on when this happens, last year it was the first week of January but it can stretch out until the end of the month.

How much are Coachella tickets?

Coachella is going to cost you.  Its $399 price point is more than almost all other music festivals for general admission passes.  The VIP passes will run you $899.  If you want the shuttle pass it is an additional $60 or the camping pass is an additional $100.

Are Coachella presale passes cheaper?

No, whether you purchase during the presale in June or the general sale in January passes are still the same - $399 for GA and $899 for VIP.

What is your advice for getting Coachella tickets?

I wrote a long article on everything you need to know for giving yourself the best chance possible for getting Coachella tickets.  You can find it here. To summarize - if you really want to go to Coachella you really should look into the advanced sale in June. It's easier to get tickets and you can use the payment plan. However, the lineup will not be out so you purchase passses blind. If you aren't down with this my advice is to make sure you use multiple devices (iPad, Laptop, PC) to enter the waiting room to get tickets. This will enhance your chances. Also have everyone in your group trying to get tickets. Finally, and most obvious, be punctual. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m., do not show up at 10:05. Get there early and be ready. We've never not been able to get tickets, there's no secret formula - just be on time and ready to go and you will be fine.

Are Coachella VIP passes worth it?

We have a full article breaking down Coachella VIP passes that you can read here. The short version is we don't think so. VIP gives you access to some nice shaded areas with cushioned seating, but it doesn't give you good viewing spots of any Coachella stage. We go to music festivals for the music so this is a deal breaker for us.

How long does it take for Coachella passes to sell out?

Tickets for Coachella will usually sell out in about two hours for Weekend One and about four hours for Weekend Two. Given Coachell has a capacity of over 120,000 people it's pretty impressive they can sell out so quickly. 

When do Coachella wristbands ship?

Coachella begins shipping wristbands in March. Note that the fesitval has over 100,000 of these to ship each weekend so it can take a few weeks to ship them all out.

Which wrist do I put my Coachella wristband on?

It really doesn't matter, you can put it on either hand although technically Coachella says you should put it on your left wrist. Again though it doesn't matter at all and no one checks or cares.

Are Coachella wristbands waterproof?

Yes, you can shower, go in the pool, be in the rain, etc. with your Coachella wristband. I don't know if you want to go scuba diving with it, but you can absolutely get it wet.

How do I register my Coachella wristband?

On each wristband is a piece of plastic with an RFID chip - its the only plastic thing attached to your wristband. On the back of it is a 6-digit code. You enter this code on the official Coachella App to register your wristband. Typically registration opens up the week of the festival. You will need to complete this to gain access to the festival.

How many tickets does Coachella sell?

In 2017 Coachella expanded an additional 20,000+ people, which put the total capacity of each Coachella weekend to about 125,000. This means Coachella sells a total of 250,000 or so tickets each year.

What about getting Coachella passes on StubHub or SeatGeek?

This is a fine way to get Coachella passes, and many people do this every year. We have a full article on purchasing through these markets here.

Are Coachella passes refundable?

No, Coachella ticket sales are final as there are no refunds. That said, you will have no problem selling your ticket on StubHub or SeatGeek. If you place your Coachella pass up at face value it will sell really quickly, but most people even sell them easily above face value.

Coachella Travel/Accommodations

Where should I stay for Coachella?

A good question!  Some people camp at the festival, which is the cheapest option.  You can either camp in your car or you can camp in a tent. You will need to buy the camping pass when you purchase your Coachella tickets.  You can also rent a house through Airbnb or another service.  There are risks associated with this if the owner cancels on you, but you can find some really good deals doing this.  Finally, you can get a hotel either in Indio or one of the surrounding areas such as Indian Wells, Palm Desert, or Palm Springs.  If you get a hotel in one of these areas which are further away you should snag a shuttle pass.

Where do you fly into for Coachella?

Most people will fly into LAX. Other surrounding airports that people use include the airports in San Diego, Orange and Ontario, CA. There is an airport in Palm Springs, which is by far the closest airport, but it's a really small airport and the flight prices are really expensive during Coachella. We have a full article on flying into Coachella that you can read here.

Does Coachella change locations? Where is Coachella 2018?

Coachella does not change locations. Coachella 2018, like every year of Coachella, will take place at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, CA.

How far is Coachella from Los Angeles / LA?

Coachella is about a 2.5 hour drive to the east of Los Angeles. Most people rent a car from LAX and drive to Coachella. You can also take one of the Coachella shuttles from LAX to many of the areas near Coachella.

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