I have now read about ten articles about the collapse of the Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, and I still find it hard to comprehend.
The Fyre Festival was conceived by rapper Ja Rule and associate Billy McFarland in the Bahamas, and promoted by pop celebrities (I barely, just barely, know these people) Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, Hailey Baldwin and Bella Hadid, In a promo video posted January, the Fyre Festival promised..
“The best in food, art, music and adventure…on the boundaries of the impossible, Fyre is an experience and festival…A quest to push beyond those boundaries!”
I have no idea what that means, but it sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
“You’ll be flown roundtrip on a custom, VIP configured Boeing 737 aircraft between Miami International Airport and Exuma International Airport on Great Exuma,” said the festival’s website. “Guests will be staying in modern, eco-friendly, geodesic domes. … Unplug from the everyday and ignite your flame in the Exumas!” Among theacts scheduled to perform were Major Lazer and Blink-182, as well as a DJ “who specializes in producing ’70s and ’80s rock remixes for clients that include Middle Eastern and European royalty.”.
Celebrities with ties to the organizers tweeted and Instagrammed, building buzz about Fyre. Ja Rule tweeted just a month ago, “This is where the cool kids will be April 27-30 May 5-8!!! #fyrefestival #fyre.”
Ticket packages to experience the self-proclaimed “cultural event of the decade” included accommodations and chartered flights from Miami, with a low price of $900 and a luxury tag of $399,995 for access to the performers. Days before the festival was to begin, @fyrefestival was still ginning up anticipation.
Then the festival-goers arrived on the first day to find…nothing. Well, worse than nothing: chaos. Those who had paid $500 apiece for what the festival’s promotion described as “villas” found that the only shelter provided were FEMA-style refugee tents. There was no food, except some hastily packaged cheese sandwiches. All of the scheduled performers canceled.
The festivalgoers who hadn’t arrived by private yachts found themselves confused and stranded, with luggage but nowhere to sleep for the night. Some paid festival employees $100 to return them to the airport in a flatbed truck, but when they arrived at the airport gate, they were told that they couldn’t access the airport, requiring more bribes to get to a plane, if they were lucky. The stampede of shocked glitterati desperately trying to flee backed up the local airports, stranding many attendees in deplorable conditions, like understaffed kitchen tents with pots of uncooked food.
And where were the organizers during all this? Nowhere near the “festival,” in Ja Rule’s case. (McFarland was either partying on a yacht the first night of the festival, or he actually showed his face and tried to assist the victims of his ineptitude. I tend to the first account, because if he did show up, I would assume that he would be chum by now.) Ja Rule was performing… in Chicago. He later issued a ridiculous statement, saying in part,
“I’m heartbroken at this moment. My partners and I wanted this to be an amazing event, it was NOT A SCAM as everyone is reporting. I don’t know how everything went so left but I’m working to make it right by making sure everyone is refunded … I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT … but I’m taking responsibility I’m deeply sorry to everyone who was inconvenienced by this.”
1. If you organize and promote an event and it turns out like this one, it IS your fault. You idiot.
2. If it was a scam, at least the results could be explained as something other than someone persuading many people to trust and rely on him when he had no idea what the hell he was doing.
3. Inconvenienced? INCONVENIENCED? Selling tickets to an event in the Exumas that requires people to fly there and be met with a total fiasco is a lot more than an inconvenience.
His partner, Billy McFarland, had equally jaw-dropping comments, which included these gems..
We started this website and launched this festival marketing campaign. Our festival became a real thing and took [on] a life of its own. Our next step was to book the talent and actually make the music festival. We went out excited, and that’s when a lot of reality and roadblocks hit.
The Exumas didn’t have a really great infrastructure – there wasn’t a great way to get guests in here – we were a little bit ambitious. There wasn’t water or sewage. It was almost like we tried building a city out of nothing and it took almost all of our personal resources to make this happen, and everything we had, to make this festival go on. We thought we were ready and built two different festival sites….The morning of the festival, a bad storm came in and took down half of our tents and busted water pipes. Guests started to arrive and the most basic function we take for granted in the U.S., we realized, “Wow, we can’t do this.” We were on a rush job to fix everything and guests were arriving and that caused check-in to be delayed. We were overwhelmed and just didn’t have the foresight to solve all these problems….We thought we were making timeframes that were correct. We were a little naïve in thinking for the first time we could do this ourselves. Next year, we will definitely start earlier. The reality is, we weren’t experienced enough to keep up.
Reading this moron’s excuses made my head explode, and then the pieces exploded. It’s called planning, you utter fool. You plan for weather; you plan for infrastructure, you employ staff that knows how to organize and run such events, and you stay on top of it every inch of the way.
The second set of explosions were set off by the statement that there will be a Fyre festival next year. Anyone trusting these clowns a second time deserve what they get. That’s not blaming the victim. That’s blaming the stupid who have so much money to waste and time on their hands that they will gladly walk into a spinning propeller and pay for the privilege.
He is also lying. A talent producer named Chloe Gordon has revealed that the festival had catastrophe written all over it when she arrived to check out the venue last month:
“After we landed, we drove to the festival site to assess our goods. When we arrived, my initial reaction was “huh.” …This was a development lot covered in gravel with a few tractors scattered around. There was not enough space to build all the tents and green rooms they would need. There was not a long, beautiful beach populated by swimming pigs. There were, however, a lot of sand flies that left me looking like I had smallpox….My job as a talent producer was to coordinate travel and on-site logistics with the artists who would be performing… I would be working with an 11-person team and a few of the festival executives. The production team was all new hires and, before we arrived, we were led to believe things had been in motion for a while. But nothing had been done. Festival vendors weren’t in place, no stage had been rented, transportation had not been arranged. Frankly, we were standing on an empty gravel pit and no one had any idea how we were going to build a festival village from scratch…”
Despite this, she says that Ja Rule and his team continued to talk as if the festival would be just swell. Following iontense discussions of the daunting, indeed, impossible tasks ahead, Ja Rule gave a toast. “To living like movie stars, partying like rock stars, and fucking like porn stars.” Gordon quit, she says, and “flew back to New York and waited eagerly for six weeks to see how Fyre Festival would play out.” She concludes,
“I cannot explain how or why the bros running this festival ignored every warning sign they were given along the way. The writing was on the wall. I saw it firsthand six weeks ago. They overlooked so many very basic things. And baby, they forgot to make me sign an NDA.”
As I said at the beginning, I cannot comprehend this level of incompetence. People who have never planned weddings before recognize that it takes some thinking, organiztion and effort. I’ve been in charge of planning conventions, reunions, fundraising campaigns, theatrical productions, seminars, parties—I knew that all of them required attention to detail, planning for contingencies, reasonable and realistic time-lines. Who doesn’t know that? Put it this way: who doesn’t know that and still commits to organizing a large, complex event? Who accepts responsibility for a large complex event that is falling apart and still encourages people to come?
Ja Rule and Billy McFarland, apparently.
The closest thing I can think of that gets within miles of this level of management incompetence was the roll-out of Healthcare.gov, and even that fiasco wasn’t as outrageous as the Fyre festival.