Guest writer Richard Dodgson, founder & creative director, Timebased Events, says Coachella is leading the way for festivals.


The 20th edition of the famous Coachella Festival closed with over 250,000 people descending on Indio, California for two long weekends of music, fashion and ground-breaking technology.

Each year, Coachella brings something new to the festival scene, such as the notable ‘break the internet’ moment in 2012 where a holographic Tupac appeared on stage. Following this, every year they bring something completely new to the table and this year was no different.

This year seemed to be focused on technology you can access in the palm of your hands through your smartphone. The Coachella app has been around since 2016 but is being improved every year to fully integrate it into the festival experience with the use of new technologies, such as augmented reality (AR). AR is becoming increasingly popular and this year Coachella used it to add an immersive and engaging dimension to its popular Sahara Tent stage.

Audience members could use their phones to see a new side to the spaced-themed stage. Through the app, audience members had access to a ‘Coachella camera’ that included AR features that react and change based on the different audio coming from the speakers during musicians’ sets. It is not only during the sets where this feature could be used either, with attendees able to entertain themselves during waiting times with various intergalactic objects visible through the camera, such as astronauts and satellites.

“Through the app, audience members had access to a ‘Coachella camera’ which included augmented reality, reacting to the audio”

This use of AR is an engaging and value-adding example of how technology can improve the attendee experience or setting and raises the bar for other festivals. Where previously tech innovations at events or festivals have been associated with things like virtual reality and bulky headsets, the Coachella Digital Innovation team has pulled off a truly immersive experience with the ‘Coachella Camera’.

Attendees could also save the footage and share it far and wide on social media, ensuring the already infamous event could increase its reach even further and create even more unforgettable moments. AR will continue to become more prevalent in the festival and events industry as a result of the accessibility and ease of using a smart phone.

Event sponsors Postmates and Amazon also embraced technology at the festival. Attendees could access new incentives, such as pre-ordering food for delivery or collection via Postmates to reduce queueing times and spend more time watching performances. While this wasn’t available everywhere at the festival, it would be no surprise to see this and similar technologies streamlining queues more and more in future given its benefits for festivals and event-goers alike.

It’s not just quick food deliveries that festival-goers benefitted from this year either; Amazon also placed Amazon Lockers in the festival grounds, where people could get same day delivery to the festival itself if ordered before noon. It’s easy to see how this brings a new level of accessibility and convenience to the festival experience, given so many people visit from all over the world to attend Coachella and may forget an item or two!

Performing artists also took advantage of new technologies to improve the fan experience. Musician Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, combined clever marketing tactics with his performance at Coachella, using Airdrop to give selected fans a token for a free pair of his unreleased Adidas collaboration shoes. Fans, if they accepted, had one hour to collect the shoes on the festival grounds.

“Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino used Airdrop to give selected fans a token for a free pair of his unreleased Adidas collaboration shoes.”

Naturally, this received a huge amount of social media coverage and is arguably this year’s ‘break the internet’ moment. He also used his performance as an opportunity to premiere his new film Guava Island, making it free on Amazon Prime for 18 hours afterwards to drive engagement and viewership.

As far as festivals go, Coachella is certainly continuing to set a benchmark for how to use technology creatively to ensure a seamless event experience. Not only does it help increase social media presence and press about the event exponentially, it gives fans more convenience and ease during the festival too. With the UK festival season fast approaching, it remains to be seen how technology will influence many other events this summer.