As spring approaches, many Mustangs wait in anticipation for their festival wristbands to arrive. These students have dropped hundreds of dollars on tickets to attend events such as Coachella, Lightning in a Bottle and Electric Daisy Carnival.
These festivals are not for everyone, though. Some weighed in about the ethical costs of attending.
Last year, it was confirmed via official tax filings that the Anschutz Family Foundation, owned by Philip Anschutz, donated $190 thousand to anti-LGBT groups between 2010 and 2013. Anschutz is the founder of Anschutz Entertainment Group, the company that owns half of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. He also owns Goldenvoice, the company in charge of organizing the event.
“Knowing this information about the owner of Coachella practically ensures that I will never be stepping foot in that festival,” philosophy junior Gina Welisch said. “Even if my favorite artist of all time was performing, I think it would be unethical and untrue to myself to go to the concert.”
To Welisch, where her money goes is of utmost importance, especially when investing hundreds of dollars into an event. This news, however, came after an over five-year delay.
Anschutz has since released a public statement on the matter, denying these claims several times over.
“[It’s] fake news — it’s all garbage,” Anschutz wrote. “I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation.”
However, it was proven through these tax filings that two of the organizations he donated to, Alliance Defending Freedom and National Christian Foundation, had clear anti-LGBTQ stances on each of their websites.
“This news doesn’t make me not want to go to Coachella,” business administration senior Kenny Taillac said. “There are thousands and thousands of people that actually make Coachella happen. Just because some guy I’ve never heard of owns Coachella and is making payments toward causes I don’t believe in doesn’t mean all the money that I spend at Coachella is going to him.”
Out of the $63.7 million the Anschutz Foundation has donated, these contributions make up only one percent. A majority of the donations were non-political, going to groups such as the Boys and Girls Club and Doctors Without Borders.
“Even if a company donates to good charities, sometimes they don’t even pay their workers a living wage,” Welisch said. “The chain of production and widespread grip each company has is so complex that we can never really know, so it’s hard to be an ethical spender.”
Ahir Gopaldas of Fordham University dug into the idea of ethical consumerism in “Marketplace Sentiments” in The Journal of Consumer Research.
“Only a small number of people in North America consume ethically on a regular basis,” Gopaldas wrote. “Most consumers just look for good deals and ignore the social impact of the products they buy.”
His research found that anger is the most common driving force in motivating consumers to reject purchasing a product from a source they deem unethical.
“Sentiments ignite passion, fuel commitment, and literally move people to action,” Gopaldas wrote.
However, this does not seem to have affected Coachella attendance. Last year, Goldenvoice announced a 40-acre expansion that would increase the festival’s capacity from 99,000 to 125,000 people.
In general, there has been a significant surge in festival attendance over the last few years. Aloompa’s 2016 Festival Demand Report found that 51 percent of Americans attended a live music event in 2015, a sizable jump from just 44 percent in 2014.
Overall, approximately 32 million people go to at least one U.S. music festival every year, according to data collected by Billboard in 2015. So, despite the high costs, the festival culture is not going anywhere anytime soon.
For Coachella 2018, Weekend One general admission Coachella tickets sold out in 35 minutes. Weekend Two passes also sold out the same day they went on sale.
“When buying a product, I consider the ethical implications much more than I would for a festival,” Taillac said. “The experience at a festival is much more valuable to me than a one-time purchase of a product.”
For some, it is simply not feasible to consider the ethics of their purchase on a regular basis.
“As a college student, I don’t have the money to be completely ethical with my spending anyway,” environmental earth and soil sciences junior Olivia Mann said. “I can’t afford to buy free-range meat and organic produce from a place that treats their employees and farmers well.”
In a 2017 research report, Eventbrite found that three out of four Millennials prefer experiences over physical objects. They also found that four out of five Millennials say attending a live event makes them feel more connected to their community and the world.
“I have been to Coachella twice,” Mann said. “The experience is really what you make of it, but I found it to be one of the most eye-opening, healing and, most importantly, fun weekends of my life.”