The Fyre Festival may now be but wisps of black, billowing smoke destined to float through years of prolonged, multi-million dollar lawsuits, but let us not forget the old adage that “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat another day of damp mattresses, cheese sandwiches, feral dogs, and air not filled with the dulcet tones of Blink-182.”
Organizers Ja Rule and Billy McFarland claim the whole ordeal was “NOT A SCAM,” and that the festival’s myriad problems were “beyond our control.” Insider accounts deny this narrative, saying the festival was “always going to be a disaster.” We may never know the truth, but what we do have is Fyre’s pitch deck for investors, which was obtained by Vanity Fair’s Nick Bilton. Bilton describes the $25 million pitch as “one of the most preposterous invitations for outside capital” he’s ever seen.
Bilton’s piece goes on to highlight the pitch deck’s emphasis on “Fyre Starters” (the deck also includes phrases such as “Fyre Squad” and “Fyre Tribe”), the brand’s group of celebrity “influencers” who they hired to promote the festival on Instagram and other platforms. While this kind of advertising is simply the natural evolution of the business, what the Fyre debacle reveals is how deceitful the whole process can be. Bilton writes:
One of the biggest deceits of the entire media campaign was that almost all of the 400 influencers who shared the promotional videos and photos never noted they were actually advertising something for someone else, which the Federal Trade Commission requires. This kind of advertising has been going on for years, and while the F.T.C. has threatened to crack down on online celebrities and influencers deceitfully failing to disclose that they are paid to post sponsorships, so far those threats have been completely ignored.
Back in December, the Fyre Starters were enticing people to talk about the upcoming festival as the “biggest FOMO-inducing event of 2017.” As Fashionista noted, the models were arriving by private plane to the island, lounging on the beach and yachts, and gleefully promoting the event. Yet a few hours after the actual festival began, those same Fyre Starters who scammed all of their followers into buying tickets, quickly started deleting their promotional posts (that were never labeled as promotional). The few people who didn’t remove them, or seemingly forgot, were inundated with messages from fans telling them to delete the posts. Either way, almost all of the influencers in the pitch deck are back to their selfishly influencing selves, taking selfies in bikinis on a beach or by a pool, completely ignoring what actually happened. Jenner, Ratajkowski, and Bateman haven’t issued an apology to their fans.
While the whole Fyre Festival situation is a nice bit of schadenfreude for us “normies,” it’s also an opportunity to more tightly rein in this kind of advertising so consumers aren’t mislead into potentially dangerous situations.
Peering deeper into the pitch deck, it’s both hilarious and amazing how lofty were the goals Ja Rule and McFarland, who saw the festival as an “exploration of the uncharted inspired by and referencing the five elements of the Earth.” The disaster on Exuma island represented Water, which is ironic when countless attendees suffered from dehydration. Would Fire have been held on the edge of Mount Saint Helens? Would they have continued to misspell “Fire”? Which festival would Earth, Wind & Fire (or their non-union EDM equivalent) have played? It’s like theorizing about what could’ve happened on Carnivale had it never been canceled. There’s so much we’ll never know—unless they carry out their promise of a 2018 festival, however, which they really, really shouldn’t do.
Read Bilton’s full piece here, and view the entire pitch deck below.