Coachella music festival is the rock star of the Indio economy

150 150 Matthew Grant Anson

The sun may have set on this year’s Coachella festival, but the economic gains will be long lasting. (Photo: Jason Persse)

When I say Indio, you say…probably Coachella. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival – or just Coachella, as the kids call it – is a music festival whose two weekends basically define the city to the outside world. In fact, Coachella is the highest grossing festival in the world, bringing a mishmash of 160,000 hipsters, celebrities and everything in between out to the desert.

Every single one of these attendees needs, at the very least, somewhere to sleep, something to eat and something to drink, an economic reality that the city is hitching its wagon to. One economic study – albeit commissioned by Goldenvoice, the promoter that puts on the festival – says the festival brings $90 million into Indio’s economy, no small chunk of change for a city that’s been hit hard by the housing crash.

Additionally, Indio takes home $2.33 for every ticket. While that’s far less than even one percent of the ticket price, which is at least $350, the sheer volume of people attending the festival makes the total add up; the city can expect to take home $500,000 on their cut of the ticket sales.

While the city squabbles over how much it deserves to have go into its budget coffers from Goldenvoice, the local economy is reaping the benefits of Coachella on its own.

“I slept at my friend’s sister’s house in Palm Springs one night, and the other three nights I stayed at a house that my friend had rented,” 19-year-old Max Hempel said. “Just on food and alcohol I would say we spent around $100 a person and there were I think six of us total. But we were kind of rationing our money; we easily could have spent 150 plus dollars a day on groceries.”

Jim Chowdry, 24, found his lodging in the camp site. “I camped on-site this year, which was a good idea,” Chowdry said. “I think the camping pass was in the range of $80 for a 10×30 lot.”

As far as food goes, Chowdry and his friends tried to be at least a bit conservative. “We reverted to a hunter-gatherer diet: a lot of fruits and nuts, little salted meats and cheeses,” he said. However, that didn’t stop him from easily breaking the triple digit mark on food. “I personally ate four meals out. In total I spent about $200. Other people probably spent more on booze and water.”

Indeed, even when people weren’t dropping a huge amount of coin themselves, it was impossible to ignore the excess going on around them. “I got super lucky,” 21-year-old David Gomez said. “My friend has a condo down there so I stayed with his family and they fed us so I ended up spending very little. I spent about $60 on food and alcohol for the whole weekend. However, I guarantee you 90 percent of people spent a lot more than me. People bought shirts, cabs, hotels and stuff for a lot. The condo next to my friend’s rented for more than $800 for the weekend.”

It’s easy to wonder whether $90 million going into Indio is an accurate tally or not. But you don’t need to be a math whiz to multiply 160,000 by hundreds of dollars in food and lodging to figure out what that equals. The answer is a lot. 


Matthew Grant Anson

All stories by: Matthew Grant Anson