Festivals cost a ton of money. Just look at the cost of Burning Man, which comes in at well over the $1,300 we added up for a partial list of the expenses. But the reason for the high costs of these festivals (and how attendees justify the expense) is that many result in once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Today we’re looking at how technology affects attendees and the cultural impact of two of the largest music festivals in U.S. history: Woodstock ’69 and Coachella 2015.

The original Woodstock Festival took place over four days (one day longer than scheduled) in the summer of 1969 in Bethel, New York. Hundreds of thousands of people overloaded highways to see some of the greatest musical acts of their time perform.

Coachella takes place annually at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, where it’s been held since its inception in 1999. The festival recently expanded to two full weekends in April to accommodate some of the largest festival crowds in the world.

Here’s a closer look at some similarities and differences between two of the largest music festivals of their time.

The technology

Woodstock was extremely low-tech. Of course, that wasn’t by choice. The technology simply didn’t exist at the time. Perhaps the biggest technological feat was pumping out high-quality sound to 400,000 attendees. Since events of such size had never been staged before, the lead sound engineer needed to custom build the sound system, which included the iconic 70-foot towers.

Coachella and other music festivals now push technology to the max. With sound equipment that’s become standard, Coachella has focused on technology in other ways.

For example, Coachella 2015 has its own festival smartphone app. The app enables attendees to view music schedules, track down food and drink, and even activate their festival wristband. The wristband itself is RFID-enabled, meaning that you are scanned into the venue similar to the way a badge enables access to a secure building.

If you can’t make it to the festival, you can watch Coachella 2015 streaming online through the Coachella YouTube channel. If you want to get a greater sense of what it’s like to be there, there’s also a Coachella virtual tour with some amazing 360-degree views.

Coachella’s YouTube channel has 250,000 subscribers and its Facebook page has nearly 1.2 million “likes”–although the Woodstock Facebook page clocks in with 169,000 “likes” of its own.

But an even more meaningful shift lies in how the festival communicates with attendees. Woodstock relied on traditional ads (like posters) along with word of mouth. Coachella organizers simply post updates to Facebook and Twitter, which will immediately notify millions of users with news that they can then share. Coachella performers can also use this technology to reach fans across social media platforms.

Just don’t count on getting a cell phone signal everywhere. Word is that reception is hard to find at the Empire Polo Club.

Coachella still technically bans all professional cameras as well as recording devices and video cameras. But with all the cell phones, there’s little to stop attendees from photographing and recording the show. Now the best Coachella 2015 organizers can do is ban “selfie sticks” at this year’s festival.



The environmental sustainability

Woodstock 1969 left the grounds covered with trash. In terms of sustainability measures, well, we can’t necessarily blame them there. Sustainability was nowhere nearly as common a topic as it is today.

Today, sustainability measures are a focus of music festivals, including Coachella’s sustainability initiatives.

Coachella has had a carpool program in place since 2007. If you drive in with four or more people in your car, your group will automatically be given chances to win prizes, such as life-long festival passes.

A 10-for-1 bottle exchange program encourages festival-goers to collect bottles and trade them in for posters, tees, or more water.

One of the coolest features is the Energy Playground where you can charge devices by bouncing up and down on a see-saw.

How much it costs

Woodstock tickets were relatively cheap, especially if you consider the caliber of artists that performed. A ticket to the Woodstock ’69 festival cost about $8 per night back then, or about $51 in today’s money. But reports seem to say that money didn’t stop many from attending Woodstock. Some have estimated that half of the attendees didn’t have a ticket.

As you can imagine for a high-demand ticket, Coachella is pretty expensive. Tickets start at $375. In addition, your group will have to shell out $85 for car or tent camping.

Price clearly hasn’t scared away too many people, though. Coachella 2015 sold out in 20 minutes. With 579,000 in attendance over two weekends in 2014, similar numbers are expected in 2015. The festival generated $78.3 million in 2014.

The cost of the Coachella experience goes way up from there. The top-of-the-line Safari Tent with VIP passes costs $7,000 for two people.

Buying other stuff at Coachella isn’t cheap, either. Food, which you can’t bring in yourself, reportedly costs over $10 per plate. Beer sells for around $10, which is comparable (and possibly cheaper) than at other major events in the U.S.

While some rumors state that ATM fees are as high as $12, others report a more modest $5 per transaction. That doesn’t seem so bad when I write it in that order, right?

Of course, the performers

Woodstock arguably had some of the best performers of all time. Names like Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, and The Grateful Dead were all there.

Coachella has had its fair share notable of artists, too.  They include Depeche Mode, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Daft Punk, and Roger Waters.

The music at Coachella is constantly changing, too. With the rise of electronic dance music, performers like Skrillex have headlined Coachella in recent years. These electronic music artists utilize the latest technology in terms of their sound and special effects to create a virtual dance club under the stars. About as far as you can get from Jimi Hendrix performing the Star Spangled Banner at sunrise.

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