Celebrities were lavished with free flights and tickets in exchange for social media posts.
Ja Rule’s Fyre Festival descended into chaos before it had even begun last week, with ticketholders left stranded on a private Caribbean island after a storm wrecked the site’s infrastructure. But in the days since, grim accounts from attendees and former employees have suggested that the luxury festival was doomed from the start.
Now a leaked business plan has revealed the extent of the organizers’ incompetence in “one of the most preposterous invitations for outside capital that I have ever seen,” according to Vanity Fair reporter Nick Bilton.
Fyre Festival had been advertised on social media as an ultra-glamorous getaway, promoted by supermodels including Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski and Bella Hadid in posts that promised a beach paradise setting. Tickets to the event ranged from $4000 to $12,000.
But the festival’s pitch deck reveals that their social media posts broke advertising standards by failing to disclose they were part of a marketing campaign. As Bilton points out, the Federal Trade Commission has rules requiring that social media “influencers” who share promotional materials “clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands”.
Fyre Festival employees are referred to in the 43-page pitch deck as “The Fyre Squad”, while the social media celebs are the “Fyre Starters”. So far, so barf. The Fyre Starters were offered free flights, accommodations, and tickets to the event in exchange for social media posts – and some of them were even paid for the promotions. But almost all of the 400 influencers who shared the festival’s promotional videos and photos never disclosed that they were actually advertising a product.
A few hours after the actual festival began, some of the smarter Fyre Starters began deleting their promotional posts. Those who didn’t were inundated with messages from angry fans. So far, only Hadid has issued an apology.
A $100 million class-action lawsuit was filed yesterday against the organizers of the festival, claiming that the conditions were “closer to The Hunger Games or Lord of the Flies than Coachella.”
Festival boss Billy McFarland admitted on Saturday he’d been “a little naive,” but added that he plans to hold a make-up festival in the U.S. next year.