A dream, an experience - the Fyre festival 2017 promised much more than that.
A luxury music festival with great artists, good food, models, and influencers on a private island -Norman's Cay, Bahamas - is an opportunity no one could pass to spend three days at a glamorous party on an island once owned by Pablo Escobar.
The Fyre Festival, supposedly the biggest event of the decade, was organized by Billy McFarland, CEO of Fyre Media Inc, and rapper Ja Rule to promote their new app Fyre - through which you could book musicians for parties. The event was scheduled for two weekends in April and May 2017.
What was the hook?
Aside from the whole experience, the promotional video with supermodels like Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, Emily Ratajkowski, and many others was released just four months before the event. It was a taste of what you or I could get during this three-day event with a USD 500 ticket.
Partying with Major Lazer, Blink 182, and Disclosure while spending the rest of the day with supermodels, who wouldn't want to go to such an event? The promotional video and Instagram pictures made the event look like paradise on Earth. Not only that, but the accommodation was also insta-worthy - rustic tents, private homes and private yachts that came with its own chef which cost around USD 250,000. A bit too much? But that did not stop others from availing the yacht offer.
But why were people buying into this scam?
Billy McFarland was very manipulative, he knew what to say and when to say it. He managed to turn Instagram to their advertising ground where "social influencers" like Kendall Jenner were paid to advertise; hundreds of people uploaded a photo of an orange background at the same time to create mass awareness about this event. And it worked.
Once people saw the Instagram pictures of models on beaches eating grapes, 95 percent of the tickets, costing between $500-$1200, sold out within the 48-hour mark. Around 5000 people were planning to attend the coolest party.
What they knew and we did not
The organizers knew that the remote island did not have the capacity or the infrastructure to accommodate and support the huge number of people. With only four months left, the team members started raising major concerns over necessary details like lodging, security, food, water, and hygiene issues. Those members were fired or asked to leave.
The promo video that claimed the Bahamian island of Great Exuma to be once owned by the drug lord Pablo Escobar was a scam and despite the owner warning the organizers not to use that fake piece of information, they still used it and got themselves kicked off the island! Talk about drama.
The organizers photoshopped the Sandals resort in the Great Exumas and made it look like a deserted island. Scamming the attendees was never this easy. This change in location was one of many things that were not known to the people who would be attending the event in just 45 days.
Among many other lies, luxury villas and private yachts were changed to dome-shaped leftover tents from the Hurricane Matthews; the place had no electricity or sufficient water supply; all of the musicians, caterers and medical-service companies pulled out.
Running out of money, the officials started dropping people out of the event. They announced that the place will be cashless and asked all visitors to fill up thousands of dollars in advance on the digital Fyre Band to cover for purchases at the festival. This was nothing but a giant bluff for the first 350 people who landed in the Bahamas.
The great reveal
When people arrived at the island, they were first taken to a restaurant and bar where they stayed for six hours. Everyone soon understood what disaster awaited them. The guests were taken to the festival venue and much to their surprise, nothing was close to complete. The festival did not have enough tents for the first 350 people, and many of them started fighting for supplies.
After making their guests spend the night with no proper shelter, food, electricity, or water, the organizers decided to cancel the entire event. But what about the workers? Their pays were still due.
Billy Mcfarland was nowhere to be found. The rest of the team fled from the Bahamas as soon as they could without paying anyone the money Fyre Festival owed. Mcfarland had been lying to everyone and pulled off a great scam. As a result, he was sentenced to six years in prison. Several lawsuits were filed against both Mcfarland and Ja Rule for money laundering, fraud, breach of contract, false representations, material omissions, negligence, and many more.
The event was truly an once in a lifetime experience for all who were a part of this event. As of today, many are yet to receive their refund of $1200.