Last weekend, influencers and celebrities alike flocked to California for the first weekend of Coachella, as it returned for the first time since 2019. Despite Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat performing, it wasn’t the music or fashion that made headlines on social media – it was TikTok exposing chaos at Revolve’s influencer event, Revolve Festival.
The invite-only mini music festival takes place the same weekend as Coachella and is an influencer’s paradise. Inside, there’s free food and drinks, gifting suites, carnival rides, endless Instagram-worthy backdrops and performances by Post Malone, Jack Harlow and Willow Smith.
So what went wrong? The only way in and out of Revolve Festival is by shuttle bus. Reports began emerging of attendees being stuck for up to five hours under the burning Californian sun waiting on buses – some which never arrived. Complaints emerged of no staff, no water, no shade, shoving, shouting and fighting with many unable to get into the festival at all. TikToker Averie Bishop waited over two hours, Kristi Howard didn’t get in after waiting five hours – she later noted she spent a thousands of dollars to attend.
My thoughts and experience at #revolvefestival
Creators didn’t waste any time making TikToks to share the grim reality of the festival. Maddie White, along with many others, revealed she was offered $2,000 in clothing credit and two VIP wristbands, in exchange for access to the festival. Lars Gummer posted a screenshot of his invitation, which came with the requirement to post two TikToks, two Instagrams posts and four Instagram Stories with five frames per Story. Kylie Larsen told her followers that the amount of content Revolve expected is the equivalent to $30,000 worth of work.
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In a statement to E! Online, the brand responded to the criticism on 19 April: “As the festival was reaching capacity late Saturday afternoon. Shuttle access to the venue was limited in order to remain in compliance with safety requirements causing longer wait times for entry and resulting in some guests not being able to attend the festival. The safety of our guests is of the utmost importance to us and we will always make that a priority. We sincerely apologize to all the guests who were impacted. We always strive to provide a great experience and we promise to do better.”
While a few shuttle bus issues may not seem like much, the way news of Revolve Festival’s sloppy logistics spread like wildfire is thanks to TikTok’s unique ability to catapult content into viral success, and the brand subsequently lost control of the narrative. Comment sections for the brand’s own TikTok account along with anyone who attended with them, were littered with scathing comments comparing Revolve Festival to the infamous Fyre Festival.
It also points to a shifting culture in both the creator economy and the wider Coachella festival. TikTok saw massive success as a result of the pandemic, with creators offering less filtered, planned and structured content like what’s found on Instagram – the dominating platform in 2019.
According to TikTok trend forecaster Mandy Lee (Old Loser In Broooklyn), Coachella has now become a content farm – music comes second to “doing things for the internet.” In essence, it’s a content festival and Revolve has capitalised on that.
The brand has long been coveted by aspiring influencers for its extravagant trips but the volume of scathing reviews of its service over the first weekend of Coachella could be a turning point.
According to an October 2017 WWD report, “up to “70 percent of current overall sales at revolve.com are driven by an influencer,” and in 2018, the company went public, valuing itself at $1.2 billion with a vast, continuously growing customer base of Gen Z and Millenials – TikTok’s dominant demographic.
This reliance on content creators could have dire consequences if Revolve as an influencer marketing machine doesn’t take heed of how TikTok can make or break a brand launch or event, remember the Chanel advent calendar?
Picture credit: Leonie Hanne via Instagram