The Fyre Festival, an attempt at a two-weekend luxury music festival in the Bahamas that fell apart in a mess of poor organization on Thursday, has been postponed. Instead of a plush weekend in the sun with music from Migos, Major Lazer, and Blink-182, concertgoers were presented with flimsy tents, boxed lunches, and, in some cases, nowhere to stay and long delays in getting off of Exumas, the island where the festival was to be staged.
In an interview with Rolling Stone Friday afternoon, Billy McFarland, 25, a tech entrepreneur who organized the festival with rapper Ja Rule, announced plans for make-up dates at an unspecified location in the U.S. in May 2018, “free for everybody who signed up for this festival,” he said. He said they will donate $1.50 per ticket to the Bahamas Red Cross, and promised, “We will make sure there is infrastructure in place to support us.”
As for this year’s disastrous festival, he said, “The Exumas didn’t have a really great infrastructure — there wasn’t a great way to get guests in here – we were a little bit ambitious. There wasn’t water or sewage. It was almost like we tried building a city out of nothing and it took almost all of our personal resources to make this happen, and everything we had, to make this festival go on.”
The organizers had built two stages and believed they were adequately prepared, but a storm struck on Thursday morning and damaged the tents and water supply. “Guests started to arrive and the most basic function we take for granted in the U.S., we realized, ‘Wow, we can’t do this.’ We were on a rush job to fix everything and guests were arriving and that caused check-in to be delayed. We were overwhelmed and just didn’t have the foresight to solve all these problems.”
Ja Rule was less circumspect Friday. In a statement on Twitter, he said he was “heartbroken,” but also said, “I don’t know how everything went so left, but I’m working to make it right by making sure everyone is refunded … I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT.”
McFarland said the guests will all receive refunds and the vendors will be compensated. “We were a little naïve in thinking for the first time we could do this ourselves,” he said. “Next year, we will definitely start earlier. The reality is, we weren’t experienced enough to keep up.”
So who is Billy McFarland, Ja Rule’s “partner” in the Fyre enterprise that went down in flames? The fact that none of the dozen or so top booking agents contacted by Variety had ever heard of McFarland is an indication that the twentysomething New Yorker was still on his way to making a name.
A native of affluent Short Hills, NJ, who is said to have studied computer engineering at Bucknell, he is described in the media as Ja Rule’s “tech partner.” His claim to fame was creating a black stainless steel credit card, the Magnises, that targeted millennials with what it hoped was Silicon Valley cachet.
In a move that now seems revealing as to McFarland’s MO, the name, he admitted, “is made up, but sounds kind of grand, doesn’t it?” he told the New York Post in July 2014. The $250 per year card, which was supposed to come with privileged perks, has since morphed into what has been described as a party-planning app.
He also created an online ad platform called Spling, that touted Discovery Communications and Universal Pictures as clients. The Fyre pyre may well put an end to his entrepreneurial career. Twitter was bitter: “Wealthy people got scammed. Bummer” was the tenor of much of it.
“It is tough to imagine hundreds of people writing four-figure checks to McFarland and a rapper who peaked in 1999, but here we are,” Esquire chimed in.
“I was a computer programmer, and after computers, the two things I love most are the ocean and, for some reason, rap music,” McFarland wrote in his first-person essay for Rolling Stone, which made him sound more than “a little naïve.”