Won’t somebody think of the influencers?
From travel chaos at Revolve to Coachella's lacklustre crowds, it's been a bad weekend for the demographic that now seems to totally make up their audiences: the influencer.
After two festival seasons marred by COVID restrictions, you’d be forgiven for anticipating some major FOMO this weekend as the world (and your Instagram feed, and your FYP) was subjected to the first major festival weekend in the western world of 2022. Influencers, celebrities and mere mortals (normies) all ventured to the Californian desert for both the first weekend of Coachella and for the concurrent weekender, REVOLVE festival (not affiliated with Coachella, even though the majority of the demographic for both is at the centre of a venn diagram uniting the rich and heavily online). Instead, both events were notable in their demonstrable lack of inspired FOMO.
What played out over social media this weekend was a disaster gleefully compared to both Fyre Festival and The Hunger Games, as influencers arrived at REVOLVE festival, now entering its fifth year, only to wait in the heat of a parking lot for hours without food or water thanks to transportation mismanagement. When they did eventually get to the festival grounds itself — which was mainly a space to “have fun and take photos” — controversy marred the event, with some complaining that they paid up to $2,000 for their ticket, while others were invited for free. One TikTok creator posted that after finally finding a space to rest in the shade, security at the festival requested they move so that the Kardashians could stage a photoshoot (the comments under this video basically amount to the sentiment of: well yeah, fair enough, they’re more famous than you are).
Even at Coachella, which was more stacked with celebrities and actual music performances, FOMO did not appear to be running high. Videos emerged on TikTok of festival-goers complaining about queues and traffic, alleging that they’d been turned away on the first day because the simultaneous events were “too full” or they had arrived “too late”. Even outside of organisational problems, the cracks were beginning to show. Comments under a “what I eat in a day at Coachella” TikTok are filled with people losing their minds over a breakfast burrito casually costing $20. Under one clip of Doja Cat’s energetic, metal arrangement of “Ain’t Shit” and debut of a new song, commenters instead pointed to just how lacklustre the crowds were.
Coachella and REVOLVE have always been festivals where the focus is as much on looking good as on the music. But this year’s debacles feel like an indication that both have reached peak influencer, with attendees hiring celebrity stylists for outfits that feel built for social media engagement at the expense of utility (several creators wore puffa jackets or stiletto heels to the three-day event, which takes place almost entirely on grass with average temperatures at around 25 degrees celsius). What previously would have been seen as aspirational now seems blatant in its lack of authenticity – and Gen Zers, blessed with a more sensitive bullshit detector than previous generations could have hoped for, have again and again proven that they value the latter over the former.
It’s no surprise that, at the same time influencer looks have become more and more extra at the festival, Coachella’s VIPS and celebrities have flip-flopped on their own ostentatious festival fashion. This year, Kendall Jenner showed up in a pair of blue jeans, while Hailey Bieber wore a grey crop top and trainers. At the same time, endless Instagram accounts have harkened back to the supposed ‘simpler’ days of flower crowns, denim cut-offs and indie sleaze inspired Coachella-chic. The influencer economy – which has doubled since 2019, coinciding with Coachella’s last pre-pandemic event – has reached saturation. And if anyone can be an influencer (micro, nano, crypto, etc), then anyone can attend festivals like REVOLVE and Coachella and see the scam of doing so just to post it to the grid and edit the real-life crowds to look more aesthetic.
“Coachella is like the perfect example of how capitalism sells us the promise of unforgettable experiences, community and music all under the guise of participating in capitalism,” is how one TikTok video, from fashion writer and trend forecaster @oldloserinbrooklyn puts it. More succinctly: nobody’s going to get FOMO if everyone can see the good time you’re being sold is a scam.