The difference between influence and “influencers”

While brainstorming with the members of an artist collective on ways we could best bring attention to their installation at Coachella 2019, we briefly considered the idea of inviting “influencers,” who are present in abundance at the fest, to tour the installation and post about it on social media.

There are various influencer agencies out there, and most wanted to charge a fee to have one of their fashion-forward Instagram sensations come by, snap a selfie, and leave.

While that approach has its value, and a picture of a good-looking girl or guy standing in front of the installation might have driven a bit of traffic to the artists’ site, I realized there was a far more organic approach we could use to get their name and their work widely shared on social media: invite Coachella’s music artists inside.

After all, when you set aside the VIPs, the celebrities, the trendy fashions, and the sun-filled desert setting, what you have left is the heart of Coachella: the music.

Integrating Coachella’s music artists with its visual artists proved a natural fit, and we were lucky to have a number of bands and DJs stop by for a visit at the unique and unconventional installation. As artists, albeit from different fields, there was an easy mutual appreciation that arose, leading to not just a “promotional opportunity,” but a truly joyful experience on both sides, and even talk of future collaborations.

Of course, we also invited members of the media for backstage visits, made certain they were welcomed warmly, and given an unforgettable behind-the-scenes experience. The playful nature of the installation led to some genuinely enjoyable arts journalism from just about every outlet that attended the fest. ABC, Variety, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today’s Desert Sun, art magazine Hi-Fructose and music site YourEDM all did stories solely focused on their installation (which received more exclusively focused coverage than any other festival artwork), and it was also covered in more than 40 additional outlets.

In addition to being amazingly fun, the experience drove home my conviction that the best promotional strategies are the most natural ones: those that flow from the nature of the work, project, or the personalities involved. We could have tried to shoehorn this somewhat odd and quirky work of art into the glamorous, duck-face world of social media influencers, but instead, we decided to join artists with other artists, and let the rest write itself.