Coachella vs. SXSW Music Festivals

by Adam Yorkshire

About Coachella

Coachella is an annual music festival in Indio, California. The festival has grown tremendously since its first year in 1999, and it’s now more than just a weekend to listen to good music. Officially named “The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival” (also dubbed “Coachella), the festival has an interesting backstory.

It all started when the band Pearl Jam got in a fight with Ticketmaster over their service fees, claiming they were financially targeting both fans and artists. Because of this, Pearl Jam started to look into alternate venues for their tour that didn’t include Ticketmaster. The band ended up making use of the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, CA, which is where the festival is still held today.

About SXSW Music Festivals

Every March, thousands of industry insiders and music lovers flock to Austin to the party, network, and discover the next great band at the annual South by Southwest Music Festival. The SXSW Film festival starts the week before the music caravan rolls into town and features first runs and world premieres of new films in theatres throughout the city. The newest addition to the SXSW menu is the Interactive Media Festival. Running concurrently with the Film Festival, the Interactive Media Festival focuses its lens on emerging media technologies.

Each year, an estimated 8,000 participants and attendees flock to Austin for the duration of the festival generating millions of dollars worth of revenue to local businesses. There are many of admission options designed to accommodate the needs of such a diverse crowd of festival goers. The individual must then decide what admission option best meets their budget.

The Differences

The annual Coachella Music and Arts Festival held in Indio, California, every April is expensive and you must buy tickets to attend. The wristband gets you access to 3 days of artists at the event. And like SXSW, the list of music artists performing at Coachella can be baffling, full of weird-sounding bands whose names you have never heard of.

One of the major differences is that Coachella has headliner bands that most everyone has heard of. Another major difference is that the stages at SXSW are typically in nightclubs or bars or around 6th Street in Austin, so the performers have to make do and were sometimes cramped by their space and equipment. The sound quality could only be as good as the venue’s acoustics would allow.

On the other hand, at Coachella, bands are simultaneously performing at one of the nine stage venues, all huge and high and with sound equipment and walls of speakers. It’s hard to tell if it’s the stages that make the band’s sound good or if the bands are all just really good and their sound is what qualifies them to perform at this festival.

The last thing is the difference between the sights and people watching. The performances at SXSW were short. At Coachella, the big named performers and proximity to Los Angeles brings out some celebrities, which ups the ante for fashion. Attendees make an effort to look adorable.