Coachella: music & arts festival or advertising extravaganza?

Friday, April 14 marked Coachella’s 2017 kickoff. With Radiohead, Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar headlining, more than 100,000 guests are expected to be in attendance after the Indio City Council voted to raise the cap from 99,000 to 126,000 last year, according to The Desert Sun.

The music and arts festival, which launched in 1999, seems to be filled with guests more interested in advertising and self-promotion than, well, music and the arts. While Empire Polo Club, the event’s venue, is technically in Indio, California, many well-known attendees refer to the location as Palm Springs, a nearby resort town about 2 hours outside Los Angeles by car. Every year it seems the entire West Coast (and half the East Coast) makes its way to Palm Springs for the 3-day-long affair.

Shea Marie and Jess Mair at a party sponsored by Revolve on the first day of Coachella 2017 [source: Instagram user @revolve]

A-list celebs like Emily Ratajkowski made their big Coachella debut this year, along with bloggers and YouTubers like Chiara Ferragni and Lauren Elizabeth. Of course, social media starlets like Hailey Baldwin and Kylie Jenner hinted at their attendance via Instagram, too.

Additionally, several big-name brands headed to Palm Springs for the first festival of the season. Revolve, a web-based retailer, enlisted the help of It girls like Olivia Culpo and Devon Lee Carlson to promote its brand with the hashtag #RevolveFestival. Carlson, along with her younger sister Sydney, also starred on the Snapchat account of online boutique Dolls Kill on Friday, the 14th. Later, the duo attended Galore magazine‘s party together. The sisters Carlson rose to fame after launching Wildflower, a brand of iPhone cases with a fan base that includes Miley Cyrus and Bella Hadid.

YouTube sensations Christine Sydelko and Elijiah Daniel used their humor to rep the popular app Grindr, while model Cait Barker and pals promoted Pretty Little Thing‘s joint party with Paper magazine. Other models in attendance included ARSENIC regular Kylie Rae and Miss California USA 2016 Nadia Grace Mejia.

The hard-partying gang that includes Jess Mair, Shea Marie and Caroline Vreeland were also eager to make their presence at Coachella known via their respective social media platforms.

Victoria’s Secret bombshells Alessandra Ambrosio, Martha Hunt, Josephine Skriver, Romee Strijd and Jasmine Tookes reunited in Palm Springs to promote their hashtag #VSangeloasis. Ambrosio, a VS veteran-turned-swimwear designer, gained a little extra recognition for her namesake brand Ale by Alessandra, sold at, you guessed it, Revolve. Sydney, the younger of the two Carlson sisters, actually sported a knit bikini by Ale on Friday, the 14th.

Rachel Zoe, famed fashion designer, businesswoman and writer behind The Zoe Report, hosted a party dubbed #ZOEasis on Saturday, April 15. Notable attendees like actress Kate Bosworth, supermodel Chanel Iman, blogger Danielle Bernstein (We Wore What) and Zoe herself took to Instagram to show off their looks from the second day of Coachella at Colony 29, a picturesque resort in Palm Springs.

Sydney Carlson in an Ale by Alessandra swimsuit, yellow bandana and blonde wig, captioned “#RevolveFestival” [source: Instagram user @sydneylcarlson]

Nonconformists coined the term, err, hashtag #nochella to mark their opposition to the hype that surrounds the pseudo-event, which Google defines as “an event arranged or brought about merely for the sake of the publicity it generates, especially one designed to appear spontaneous or unplanned.”

To any media savvy person, it is extremely apparent that these celebrities, starlets and brands use Coachella to network both in-person and through social media. Tiresome? Definitely. Unethical? In some cases. But, illegal? Not quite. In fact, the music and arts festival is known to take action against any person or entity that does illegally exploit its name or likeness for advertising/sales purposes.

A month before the festival began, on March 14, Coachella’s parent company Goldenvoice filed a lawsuit in California federal court against Urban Outfitters “for products sold and marketed under the Coachella name,” according to SPIN.

Urban Outfitters, in addition to its namesake stores, owns Free People, an upscale bohemian brand known for its festival-ready looks.

“The lawsuit alleges that Free People sold clothes specifically marketed using the word Coachella, which the festival owns as a trademark, including a ‘Bella Coachella’ line of clothes and a ‘Coachella Valley Tunic’ that has since been pulled off Free People’s website,” SPIN writes.

Furthermore, “the suit alleges that Coachella’s business selling its own branded apparel has suffered due to Free People’s use of the name, and also mentions exclusive contracts with H&M and Pandora jewelry to sell Coachella-licensed apparel.”

Free People and parent company Urban Outfitters, however, attempted to get around possible legal implications with the music and arts festival through “alleged use of  ‘Coachella’ in website URLs, metadata tags and paid Google keywords, so that products that aren’t specifically branded with the name of the festival would still turn up in searches for terms like ‘Coachella outfit.'”

“Incidentally, some parts of the suit read like Coachella is hoping that in addition to deciding the case in its favor, the judge will don his or her own fringe top and floppy hat and join them out in the desert next year,” SPIN reports.

“‘Coachella is about more than just music,’ one line [of the lawsuit] reads. ‘The festival’s venue also includes camping facilities for some 15,000 attendees (complete with a karaoke lounge and a general store), and an amazing selection of food and beverages from a wide range of restaurants. The festival also features an extensive art exhibit which includes many pieces of art (including sculpture and so-called ‘interactive’ art). The music, the food, the art and, of course, the fellowship of other attendees, taken together, makes Coachella more than just a concert to attend—it truly is an experience.’”

From the looks of this lawsuit, it seems Coachella itself has not only acknowledged, but embraced the changing scope of its famous festival. Judging by its promptness in filing lawsuits, Coachella is quick to call out companies illegally cashing in on its trademarked name and copycat-prone likeness.

Free People’s “Coachella Valley Tunic” [source: Pinterest]

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