Coachella Valley 2012 Music and Arts Festival

Tens of thousands of Coachella visitors have descended upon the Mojave desert since Friday for the 2012 Valley Music and Arts Festival. Stores are piling up on caffeinated drinks and cigarettes as the biggest pop fans watch a payday bonanza of acts that will perform on five different stages.

Fans and bands may need an extra stamina boost this year. Coachella has expanded for the first time from one weekend to two and will feature 143 bands. By cloning itself into twin festivals, with identical lineups, spread over consecutive three-day weekends, it will easily rank as the highest-grossing festival in the world this year, according to Billboard magazine.

The expansion of the festival is a boon for the economically challenged Indio, a city of 76,000 where the median income is just above $36,000 a year, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. It will more than double in population with the addition of 80,000 or more Coachella guests each weekend, and those two waves of visitors will bring money to spend. The influx of visitors also means sold-out hotels, packed cafes and a run on Smartwater in more affluent, surrounding areas such as the resort towns of Indian Wells and La Quinta.

The festival is a bright light for an increasingly fragmented music business still scrambling to find a solid revenue stream. Labels, band managers and concert promoters are watching the festival closely to see if this two-weekend model is a solution to at least some of the industry’s financial woes.

Last year’s one-weekend event grossed $25 million in tickets. This year that figure is expected to jump to the $50-million mark by the time the event closes on April 22. Three-day passes cost $285 sans service fees, and all 150,000 passes were gone within three hours of the lineup being announced in January.

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