When news broke that Ariana Grande was set to be the youngest person to headline the two-weekend festival, I became very curious and did some numbers-based research of my own. I noted every single headliner's age (at the time of their sets) and compared the statistics.
Solo artists were easy to do, but when it came to bands, I had to use my best judgement. For the most part, I went with solely the lead singer, with the exception of Blur, who technically have two frontmen. (Apologies to Atticus Ross, Tom Morello, Slash, Flea, et al). Additionally, and for obvious reasons, I had to split Outkast into two and Beastie Boys into three. Also, for 2012 and beyond, I listed the date of just the first weekend, with the exception of 2014's Win Butler of Arcade Fire. More on that later. Here's a sample of the data from Coachella's first ten years (click here or on the chart below to go to the full spreadsheet):
Highs and Lows:
There were a total of 61 combined ages I was able to gather and analyze. Turns out that the average age of a headliner is 39 years old, which is right where Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Big Boi (Outkast), and Jack White sat at the time of their performances. The oldest headliner at the time of their set was Brian Johnson of AC/DC. He was 67 years old in 2015. The oldest act to ever headline Coachella is Paul McCartney, who was 66 years old at time time of his 2009 set, but was born five years before Johnson on June 18, 1942, which currently puts him at 76. Then, of course, you have Ariana Grande who will be youngest headliner when she takes the main stage this April, as well as the youngest headliner of all time at just 25 years old and born on June 29, 1993.
Interestingly, the case of Arcade Fire's Win Butler is unique. His birthday is on April 14th, which lands right around the time of the festival. When he headlined in 2011 (the last one-weekend year), he was just two days into being 31 years old. When he and his band headlined again in 2014, he was 33 on weekend one and 34 on weekend two, where his birthday landed during the week between weekends. The only other headliners who have birthdays in April are Maynard James Keenan (Tool) and Robert Smith (The Cure), but they've only both played at Coachella when it was just a one-weekend festival.
This year, 2019, will mark the youngest overall headliners in Coachella history, with an average of 30.7 years old between the three headliners. Before that, the youngest year was tied between the inaugural year and 2011, where the average was 31.3 years old. The oldest year was 2008, where it peaked at 48.3 years old. 2009 is a close second with an average of 47.7 years old.
The most popular age decade for the headliners is the 30s, with 27 performers total. The 60s had the least amount with just three (Roger Waters in 2008, Paul McCartney in 2009, and Brian Johnson of AC/DC in 2015).
There has also been at least one headliner aged 25 through 50 (with the exception of 26 and 48). The ages with the most headliners? It's a four-way tie between 29, 32, 35, and 36, which all have four acts each.
The "House Bands":
The bands that have headlined Coachella the most are Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers at three times a piece. Björk, Muse, Tool, The Cure, Arcade Fire, and Rage Against the Machine all tie for second place with all of them headlining twice. Additionally, Damon Albarn has also headlined twice, but is the only musician to perform with two different headlining bands (Gorillaz and Blur). It's also important to point out that Björk is the only female artist to headline more than once. There has also never been a non-rock/alternative act to headline two or more times, which would've been broken this year had Kanye West not pulled out at the last minute.