6 Observations From the 2019 Coachella Lineup

Jack Plunkett / Invision / AP, Owen Sweeney / Invision / AP, Greg Allen / Invision / AP

Childish Gambino, Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, and Ariana Grande
It’s a New Year’s tradition: Soon after the ball has dropped and the confetti has been cleared, Coachella announces its lineup. The reveal is exciting for patrons who bought early tickets months ago — batches of advance passes for both weekends sold out in hours last May – but it’s also the talk of the music industry, because from its bookings to the layout of its lineup posters, Coachella sets the tone for the coming year of festivals and live music.
The 2019 iteration, which marks the 20th anniversary of Coachella’s maiden voyage in 1999, will feature a predictable blend of rock, hip-hop and electronic acts. But some elements are unexpected and, when taken in aggregate with the festival’s recent history, provide fascinating glimpses of where the iconic event is headed.
Unambiguous, of course, is that whichever direction Coachella goes, it’s more profitable than ever. In 2012, the first year Coachella expanded to two identical weekends, it grossed $47.3 million. In 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, the festival brought in a whopping $114.6 million. Part of that is because Coachella, which consistently tops Pollstar‘s Year End Worldwide Festival Grosses, continues to expand its capacity — from 99,000 in 2016 to 125,000 in 2017 — and raise ticket prices, which now begin at $429 for a GA pass.
Below, revisit the 2019 Coachella lineup and read about Pollstar‘s primary takeaways.
A sparse year for hip-hop. Coachella’s 2018 lineup included several of pop-rap’s marquee artists. Three booked performers alone — Migos, Post Malone and Cardi B — had held the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for a combined 14 weeks in 2017. All three would go on to have No. 1 albums in 2018, as would headliner Eminem.
This year’s lineup is comparatively thin on hip-hop. Childish Gambino has rapping roots, but his most recent album, 2016’s “Awaken, My Love!” eschewed the genre almost entirely in favor of modernized R&B. If classified as a hip-hop artist, Donald Glover is far less established than the other rap acts who have headlined Coachella this decade — Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, OutKast, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Kanye West and Jay-Z. (That said, Glover’s fall Childish Gambino tour was highly lucrative, including a two-night, sold-out stint at Madison Square Garden that grossed $2.65 million.)
– Coachella 2019
The lineup for Coachella 2019.
Hip-hop’s thin showing becomes more apparent below the headlining tier. Coachella booked several exciting new voices (Sheck Wes, JPEGMAFIA, Tierra Whack, Playboi Carti and December Pollstar cover star Juice WRLD) and plenty of veterans (Pusha-T, Wiz Khalifa, Kid Cudi and Gucci Mane, whose erroneous billing as “Gucci Gang” created some confusion), but compared to last year or 2017 — when Kendrick Lamar, Future and Travis Scott all performed — the 2019 lineup is less tapped into the hip-hop zeitgeist.
Rock’s not dead! In Coachella’s early years, rock acts were staples, particularly at the top of the bill. Headliners included the cutting-edge (Björk, Portishead, Radiohead), the mainstream (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay) and the nostalgic (Paul McCartney, Roger Waters). The Beastie Boys in 2003 stood out as a rare non-rock artist.
Coachella’s lineups this decade have mirrored rock’s gradual commercial decline, culminating in a 2018 headlining triumvirate that was the festival’s first to spurn rock entirely.
That’s part of what makes the inclusion of Aussie psych-rockers Tame Impala as 2019 headliners so exciting. Band mastermind Kevin Parker has pop cachet – Lady Gaga co-wrote 2016’s “Perfect Illusion” with him and Rihanna covered a Tame Impala song on her most recent album — but he’s still firmly in the rock lineage.
And Tame Impala isn’t one of the legacy acts, like Guns N’ Roses or Radiohead, that Coachella has increasingly embraced when booking rock headliners. Instead, they’re a rock band in their prime, like The Black Keys and Arcade Fire were earlier this decade when they topped Coachella’s bill. Tame Impala hasn’t headlined top-tier fests like Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza yet, but they aren’t untested: Last year, the band closed a day of Pitchfork Music Festival, and in 2017, they headlined Panorama — which, like Coachella, is organized by Goldenvoice.
Pop is now a pillar. Coachella has long booked tremendously popular acts, but began naming pop stars as headliners only recently. Ariana Grande’s headlining appearance will mark the third consecutive year an A-list pop artist will close a day of the fest, after Lady Gaga in 2017 and Beyoncé in 2018. These bookings are also a win for gender diversity: Prior to Gaga’s 2017 performance, no female artist had headlined Coachella since Björk in 2007.
Grande’s booking specifically is interesting, because both of her Sunday night headlining slots are sandwiched between dates of her Sweetener World Tour in other parts of the country. She’ll first play Indio on April 14, between gigs in St. Louis and Milwaukee on April 13 and 15, respectively. For Coachella’s second weekend, she’ll take the stage between an April 20 concert in Denver and and April 22 gig in Salt Lake City.
While Grande’s commercial strength in her Sweetener era remains untested, the Coachella booking suggests she’ll be a force. In 2017 she grossed $66.5 million worldwide and seems poised to surpass that.
Where’s the nostalgia? Splashy reunions like LCD Soundsystem and OutKast have made nostalgia a central part of Coachella’s appeal this decade.  And ’80s touchstones including The Stone Roses, New Order and David Byrne have been perennial high-ranking inclusions on the bill.
This year’s nostalgia-mining pickings are slimmer. Only Weezer stands out as a true and high-profile legacy act; Aphex Twin has been around for ages, but has considerably less mainstream appeal than the throwback artists Coachella has booked previously.
International acts have a massive presence. One of Coachella’s biggest hip-hop acts is Puerto Rican trap artist Bad Bunny, who last month released his anticipated debut album and announced a tour that includes an April stop at Madison Square Garden. In an April 2018 headlining appearance at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., he grossed $1.1 million with 12,288 tickets sold — and that was before he scored a No. 1 single on the Hot 100 with his Cardi B collaboration “I Like It” and another crossover hit through his feature on “Te Boté (Remix),” which hit No. 36 on the chart.
Other noteworthy Latin acts on this year’s bill include J Balvin (Colombia), Rosalía (Spain), Mon Laferte (Chile), Tomasa Del Real (Chile) and Los Tucanes de Tijuana (Mexico). Coachella also embraced Asian artists with the bookings of K-pop act BLACKPINK and Japanese group Perfume.
Has EDM’s beat finally dropped? Many consider Daft Punk’s 2006 Coachella set the festival’s best — and among its most influential. Ever since, the festival has been a fulcrum of American electronic music, and when EDM seemed like an unstoppable force earlier this decade, Coachella embraced the trend. In 2013, artists including Swedish House Mafia, Kaskade, David Guetta, Afrojack and Avicii littered the lineup’s top tiers, and in 2016 Calvin Harris became the first (and only) DJ to headline Coachella.
With marquee acts including DJ Snake, Diplo, Zedd and Dillon Francis, this year’s Coachella embraces EDM marginally more than 2018, where such artists were startlingly scant, but it’s still a far cry from when the genre was arguably at its peak.
Fans should still bring their dancing shoes, though. Several forward-thinking electronic acts that fall outside of EDM’s purview, including Kaytranada, Four Tet, Jon Hopkins and SOPHIE, will play this year’s installment.