The first weekend of Ja Rule’s Fyre Festival has not been what most people would consider an unqualified success. (Marketing tip: You usually don’t want Lord Of The Flies or The Hunger Games referenced quite so heavily in press coverage of your island getaway destination.) A number of would-be partygoers are stranded in the Bahamas at the moment, fed on weak-ass salads and sandwiches, housed in repurposed disaster relief tents, and denied their life-giving Blink-182. Earlier today, Ja Rule issued a statement promising to make things right with the festival, and pledging that the event—which people paid a minimum of $1,000 to attend—was “NOT A SCAM.”
Ja Rule’s partner in the venture, tech entrepreneur Billy McFarland has been much quieter about the whole affair—possibly because he’s been through stuff like this before. Business Insider has a write-up today of McFarland’s other business, Magnises—a program that offered elite millennials high-priced VIP treatment, and then ultimately failed to deliver. The service marketed itself with a number of benefits, including access to high-price nightclubs and private events, but drew in a number of its members with offers to get them tickets to shows like Hamilton or Beyoncé concerts. According to the BI article, though—which quoted a number of current and former Magnises users—these events were subject to almost constant cancellations, usually just days before the shows were set to take place. (Although at least none of those also included a pre-show flight to “FEMA-does-the-Bahamas.”) McFarland’s business M.O. seems to be “over-promise, fail, apologize,” something he has now executed on a truly grand fuck-up scale. (Or maybe he just lifted his sense of professionalism from another ambitious start-up):
McFarland gave an interview to Rolling Stone today, declaring the festival canceled, and promising refunds to everybody who’d paid to attend. He also revealed that he and Ja Rule picked the site after landing there when they misjudged how much fuel was left in their chartered planes, so, yeah: Forward planning is not this guy’s strongest suit. Nevertheless, McFarland promised that one or two crippling, foresight-absent failures won’t be enough to dim his enthusiasm. “Next year, we will definitely start earlier,” he said.