Fyre Festival: In Their Own Words

By Phil Clarke, Editor of The Handbook website Phil Clarke |
11th February 2019

instagram models posing on a sunny tropical beach at fyre festival

You’ve definitely heard of Fyre Festival, everyone has, and if you didn’t at the time then you’ve almost certainly heard everyone talking about the hit Netflix documentary about it. So why are we only covering this now? Well all this got us thinking, we’re sure we’ve got something in our inbox. And, hey presto, we do! Needless to say we didn’t invest, and we weren’t tempted to go, but we thought we owed it to you, our loyal readers, to share the contents of the Fyre deck we were sent. So here they are, Fyre in their own words…

Remind me, what was Fyre?

Andy King, the man of a thousand memes, was famously driven to nearly give actual blowjobs in order to save Fyre festival, but what was it and what made it worth going to such length to save? Well, Fyre described itself as ‘the cultural experience of the decade’, going on to explain ‘Fyre Festival will feature music from the greatest talents in the world, immersive experiences through art, theatre, and a weekend long treasure hunt; as well as informative discussions with some of the brightest minds in the world. Fyre will be defined by its ability to connect: the ultimate in a tasteful experience’.

Of course, Fyre was actually defined by the photos of ransacked red cross tents, cheese sandwiches and disappointed Instagrammers. But before all that, the festival had secured reputable headliners in the form of Major Lazer, Disclosure and G.O.O.D. Music, though of course none of them would actually made it to the festival.

An island paradise?

Fyre was to be held on Exuma, a private island acquired by the founders, and previously associated with drug lord Pablo Escobar. As we learn in the documentary, this was predominantly fabrication and the island was simply incapable of hosting festival for 40,000, and the Fyre’s founders were, in any case, kicked off Exuma for publicising the Escobar link. Still, the deck again makes the claim that Fyre had acquired the island. Given this was a fundraising document, this appears to be flat-out fraud.

Hastily reconvened to Roker Point, an unfinished construction site on the Bahamas, the rest was history.

Who were the, um, geniuses behind Fyre?

The not-so mastermind behind Fyre was Billy McFarland, currently serving a six year sentence in a US jail for wire fraud and paying a hefty fine of $26m. And, as you’d expect, the deck puts him at the top of the bill. But equally prominent, rapper Ja Rule takes responsibility for ‘overall business strategy’. Ironically he’s not really been seen to take any rap for this (pun totally intended), but the clown is indisputably up to his eyeballs in the whole thing.

The broader team are all listed in the deck, some of which featured in the documentary, others who have wisely kept their heads below the parapet. Andy King joined later on, when the crisis had already started to set in, so is sadly absent from the document. Which is a shame as we literally can’t get enough of him!

So who was backing the venture?

The deck gives us an idea of their business ‘strategy’ (thanks Ja), which seems to have stumbled somewhere between ‘conceptualise’ and ‘execute’, though the word ‘ideate’ should be struck from the dictionary, were it there in the first place. There were some big-name backers, however, with the pitch suggesting that Snapchat had agreed to help back the venture.

How much cash were they looking for?

The target raise was $25m, ‘to acquire 500 exclusive managers and expand Fyre globally’. The vision wasn’t just the Caribbean festival, but that this would be a multi-year venture, starting with ‘Water’ in 2017 and followed by ‘fire’ and the other earth elements in subsequent years.

Given the final element of the five is ‘ether’, we wonder if this is all a very clever ruse and they actually started in reverse. Interestingly, it’s clear that land acquisition was key to their strategy, despite the question marks that would emerge over their first location. But perhaps this hints to how they believed they might monetise and fund the venture in future. Or perhaps Billy McFarland was simply hoping to acquire his own private islands for an early retirement. Beats a 6′ x 10′ cell at least.

What was their marketing plan?

Influencers were the basis of Fyre’s marketing effort. The deck boasts of over 400 influencers who are bought in, including Hailey Baldwin, Kendal Jenner and Emma Ratajkowski (off of the Blurred Lines video). Indeed, the deck even makes a case study out of Kendal Jenner’s involvement.

And there we have it. The deck that launched perhaps the least successful music festival in history, one that proved the limitations of social media and influencer power, but ultimately that demonstrated the importance of good ol’ fashioned hard work and organisation. If ever there was a masterclass in the dangers of winging it, this is it.

Finally, as we all want to hear what happened next, after the Netflix documentary aired, here’s Andy King again to fill us in…

Click here for the Netflix documentary, or write off your lunchbreak and download the full Fyre Festival Pitch Deck.

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