Fyre Festival: The Goal vs the Reality


Image via Hollywood Reporter

Kaeden Wise

Fyre Festival was supposed to be the biggest festival of 2017, advertised by Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid. Tickets were up to $100,000 and guests who bought tickets were promised “the best in food, art, music, and adventure” in the Bahamas and private planes, yachts, villas, and wellness activities. When guests arrived, they learned that everything they were promised was a lie. They arrived at air mattresses soaked in rain on the ground, cheese on bread, suitcases thrown into a parking lot, and FEMA tents. When everyone realized that what was supposed to be a vacation turned out to be a disaster, everyone started freaking out and trying to get back on the bus to take them home. 


People were fighting for tents, ripping mattresses out of them, and bringing them to other tents to fit more people in them. Everything shut down and it just got worse. People were destroying mattresses, throwing them in the ocean, floating on them, and setting fires. Guests were told to load money on their “festival bracelets,” to purchase food and experiences and one guest had loaded $11,000 onto his bracelet, and he was terrified (it was a cashless event) that he wouldn’t get that money back. Later, two trucks arrived with suitcases that they dumped onto the ground. Guests started looking for their suitcases, while others were looking through others’ bags. All the bars and snack shops were supposed to be set up in a cool way, but they were only halfway ready. The food was in boxes, the shops weren’t guarded so they started ripping into boxes, grabbing Gatorade, candy, chips, etc.  


Lots of people left the following day, most drove to the airport but some flew on a private jet. On the night of the second day, guests received an email from Fyre Festival saying it was canceled and they were going to try to get everyone off the island quickly. The government issued a shutdown and everyone was forced to leave. Media that was invited to the festival was meant to stay at a hotel with the other media. Two days before the media was supposed to leave, they were told that their transportation went from a plane to a boat. One anonymous person who was coming to the festival as a part of the media was up late the night before, and at 11:30 they got a call from a publicist, warning them not to come, and that it wouldn’t be what they thought. Guests were allowed a plus one and a guest’s plus one had put tons of money on their Fyre Band that hasn´t been refunded. Weeks later, someone who was working media for Fyre Festival was at a restaurant and saw Billy Mcfarland. Nothing was said but he was emailed about the money, Mcfarland responded quickly, but there was still no refund. Mcfarland answered questions from the media multiple times, but eventually, he just stopped trying to make things right. 


After the disaster, Fyre Festival posted saying: “Fyre Festival set out to provide a once-in-a-lifetime musical experience on the Islands of the Exumas. Due to circumstances out of our control, the physical was not in place on time and we are unable to fulfill that vision safely and enjoyably for our guests. At this time, we are working tirelessly to get flights scheduled and get everyone off of Great Exuma and home safely as quickly as we can. We ask that guests currently on the island not make their own arrangements to get to the airport as we are coordinating those plans. We are working to place everyone on complimentary charters back to Miami today; this process has commenced and the safety and comfort of our guests are our top priority. The festival is being postponed until we can further access if and when we are able to create the high-quality experience we envisioned. We ask for everyone’s patience and cooperation during this difficult time as we work as quickly and safely as we can to remedy this unforeseeable situation. We will continue to provide regular updates via email to our guests and via our official social media channels as they become available.” Ja Rule posted a tweet that said “I wanted this to be an amazing event it was NOT A SCAM as everyone is reporting; I don’t know how everything went so left but I’m working to make it right by making sure everyone is refunded.” Mcfarland also said he was planning on doing another festival and was planning on asking guests what they wanted as a refund, their money or tickets to the next festival.  


    A lawsuit was filed against Billy Mcfarland and Ja Rule for $100 million in the state of California, and Ja Rule was dismissed from the lawsuit in 2019. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Daniel Jung by lawyer Mark Geragos, who was seeking class-action status for the lawsuit having more than 150 plaintiffs. Per the filing, Jung´s lawsuit suspects fraud, breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith (due to the poor catering and guests being locked in the airport), and negligent misrepresentation. An employee who worked for Geragos’ law firm suggested that he was going to hold ¨all of those who recklessly and blindly promoted the festival” accountable, people think he was targeting social media influencers like Hadid.  There were 8 total lawsuits from guests overall. In October 2018, Mcfarland pleaded guilty to 6 years in federal prison. In April 2020, Mcfarland requested release because he has asthma and COVID would be bad for his health.  His request was denied. He was housed at an RRM house, but he was released early from prison on March 30th, 2022. He lived in a halfway house after that. He was on house arrest but got free in September 2022. Now, Billy Mcfarland is planning a new business venture called PYRT.