Photo:

photo illustration by The Wall Street Journal; Getty Images (photos)

What is Coachella getting out of joining forces with

Beyoncé

? New customers.

The annual music festival, which starts on Friday in Indio, Calif., is the highest-grossing one in the U.S. It typically sells out before ticket buyers even know who will be playing.

Beyoncé is headlining this year’s festival along with the rapper

Eminem

and R&B singer the Weeknd, a lineup expected to broaden Coachella’s fan base and defuse criticism that it doesn’t feature enough of the female, pop and hip-hop acts that younger listeners favor.

Nearly two-thirds of Beyoncé’s fans have never attended a music festival, according to Nielsen Music, yet they are more likely than the average listener to say it is important to see their favorite musicians live.

“Coachella could potentially have a significant number of first-timers on-hand,” says

Erin Crawford,

senior vice president of Nielsen Music.

Goldenvoice, which organizes Coachella and is part of the concert-promotion giant AEG Presents, declined to comment. Through her spokeswoman, Beyoncé declined to comment.

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Because the average Beyoncé fan is seven years older than the average Coachella attendee, Nielsen says, the 36-year-old megastar could bring bigger-spending 30- and 40-something fans who might have otherwise stayed at home.

Kashif Tisdale

is among the recent converts.

The 32-year-old student, who lives in Los Angeles, has seen Beyoncé eight times. For a 2013 show in Las Vegas, he woke up at 4 a.m. to ensure he was first in line. He wound up near the stage, and when the lights went down, he says, Beyoncé locked eyes and threw him a towel.

When rumors spread that Beyoncé would headline last year’s Coachella, Mr. Tisdale bought passes for the first time ever, along with six friends, four of whom were also to be first-time attendees.

“We were like, this is the perfect time,” he says. “She’s there.”

Then Beyoncé announced she was pregnant and bowed out. But Mr. Tisdale and his six friends spent about $450 apiece for this year’s passes. He hopes Goldenvoice will book another pop-R&B star, Rihanna, next year.

Since Coachella started in 1999, U.S. music festivals have proliferated, according to Pollstar, a trade publication tracking the concert industry. America’s two biggest concert promoters, Live Nation and AEG Presents, have consolidated much of the industry.

That has fueled complaints about corporate influence, homogenized headliners and market saturation. The number of festivals has jumped over 50% globally in the past three years, Pollstar says, so competition for attention-grabbing performers is fierce.

“Everyone is going after the same pool of talent,” says

Gary Bongiovanni,

Pollstar’s editor in chief.

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, previously the frontwoman for the R&B group Destiny’s Child, has sold tens of millions of albums and led sold-out stadium tours. But she has never played a U.S. festival as big as Coachella, something that helps the event stay in a league of its own while connecting it with a new audience.

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Sources: Nielsen N-Score; Music 360

Beyoncé captures popular music’s zeitgeist: She is a pop-R&B entertainer fluent in hip-hop and a social-media-savvy businesswoman. Her 2016 tour was that year’s highest-grossing in North America, according to Pollstar. Combined with music sales, streaming and publishing, she was 2016’s biggest moneymaker, Billboard says.

Her Coachella performance will be the first time a black woman has headlined the nearly 20-year-old festival.

Plenty of Beyoncé fans won’t make the trip. For starters, they are more likely than typical Coachella attendees to live in the Northeast, Nielsen says. Yet they’re also likelier than average music fans to follow festivals they don’t attend on social media, which could boost Coachella’s presence online.

According to data from market-research firm MusicWatch, Beyoncé’s most devoted fans represent a broad swath of America, cutting across age, race, income, music preferences and even how they listen to music.

About 21% of her “engaged fans”—people who have seen her in concert or follow her on Instagram, among other criteria—are 18 to 24 years old, says

Russ Crupnick,

managing partner at MusicWatch. A similar percentage are 25 to 34. The biggest share, 24%, are 35 to 44. (Three percent are over 65.)

“She’s managed to maintain her Destiny’s Child fans, while carving out a newer and younger audience,” Mr. Crupnick says.

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Around 36% of Beyoncé’s engaged fans are black, while African-Americans constitute only 10% of U.S. music festival attendees, MusicWatch says. It estimates the average household income for an engaged Beyoncé fan is $77,482, higher than the U.S. average, meaning potentially bigger travel and entertainment budgets.

Coachella has become known for epic onstage reunions—Iggy & the Stooges, Outkast and Guns N’ Roses are among them—and the Beyoncé performance could generate a similar amount of buzz. In an age of audience fragmentation, she is a unifying force.

Beyoncé is “as legendary as a U2 or Rolling Stones,” says

Joe Rapolla,

director of the music-industry program at Monmouth University.

Coachella is expected to be a handsome payday for her. One music-festival executive said she could earn over $5 million, and potentially as much as $10 million, for playing its two weekends.

The festival is also an opportunity for her to promote “On the Run II,” a joint tour with her husband Jay-Z, slated to begin in Europe in June. “Performing there lets Beyoncé fortify that she is everyone’s entertainer,” Mr. Rapolla says.

Mr. Tisdale is excited because this will be Beyoncé’s first performance since the 2017 Grammy Awards, when she was pregnant.

“She’s the greatest entertainer alive,” he says. “I know Beyoncé is going to give me my money’s worth.”

Write to Neil Shah at [email protected]

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