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‘Chaos’: Why Revolve’s Coachella Event Drew Fyre Festival Comparisons

Back this past weekend for the first time since 2019, Revolve Festival is lighting up social media—but not always for the best reasons.

The fifth incarnation of Revolve’s influencer-centric event welcomed a host of high-profile guests, including Kendall Jenner, Hailey Bieber, Post Malone and Timothée Chalamet. Located in La Quinta, Calif., just a few miles away from the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival—also back for the first time since 2019 this past weekend—it featured musical performances by A-list performers, including Nike collaborator Billie Eilish, Doja Cat and Harry Styles.

The bulk of the fashion e-tailer’s invitees, however, were influencers and their plus-ones—a choice that paid off in spades when it comes to social engagement. According to the influencer marketing technology platform Traackr, Revolve Festival produced more than 5,000 posts from more than 700 influencers by 9 a.m. local time Monday, resulting in more than 25 million likes, comments and other engagements.

So far this month, Revolve Festival has produced 4,860 Instagram posts from 680 influencers, resulting in more than 13 million engagements and 21.4 million video views, Traackr said. On TikTok, it observed 520 videos from 202 influencers. These posts produced 11.9 million engagements and 91 million views. Traackr analyzed content produced and shared by a sample of the “top” 52,483 lifestyle influencers in the U.S., Canada and Europe using keywords like “revolve” and “revolvefestival.”

Unfortunately for Revolve, at least some of that social chatter came from would-be attendees who were unable to even reach the event. Influencers with hundreds of thousands to millions of followers described waiting hours for a bus to take them to the festival. During that time, they said they witnessed multiple individuals pass out, fights break out and “chaos.”

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Joseph Kapsch, the executive editor of LAMag.com, tweeted Saturday that some influencers were “stranded in the dirt with no water, under the hot sun for hours, waiting for buses that aren’t… coming to bring them to [the] actual festival.” Influencers yelled about how “important they were and why they deserved the first seat,” he said, describing the event as “sinking to the level of Fyre Festival,” the ill-fated would-be Ja Rule-backed luxury music festival chronicled in Netflix and Hulu documentaries that inspired at least one-class-action lawsuit.

Kapsch reported hearing of “alleged fights” and claims that “police are coming.”

“I don’t know who the F these people are,” Kapsch quoted one security guard saying. “I don’t know who is actually important and who is lying, or if any of them are important.”

The scene at the Revolve Festival in April 2022.
The scene at the Revolve Festival. Lexie Moreland/WWD

Hannah Kosh, a TikToker with 988,000 followers, read aloud Kapsch’s tweets in a video that received 1.4 million views. “You guys, it was all of that and more,” she added.

“People were raiding the buses,” Kosh continued. “The bus drivers refused to come back. I saw three people pass out in line myself. Wild.”

Kosh eventually made it the festival where she recorded a performance by Jack Harlow that she said “made up for it.” Monday night, she posted another video about the second day of the festival. “Okay, so the Revolve team figured everything out after this whole madness with the bus situation on Saturday,” she said, gesturing to footage of invitees milling around in the bus waiting area.

Kristi Howard, a content creator with 2.5 million TikTok followers, said she spent “a couple thousand” dollars on her trip to the festival. After five hours of standing in line, she said she was turned away. Of the several videos she posted about her experience, all have received hundreds of thousands of views, including one with 3.8 million views.

“Basically, I flew out there thinking that I had this big opportunity for my career and it was going to be really cool to network and meet my internet friends in real life and it wasn’t like that at all,” Howard said in one video. “I think the people that went in the festival had a really great time. It looked really cute and trendy and fun. Also, I don’t know if they actually did or not because I know that they’re just required to post stuff. I’m not sure why they’re just acting like they didn’t just get trampled to get there.”

Averie Bishop, a law student whose TikTok channel has amassed more than 783,000 followers, said she waited for a bus for two hours but eventually gave up. Her video describing her experience received 3.2 million views on TikTok. On Instagram, she said “it was absolute chaos and Revolve should be held accountable.”

“It feels silly to me that I feel frustrated about an influencer PR event,” Bishop wrote in her Instagram post. “However, people were trampled, pushed, shoved, and were dangerously close to being hit by buses. What was most shocking to me are the influencers acting as if people weren’t fighting for their lives and instead, posted on social media like nothing happened.”

On Tuesday, Revolve addressed complaints about the weekend festival.

“In anticipation of the high level of interest in attending REVOLVE Festival this year, REVOLVE worked closely with all appropriate city and safety authorities to ensure a safe and secure path for guests to access the 2-day invitation-only event,” a representative said in a statement to E! News. “With an event of this magnitude, city regulations mandate an off-site location for guest check-in and parking, as well as licensed shuttle transportation to and from the venue. The off-site lot was set up with guest parking, as well as rideshare drop-off and pickup access with added WIFI for car booking, restrooms, shade, water, medics and security.”

The rep went on to say that the festival reached capacity by Saturday afternoon, limiting shuttle access “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.”

Revolve ultimately offered up a mea culpa for some would-be attendees subpar experience. “We sincerely apologize to all the guests who were impacted,” the representative told E! News. “We always strive to provide a great experience and we promise to do better.”

Initial data from the software and data company Launchmetrics shows that Revolve Festival received “mixed reviews” from online and social channels, with a “strong amount of buzz” around celebrity and influencer dressing, chief marketing officer Alison Bringé said. Of the top 10 social placements, she added, mentions of Revolve Festival were all positive without any mentions of Saturday’s logistical troubles. Anna Sitar, an influencer with 11.7 million followers on TikTok and 1.4 million on Instagram, produced a media impact value of $659,000 with her two posts related to her festival outfits, Bringé added.

“With no surprise, TikTok brought immense positive sentiment to the event’s media impact value with influencers sharing their festival outfits and excitement on the scene of the sponsored event,” Bringé said.

Evy Lyons, Traackr’s chief marketing officer, noted that Revolve has previously said 70 percent of its online sales are influencer-driven. “The retailer built its brand around influencer marketing and was one of the first to really capitalize on the brand love that influencers can help create,” she added.

This year, however, she said there were “clearly two Revolve Festivals,” “an amazing VIP experience for celebrities and VIP influencers” and another for “mid-tier/macro-influencers that was fraught with issues.” While the “majority” of influencer content coming from the festival was positive, she said the “mid-tier influencers are obviously having an impact.” Bishop’s post, she noted Monday, was the most shared post so far.

“While Revolve won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, the tides can change rapidly and one influencer can clearly tip the scales,” Lyons said. “After a two-year hiatus, perhaps Revolve would have been better off focusing on just the VIP experience, rather than going broad and not being able to deliver a premium experience for everyone. Setbacks like this open up opportunities for competitors who are getting savvier about influencer marketing to swoop in and build relationships with the influencers who have been burned.”

“Micro-influencers are the future’s VIP influencers, and most brands should want to grow with their influencers for long-term relationships,” she added. “Revolve may lose market share if other brands jump in and build that brand affinity early, as they grow their followings.”