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April 27, 2017

Every April, something magical happens in the heart of the California desert. Legions of music-lovers, armed with flower crowns, fringe, and flowing floral dresses, descend on Indio, CA, ready to get down and rock out. We’re talking about Coachella, the mother of all music festivals, which runs over two consecutive weekends each April. This year, the party started on April 14.

Behind the Music
The first Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival – to give the occasion its proper name – was held in 1999, and it’s hard to imagine that, at the time, anyone could have predicted the cultural phenomenon the festival would become. This year, the event boasted a dazzling array of headliners, included Lady Gaga, Lorde, Radiohead, and Kendrick Lamar – but at Coachella, the A-listers aren’t just confined to the stage. Among the more than 100,000 festival-goers in attendance each weekend, the Coachella crowds were studded with a dizzying number of celebrities, from music royalty like Katy Perry and Rihanna to sports legends like Von Miller.

In 2016, the festival grossed nearly $100 million in ticket sales alone, according to Billboard, and the Los Angeles Times reports that Coachella drove an estimated $403 million in spending in the remote desert region. That’s a whole lot of purchasing power up for grabs. Fortunately, data can bring new opportunities for savvy brands to capitalize on exceptional events like Coachella. As the campsites are packed up and the amps are unplugged in Indio, CA, we dig into data and share insights to help your brand reach consumers at Coachella and other major events.

Time After Time
With the first weekend kicking off in style on Friday, April 14, it’s not surprising that some Wazers started their pilgrimage to Indio on Thursday, with a few early birds heading out as early as 1 p.m. on April 13. Perhaps proving that many festival-goers have full-time jobs, Thursday navigations peaked at 7 p.m. And traffic only ramped up from there, with Friday being the most popular day to drive to Coachella. Indeed, traffic got very intense in the early afternoon when a large number of Wazers were en route to the festival.

2017 Aggregated Hourly Navigations to Coachella- calling out artists' set times times at the event

“Beat” The Crowds
Perhaps people were already camped out, or got tired after one weekend, but either way weekend two saw 8% less navigations overall. Wazers started again driving to Coachella on Thursday but this time the peak was a bit earlier, with traffic peaking at 5pm. While Friday lunch time was again kicking off the weekend for many Wazers, having navigations peaked at 3 p.m. 

2017 Aggregated Navigations to Coachella on Waze- Weekend 1 versus Weekend 2

It’s a Small World, After All
While the California desert may not be your typical tourist destination, with international acts like the xx and Bastille on the menu, Coachella attracts music-lovers from across the globe. This year, Wazers from more than 80 different countries navigated to Coachella with the highest number of festival-Wazers hailing from the United States, Brazil, and France.

Waze data confirms many made the trek cross-country via plane or car to join the party. In fact, the top city representing at Coachella was New York, and Los Angeles was a close second. DC, Atlanta, and San Francisco weren’t far behind.

Life Is a Highway
Many people choose to drive to Coachella, and Google trends data suggests that distance is no object to those with Coachella goals. Two of the top five cities searching “road trip to Coachella” were Odessa, Florida, and Bunnell, Florida, both approximately 2,358 miles from Indio, CA. That would be one epic playlist!

Meanwhile, some were looking to make a more dramatic entrance. “Helicopter to Coachella” was a popular search term, particularly in affluent cities in California, such as Malibu and Coronado. However, whether out of curiosity or a real desire to take a record-setting helicopter ride, Avon, Connecticut, also appeared in the top five cities searching for this term. 

2017 Aggregated navigations origins to Coachella during both weekends. Map created with Carto.

What Does This Mean for Marketers?
With Waze, you can connect with drivers in the Coachella mindset even before they reach their end destination. Peak traffic times offer opportunities to reach a big audience with a similar state-of-mind. Think about the possibilities for CPG brands carrying suncare products or retail chains with a store along the way for that last-minute supply stop.

Festival Marketing Tips
1. It’s all in the timing: capitalize on high traffic to and from events.
2. A Coachella state of mind: think about the mindset of your audience. Have fun with creative.
3. International men and women of mystery: capture a global audience at home.

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