As festival-goers lined up for the usual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival services such as food, merchandise, Ferris wheel rides, lockers and bathrooms, there was a new line that people could join: NFT buyouts.
While Coachella has become a mainstay for catching the world’s next big music acts, it has also embraced the latest tech trends such as augmented reality, gamification, and NFTs.
NFT, which stands for a non-fungible token, a unique digital item that can be bought and sold and takes many forms.
This year, the festival offered each paying attendee a free In Bloom NFT, a digital image of a flower that bloomed each Friday of the festival’s twin weekends. Six of these NFTs came with special perks such as VIP upgrades, 2023 weekend passes, Goldenvoice concert tickets and Ferris wheel rides.
Attendees who downloaded the NFT before or onsite at the festival were able to redeem their standard NFTs for a free t-shirt and $5 food voucher. During weekend 2, there was always a line at the FTX booth, Coachella’s partner in the NFT marketplace.
Alberto Estrada from Colorado said that In Bloom NFT interacted with the digital token for the first time.
“They offer free stuff, so why not? said Platform. “I like free stuff.”
It was also the first NFT experience for Cosette La Shier of Glendora.
“The line to get this free stuff wasn’t long and we only waited 15 minutes,” La Shier said. “I don’t think I would ever buy NFT, if it was just on its own.”
Sam Schoonover, who leads the festival’s emerging technology programs as Coachella’s chief innovation officer, said the main goal was to get people engaging with NFTs for the first time.
“We wanted to provide a variety of NFTs and give people some where they felt like they didn’t have to commit,” Schoonover said.
The festival offered a handful of other NFTs that could be redeemed for tangible items in February that sold out soon after they went on sale. The Sights and Sounds collection included 10 photos accompanied by exclusive soundscapes of the polo fields and redeemable for a physical print. The collection was limited to 10,000 NFTs sold for $60 each. The Desert Reflections collection, which consisted of digital versions of 10 Coachella story posters created by artist Emek, was redeemable for a physical festival photo book. The collection was limited to 1,000 NFTs and sold for $180.
the music collective 88rising also partnered with the festival to release several NFTs that guests could redeem for merchandise onsite. Some NFTs have also granted access to future 88rising merchandise and early access to Head In The Clouds LA festival tickets later this year.
The most expensive NFTs were part of the Coachella Keys Collection. The collection included 10 individual NFTs with perks like lifetime Coachella passes for one weekend in April each year and various amenities like luxury camping and gourmet dining. Each sold in the six figures, with the total coming in at $1,474,000.
Schoonover said the festival plans to offer more NFTs in the future, but the Coachella Keys will remain limited.
“Coachella Key holders own a digital item that will continue to give them an exclusive experience that no one else will truly get,” Schoonover said.
The festival also offered an NFT scavenger hunt similar to Coachella Coin, the interactive video game the festival offered through its smartphone app in 2019. Its adoption of gamification requires participant engagement that relies on people’s motivation. The easier the task, the more likely users are to engage, but the sheer number of festival experiences can make it difficult to decide what to do.
“The scavenger hunt was OK, but I really came to listen to more music,” said Lisa Chen from Anaheim. “There’s not enough time to do or see everything, so you have to be picky.”
Participants, like Hanna Li from San Clemente, said she bought one of 88 rising NFTs for merchandise and perks, but didn’t understand how the scavenger hunt worked.
Coachella also provided a physical space for the NFT art experience. Next to 2 NFT redemption tent was FTX Bloom, created by artist Zach Lieberman, which projected digital art onto screens with various sounds created to enhance the experience with a common component, which according to Schoonover, is what’s fundamental to building the future of NFTs that he says he’s hopeful will see spread.
“We want to continue working with NFTs,” Schoonover said. “They’re great for the community, and anyone who has one feels inspired to develop NFTs because they’re part of it.”