I'm Never Going to a Music Festival
By now you’ve probably watched the Netflix and Hulu documentaries about the Fyre Festival. And if somehow you haven’t gotten around to watch them, I got you, here’s the low down.
Once upon a time, Ja Rule and a young entrepreneur named, Billy McFarland decided they wanted to launch a music festival in the Bahamas. They raised millions of dollars from investors even though they had never put on a festival (and had no idea what they were doing). They launched massive marketing campaigns and hired the likes of Bella Hadid, Chanel Iman, and other supermodels to participate in promotional ads for the festival taking place in April 2017. They sold thousands of tickets and VIP packages that included transportation to the Bahamas on private jets, luxury accommodations, A-list performers, and a weekend they’d never forget. Sounds pretty amazing right?
What festival goers didn’t know was that the whole festival was a fraud. The location had no plumbing, electricity, or infrastructure of any kind. The luxury experience and accommodations they were promised didn’t exist. Alarm bells started going off when there were no private planes (as paid for) transporting people from Miami to the Bahamas, just good old seats in coach. Music acts started to drop out. People started to panic. And when they arrived at the camp and were greeted by FEMA tents, all hell broke loose. People lined up demanding answers, started staking out tents and sleeping areas, guarding supplies- it was every man for themselves. Instagram exploded as people began sharing their experience. Many were stranded for days because there weren’t enough flights out of the Bahamas back to the US to accommodate the thousands of disgruntled festival goers.
The most disturbing part of this festival “failure”, as highlighted by the above-mentioned documentaries, was Billy McFarland’s lack of remorse. He continually described the Festival as a big swing and a miss, a business failure, but it was so much more than that. He defrauded thousands of people and destroyed people’s lives. For example, the woman who was in charge of food service for the festival was never paid and her employees were never paid, so she paid those employees for their work out of her own savings- $50,000. Meanwhile, after the festival, Billy was still living in a Penthouse apartment (funded by this con) and coming up with new business ideas. But karma was coming for him.
Assistant US Attorney Kristy Greenberg described McFarland as having a “pattern of deception” and “overpromising luxury experiences there were not delivered.” In June 2017, Billy was arrested for wire fraud. He pled guilty to two counts of wire fraud and admitted to using fake documents to pull in more than $26 million in investor funds, which he agreed to forfeit over. He was later charged with selling fraudulent tickets to events like Burning Man, Coachella, and The Met Gala (which you can only be invited to by the way). On October 11, 2018, he was sentenced to six years in federal prison, where he spends his time today.
By Meg Coogan