‘It was an absolute Fyre Festival.’ Before Miami contestants were enlisted to save the world, another group signed up in Montreal. But where were the cameras? At the same time as festivalgoers were being promised the chance to attend a show by a host of celebrities, the Canadian government was trying to make it a reality.
The first of what would become hundreds of Fyre Festivals took place in April 2017. Organisers claimed the event would be “a world-class production” with a three-day ticket cost of $10,000, but there was no mention of what kind of production it would actually be. On one of the social-media postings it hosted, the event’s promotional page stated: “You will see some of your favourite celebrities being transformed into animals.”
But of course most of the celebrities were not transformed into animals: they were being used to sell tickets to travel to the Bahamas.
The Fyre Festival was organised by co-founder Billy McFarling, a former Hollywood publicist, and had a budget of $20,000. The Bahamas’ tourism board promised the event would cost $1,000 to visit and included an offer of three-star treatment for festival-goers: a package that included breakfast and unlimited drinks. Fyre Fest claimed that the organisers had a production team of 1,000 people and a budget of $15.5m. It also boasted a lineup of over 100 celebrities, including The Weeknd, The Weeknd’s older brother Quavo, and DJ Mustard.
It proved to be too much for some people who did not believe that the event was real. McFarling and his team claimed the event was a real-life musical festival and that he created the event in order to reach a different audience from the one who attended his previous events, and that the event had taken the industry by storm.
A video of the event, posted on his Instagram Stories, showed the festival-goers wearing elaborate outfits and playing instruments. On the morning of the festival, when asked which type of music his guests should expect to hear, he posted: “It’s a good mix,” before adding: “You’ll see some of your favourite celebrities being transformed into animals.”
However, the reality quickly became apparent: the event was not only a giant make-believe, but a blatant rip-off.