The California-based annual Coachella music and arts festival began the shift towards cashless payments in 2014. This year the transition continued with all vendors accepting Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.

The shift aims to increase sales of food, drinks and merchandise, as well as to move attendance lines faster and reduce the number of thefts of cash and plastic cards.

Coachella festival-goers prefer cashless payments

This year the transition continued with all vendors accepting Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay through POS provider Squares mobile wallet reader, allowing attendees to pay using their mobile wallets on their smartphones and smartwatches.

With a lineup of performers like Ice Cube, Guns N’ Roses, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg and Ellie Goulding and an attendance of stars running around who include the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and the Jenner sisters, it’s no wonder Coachella has become the best-attended and highest-grossing music festival in the world with attendance at 99,000 a day over six days.

Coachella's six-day gross of more than $84.3 million last year dwarfed the competition.

Gopi Sangha, director of digital strategy at the music and arts festival organizer Goldenvoice, says to Forbes:

“Coachella has been rather militantly cash only for the long duration of its lifespan, but over the past three years we’ve been watching our sales and seeing credit card demand here and at other festivals really scaling heavily - this is a trend that couldn’t be ignored and denied; it’s the way consumers want to complete transactions onsite.”


Partnership with American Express

Noting that 80 per cent of the youngest demographic pays electronically at some Goldenvoice festivals, Gopi adds:

“The mobile drive is insatiable for us, we’re constantly on the search to make the experience a little bit more seamless for the fans and bring down the barrier of logistics so fans can really enjoy the art, the show and the atmosphere we create, and not be burdened down if the lines are held up and all those logistical bottlenecks.”

American Express has entered into a digital partnership with Coachella using their existing iBeacon technology which enables American Express members to link their card to the app and, by reading location data, gives users the chance to win rewards and enhance their festival experience based on their exact location.

Numerous requests to accept Bitcoin

Amy Marino, vice president of digital communications and design strategy at American Express, says to Forbes:

“When it comes to cashless, just as a festival goer myself, I don’t want to have things in my pockets. You want to have as little as possible, but the one thing you’ve always got with you is your mobile device. For Coachella, where so much of your experience, your itinerary, the way that you are meeting up with your friends is done through your mobile device, this seemed like a no brainer where we should go to add value.”

The festival-goers have been requesting Bitcoin acceptance at this event on social networking sites and on the Coachella forums from 2014 to now.

With the speed that this mobile-based payment transition has appeared in the last three years, there is hope that when it penetrates into the mainstream as a payment type, maybe bitcoin could be an option at the event in 2017.