Organizers also offered interest-free plans for fans who would rather pay the bill over three installments. And they've lowered camping prices from $55 a person to $57 per slot, regardless of the number of campers.
Bands also still need to be paid, and headliners make far more than they did six years ago, when festivals were fringe events. Bands make an estimated $15,000 to the "high six figures" to play Coachella, and some top-billed artists are expected to break the seven-figure barrier in 2010.
For many bands, festival tours have become a staple of their income.
Despite the protests, attendees have been voting with their feet. Camping spots sold out weeks ago. Hotels 23 miles away in Palm Springs are also booked. Those that have rooms available have jacked up their rates. The Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel 30 miles northwest of Indio on Friday charged $692 a night during the festival for a room that normally costs $152 a day.
Desperate fans have turned to the online classified ad site Craigslist. An ad posted last week offered to sell a reservation at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort for $800. "You are buying the reservation from me and will still owe the hotel about $930 for three nights," reads the post.
Another ad offered eight spaces on the floor of a mobile home, or up to "10 squished," for $15 a piece.
"This is out of control," said Caroline Chouinard, 34, a Pasadena systems engineer who bought her ticket two weeks ago, then spent days scouring the Web for hotels. "I really have no idea what I will do."
Artist managers and booking agents are sympathetic to the cost, but recognize that Coachella still offers a compelling deal, at least at current prices.
"The value of the festival is comprised of so much more than any one single band," said Ben Dickey, who manages Spoon, one of Coachella's top-billed independent acts. "I think people will certainly hit a breaking point. If a festival was $500, bands would be playing to an empty field. There is a delicate balance."