By: Victoria Schmidt
The first chartered jet began its decent on the island of Great Exuma’s aquamarine water on April 27, 2017. Elite millennials, eagerly anticipating the ultra-luxurious “Coachella in the Bahamas,” arrived at the white sandy beaches only to find complete chaos.
They had fallen for perhaps the biggest scam of the year.
Promised rock bands, private villas, celebrity chefs, beach yoga and bikini-clad models aboard rented jet skis and yachts – all promoted by the rapper Ja Rule and a gaggle of supermodels on Instagram – Fyre Festival-goers arrived on the lush private island “once owned by Pablo Escobar” to find that their once-in-a-lifetime weekend was definitely going to be unforgettable.
Some dropping upwards of $250,000 per ticket, attendees entered the festival to find that the grounds were in fact not ready. Shivi Kumar, a 33-year-old North Carolina sales executive, told Vanity Fair in an interview that, “We kind of had a feeling something was not right,” he recalls, “but you thought, This is the first time they’re doing this—you expect some glitches.” Landing at 6 p.m., ready to kick off his birthday celebration with his girlfriend, the couple was greeted by music blaring on loudspeakers. Hundreds of concertgoers meandered as a pair of staffers with aging laptops attempted to register them.
“This is where it first hit us: This is a total shit show,” Kumar recalls. “No one knew what was going on. The most alarming part was, they had hired all these models to walk around giving people tequila shots. This was a recipe for disaster, everyone young and drunk, with no information.”
There were no private villas. There were no buildings to stay in. Instead, there was a cluster of carpeted tents –completely soaked. People were stealing bedding, and people were getting more and more drunk.
“Their plan was to get everyone really wasted and they’ll forget how shitty this really is,” Kumar recounts.
Many attendees took to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to chronicle their quandary.
However, they were met with swarms of critics.
Thousands of people without the money to frolic at Caribbean music festivals heaping abuse on “spoiled” millennials, who were freaking out because they were forced to sleep in tents and eat cheese sandwiches instead of sushi. Fyre Festival transformed from a failed music venue into a richly symbolic moment of Trump’s divided America.
But how did it get to this?
The Fyre Festival social media blitz begins in December 2016 with 400 influencers in various sectors. Their only job, besides attending the festival when it came time, was to post an orange square to Instagram. The 40 that heeded the call include professional surfers, football players, DJ/producers/founders, a short-lived MTV personality and long-term social media personality, and models and models and models and models and models. As you probably guessed, this cost a pretty penny.
In fact, it cost all of the festival organizers’ pennies.
Poor organization coupled with an overspent budget resulted in the much-ridiculed fiasco. While their initial use of influencer marketing was skillful and generated a lot of buzz, Fyre Festival’s organizing team completely botched their management of the aftermath, and even more importantly, they promised something they couldn’t deliver.
The 25 year-old preppy kid, prone to salmon-colored pants, became a prisoner to his own promises and it led to one of the most spectacular failures yet in this new social media era. This past July he was arrested and charged with fraud.
He wanted to be a legend–and I guess now he is.