If you have frequented social media at all in the past 48 hours, you have most likely come across Fyre Festival, a luxury music festival that was geared towards wealthy millennials to be hosted in the Bahama’s for two-weekends. It was going to “be the next Coachella,” but there were skeptics out there who were uncertain of the promises before the event even began. Fyre Festival had ticket options ranging from $500-$250,000 which included the flight, lodging, and food; promised to also deliver private jets, yacht cruises, and an overall luxurious event featuring genre spanning artists to perform. Promotions for the event included models Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski and the like, partying on an offshore Bahamian island and promoting to their thousands of Instagram followers to buy tickets to the exclusive festival. None of this happened (and suspiciously, A-list stars were warned weeks beforehand to not attend the festival).
Crowds began to arrive in Exuma, Bahamas Thursday evening (4/27/17). But instead of the modern, amenity filled lodging guests were promised, they were welcomed with essentially FEMA tents, only some including mattresses. The first class meals that were also suppose to be available turned out to be bread and cheese sandwiches with a side salad. Their luggage was in a shipping container that was unloaded at night without any electric light to see where bags were being tossed. And those private jets chartering festival goers to the island? Yeah, no. They were normal aircraft planes, which after dropping off the first leg of people, the airline prevented others from going to the island once they were made aware of the situation.
So, the questions on everyone’s mind were, how did this happen and who do we blame? I’ll be honest, when I first began reading about this disaster, it screamed scam. Now, while I still kinda think it was a scam, I also realize that the hubris of the festival’s organizer played an integral role in the failure of Fyre Festival. The festival was hosted and organized by (has been) rapper Ja Rule and tech entrepreneur (which lets use that term loosely) Billy McFarland, two men who have never done anything close to putting on an event of this scale with so many obstacles.
Logistically, this festival was never going to come to fruition and there were multiple reasons to doubt this being a real thing….
1. Great Exuma was hosting it’s 63rd annual Regatta Festival the same weekend, which is an annual sailing event. Being one of the biggest events in Exuma, hotels and other amenities had been booked for visitors months in advance making it hard to believe that another, huge festival could be held on the same island during the same weekend.
2. This was not Billy McFarland’s first flop. In 2014, McFarland introduced his Magnises black card of sorts for the affluent millennial, which promised concert tickets, restaurant reservations, and more. But like Fyre Festival, those tickets or reservations would fall threw last minute and Magnises was unable to provide the experience.
3. The location itself. A private, luxurious island getaway seems too perfect, which it was. Exuma, while beautiful, is firstly not a private island and secondly does not have the infrastructure required to host 1,000’s of people for a festival. This infrastructure also lacked a water system or transportation needs, as well basic electricity to host a festival of it’s supposed magnitude.
4. The festival had missed numerous payment deadlines for performers and the catering service. The Wall Street Journal reported in early April that Fyre Festival had missed important deadlines, they had not yet paid performers and STARR Catering Group sent out a tweet Friday (4/28/17) explaining that they had terminated their contract with Fyre.
5. Lack of communication coming from the company and information gaps. Days before the festival, guests attempted to reach out to Fyre to see what their accommodations would look like and were never responded to. There was limited information available on the company’s website as well. During the actual festival, when attendees were trying to figure out the situation, Fyre remained silent on all social media accounts, with only an Instagram post explaining that “circumstances beyond our control” as the reasoning for cancelling.
6. There were numerous warning signs coming from outside sources. A Twitter account with the name of @FyreFraud, had been calling out the festival for a month before the festival was scheduled to happen with Page Six writing about similar doubts of the festival being able to pull off what it promised a week before.
Both Ja Rule and Billy McFarland have now responded to the incident. Ja Rule tweeted that he was, “heartbroken” about the situation (yet still managed not to take responsibility) and Billy McFarland gave Rolling Stone an interview explaining that they were a bit naive about the whole thing but that there will be a festival next year, tickets being free for those who tried to come this year. So while there are promises of refunds and a festival happening next year, I wouldn’t hold my breath.