Exclusive: AmEx Becomes Coachella's First Official Credit Card as Brands Prep Record Sponsorship Activity

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella

A general view of atmosphere during day 2 of the 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 19, 2014 in Indio, California. 

Coachella may still gross more money than any other U.S. festival -- $78.3 million in 2014 alone, according to Billboard BoxScore -- but since its inception in 1999, the only currency accepted on site has been cash. But this year, credit cards will be accepted for the first time in Coachella’s 16-year history, and American Express has signed on as the Goldenvoice/AEG festival’s official payment provider for both weekends on April 10 through 12 and 18 through 20, as well as sister country festival Stagecoach, which returns to Indio Valley, Calif., on April 24 through 26.

“We see Coachella as a festival that celebrates multiple passion points beyond music, like art and culinary experience, which are very much in line with our platform around bringing cardmembers closer to their passions,” Walter Frye, vice president of entertainment at AmEx, tells Billboard. “We’ve certainly been seeing the growth in festivals over the years, and increasing demand from our cardmembers, so given our existing partnership with AEG we saw it as a logical extension.”

As part of AmEx’s multi-year deal, the company will provide exclusive experiential packages for cardmembers including weekend passes, exclusive hospitality access and other curated programming, which have already gone on sale. “We’re developing a few additional activation components that we can’t talk about yet, but look forward to sharing in the coming weeks,” explains Frye, noting that current AmEx campaign The Journey Never Stops will likely be incorporated.

AmEx is the music industry’s second largest financial services partner, having sold more than 1.7 million concert tickets in 2014, the company’s highest annual total. Though Coachella and Stagecoach are the brand’s sole festival partners, AmEx also has active deals with artists like Taylor Swift, sold exclusive tickets to current tours for Fleetwood Mac and Sam Smith, and recently introduced emerging artist programs UNSTAGED: Artists In Residence and MADE Music.

Sponsor activity around Coachella appears to be at a record high across the board, with apparel partner H&M introducing its first collection inspired directly by the festival, and Heineken prepping its own tent where DJs like A-Trak, DJ Vice and ?uestlove will perform fresh mash-ups accompanied by live musicians. “We’re really trying to enhance the experience and how people can listen to music in a new way,” says Leanne Maciel, brand manager for sponsorship and events at Heineken. “Live events offer an opportunity moreso than a single-artist sponsorship to be a part of an experience beyond just enjoying the music.”

Other Coachella sponsors include Absolut, Cupcake Vineyards, Glasses.com, JBL, Mio, NRG, Samsung, Sephora and Spotify.