The Festival that Never Was

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BY Joseph Braun

Staff Reporter

In the spring of 2017, Billy McFarland, the CEO of Fyre Media Inc. along with his company, attempted to host a music festival in Norman Cay, Bahamas called the “Fyre Festival.”

The “Fyre Festival” was branded as a luxury music festival, but ultimately failed.

Recently, both Netflix and Hulu have released documentaries that give a behind the scenes look at the planning of the festival.

The documentary introduced the “Fyre Team.” It showed how McFarland exploited investors, the way Fyre used social media to promote their product, and how unprepared they were to deliver on their promises.

With the advertising of large acts, Fyre stated that amongst smaller bands the headliners of the festival were going to be well known artists. Those artists included: Major Lazor, Blink 182, Lil Yachty, Disclosure, and Migos.

“Most of the artists that they were working with were expecting a certain level of production, sustainable lighting packages, and a good enough sound system. I started to realize that they didn’t know what it meant to book the artists they were booking and what it takes to run a music festival,” said head of production Luca Sabatini.

Weeks before the festival was supposed to take place, McFarland and the “Fyre Team,” were kicked off of Pablo Escobar’s private island due to a disagreement with the owner.

Due to this disagreement, they were forced to relocate to area of the Bahamas that had limited plumbing, electricity, and viable housing for festival residents. McFarland then hired over 200 local workers with the promise of payment to build sustainable housing and plumbing for guests.

“They were frantically working on the site.Hundreds of day laborers were working around the clock with no sleep,” said Marc Weinstein, the head Music Festival Consultant of Fyre.

Locals like Maryanne Rolle, who was a cook, were tasked with feeding the large amount of day workers. She, along with the workers, took a huge loss.

“I went through about 50,000 dollars of my own savings to pay my workers,” said Rolle. “Personally, I don’t even like talking about the Fyre festival. Just take it away and let me start a new beginning.”

Rolle was not the only one to lose money. The Bahamian day laborers who worked to build the festival were never paid for their labor. It was estimated that the total loses of wages for them was upward of a quarter of a million dollars.

“I think the real victims of this whole situation were the local laborers and restaurant owners who were also scammed by McFarland,” said Career Services Advisor, Corey Stokes.

He admitted defrauding investors of $26 million in the 2017 music festival and over $100,000 in a fraudulent ticket-selling scheme after his arrest in the festival scam.

On Oct.11, McFarland was found guilty of fraud and was sentenced to six years in federal prison.

The Associated Press Contributed to this Article

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