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Fyre Festival was meant to be an expensive music festival to take place on a private island in Exumas, Bahamas. However, due to poor planning, many performers backed out and attendees who had arrived early were left stranded with little food and shelter, essentially creating a disaster-zone in which fights and looting broke out over resources.
Fyre Festival was produced by entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, who planned the concert as a way to celebrate the launch of Fyre, a music booking app. It was announced in December of 2016 that the festival would take place between April 28th-April 30th and May 5th-May 7th 2017. Tickets for the event ranged from $1,500 to $250,000, with the more expensive packages including airfare and luxury villas. On January 12th, the Fyre Festival YouTube channel uploaded a trailer for the event featuring famous models.
On April 2nd, Ja Rule tweeted a flyer for the festival announcing the headliners, including Blink-182, Migos, Major Lazer, and more (shown below). The event was also highly publicized on social media by high-profile models and influencers including Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, and Bella Hadid.
On March 28th, one month before the festival was supposed to begin, Twitter account @FyreFraud was created in order to bring attention to misleading claims made in Fyre Festival promotional material. A week later, the Wall Street Journal reported that Fyre had difficulty paying its musical acts on time. On April 26th, the day before the festival was supposed to begin in earnest, after many attendees had already either departed for or arrived at the island, Blink-182 announced on Twitter that they were backing out. The band explained that they believed their performance needs would not be met.
Attendees noticed organizational problems soon after landing. Twitter user @WNFIV reported that travellers' luggage was handled very poorly. Several people shared photos of the disappointing accommodations.
Some pointed out the drastic difference between the tents attendees were promised compared to the ones they actually received, and others noticed that the tents used by Fyre Festival appeared to come from a brand called Relief Tents and are meant as temporary housing for those displaced by disasters.
One of the most-shared photos of the event came from Twitter user @trev4president, who showed off the spartan meals given to attendees at what was supposed to be a luxury event.
As reports about the disastrous event spread, @FyreFraud posted an image claiming that a lawsuit against Fyre Festival was imminent. Hopeful festival goers found themselves unable to reach the venue as flights were cancelled by Fyre in order to prevent more problems on the island.
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism tweeted a statement about the festival, expressing disappointment at the Festival and that they were intervening to help. The US Embassy has been reported to be running military-rescue missions to retrieve attendees, though that is unconfirmed. As of April 28th, 2017, it is unclear if patrons will be refunded, as the website for the festival states "All sales are final. There are no refunds." However, a tweet from @DylanACOP says that a "piece of computer paper" was going around the festival for people to sign so that they could get refunds (shown below).
Social Media Reaction
Social media users responded with schadenfreude, taking some glee in the conditions the rich attendees were facing. /r/fyrefestival was quickly filled with more trolling than genuine discussion about the event, so submissions started getting tagged as "verified" to help readers keep track. Posters in 4chan threads about the event had difficulty distinguishing the fake reports from the real ones. Some of the reactions on Twitter were covered in Telegraph.
On hipinion, users compared the disaster to Dashcon, photoshopping that event's infamous ball pit into pictures from Fyre Festival.
As news about the festival spread, one of the more popular jokes was a theory that Ja Rule was actually a communist, and it was his plan to trap wealthy members of the bourgeoisie on a deserted island. On the 28th, @PaleComparison tweeted "Most of us only dream of putting the wealthy in a gulag, Comrade Ja has actually gone and done it #fyrefestival." The tweet gained 4,800 retweets and over 12,000 likes (shown below).
This was one of several popular jokes centered around the idea that Ja Rule had orchestrated Fyre Festival as a communist undertaking. On April 29th, ContentZone posted a fake screenshot of a Ja Rule tweet that imagined him announcing to his communist brethren that he had trapped the bourgeoisie (shown below, left). Several posts on /r/FULLCOMMUNISM celebrated Ja Rule's apparent communist festival, referring to him as "Ja Rulag."
Billy McFarland Second Arrest
On June 12th, 2018, Billy McFarland was arrested in New York, this time for selling fake tickets to major events like The Met Gala and Coachella, reportedly earning him around $100,000. This is a separate charge than his charge for Fyre Festival, and a federal judge has asked that he be detained as prosecutors allegedly have evidence McFarland also committed identity theft and bank fraud. McFarland's Fyre Festival sentencing takes place on June 21st.
In July 2018, McFarland pleaded guilty to numerous fraud charges. According to NBC, "McFarland was able to make $150,000 in phony ticket sales to fashion, music and sporting events."
On October 11th, 2018, Billy McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison for fraud. In court, McFarland said, "I made decisions that were a slap in the face to everything my family tried to teach me."
Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said he committed a "disturbing pattern of deception."
Judge Naomi Buchwald said, It is my conclusion based on all the submissions that the defendant is a serial fraudster and that to date his fraud, like a circle, has no ending."
