The festival that has been dubbed as ‘The Greatest Party That Never Happened’, is a current topic of conversation across social networks. In January 2019, a documentary on what was supposed to be ‘Fyre Festival’ was launched on Netflix and Hulu, providing top quality entertainment for millennials, which some referred to as ‘the top thriller/horror of 2019‘. The man behind the madness Billy McFarland, CEO and Founder of Fyre Media, was aiming for an exclusive Coachella-style festival for elite influencers, models and rich kids, and this was to take place on the island of Great Exuma in the Bahamas. From the Netflix documentary one could assume that his priorities were: Generating millions from investors who believed in his project; attempting to raise his personal profile through the roof by inviting A list celebrities and models; sellout the event, and make as much money from the ticketed guests as possible. It is unclear what his real motives were after watching the documentary, but it’s impressive how he managed to get to the day of the festival with little to no preparation. Netflix’s documentary co-produced by VICE Media shows a huge amount of fraud taking place on his behalf: such as lying about income to investors, lying to consumers regarding the line up, accommodation and food, and lying to his staff.
You may laugh, but one big question which I highlighted from the documentary however, is the debate of whether you’d call the PR of this event overall, good or bad? My reason for this is more around the initial brand awareness they built for the Fyre Festival, the way in which they managed to contain information and uphold their reputation, and how they actually got to the date of the event where people started arriving on the island before a crises had began. The way in which Fyre Media built up the Fyre Festival brand is pretty clever and demonstrates the power of social media. The promotion of the event started around a social media campaign where they had produced polished promotional videos to share online. These videos of course included models that Billy invited to the island, as you do, and enjoying their time soaking up the sun on his amazing yachts. It painted the picture of an idyllic and almost utopian location surrounded by luxury, and suggested that the festival would be an exclusive event with only the most influential and elite people present. This was billed as the cultural experience of the decade featuring influential guests such as Kendall Jenner, Hayley Baldwin and Ja Rule, who was one of the main faces of the brand. Their simple orange logo that was featured in these videos were also used across social media.
Models, influencers and other celebs, many who were invited to the event, were reportedly offered up to $250,000 dollars to post a single orange square onto their Instagram with the hashtag #FyreFestival, creating a hype around the brand and a feeling of enigma of what it might actually involve. As a result of the promotion from all these people, they did sell out all 10,000 tickets, ranging from a day pass price of $450, up to $250,000. But this wasn’t enough for Billy, he then went on to find other money making schemes through the event and he did this by offering RFID wristbands that you would need to load with money in order to eat and enjoy experiences on the island. This moneyless payment method was just another scam in a pool of larger scams.
It’s clear that they were not open and honest with their guests, they did not provide support for their guests online, communication was abysmal, and finally, there was just complete lack of customer service and management of the event. Little did guests know, they were about to arrive to a piece of land on an island with no accommodation, running water, electricity or food (as advertised). The documentary turns to complete horror as you see the guests struggling to believe how misled they really were, scrambling to find somewhere to sleep in the middle of an island in the Bahamas with nowhere to go, and trying to figure out what to make of the complete mess they were greeted with. It didn’t end there for the guests. Not only were they completely lied to and scammed, but now they have to deal with the fun and games of what we call memes culture to remind them of how stupid they were to spend that money…
— Cole Swanson (@coleswanson_) January 19, 2019