Perhaps it’s true there is no such thing as bad publicity.
Shambolic, catastrophic, chaos and scam are just a few of the words that were used to describe the original Fyre Festival, which shot to infamy after its spectacular failure in 2017.
The event, organised by self-described entrepreneur Billy McFarland, was billed as a luxury music experience on a private island in the Bahamas. But when ticketholders arrived, there was very little luxury to be found.
Despite the event’s history — and four years of prison time under McFarland’s belt — the convicted fraudster announced this week the first 100 pre-sale tickets for Fyre Festival II had gone on sale for US$499 (A$780) a pop.
That round of tickets has already sold out, according to the festival’s ticket sale website.
What was the Fyre Festival?
Attendees for the inaugural festival, some of which paid up to US$12,000 for tickets, were promised an immersive music experience with artists including Pusha T, Tyga and Skepta as well as the opportunity to rub shoulders with Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Hailey Bieber — none of whom ever made it to the event.
A high-production video and social media campaign launched the “music festival like no other” to massive fanfare, with influencers and celebrities around the world posting a single orange tile on their Instagram accounts.
It was reported by Vanity Fair at the time McFarland had engaged the services of 400 influencers and celebrities to promote it.
The festival was the brainchild of McFarland and early-2000s rapping icon Ja Rule in an effort to promote their Fyre Media business, an app that would allow people to book musical acts for private events.
Soon, it would become cemented in infamy.
What happened at the Fyre Festival?
The event went ahead in April 2017 and quickly became a nightmare as attendees live-tweeted the peril.
Several music acts had pulled out due to lack of payment, the “luxury” accommodation was just a campground and there was very little food and water, after the caterers cancelled their contract earlier that month.
A photo on Twitter (now X) of a few slices of cheese and white bread in a plastic container went viral, as angry ticketholders demanded refunds.
“So Fyre Fest is a complete disaster. Mass chaos. No organisation. No one knows where to go. There are no villas, just a disaster tent city,” attendee William N Finley tweeted when he arrived.
Many ticketholders tried to fly home but were stranded for hours or even days.
Fyre Festival fallout
The failures of the Fyre Festival were so monumental they became the subject of several documentaries, one of which was a Netflix hit.
Many of its critics joked the festival was retribution for the rich and famous, who had shelled out thousands of dollars for tickets just to be duped in one of pop culture’s most notorious scams.
McFarland served four years of a six-year prison sentence for wire fraud relating to his role in financing the original festival. Ja Rule faced many lawsuits but was eventually cleared of wrongdoing.
Astoundingly, McFarland said he was launching Fyre Festival II as a favour to the many people to whom he still owes money.
“Tell me why you shouldn’t be in jail,” one of the thousands of respondents to his tweet announcing the festival 2.0 said.
“It’s in the best interest of those I owe for me to be working. People aren’t getting paid back if I sit on the couch and watch TV … and because I served my time,” McFarland responded, referencing the fact he still owes creditors $39 million.
Fyre Festival II is set to go ahead in late 2024, though its exact date hasn’t been confirmed. Tickets will be released in stages, with final stage “Pre-Sale Last Chance” tickets to cost US$7999 ($12,400).
Who knows, maybe the greatest party that never happened will be a raging success this time around.
Get in touch – email@example.com