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Festivals have transformed the world of marketing. Every brand wants to be seen at music festivals, and Coachella consistently tops the list for fashion, clothing, and accessories. But what does it take to earn a coveted spot as a Coachella influencer? I asked a 3-year Instagram influencer veteran with over 200,000 followers in the fashion niche about her experience. Read on for her tips, tricks, and hacks to get noticed by the world's trendiest brands.
How can an Instagram influencer get hooked up with Coachella brands?
That's a really good question, and one that I get all the time. As in, almost every single day leading up to Coachella each year. I have to tell people, it's a lot of work. When I started about 3 years ago Instagram was different. The first time I went to Coachella as an influencer I had about 50,000 followers. I thought it was crazy that a brand would pay literally thousands of dollars for me to party and meet bands, so I jumped at the chance.
I think this particular brand noticed me for a couple of reasons. I go to festivals a few times a year and had already been doing my own unpaid photography at those events. So I was showing what I wanted to do. I love live music so it really was perfect for me to do as a hobby and as a job. Basically I wanted it and was putting it out to the world with all the right hashtags and that sort of thing too.
Eventually, I started to get offers from smaller brands probably when I hit around 25,000 followers. I think my first offer was from a jewelry startup that had some really neat products perfect for festivals. I basically wore some of their stuff and did a few posts about it throughout the festival. Finally, after a year or so of focusing on casual, comfortable, and sexy looks for festivals I was approached by a bigger name brand for Coachella that really fit my look.
After that, I was on that same brand's list for the following year. The next go around, they really wanted me to work on Stories and video-based content, which is a lot harder to produce. So I worked a lot on that leading up to the festival. I planned certain shots I wanted, outfits, and overall just got a production schedule put together. I even tried to plan locations but that turned out to be nearly impossible with crowds and changes to where equipment and other things were from the year before.
How much can an Instagram influencer make at Coachella?
I don't feel bad talking about this because it's kind of an open secret. Coachella is big money for me and a lot of other girls I know. We talk about it and share because the same brands will often work with groups of us that fit the look they are going for. Basically, in 2019 I was offered all expenses plus $5,000 per day to attend. I know that sounds like a huge amount of money for taking Instagram pictures and honestly it really is a ton, but it's also a lot of hard work and there's no guarantee it will be there next year.
Out of that money I have to cover some personal expenses but the brand sends me looks they want me to wear which I do get to keep, as well as paying for meals and entertainment while I'm on site. Last year, they had a bunch of us in the same area so we were able to talk a lot and enjoy the festival together. I think part of a good brand strategy for Coachella is to really make sure the influencers you work with are surrounded by your brand 24/7 but in a really tasteful way.
I'll add another note here. I love working with brands directly and have almost always had good experiences getting paid. Agencies can be tricky especially for the bigger festivals. A lot of them don't know what they are doing or working with influencers for the first time. That can add a lot of headaches and certainly has for me in the past. At one point, I couldn't get payment from the agency for over 6 months. Now when I get those kinds of offers I require full payment up front.
What tips can you offer to get the attention of brands in 2019?
I'm not the biggest influencer out there but I keep my content high quality and focus on engaging my followers. That helps a lot because these days the brands are evaluating us on quality of content as well as number of followers, likes, comments, and shares.
For Coachella, I stayed in touch with the brand throughout the year. One thing that I know some girls struggle with is keeping in touch consistently and in a meaningful way outside of Instagram. I live in Los Angeles, and the brand I work with for Coachella has an office there. I would stop by once in a while for meetings rather than do a phone call. That really helps I think and it's something I don't see a lot of other Instagrammers doing.
I also send out regular emails covering where I am going and what I am doing. It helps I think in two ways: It reminds people you exist, and it makes the brands a little jealous. They don't want me working for their competition, so if they me going in that direction they might be more inclined to involve me in a bigger way.
At the end of the day, being an Instagram influencer has gotten super competitive. There are new faces coming up every day, and I definitely feel the pressure to sell myself more directly than I ever have in the past. It may be because I have more followers now than ever before too, and those followers want content that looks really good. So there's a creative pressure too. It's like being the CEO, marketing, and finance team all rolled into one.
Do you think the Fyre Festival scandal has hurt Instagram influencers?
Well, it was a really sad thing to happen because a lot of us are hard working and we don't just take money from anyone. I think the problem with Fyre Festival after hearing from someone who was paid to promote it is that the money was too good to refuse. They paid above market for Instagram influencers and sort of bought people's complicity in what was a nasty scheme.
These days I don't worry about it too much because I work with brands that are well known and that always put on a good show. Coachella is a good example, it's one of the top festival brands in the world, so people trust it will be fun. I have seen a lot of comments and jokes in my feed when I post from Coachella referencing Fyre Festival.
Once I moved to being an Instagram influencer full time people started to call me out for making money. There are a lot of haters online and they typically say some version of the same thing, about how we don't deserve to make money for our Instagram content and how we shouldn't exist. I say it's up to them to leave the platform if they don't like it, because a lot of people do want to see the latest trends and styles.
How are you planning to grow your Instagram business for the future?
I'm really excited to see what happens when Instagram Shopping officially launches. Being able to purchase directly in the platform is going to be big for fashion influencers, because we typically need to generate sales for our collaborations to be successful. When I meet with brand they all want to know the exact same thing: What is the return on investment?
That's hard for me to say because at the end of the day I don't run their business, they do. If I make a post and their website is bad or people can't find them online that isn't my fault. I generated the awareness which is all I can do.
But with shoppable posts in Instagram I'm hoping for the ability to show these brands the value I bring, which could mean a boost to my prices as well as more opportunities. I think that if you have an engaged follower base and are making great content it will be easier than ever before to make money on Instagram and attend festivals like Coachella for free.
My core advice is to keep growing your following and keep pushing yourself to create regular and awesome content. If you can get more followers and a little momentum behind you brands will come. Maybe someday I will see you at Coachella!