Initially created for music aficionados to gather around their favorite bands, music festivals nowadays resemble more and more an online fashion competition, a digital battle field for brands where music comes in, eventually, second place.
COACHELLA MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL
Indio, CA – First launched in 1999 by Paul Tollett and Rick Van Santen, the Coachella Music and Arts Festival was far from the successful event it is today. The festival had to cancel its venue in 2000 due to a loss of money the year of its creation – which, for the anecdote, took place in October over a single weekend unlike today’s schedule.
Coachella then eventually made a comeback in 2001 featuring rock bands like Jane’s Addiction – which reunion was most awaited by fans – and Weezer among others. Success did not arrive until 2004 when tickets were sold out for the first time – counting no less than 60,000 people per day – and the event was consecrated “America’s Best Music Festival” by the Rolling Stone.
2004 was the year Flaming Lips’ singer Wayne Coyne made the front page with a picture showing him rolling over fans in a clear plastic bubble. Among other artists, alternative rock bands Radiohead and Pixies – who reunited for the occasion – played at the festival “giving Coachella a stamp of approval” in the words of cofounder Paul Tollett. The rest is history.
It was in 2012 that the festival was extended to a two-weekend event in April and its first act was closed with a memorable Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre performance rapping to a holographic image of Tupac Shakur – which did not impress fans the second time around though.
PEACE & LOVE?
Far from its 1999 debut, Coachella had quickly become the place to be – and to be seen. A fashion event of its own where cowboy boots, crochet anything and flower crowns dominate social media for a short period of time. Boho style had a new kingdom and its queen was none other than Vanessa Hudgens.
Brands, who quickly saw an exposure opportunity, are hosting different activations for festival-goers from photo booths, customizing activity tents, and flower crown stations to pop-up shops, concert platforms, and amusement park rides. Some have gone to the extreme of hosting their own small festival next to Coachella grounds as a complete parallel event.
POUT FOR CLOUT
More than a festival experience, Coachella has become an easy breezy marketing playground with brands buying large-audience internet users VIP tickets for a grateful promotion in exchange.
As for influencers, it has become a yearly place of pilgrimage to show the world their clothes and crowd. Being invited to the festival serves as a stamp of approval – you belong to this world, you are someone. Or so, are you?
Like mentioned above, some brands have created their own exclusive festival near Coachella and their name is Revolve. This year was no exception, and if you followed the 2022 edition of the Revolve Festival, you might already guess what is coming next.
La Quinta, CA – Besides being a celebrity or a Revolve’s protégé influencer and their plus one, your chances to get in their exclusive festival is very low. The Graal of influencer’s event this year was on invitation only but being invited by the brand apparently did not imply you would actually get in the actual event itself. Moreover, micro-influencers showed an email from Revolve saying that if they spent a total of $2,000 worth of clothing on their website, then they would get the well-sought after (golden) ticket.
The tea started spilling when the shuttle service meant to bring the guests to the Revolve Festival did not do so. After hours of waiting in the desert under the sun without any water, a battle of ego emerged from the frustrated crowd. On the one hand, some felt it was inconcevable they were treated this way since they were invited by the brand. On the other hand, some felt they also had the right to go to the festival since they actually paid for their invitation.
But really, why are people so eager to participate in this event? Looking at some behind the scene footage, the pool party looked like a non-stop photoshoot session without anyone actually splashing inside the pool and only a few actually dancing to the DJ set. A fun party online but not so much in real life – although all the elements are gathered for a fun time. So what exactly are people seeking? The free gift bags? Maybe. Or is it rather to set foot in the event and spread the news? The real purpose being belonging rather than sharing. Sharing your accomplishment of belonging to the exclusive crowd. Indeed, it seems Revolve Festival serves the purpose of a (social) status symbol that enables influencers to – consciously or not – hierarchize themselves.
To be fair, the whole invitation against $2K worth of shopping system looks very sketchy from the outside. It seems like Revolve used their social media popularity and power on people’s ego to grow envy around their event. Either you invite chosen people to your event or you open a ticket booth for anyone who would like to take part in the festivities. You cannot do both, then pick and choose, then close the gates to the rest. That’s not how it works. Transportation problems can happen – it wouldn’t be the first event that lacked logistical organization.
Now, dear influencers. You are not worth more or less than one another. You are actually worth more than a brand – that maybe you should idolize less. Furthermore, the online world is not the real world. Some people may genuinely not know who you are and that’s ok. Having an online presence is different from living real life. How about simply enjoying going to a music festival for the music? Sharing is caring but is it really? Dress to impress, yes. But to impress yourself.
Did social media ruined Coachella? I wouldn’t think so. The event itself seems to still be wanting to offer its guests an incredible experience. Sure, some people’s main reason to participate might be to show off and it can be annoying but then again, they have the right to do so. Once a place or event is in vogue, this usually happens. After all, it’s free promotion for the festival. Thanks to social media and the hype created behind the event, Coachella tickets now sell out in a blink of an eye. But if you want to avoid the “fashionista crowd”, rumor has it the second Coachella weekend is better. As for the Revolve Festival, it sounds to me like an overhyped photoshoot experience.