Revolve Fest Wasn’t Fyre Fest — But It Shows the Power of Influencers

A full two years after Coachella became one of the earliest major music festivals to cancel amid the spiraling global pandemic, North America’s largest multi-genre event finally kicked off again April 15–17 with the first of two sold-out weekends in the baking sun and throat-irritating dust of Indio, Calif.

You can read Billboard‘s coverage from day one, day two, day three and behind the scenes. But away from the Coachella site, there was plenty of intrigue too. Transportation and logistics problems at Revolve Fest, an invite-only event for influencers and fashion bloggers, drew comparisons to 2017’s Fyre Festival, after videos surfaced of attendees chasing down shuttles and complaining about being forced to wait in the desert heat for hours with little access to food or water.

As with Fyre Fest, which was an unmitigated disaster, Revolve, which is three miles north of the Coachella music festival, soon generated a viral reaction from its unhappy attendees.

Revolve Fest is the marquee event for women’s clothing retailer Revolve, an online fashion brand created in 2003 by co-founders Michael Mente and Mike Karanikola in the aftermath of the tech bubble bust in late 2000. The company is one of several hundred brands that host unauthorized events in Palm Springs during the festival targeting Coachella-goers.

Coachella organizers have few options to stop authorized events and will not dispatch its lawyers unless a brand illegally uses the festival’s name on any of its marketing or promotional material. Sources say that since launching its event at the Palms Springs estate of late TV host and media mogul Merv Griffin in 2017, Revolve has gotten as close as it can to crossing the line, relying on its deep network of social media influencers to flood TikTok and Instagram with posts about its festival-centric fashion lines and draw the festival’s online audience into Revolve’s own social media feed.

The company is creating so much content around Revolve Fest that finding photos of the transportation drama meant sifting through thousands of posts from influencers who were given tickets to attend in exchange for a promise to hit social media posting quotas from the event.

The created posts would then fuel a steady stream of Coachella fashion posts, produced almost entirely by women, detailing the different items making up their outfit for the day. These videos were watched more than 173 million times, according to TikTok, and in 2018 generated 4.4 billion impressions — five times more than the festival’s official fashion partner, H&M.

A Revolve representative told Billboard on Tuesday that 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 rep added: “We sincerely apologize to all the guests who were impacted. We always strive to provide a great experience and we promise to do better.”

The event, which included performances by Jack Harlow and Post Malone, and featured a dedicated Spotify K-Pop Café, drew millions of eyeballs to the company’s social media pages. It was greeted warmly by investors, who snapped up shares on Monday, pushing up the share price of the company — which trades on the New York Stock Exchange — by 6%.

A version of this article was originally published in Billboard’s latest Inside Track column. Read the full piece here

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