TikTok is killing Coachella: Creators reveal pricey, problematic and superficial realities of attending the aesthetic festival

Posted by Caroline Edwards in Comment

1 year ago

In the 2010s, Coachella was the festival to attend. It had the most exciting music acts and the opportunity to rub elbows with celebrities such as Kendall Jenner and Vanessa Hudgens. More importantly, it was the picture-perfect location for Tumblr and Instagram content. That was until TikTokers burst its aesthetic bubble and exposed the cost of spending a weekend at the Indio, California festival.

From an outsider’s perspective, Coachella looks like a dream festival to attend. What’s not to like? Well, the extortionate prices – from the cost of getting to Indio to the price of food inside the festival. The two-weekend festival has always been positioned as more luxurious than others (people can camp but many opt to stay in Airbnbs or hotels), but how much could it really cost? According to TikTok: a lot.

London-based TikToker Iviè Milan shared how much it cost her to camp at the festival in a previous year – she paid US $1,879 (£1,516) for the weekend, including flights. Last year, Kate Bartlett attended Coachella without a car and shared she spent US $400 (£322) on a 20-minute Uber. Other creators also called out Uber’s price surges and long wait times for their rides. They have also discussed having their phones stolen and poor phone signal.

Like any event, food options are expensive – but seemingly more so at Coachella than at any other festival. It’s a joke, especially given the cost-of-living crisis and global inflation. TikToker Jackie Tanti’s video of the price of her two burritos and two iced coffees went viral with more than three million views after she shared it cost US $64 (£51). Yes, you read that correctly. Creator Yvette’s vlog revealed her chilli cheese curly fries were US $24 (£19) and a double Red Bull vodka was US $26 (£21). The prices of food at Coachella are somehow more expensive than Disneyland.

But it’s not just the cost of the festival that TikTokers are opening up about. Loren Gray exposed the fact that a lot of influencers fake going to the festival. She noted they will go to Indio, but won’t have wristbands and will pretend to attend. Don’t believe everything you see on social media.

Coachella’s slow death began in 2022 with Revolve’s influencer event Revolve Festival, which takes place the same weekend. Criticism about the invite-only event – including safety concerns about the lack of shuttle buses in hot weather and the price of attending – was more about Revolve than Coachella, but it showed the weekend isn’t the idealistic weekend Instagram has people believe.

Despite TikTokers criticising aspects of the event, Coachella content remains popular on TikTok, with #Coachella2023 having 2.4 billion views. People share “get ready with me” (GRWM) videos, outfit inspiration and performance clips. Not to mention, creators’ vlogs still glamourise the weekend (particularly from influencers on brand press trips).

As Lewys Ball pointed out, going to Coachella is a “checkpoint of success” for influencers and noted that creators who do GRWM at Coachella content will get more views than creating content in their bedrooms. That said, he believes the festival is in its flop era – and this writer does too.

When events are made solely for the purpose of Instagram, they’re not going to be well-received on video-focused platforms like TikTok where creators aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. Coachella might once have been the place to be seen (and still is – for now), but thanks to TikTokers’ comments and the oversaturation of influencers attending the music event, it’s become a playground for content, not music.

As TikToker Rochelle said: “This is not a music festival, this is a work convention. This is literally a networking event with live music in the background.”

By Caroline Edwards, CORQ news and features writer. Picture credit: Brittany Xavier via Instagram