Coachella, YouTube Partnership Keeps Growing In 10th Year

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This month, YouTube will transport remote fans to Coachella and Indio, Calif., during its 10th presentation of the festival. (David McNew / Getty Images for Coachella)

Coachella returns to Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif., this year for the first time since 2019, and along with it, the trendsetting music festival will again be available for free on screens worldwide via YouTube Music.

As the video platform prepares to livestream Coachella for a 10th year, its presentation of the event might seem like a given. But when the festival made its YouTube debut in 2011, video livestreaming was in its infancy, and the idea represented a paradigm shift for the concert business.

YouTube director of live music and West Coast artist relations Ali Rivera, who has worked at the company since 2007, was part of the team that first brought Coachella to the platform and recalls some of the questions industry insiders asked as concerts began to be livestreamed: “Are people gonna watch? Is this going to cannibalize sales? Have people decided not to come to the festival because they can watch it online?”

The rest is history, of course. Coachella’s livestream was a smash, the festival expanded to two weekends in 2012 and it reliably sells out within minutes every year. YouTube eventually added other festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza to its livestreaming portfolio, and today many festivals count livestreaming presences as essential components of their broader brand and digital footprint.

“People are getting to see the festival, and there’s this sense of FOMO,” Rivera says. “It’s such an amazing experience to watch it online, but it’s a completely different experience to be there. So it really did not at all infringe on any of the ticket sales. It actually just made the festival so much bigger from a global perspective.”

After two years offline due to the pandemic, Coachella returns to a transformed festival and livestreaming market – and YouTube is helping it retool its digital presence for a new decade and an ever-changing audience.

YouTube’s presentation of Coachella, which expanded from one feed to three several years ago, has already evolved plenty over the last decade. But now, the video platform is applying lessons learned from pandemic-era livestreaming programming like SOS Fest, the multi-artist and multi-venue October 2020 event to benefit the National Independent Venue Association, to expand the possibilities of what, exactly, Coachella can offer remote viewers.

“Traditionally it’s been more of a lean-back experience, and people are putting it up in their living room,” Rivera says. “We’re encouraging fans to lean in this year to experience a sense of community and togetherness and create these moments where they’re only available to fans that are tuning in online, sort of like an all-access pass.”

The core of YouTube’s Coachella presentation will be the livestream it hosts on the festival’s first weekend, April 15-17, and the Coachella Curated feed it will air on the second weekend, April 22-24, which will consist of encore presentations, artist commentary and mini-docs.

But beyond that, YouTube has added a series of new features to its arsenal. Six creators will operate out of the YouTube Shorts Compound, documenting their experience at the festival for their YouTube channels, while YouTube Head of Fashion and Beauty Derek Blasberg will speak with artists and creators about fashion, beauty trends and more.

In addition to expanded content, audiences will enjoy YouTube’s integration of livestreaming components that became commonplace during the pandemic like live chat and exclusive merchandise by the likes of Billie Eilish, BROCKHAMPTON and Flume, which will be available via YouTube shopping.

Finally, YouTube Premium members will have digital access to exclusive pre-parties featuring Cordae, 88rising, Banda MS and more.

Viewers wowed by YouTube’s Coachella livestream will also be able to return virtually to Indio for a third weekend this year, as the platform and Coachella promoter Goldenvoice will bring the country-focused Stagecoach Festival to YouTube for the first time.

“We wanted to extend the partnership,” says Rivera, noting with a laugh that she’s “worked with people at Goldenvoice longer than I’ve worked with most people on my team, which is kind of crazy.”

That deep partnership explains why, even after 2022 Coachella headliners Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, The Weeknd and Swedish House Mafia leave Indio, YouTube will continue to explore how to refine and improve its Coachella offering. Says Rivera: “We have big dreams.”