Since its very first webcast in 2011, the Coachella live stream on YouTube has allowed people from all corners of the globe to connect with the 1000,000 fans in the audience each day to create a global event that extends far beyond the festival grounds. In 2018, over 458,000 viewers tuned in live to watch Beyoncé's breathtaking 105-minute set live from TVs, computers, phones, laptops, or whatever device they could get that would play YouTube. For Coachella 2023, YouTube is going even bigger hoping to capture the can’t-miss moments with high-quality coverage of all six stages, exclusive merch drops on Coachella’s YouTube channel, to on-the-ground actions with Artists, Creators, and fans – exclusively on Shorts – and so much more. This unprecedented coverage will allow viewers an opportunity to not only transport themselves to the middle of the audience but instead live out what the Coachella experience would feel like from the Ferris wheel, sitting backstage with artists getting ready, and tons more.
To better understand the full extent of what's being unveiled this year, EARMILK had the chance to connect with Matt McLernon, who handles Artist Relations at YouTube. Having been with the company for over 12 years, his recent work on the YouTube artist team helps artists grow their audiences and careers through everything from marquee projects to the daily hustle. He also focuses on livestream partnerships, notably managing Coachella’s 2023 livestream and being a key player in bringing the event to YouTube through the recently announced contract extension for Coachella and YouTube through 2026.
Speaking about the extended partnership announcement, McLernon states, "Every year, we've just tried to figure out a way to go bigger. And I think that's the nature that YouTube brings to it. And it's definitely the nature that Coachella brings to it as well and that's one of the real cornerstones of why our partnership works so well." He continues, "On top of (Coachella) continuously booking unbelievable artists they managed to switch from one weekend to two which was unheard of at the time but it worked and they may be one of the few festivals in the world that can do it while still always looking to go bigger and that's I think that's where YouTube comes in. There's only so much you can do physically with a festival out in the desert, but when you layer in YouTube it suddenly opens up the whole world and suddenly Coachella isn't a festival out in California but rather a global event enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people in Mexico, Poland, or the Philippines that may never get a chance to travel to and have that Coachella experience."
The symbiotic relationship between YouTube and the festival organizers behind Coachella allows for an invaluable exchange of insight as they explore the tricky dynamics of taking the in-person festival experience and translating it for viewers online. McLernon shares, "Coachella has an incredible live stream team leading a lot of these decisions and deciding where to put the Robo cams and steady cams, as well as advising on adding in the digital overlays or creative filters." He jokes that we've quickly moved past the days of just putting a broadcast camera up in the back, track it against the lead, and calling it a day. He continues, "Springboard Productions is also the production company that they've (Coachella) been working with for many years and bring a full setup of cameras with a few surprises in store for this year. I think if there is any type of camera out there, they're probably using it in some way."
For the first year ever, YouTube will provide viewers access to all six stages throughout the weekend, compared to the main three in years past. But for viewers who are looking to interact with all the enthusiasm happening around the festival on a more personal level, YouTube is also unveiling dedicated Coachella programming within YouTube Shorts. McLernon shares, "Shorts come in as the kind of in-between things that you'd otherwise miss if you only had access to seeing what's on stage. They help fans inject themselves into the little nuance experience of walking by the Ferris wheel or being in a water balloon fight. Regardless of whatever timezone a fan wakes up in, they'll have a chance to live or relive these experiences in any format that you can watch YouTube on.
With more than 100 different dance acts performing at Coachella over both weekends, YouTube is making sure to provide inclusive coverage of all genres and allowing electronic fans to enjoy this year's incredible DJ sets happening within the legendary Yuma tent. "For weekend two, we are going to have both the Sonora stage during the daytime and then at night it'll flip over to Yuma," shares McLernon. "It's a first for us in many ways but something we're really excited about." As YouTube channels such as Cercle or Boiler Room have become essential destinations for dance fans discovering new music, McLernon understands the importance of capturing the electronic sets but doing it right. He continues, "Yuma is very hallowed ground for those that managed to make it through the long line in and many people will go to Coachella just to be at Yuma. And so we want to make sure that we're really doing that right and we're excited about it."
YouTube Premium subscribers will also have the chance to enjoy additional perks such as exclusive behind-the-scenes content that many fans onsite wouldn't even be privy to. McLernon shares that the exclusive access to these Pre-Parties will offer fans a look at, "artist-filmed bonus material similar to hanging out in the green room with three artists showing a sneak peek at how they get ready before hitting the stage." The pre-party will only be available to premium subscribers but once a specific segment ends, viewers will follow the artist and be set right into their live stream set.
In a very unique way, YouTube is by no means replacing the live experience of traveling to a music festival in person but instead capturing a unique 360-degree experience for fans all around the globe to also enjoy one of the biggest stages in music. Way before the pandemic forced artists to connect with fans online, YouTube led the charge as early innovators in the live stream space and they continue to push the evolution of how fans interact with artists in exciting new ways each year.
Headliners for Coachella this year include Bad Bunny, Blackpink, and Frank Ocean. Other notable artists include Calvin Harris, Gorillaz, Björk, Rosalía, Eric Prydz, Burna Boy, Sofi Tukker, Porter Robinson, Blondie, SG Lewis, and more. With exclusive artist merch being sold on YouTube shopping, fans and artists posting interactive content to YouTube Shorts, pre-parties with artists on YouTube Premium, and a live feed allowing viewers to travel between all six stages, all fans are missing is a little wind-kicking up dust in their eye and a sunburn on their neck to actually been there.