How To Play Coachella (And Not Go Broke) As An Indie Artist

Illustration by Brandon Loving


If you’re a small-font up-and-comer hitting the festival circuit for the first time, playing both weekends of Coachella can be daunting... and expensive. Independent artists and their tour managers offer hard-earned advice on how to make the most of the downtime on a DIY budget.

Go The Distance (Literally): Washington, D.C., punks Priests, who played Coachella in 2018, suggest nabbing an Airbnb location away from the hype. “If you’re less than a half hour from the festival, you’re going to pay a lot of money,” says guitarist G.L. Jaguar, who advises driving a little over an hour, past the Salton Sea, to Borrego Springs, Calif. An added bonus? “It’s a nice breather.” Priests tour manager Lisa Larson, who also works with indie-rock act Snail Mail, recommends booking two separate weekend reservations instead of staying anywhere near Coachella for the whole week.

Book Extra Shows Nearby: “It’s difficult to have that whole week off when you have a band and crew with hotel costs and day rates,” says Anthony Hook, tour manager for Coachella vets Courtney Barnett and Perfume Genius. He advises playing shows in Los Angeles and up the coast. For those looking to avoid extra travel costs, aim to book the Goldenvoice-sanctioned events, slated before Coachella and during the down week, that are immune to the festival’s radius clause. Last year, Priests traveled to Las Vegas for a gig, and played a Goldenvoice show opening for Angel Olsen at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown, Calif.

Check Out Chella: For a second consecutive year, the Indio, Calif.-based Chella will showcase Latinx artists playing the main festival for a very non-Coachella price ($30) in between the two weekends. “The diversity was just amazing,” says Roberto Carlos Lange, whose bilingual electro-folk project, Helado Negro, performed at the inaugural event in 2018. Norteño staple Los Tucanes de Tijuana and Chilean pop star Mon Laferte lead this year’s one-day April 17 lineup (the bill has only four acts). Adds Lange: “It’s smart, because a lot of these groups can’t play anywhere else.”

Enjoy the Show: “We’re total tourists at a big festival,” says Priests vocalist Katie Alice Greer. “You’re walking around and it’s like, ‘Did Rihanna just walk by me? Did I get free makeup from Sephora?’” Adds Larson, “We all got to watch Beyoncé twice, which was a special thing to be able to do while getting paid to do it.” But Larson also says there’s no shame in staying close to the artist compound: “It’s an environment that’s conducive to just hanging out.” And with all the other artists and media around, “it’s easy to make connections and meet people you otherwise wouldn’t get to.”

Festivals 2019

This article originally appeared in the March 23 issue of Billboard.


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