Why Fyre Festival went up in smoke

Why Fyre Festival went up in smoke.

By now most of us have watched the Fyre Festival documentary on Netflix with a mix of horror and fascination. The concept was simple. Put on a festival event, in an exclusive location that appeals to a wealthy audience. 
In 2016, we watched as the entire Fyre Festival event collapsed in real-time on social media. Tweets came in thick and fast shattering the illusion created by the organizers. Those paying attention saw a beautiful island festival fall apart with alarming speed. Guests who had paid a fortune to be a part of the dream party with celebrities and models became a laughing stock. Mocked and torn apart by an unforgiving public, delighted to watch the car crash event fail.
The Perception Team watched the documentary on Netflix. Having organized our own festival in 2015, Unsigned London, we were morbidly curious to see how such a stunning concept could fail so hard. A year before Fyre we had undertaken to bring a brand-new music festival to London. We understood the challenges involved in putting on a music event.
Using our team’s intimate knowledge of this type of event, I asked them for their take on the most exclusive festival that never happened. Here’s what they had to say:

Listen to the professionals

“Fyre Festival was doomed from the start. Billy McFarland should have worked with the organizers. They told him it wasn’t financially viable from the start. He should’ve pulled the plug early on before the losses became too much.” Tim
“Billy had the best of the best in all areas (quote from the documentary) but he did not take the advice from any of the professionals. Plans were put in place by genuine industry leaders. But he would override them and make changes that were detrimental to the event.”  Shane

Do your research

“The idea was social media-driven. It had a unique location, celebrity endorsement, and a tailored exclusive weekend package. This said “quick win” to the investors and little to no due diligence was performed.” Adam

Manage your infrastructure early

“To salvage this event, the festival site would have to be agreed and unchanging. The infrastructure for this should have been in place well in advance. Power, Water, Accommodation, Food and so on. Glastonbury is the perfect example of this as the fences go up in the first week of May for a 2-month build.” Gareth

Manage your risk

“This event was always going to be a disaster no matter what planning, company, or organization was involved. It could not be a success. The caterers who pulled out should count themselves lucky.” Steven
“We would rely on the expertise of our staff to identify the risks at the site visit, or pre-production meeting. If in our professional opinion, we can’t achieve the client’s vision, then we say “no” and walk away.” Sejal
“When looking at the situation, solutions are the mirror of what went wrong. Stick to the contract and they would have had the first venue they saw. Use an expert (or at least listen to one) before anything gets finalized. Confirm everything before anything gets released to the media. And come up with a backup plan.” Dan

Define your goals

“The goalposts moved radically throughout the process. It started as a showcase event and quickly became a full-blown festival – which it never should have. It is so important at the start of any project that goals are clearly defined. Go back to those goals over and over throughout the creative process as it is so easy to get carried away.” Mandy
“At the very outset of any venture, we must first determine what our desired outcome is. Once determined, focus and dedication are absolutely key! When you decide to run a festival as a business, you cannot treat it like a party. Just the same, if you decide to run a bar as a business it’s not wise to drink alcohol. This festival should have been exclusive. They should have played on that exclusivity after the festival had been a success to market the APP that they were launching. Fundamentally, the festival was actually meant to be a tool to launch the App. Focus shifted, ego took over, cost sheets were non-existent and the opinions of professionals were ignored. doomed to fail!” Patrick

Want to know more?

Read more about the Unsigned London festival on our portfolio page. You can also find out more about what services we offer ranging from lighting and audio to set and stage design.

Article updated: 30th April 2021