Questioning Fyre Festival: How Did Humanity Allow This Disaster To Happen?

Column: Questioning   |   Date Published: Sunday, 14 May 17   |   Author: Cody Atkinson   |   1 month, 1 week ago

Hey, did you hear about Fyre Festival? You know, the festival where Ja Rule and a twenty-something flew people to the Bahamas and kinda left people to fend for themselves without any real amenities or accommodation? And sold tickets for up to $12,000 for the privilege of having blink-182 cancel on them at the last minute? Jesus. Cody Atkinson wades through the immaculately curated carnage below.

So what was Fyre Festival?

A disaster.

More details?

In short: a destination festival in the Bahamas that promised luxury surrounds, gourmet food and drinks, big music acts and good times galore. Instead, it provided disaster relief tents, no potable water, musicians pulling out left, right and centre and rabid dogs. It is the only music festival in recent years to force a government lockdown of the site. It went about as badly as something can go without anyone dying.

Wait, isn’t this the festival that every hack writer in the world has written endlessly about in the last month?

Almost every hack. This should complete the circle.

So why … did the festival even exist?

The luminaries that created Fyre Festival were Billy McFarland and Ja Rule, and they did so to publicise the ‘Fyre Music App’.

A festival to promote an app? At least it’s not another one promoting Red Bull or sneakers…

I mean I guess … but an international gathering to promote an app that barely seems to exist … seems kinda odd.

What does the app do?

Well, let me start by saying that it appears to be more like a website than a true app. Indeed, a search of both the Google Play and iTunes store finds no results for any such app. I would search the Windows store but come on who seriously has a Windows mobile phone these days. So let’s say that the name is lying and that it’s a website and not an app.


The ‘app’ promises to cut out the middle man in booking musicians for shows, and as a result is essentially a ‘middle man’ for booking shows. And the app will do this for just a 10% cut of the booking fee. Whilst the list of musicians and other assorted celebrities promoted on the service seems extensive, it appears that the only major concerts to be undertaken so far involve website co-owner Ja Rule.

So it’s pretty much just a standard booking agency. But without the personal contact.

And the sheen of THE INTERNET! Everything is fancy and hip because of THE INTERNET! But it seems to not be out of the ordinary for website co-founder Billy McFarland.


Well, Billy McFarland, although only 26, had a long and expensive history of creating products with too-good-to-be-true potential, which were all too-good-to-true. In 2013 McFarland created a company called Magnises, which was a VIP/subscription service that promised members could “unlock their cities and take their lives to the next level”.

Were people taken to the next level?

Yes, if by “next level” you mean “not much different from their normal lives”. Magnises promised exclusive art, music, food and theatre experiences, and delivered … a membership card for $257.55 USD a year. And an app – an actual app this time. The service was rife with complaints, with the services either not provided or not what was originally promised. The number of members is also unknown, but the number of downloads of the Android app is between 500–1000, which doesn’t seem like many.

What about the other guy? Ja something?

It’s no surprise that you don’t remember who Ja Rule is, despite his near-constant chart success around the turn of the century. His distinctive deep voiced raps blared out from radios all across the world, and between 2001 and 2003 Ja Rule was EVERYWHERE. I’m not sure that was a good thing.

(Listens to ‘Put It On Me’ on YouTube) Yeah, juries out…

But by 2005, his star had fallen, and the man born Jeffery Atkins didn’t release an album between 2004 and 2012. That intervening period, speaking of juries, involved an almost two-year stint in prison for tax evasion, drug possession and gun possession. That 2012 album, Pain Is Love 2 (presumably a sequel to Pain Is Love) was released while he was locked up, meaning that he hasn’t released an album out of jail since 2004. I think Ja firmly falls in the “formerly famous rapper” category now.

So now he’s a festival promoter?

Probably not if Fyre Festival is anything to go by. Ja’s involvement in the festival was reported to be as the less involved partner, with McFarland making the decisions. Apparently Mr Rule and McFarland met in 2015 and bonded over their mutual love of flying small aeroplanes and hip hop. And now they are bonded by organising disasters.

Wait, there have been plenty of festivals that have been disasters, and most don’t get as much attention as this.

The failure of Fyre Festival, and its capture of the public imagination, is hard to entangle from the chaos and class issues at play. Plenty of music festivals have been haphazardly organised, many have featured death, but very few intertwine themselves with the most comical of all ‘famous’ people: Instagram celebrities. And because the festival and it’s marketing was so intertwined with social media, it’s downfall was remarkably well chronicled. Very few remember the disasters of Heatwave, Blueprint or Laneway 2009 – most were a fair way away from the spotlight, with nary a ‘social influencer’ in sight.

So what happens now?

Well, the organisers have stated that they will try to put on Fyre again in 2018 … which doesn’t seem like the greatest move right now. And it appears that every man and his rabid dog remotely connected with Fyre is either suing someone or being sued by someone. Even Kendall Jenner, one of the lesser Kardashian clan, is being sued, after being paid $250,000 USD to promote the festival on Instagram … which is flat-out insane. You may as well have just set your money on …

Don’t say it …




more ...
more stuff ...