Fyre Festival: The Biggest Concert Festival Scam of the Year
Thu, October 21, 2021

Fyre Festival: The Biggest Concert Festival Scam of the Year

What promised to be a lavish music festival on a private beach in the Bahamas turned out to be the biggest scam of the century. / Photo credit by pics721 via Shutterstock



VIP treatment, immersive music, the hottest celebrity guests, and a gourmet “culinary experience” on a private beach in Great Exuma in the Bahamas—these were just a few of the lavish promises that Fyre Festival baited the public with. 

Any music festival has probably promised the same thing with varying degrees of success. Since it’s an event that packs a whole bunch of people in one area, the discomfort will always abound. What set the Fyre Festival’s apart was that most attendees experienced more than just a slight discomfort; it was a shamelessly straight-up scam. 


Expectations versus Reality

Truly, the news that broke out about the Fyre Festival felt more like a meme in the surreal way in which the events unfolded. Business Insider, an American finance and business website, scrutinized some of the extravagant promises that the festival made the audience expect and how incredibly dire the reality of those promises really were. 

Exotic resort name in the Bahamas? Check. But how to get there? Business Insider followed the tweeted updates of user @WNFIV on the event. It turned out, instead of the original advertisement that guests would be flown in to the private island via a VIP-configured Boeing 737, they were made to wait for hours at the airport. 



After that, their luggage was delivered back to them upon their landing via a shipping container at night. “With no light” was @WFNIV’s palpably annoyed description of the turn of events on Twitter. 

Now with their luggage on their person, they were treated to a “gourmet” meal that absolutely did not scream gourmet. Because Starr Catering Group, the company originally assigned to provide food for the event, canceled their partnership with Fyre Festival way back in April 2017, the guests were given a cobbled-together mess of a cafeteria food—cheese sandwich and salad.

Blink-182, one of the promised bands that would play at the festival, canceled at the last minute. 

To make matters worse, the promised “luxury, eco-friendly domes and villas” were not as much luxury as it was “tent city.” Bent out of shape with so much disappointment, guests either just left for Miami or didn’t go to the actual festival at all. Some of them already suspected at the airport that something was very fishy about the event. 


Fishy Festival


The CEO of Fyre Media, Billy McFarland, has a history of scamming people and was already sentenced to six years of fraud. / Photo credit byHunter Crenian via Flickr


With a festival like that—which frankly just raised millions of disbelieving eyebrows—people might wonder how it was that the organizers were still able to continue with it despite its slapdash attempt to substitute its highfalutin promises with more mediocre materials. 

Before everything, it was good news that the CEO of Fyre Media, Billy McFarland, was already sentenced to six years for defrauding. The wound brought by the scam, though, would take a while longer to heal. 

According to business news channel CNBC, McFarland’s experiences in these sorts of things can be traced back to his previous other business dealings, each with their own subtext of scam. In 2013, he started “Magnises,” which CNBC defined as a “financial status symbol similar to the American Express Centurion or the Black credit card, but for millennials.”

After a while, critics began to suspect that this new card was actually nothing but the clients’ old ones and they soon found out that “it simply copied the magnetic strip of clients’ original cards and all charges reverted back to those cards.”

Instead of solving this problem, McFarland launched Fyre Media in 2016 with rapper Ja Rule and what was left of the Magnises scam was “sold” (read: a lie to investors) for $40 million. Fyre Media was then described to be “a celebrity booking app that promised to connect users looking to book musical acts like Jay-Z and Beyonce for private events with the touch of a button.”

If Fyre Media was, based on this information, something that already raised a thousand red flags, how were people still convinced to attend the event? According to CNBC, the biggest audience grabbers were not only the bands promised to play but also the supermodels McFarland himself paid to fly to the Bahamas on a private plane for the promotional video. 



Except, as reported by the British Broadcasting Channel, there was only a scant number of supermodels and music acts. Blogger William Needham Finley IV, who went by the handle @WNFIV shared that some of the guests were even college students who were just looking for a cool place to spend their spring break, while some came there for the acts. 

More than the scammed guests, the BBC also talked about how the event became such a big problem for many in the local community. Chris Smith, director of the Fyre Festival documentary on Netflix, said of the failed event: “They had engaged with so much of the local community to try and pull this off. There were hundreds of day laborers working. Fyre had such a high profile that I don’t think anyone could have assumed that it wouldn’t work out.”