Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored blog post. There are spoilers ahead. If you haven’t watched it yet and are planning to, I would suggest not reading this blog. Anything shared via this blog, is a collection of my thoughts and opinions on watching the documentary. It has no intention to harm or offend anyone.
Yes, I am another event manager, who watched the Fyre Festival documentary on Netflix and has a thing or two to say. Fyre Festival, whilst about an exclusive luxury music festival, has very little to do with the event but more to do with the master plan of one Billy MacFarland to scam people, masked in the form of a music festival. After watching the documentary, my first thought was, well that was not what I was expecting it to be about at all. Yes, it is about the larger than life, music festival but the way Netflix has curated this documentary is commendable. For the first half, possibly even longer, the viewer is engaged with how the event failed miserably. For the time remaining, Netflix did a fantastic job of uncovering how Billy MacFarland was actually scamming people out of their money. Thus, giving equal importance to both parts of the documentary.
What surprised me the most about the entire documentary, was that there were A LOT of red flags in the entire process. Those on the team, did bring it to light but the solution as given by Billy was to always keep going, this festival is happening. The documentary begins with introducing the role JA Rule and Billy played in the production of Fyre. They were the Co-Founders of Fyre. The documentary immediately proceeds to talk about all of the platforms where JA and Billy were announcing the concept of Fyre. As an event manager, this is where the first red flag comes in. At this point, Fyre was simply a ‘vision’. No actual research was conducted regarding locations, or how the event would be produced etc.
The festival was going to be in the Bahamas. The venue sourcing involved flying a charter plane over the islands and spotting one that felt ‘right’ and landing the plane there and dubbing it as the venue. Turns out, the Island was Norman’s Cay and it was Pablo Escobar’s island that Billy started the process of purchase. In Billy’s mind the transaction was simple, I pay $10million dollars for the Island, the Island is mine. But alas, insert the dealings with the lawyers, which later on bites him. Second red flag, there was little to no scoping for venues. No actual details on planning numbers expected versus numbers the island can accommodate. It was more of ‘we will make it happen’.
The crew were parked on this island for the next few days and social influencers were flown in to film some promotional material. The documentary gives some figures into which influencer was paid how much and for how many posts. Third red flag, during this entire process, the one thing that was screaming out at me was, where’s the budget. I am sure they had some sort of a working budget, as opposed to adding expenses as it came along. Given the breadth of the event, a mention of the budget should have been explicit rather than implicit. I get that Billy is a tech entrepreneur and JA Rule is a hip hop mogul, but that doesn’t mean that the supply of money is endless.
Fourth red flag, these influencers had started promoting a festival, that literally had not even been planned yet. There was very little substance to sell. Fifth red flag, influencer marketing is great, but without a proper strategy implemented you will not get results. I got the sense that, because this was meant to be the celebrity event of the year, it made sense to only invest in influencer marketing and get the who’s who of Hollywood behind the festival.
Sixth red flag, at this point, there actually had not been any substantial planning in terms of what it was going to be. It was just the vision that they were following to create this. Having a vision is great, but until you put things down on paper so you know exactly what is required, there’s no direction. By this point, they were also selling tickets to this exclusive festival. If I remember correct, one of the options were for VIP packages that involved a luxury villa. Enter issues with the lawyers. For whatever reason, Norman’s Cay could no longer be the event venue and this was roughly 6-weeks out from the event. A quick hunt for a back up venue, and the Fyre Festival was now going to be in the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas.
Seventh red flag, this island was in no way, shape or form an option to handle the capacity of what this festival wanted to put forward. There were no luxury villas, and well no time to build those. Instead, the construction of camping tents begun. There was no research into whether the island can handle the dates, no information on weather but rather a it will work out no matter what. You are not invincible just because you have a lot of money.
Eighth red flag, again no actual documenting of budget meant, that there was no way of accounting for all of the adhoc costs that came up i.e. the construction of the tents, payment to those making food for the crew, Customs fees to bring in water and more. By this time, it is time for D-Day, but there are no artists who have arrived, or the luxury villas that those paying mega money for the VIP packages are expecting, in fact nothing was there. Of course, once the crowd starting coming and realising what the reality was of this luxury festival, there was a decent backlash. They were expecting at least 6000 people to attend and the camps were full with just the first group that had arrived. The only solution was to turn around and go back, which was a mammoth effort on its own.
Ninth red flag and probably the biggest of them all, there was no mention of insurance. At all. How can someone produce an event of this capacity and not get insurance. To be fair, I don’t know if they did or didn’t have insurance, but there was no mention of this in the documentary. Again, another thing that should have been explicit rather than implicit.
The second part of the documentary then goes on to talk about Billy’s actual intentions behind the Fyre Festival, which was to scam people. He got some jail time and was out on bail, and immediately scammed those on the list who had planned on attending Fyre Festival initially. Some got scammed again, some ignored those contacts.
Overall, I think Fyre Festival perhaps could have been something great, but one Co-Founder didn’t care too much about what it was as long as he got his money, and the other Co-Founder really wanted it to be something big. There wasn’t enough of an alignment in the vision to make it happen. There were far too many red flags in making something of this nature happen. There was very little accounted for in terms of a back up.
Watching this documentary has truly taught me, that all that glitters isn’t gold. Shakespeare sure knew what he was talking about in the Merchant of Venice.
Have you watched the documentary? What are your thoughts?
Until next time,