On April 16th, 2018, it was reported that streaming service Hulu had picked up a multi-part documentary on Fyre Festival to be scheduled for release in 2019. Produced by Billboard, Mic, and The Cinemart, the series will feature interviews with people ranging from investors and concert-goers to local Bahamians and provide a behind-the-scenes look at what had happened at the festival. Production will be led by The Cinemart and will be directed by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason. The documentary, titled Fyre Fraud, was released on January 14th, 2019 as a way to compete with Netflix's Fyre documentary.
On December 10th, 2018, Netflix tweeted a teaser for Fyre, a documentary about the festival. It is directed by Chris Smith and will debut on January 18th, 2019. The teaser was covered by PItchfork, Endgadget and others.
Get your exclusive first look at FYRE -- a revealing new doc about the insanity and rapid unraveling of Fyre Festival: the greatest party that never happened. Premieres January 18. #NetflixNewsWeek pic.twitter.com/B4iaR3UJwM— See What's Next (@seewhatsnext) December 10, 2018
Both documentaries were received generally positively, though Netflix's Fyre documentary received somewhat more praise when compared to Hulu's Fyre Fraud. On IMDb, Netflix's Fyre received a 7.3/10 user rating from 9,750 users whereas Hulu's Fyre Fraud received a 6.9/10 rating from 1,507 users. On Rotten Tomatoes, Fyre holds a 92% certified "Fresh" score from 62 critic reviews and an average rating of 7.7/10, whereas Fyre Fraud holds a 75% percentage score from 24 critic reviews and an average rating of 6/10. On Metacritic, Fyre holds a 76/100 score compared to Fyre Fraud's 66/100 score.
Both films were described as having different focuses, with Fyre going into the festival itself from preparation, the day of the event, to the aftermath, and Fyre Fraud generally going into depth on Billy McFarlane as a character from his childhood up to the festival while also touching on topics such as the millennial generation and social media's role in the festival.
However both films were criticized regarding the ethicality of their production, with Fyre being produced by Jerry Media, the media company founded by FuckJerry who also advertised the festival, as revealed by Hulu's documentary, and the producers of Fyre Fraud paying Billy McFarlane a large sum of money for interviews and access to behind the scenes footage in their film according to the director of Fyre, Chris Smith.
On January 14th, 2019, a GoFundMe campaign created to raise funds for the Exuma Point Resort was created, claiming they were never paid for catering and hosting the Fyre Festival organizers. Within seven days, the campaign received more than 140,000 of its $123,000 goal, having received donations from over 4,000 people.
"Back in April 2017 I pushed myself to the limit catering no less than a 1000 meals per day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all prepared and delivered by Exuma Point to Coco Plum Beach and Roker’s Point where the main events were scheduled to take place. Organizers would also visit my Exuma Point location to enjoy the prepared meals."
 Wikipedia – Billy McFarland
 Twitter – Ja Rule Announcement
 Twitter – Blink-182 Dropout
 The Wall Street Journal – At Up to $250,000 a Ticket, Island Music Festival Woos Wealthy to Stay Afloat
 Uproxx – The Luxurious Fyre Festival Was A Fiasco And Everyone Is Blaming Ja Rule
 Twitter – @FyreFraud
 Instagram – Flight Cancellation Announcement
 Reddit – /r/fyrefestival
 Telegraph – 'Rich kids of Instagram meets Hunger Games': Guests at luxury festival where tickets cost $12,000 'mugged, stranded and hungry'
 Twitter – FyreFraud Lawsuit
 Twitter – Bahamas Statement
 iq-mag – ‘LIKE A REFUGEE CAMP’: CHAOS AT FYRE FESTIVAL
 hipinion – Fyre Festival Thread
 4chan – Dashcon 2.0 Thread 3 – 22$ per drink Edition (page deleted)
 Twitter – @PaleComparison
 Facebook – Content Zone
 /r/FULLCOMMUNISM – The Ja Rulag social experiment was a complete success. (page deleted)
 The Hollywood Reporter – Hulu Lands Fyre Festival Debacle Docuseries
 Daily Dot – Fyre Festival organizer caught running another concert scam
 NBC – Fyre Festival organizer Billy McFarland sentenced to 6 years on fraud charges
 CNN – Fyre Festival organizer sentenced to 6 years in prison
 Pitchfork – New Fyre Festival Documentary Coming to Netflix Watch the Trailer
 Endgadget – Netflix’s Fyre Festival documentary debuts January 18th
 GoFundMe – Exuma Point- Fyre Fest Fiasco
 Netflix – Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
 Hulu – Fyre Fraud
Apr 28, 2017 at 03:12PM EDT
Apr 28, 2017 at 03:25PM EDT
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