Coachella by the numbers

Randall Roberts at the LA Weekly crunched all the data for bands in the 2008 lineup for the Coachella music fest. Excel spreadsheets in turn generated charts and graphs based on gender of lead singer, ethnicity of artists, YouTube hits, Pitchfork ratings, Country of origin, region of the US from which the act hails -- and so on. Link to essay, and here's the data analysis.


  1. None of the data is very surprising – about four times as many lead singers are men as women. Well, most rock bands in general have more men than women. I’ve been in three bands, with a total of nine different people, one of whom was a woman (who played keyboards and didn’t sing.) Four times as many men is actually less than I’d think, except we aren’t going by bass players or lead guitar, which (as many statisticians have learned) throw your numbers way off.

    Most bands are white – guess what, most rock bands always have been, and probably always will be white. White music tends toward rock, black towards hip hop and soul, with Afro-Cuban jazz seeming to split the difference. (And don’t give me a “Rock and Roll was black before it was white” argument – Rock and Roll didn’t scare parents until it was Elvis, not Chuck Berry)

    I could go on, but most have probably already decided I’m boring. So I’ll finish with the one good point the article makes. (Note it’s important enough that I quote it) “To play Coachella is the rock world’s equivalent of having your film screened at Sundance…”

    This is so apt, it’s scary. What I’ve noticed about Sundance lately, and indie rock in general, is that to be indie doesn’t mean anything anymore. Somehow “Little Miss Sunshine” is indie, even though it stars Steve Carell and Alan Arkin, and had a budget that some Major studio films don’t. Newsweek just referred to REM as an indie band (they signed the biggest contract in Rock History with Warner Bros. back in the day, if anyone remembers) and I realized that we’ve hit that point where any new guitar pop band is going to be called indie, just like there was a point when alternative meant Hootie and the Blowfish, Third Eye Blind, and Matchbox 20, and stopped meaning REM, the Pixies, Husker Du, or anything at all.

  2. That’s funny, the 2 bands I’d want to see the most are on the ends, Justice and Pendulum. I think I’d wantto see Pendulum the most, they just haven’t hit it big in the US yet. I only know them because I listen to XFM off the net.

  3. Weirdest thing about Coachella: Jack Johnson is a headliner while M.I.A., Jens Lekman, Vampire Weekend, Justice, etc…are not.

  4. @ #2 Kaiguy – I think this is more a reflection of the user and customer base of Youtube (that happen to look at, or host, music videos) than an indication of anything else.

    Remember, indie bands are simply those that imply that they have rejected mainstream labels and formulaic-pop-cultured sounds. As the scene grew, and the capital inducing potential increased, so did the interest of Big Business. After a time, the popular sound of the indie scene centered around some major central players who cultivated the indie sound. It’s a new style. Has been for a very long time.

    To ruin the aesthetic and mystique of the label indie as Independent Thinking would be to stop its saleability..

    Music is music. If it’s good and suits you, listen to it. The term Indy is a Natural Progression from Alternative. Maybe the next scene will be the revolutionaries and we’ll have the “revo” sound that replaces indie….

  5. Pitchfork ratings SHOULD never be part of any algorithm to decide popular music.

    Come on.

    Pitchfork would probably rate themselves a 4. And that would be GOOD!

  6. 3D graphs = bad. 3D graphs images that are not formatted properly (they improperly resize from a larger graphic) = especially bad.

  7. I love the fact that Justice and basically the rest of Ed Banger Records are gonna be there (most especially SebastiAn); I hate the fact I can’t afford to go. Other artists like The Field, Midnight Juggernauts, Chromeo, and Battles pretty much sums up the music Ive been listening to for the past year.

  8. Based on YouTube popularity, it’s puzzling that CSS isn’t mentioned. 100+ million indicated views seems to merit some sort of recognition, even if there’s controversy over the numbers.

  9. Am I the only one that’s having a lot of trouble reading the font used for the band names?

  10. Hey, my favorite concert last year was the Shins – they were great, but they also embrace pop. I’m not saying I don’t like indie music, but I am sick of artists who think they are good because they’re indie.

  11. I used to work with Mr. Roberts at a record store in St. Louis before he became a music journalist…. Good to see he is getting some national attention.

  12. Speaking of Coachella ya’all should know that we are going to be installing The Steampunk Treehouse for show!

    If you saw the Treehouse when it was featured in Boing Boing TV a few months ago and said “Wow! I’d love to see that things in real life!” Now is your chance.

    If you’ve got no idea what the Steampunk Treehouse is check out:



    See you at Coachella!

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