INDIO: BLACKPINK Makes History – First Female K-Pop Act to Play at Coachella Music & Arts Festival

ANTONIA HORLICK WRITES – In the past decade, Korean Pop music has become a global phenomenon thanks to the unique blend of catchy melodies, polished choreography, and production values. In October 2018, BTS, a seven-member Seoul group, cemented K-pop’s takeover of the West, as they were the first-ever  Korean Pop band to play at a U.S. stadium. According to Rolling Stone, the show sold out in minutes.

K-pop’s breakthrough into the Western world was enabled through the South Korean music industry’s ability to perfect the pop production machine into an animated assembly line of incredibly catchy tunes sung by talented and trained performers.

On April 12th and 19th, BLACKPINK a K-pop quartet made history by becoming the first-ever K-pop band to headline at the Coachella Music Festival.

Coachella Valley Festival, popularly referred to as just Coachella, is an annual music event held at Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. The festival was founded by Paul Tollett and Rick Van Santen in 1999 and continues to be organized by Goldenvoice a subsidiary of AEG Live. The event hosts music artists from many genres, including rock, pop, hip-hop, and electronic dance music. And this year it featured a new genre: K-pop.

When Coachella announced this year’s lineup, BLACKPINK fans went wild when they saw the band was coming to the festival. Fans took to the internet to express their excitement.

In 2018, the all-girl K-pop band made an impressive headway into the States. The song “DDU-DU DDU-DU” hit No.55 on the Hot 100, making the band the highest-charting K-pop girls group. BLACKPINK’s performance at Coachella was their official U.S. debut, and the band also made history by becoming the first K-pop band to ever play at a U.S. festival.

Since the festival’s launch, it has grown from being a one to two-day rock-oriented event to becoming one of the largest, most exclusive, and profitable festivals in the United States and the world.  

When Coachella launched, the bands and artists that were placed on the line-ups were mostly from the western world; however, as international demand skyrocketed so did the diversity of the artists who perform.

K-pop bands have mastered the art of combining Western and Eastern music flavors with perfectly in-sync choreography that has broken down language and cultural barriers that initially inhibited them from breaking into the mainstream U.S. music market. This year, Coachella organizers clearly caught on to the fact that K-pop is becoming one of the fastest-growing music trends of this generation and resultantly broadened its lineup to include BLACKPINK to satisfy festival-goers’ love of the genre of music.  

Because BLACKPINK was the first K-pop group ever to be put on a US festival line up, the women girls were under an immense amount of pressure to give their best performance, and they certainly delivered. As an attendee of the festival who has never heard K-pop before, it was not easy to figure out who in the crowd was a hard-core fan or who was just discovering the band, as levels of enthusiasm matched.


Towards the end of the show, one of the group’s lead vocalists, Rosé expressed to the crowd her appreciation for their support. She said, “Us coming all the way from South Korea, we didn’t know what to expect, and obviously we — you guys and us — we’re from totally different worlds. But tonight I think we’ve learned so deeply that music brings us as one. So I want to thank you guys tonight for sticking by to the end of the show.”

Jisso, Lisa, Jennie Kim, & Rosé, AKA BLACKPINK performing at the 2019 Coachella Music & Arts Festival

Another significant point to note is the placement of BLACKPINK on Coachella posters and billboards. For artists, it has become a dream come true to earn a place on the Coachella poster which directly translates into booking fees. According to the New York Times, “rarely has typography been so closely monetized. For E.D.M. d.js, in particular, placement on the poster can determine their future asking price, not only in the United States but internationally.”  Clearly, BLACKPINK was on high demand as their typography was placed in large letters alongside huge western artists such as Childish Gambino, Diplo, and Rufus Du Sol.

Coachella has become a reflection of trends in the global music industry. This year’s line-up embraced the multi-linguistic nature of music being produced in all corners of the world. With a bold move away from what’s considered traditional popular music, we hope to see more of this type of global inclusiveness at next year’s event.

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