The Guy Who Owns Fyre Festival Has Reportedly Done This Before
By now, you’ve probably heard of the shitshow that is this weekend’s Fyre Festival. And if the attendees had done their homework on the festival’s founder, they might have thought twice about attending — his other company has allegedly done similar things in the past.
Fyre Festival was billed as an exclusive luxury version of Coachella, set in the Bahamas with prices to get in ranging from $1,000 to $104,000. It was supposed to take place this weekend and next weekend.
But when the partygoers who plunked down thousands for tickets arrived in the Bahamas last night, this is what they found:
— William N. Finley IV (@WNFIV) April 28, 2017
Musical acts that were supposed to play the festival, like Blink 182, have been dropping like flies since before people even arrived. Social media is full of would-be festival attendees moaning about the terrible conditions.
Meanwhile, everyone left back home who didn’t have $10,000 to drop on a festival is gloating on Twitter.
But what many don’t realize is that Fyre Festival was part of an event marketing push for owner Bill McFarland’s influencer app, Fyre, and his other company, Magnises, has a pretty sketch history.
But first, the app. The Fyre app invites models, musicians, influencers, and other talent to sign up and get booked by people who are throwing events. It’s basically supposed to be like the Yellow Pages for influencers and the people who hire them to… you know, influence.
And it’s got some pretty big names on its roster, including Ja Rule, who was also involved in organizing the festival — that’s why he’s getting roasted all over the internet right now. Lil Wayne, Lil Yachty, Migos, Fat Joe, Iggy Azalea, Rita Ora, and Fetty Wap are just a few of the acts listed on the site’s music section. Hannah Bronfman, Brendan Fallis, Jen Selter, and Fuck Jerry are some of the model/influencers listed.
The fact that McFarland owns an influencer app isn’t necessarily sketchy. It’s just ironic, because people have been mocking the festival as something that seemed like Instagram smoke and mirrors from the jump.
Skeptics questioned if the Fyre Festival was even real as its over-the-top marketing popped up on the IG feeds of Emily Ratajkowski, Bella Hadid, and more.
And now, Vanity Fair has pointed out in a headline that the festival that was seemingly “built on Instagram” has “died by Instagram.”
We all know it’s easy to hate on influencer culture. Who doesn’t feel a little resentful of people who get paid to look hot on Instagram for a living? But the failure of the Fyre Festival, and the fact that it was born from a startup that exists to help line the pockets of said people who look hot on Instagram, feels symbolic. Maybe influencer culture needs to be reined in a bit.
Or maybe Fyre’s co-owner, Billy McFarland, has a touch of Joanne the Scammer in him. It could be that this whole situation has more to do with a startup bro run amok than influencer culture.
See, Billy is also an owner of Magnises, a members-only New York club that’s been around for three years. It’s allegedly profitable and has raised plenty of venture capital. But like so many buzzy New York-based startups, it never seemed to serve a clear purpose. Magnises acted as a middleman, connecting millennials with “exclusive” events and happy hours at $250 a year, not including the cost of attending said events.
I always suspected it was for people with mucho disposable income and no friends. But hey, just an impression!
And a few months ago, members started reporting that they were getting scammed by the company. Members had been demanding refunds recently because of mistakes that sound eerily similar to the whole Fyre Festival debacle:
“[Members told] stories of not receiving tickets on the timeline promised, of having to rearrange plans multiple times because of the startup’s scheduling snafus, and of trips being canceled outright — sometimes the day before they were scheduled to take place. Several of the members said they received unwanted charges to their credit cards from Magnises, which in some cases took more than a month to refund their money.”
Business Insider has the full story. But if a founder can’t handle hooking people up with tickets for one-night events, why would they be able to execute a massive luxury music festival?
Meanwhile, Fyre is doing damage control for the festival right now. It issued a statement online, basically sidestepping any and all blame for the event and saying things were “out of [their] control.” The festival’s officially been postponed, but the idea that people will actually sign up to go at a later date is a joke.
Co-founder Ja Rule is also swearing it’s not his fault.
— Ja Rule (@Ruleyork) April 28, 2017
What the rest of us are still struggling to understand is why Fyre flew all the ticketholders out from Miami to the Exumas in the first place, when the photos show that the festival grounds were so clearly not ready for prime time.
For now, some of the festival attendees are trapped in planes and airports and others are frolicking on the beach with those cute Caribbean pigs that Bella Thorne had all over her Snapchat a few months ago.
The future of Fyre and Magnises remain unclear. But if Billy McFarland ever wants people to fork their cash over to him for tickets, events, or festivals again, he’d better hope they’re either dumb as a box of hair or don’t have access to Google.