Maryam Ghafarinia will be attending Coachella this weekend for the fourth time. But she has yet to see an actual performance at the music festival in the California desert.
“Hopefully this year [I’ll get to],” the 36-year-old said. “But I say that every year.”
The weekend-long concerts, this year headlined by Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, Swedish House Mafia and the Weeknd (replacing Kanye West after he dropped out last minute), are taking place April 15-17 and 22-24
But while many revelers will party through the night, Ghafarinia will wake up each day around 7 a.m. to primp and get dressed, before hitting a series of “brand activations” and parties, filming makeup tutorials and “running around creating content” to share with her 186,000 followers on Instagram. She then can spend hours editing a video or correcting a photo to send it one of her brand sponsors’ approval before posting. By the time the performers take the stage around sundown, she’s “exhausted.”
“There is so much work,” she says.
But even if she misses performers Megan Thee Stallion or Doja Cat Harry Styles, she can’t complain. Ghafarinia and Instagram “influencers” with her “reach” — hundreds of thousands followers — can make upwards of $10,000 on Coachella content if they play their cards right.
The Los Angeles lifestyle blogger — who has worked with Rachel Zoe, Revolve and self-tanner Bonsai Sand at past festivals — charges between $2,000 for a no-frills photo and $3,500 for an Instagram video reel. But she said brands typically want more than just a post from Coachella.
“They also want you to attend an event, they also want you to do stories, they may want multiple posts, they want you to post even before Coachella, leading up to it,” she explained. “So there’s more opportunity to add on and make more money.”.
Those with millions of followers can command more. In 2019, after some commenters shamed Real Housewife Lisa Rinna for being too old for the festival, she revealed that Amazon gave her “a fortune” to attend Coachella and promote the company.
“When you’re talking about models and reality TV stars, that [paycheck] can be as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Amy Luca, a senior vice president at Media.Monks, a global marketing and advertising services company. And she said it’s worth it.
“Some of these influencers” — like Coachella regulars Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid — “are reaching more people than the Oscars broadcast,” Luca said. “So if you’re a brand wanting to sell cosmetics and you’ve got an influencer broadcasting every day about her Coachella look and what products she’s using for Coachella, and she’s got an audience bigger than the [Oscars] audience — the numbers add up really, really quickly in terms of value.”
More than 150,000 people are expected to attend this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which had a two-year hiatus due to COVID. In the past few years, the bash has become about far more than music — many see it as a fashion extravaganza with beautiful people documenting it all on Instagram: tagging their outfits and gadgets and bottles of water for all their followers to see (and buy).
“Coachella is so big — it’s probably the biggest festival and the biggest festival for influencers,” said Mae Karwowski, CEO of Obviously, an influencer marketing agency. “Everyone is there and wants to make a deal and wants to be with the best brands, and the brands want as many influencers as possible to be part of their ‘activations’ … so they’ll actively recruit influencers.”
Christie Ferrari, a fashion and lifestyle influencer with more than 500,000 followers on Instagram, has attended Coachella four times — twice as a guest of a brand that provided free accommodations, airfare and festival passes in exchange for promotional posts.
“It was huge since Palm Spring hotels are incredibly expensive,” said the 34-year-old, who recently moved to Miami from Manhattan. But she said that she and her photographer husband have also paid their own way at times.
“We would treat it as a nice trip where we’re also capturing content, and then we would seek out brands to help cover the costs, so we would net out equal and hopefully make some income.”
That often includes more than just lodging and transportation. Many influencers employ photographers and videographers to help shoot their content, and others have assistants who help sort out their schedules and brand requests.
Ferrari said that many influencers who don’t get an all-expenses-paid deal have to suck up and go anyway. “It’s a matter of relevancy, in order to stay relevant and be seen as relevant.”
She added that she’s a little worried that she decided not to go this year — not only because of COVID fears, but also because she’s a new mother, and didn’t want to leave her 1-year-old for the weekend “I hope that since it’s the first year after COVID that I’ll get a pass, but it will be interesting to see if there’s any repercussions.”
That is a risk that 35-year-old Francis Kenneth didn’t want to take. The LA-based fashion influencer went as a guest of Adidas in 2019 and, though he said it was a blast, he wanted a more relaxed schedule this time.
He said that he plans on picking up some quick $500 “brand activations” while at the fest, but also hanging out with his friends. “Especially after the last two years, it’s going to be a reunion more than anything.”
Noel Elie, meanwhile, is looking forward to her first Coachella. The actress and wellness influencer, who boasts 102,000 followers on Instagram, was supposed to go in 2020 for at least three brands, and expected to make $10,000. Now, she said she’s likely just going with a fashion brand — who will supply her outfits and pay her $2,500 to post three stories plus a sponsored post or reel.
“For me, it’s about [retaining] my audience’s trust,” said Elie, who lives in LA and is in her mid-30s. “So if it’s not in alignment with something I love and it’s not a good fit, I’m not going to do it.”
As for being an influencer: “It’s a job — it’s a job in the sense of like, making sure you get the right shot for the grid,” she said. “But other than that, it’s so much fun, because it’s not, it’s not like pulling teeth to like, go to your nine to five job that you hate — you’re around music and cool vibes and really awesome costumes. It’s great.”