I remember sometime in April of 2017, my boyfriend showed me a tweet of a picture of a couple pieces of cheese on bread and a small salad in a to-go box.
"Have you seen this whole Fyre Festival thing?" he asked. I had not, so we spent a few minutes laughing at some of the tweets from attendees of this weird music festival because that's what it was to us—a joke.
But fast forward to 2019 to find documentaries about Fyre Festival from both Netflix and Hulu. It's one of those things that's so horrible, you can't look away. I'm astounded that someone can either be so stupid or so cunning to create this mess.
To sum up the disaster for those who haven't seen these documentaries, basically, this guy Billy McFarland wanted to throw a festival to promote his business, the Fyre app—the Tinder of booking musical acts. He found this island in the Bahamas, got Ja Rule on board and invited all these models and Instagram influencers out to party and shoot a commercial for the Fyre Festival. They advertised a luxury and exclusive music fest experience unlike any other, described in the documentaries as Instagram come to life. Obviously, the target audience was Millennials.
And, well, they bought it. Literally. Even though none of it existed at the time, Billy sold tickets with luxury villas for the attendees to stay in, since it was on a deserted island after all. But long story short, they had to move the location to Exuma in the Bahamas to a bit of land behind a Sandals resort.
Looks great, right? Except none of it was really able to happen because of poor financial planning. I won't get into the details here because the documentaries spell it out so well, but the luxury villas turned out to be hurricane relief tents and random Air B'n'Bs already on the island. And when the attendees arrived, the campsite wasn't finished, the bathrooms were horrible and the musical acts were canceling left and right because they weren't getting paid. It became a free-for-all to survive the night and get back to the airport to fly out.
So what went wrong? Besides poor financial planning, well, a lot of things.
And while a lot of things about this fiasco are funny, there are a lot more things that are just sad, cruel and unfair.
The Fyre Festival team set unrealistic expectations. They didn't give themselves enough time to complete the necessary tasks to plan a music festival. When certain team members spoke out and suggested to postpone the event or change some of the dream elements, they were either let go or given a joke in response. Billy and some of the others in charge needed to listen to people who disagreed with their goals because by ignoring these concerns, they kept themselves from seeing the reality of the situation. That, or they are just so selfish that they were okay with defrauding both Millennials paying their outlandish prices and the locals in the Bahamas doing the real work.
The Fyre Festival team also used social media to keep attendees and others in the dark about the reality of the situation. As the festival date grew closer, attendees had relevant questions that Fyre couldn't answer. Simple comments like "hey, what's my lodging info?" were deleted from the Fyre Instagram posts because they didn't want to let on that things were not in control. They didn't have the answers, so they just ignored the questions and censored any real concerns. The attendees weren't given the opportunity to back out because Fyre made it look like the luxury part of the festival was still happening even though it was far from it.
But the most heartbreaking part of this whole Fyre fiasco is how Billy McFarland took advantage of the locals in Exuma. The Hulu documentary mentions how the Bahamas are often targeted for fraud because of the beautiful beach environment that is attractive to outsiders and the fact that many locals deal with poverty and are always looking for work. So this American waltzes in with a plan and jobs and promises to pay the local workers but, in the end, can't.
How uncaring and cruel does someone have to be to even somewhat knowingly risk the time and money of others for a personal dream? Please, follow your dreams, but do so realistically, and not at the expense of others.
The Netflix documentary features the woman who ended up doing the catering for the festival—including the workers, organizers, and many of the attendees. Her name is Maryann, and the Fyre Festival ruined her life. She was never paid for her catering services and was forced to use her own savings to cover the costs of the food and labor of her employees. In the documentary, she said that it's hard for her to talk about it because of how much she lost through the whole experience.
But now, maybe social media will do some good in the aftermath of the Fyre Festival. There is a Go Fund Me set up to raise funds to help Maryann and her business out of this Fyre fiasco. It's already reached the goal, but people are still donating. And that's awesome! Not only will Maryann be able to replenish her personal savings she was forced to give up but look toward the future of her business as well.
An important lesson to learn from the Fyre Festival is don't make a promise you can't keep.
Don't pretend to be something you're not.
Don't set unrealistic expectations for yourself or for others.
Most importantly, don't sacrifice the well-being of others for your own personal gain.
And maybe don't commit fraud.