If you have a Netflix account like the rest of the world, you’ve probably found yourself perusing the upper rows on the streaming platform’s home page in hopes of finding the hottest new series or film recommended for you. It’s easy to waste time this way, but one new Netflix film that you certainly don’t want to miss is Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened. Coming from a perspective of Public Relations, Media Management, and Marketing in general, this documentary is nothing short of mind-blowing. The craziest part? It all - actually - happened.
Many may remember the sham that was Fyre Festival after it went viral on social media in the Spring of 2017. The festival was organized by famous rapper Ja Rule, alongside conman and founder of Fyre Media, Billy McFarland. McFarland has since been sentenced to six years of jail time for fraud, following Fyre Festival’s failure.
So, what exactly happened at Fyre Festival? What made such a colossal mess out of what was meant to be the party of the decade? Interestingly enough, what occurred on the island of Great Exuma was not entirely the result of a whole company doing their jobs poorly. In fact, many people at Fyre Media - namely the PR, Social Media, and Marketing team - did their jobs exceptionally well.
The festival was initially advertised and promoted by top influencers, socialites, and celebrities via Instagram. This included major names like Emily Ratajkowski, Bella Hadid, and Kendall Jenner. Many of these models were hired by Fyre Media for promotional films taking place on beautiful beaches and shimmering shores in the Bahamas, promising the guests of Fyre Festival a luxurious, opulent experience on Pablo Escobar’s private island. This included beautiful beachside villas, top-notch offerings of food and beverage, and more celebrities in attendance than one could imagine. VIP packages - which included the aforementioned ‘luxury tents’ and ‘first class flight accommodations’ - sold for $12,000. Tickets to the festival sold out within weeks.
Despite what they were promised, Fyre Festival’s guests - who all paid thousands of dollars to attend - essentially received the opposite of everything they were promised. After flying to the Bahamas and arriving at the festival’s grounds, concertgoers encountered an unfinished site with nothing but hurricane shelter tents, soaked mattresses, and a large amount of debris. All of the festival’s acts pulled out of performing after hearing about the conditions there, so no musical artists were present either. Despite an incredible promotional campaign on social media that drove crowds in droves to the island, the festival was a complete disaster. Predictably, outrage ensued.
Billy McFarland and Ja Rule were almost entirely to blame for Fyre Festival’s failure. They refused to consider input from anyone else at the company, regardless of how realistic or valid the point was. As CEO of Fyre Media, McFarland is guilty of reporting false numbers, defrauding investors for millions of dollars, laying off countless employees without pay, and many other dishonest and immoral ventures. His habits of lying and planning far outside of the company’s means contributed hugely to Fyre Festival’s flop.
However, it can’t be ignored that McFarland’s marketing and PR employees did an exemplary job promoting the festival, to their own eventual detriment. The buzz that interns and employees at Fyre Media ignited via social media strategy was a huge part of drawing people’s attention to Fyre Festival, for better or for worse. As someone focused on the communications industry, it’s unsettling to watch these former employees recount the punishment they were left with after doing their jobs so well, as part of the documentary. Nonetheless, it’s disturbingly fascinating to watch what the actions of one irresponsible and dishonest man can do to the lives of many others after being put in a position of power. And that’s only one observation. There are so many facets to this film that will spark conversation between you and your friends. We recommend giving it a watch as soon as possible!