×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

SXSW: ‘Trial by Fyre Festival’ Talk Parses Worst-Case-Scenario Crisis in Horrifying Detail

A fantastical started-from-the-bottom-now-we-here story was the focus of a standing-room-only talk at South By Southwest titled “Trial by Fyre Festival: My MBA in Crisis Management.”

Dylan Hattem launched his creative agency DS Projects just three months before getting the call he thought would change his life: an opportunity to create all the video and photo content for a major new festival. Unfortunately, that gig involved the ill-fated Fyre Festival, and as he told with A/V-accompaniment, it’s a tale that would give any wouldbe entrepreneur nightmares.

Beginning with the initial phone call, which Hattem thought was going to be the start of his new business (“I thought I finally had a seat at the table,” he said) and going through his experience managing a 35-person production team, armed with literally tons of equipment, he quickly realized a disorganized disaster was unfolding around them — and that he’d be in charge of managing both the immediate issue of getting his team off an island where all their hotels and flights had been cancelled, as well as the longer-term issue of buoying his professional reputation.

Fyre Festival, featuring headliner Ja Rule and acts like Blink-182, Migos and Disclosure, who dropped out in the weeks leading up to the event, was organized by Billy McFarland, who pleaded guilty to misleading his company’s investors. He faces up to 40 years in prison.

The Fyre Festival was billed as an ultra-high-end festival experience, and Hattem — whose work life up until the DS Projects launch was at Complex Media, where he led their programmatic advertising initiatives, which he readily admits is, “the furthest thing from working with creatives” — bought the bait along with the attendees. He recounted how he bought his entire team expensive sunglasses, figuring, “If we’re going to be hanging out with Kylie and Kendall Jenner, we’ll look good doing it.”

Hattem also remembered his experience flying out to the Bahamian island with all of the production gear (“I’m already [at that point] feeling overwhelmed with the mass of equipment we have,” he said), and realizing, slowly, that literally no one was prepared for any sort of high-end experience whatsoever. The first clue? The editing suite set up for the team had no wi-fi… and no electricity.

Unfortunately, Hattem was legally barred from spilling some of the more juicy details of his experience (during a Q&A, when an audience member asked if he was involved in ongoing litigation, Hattem gave a no-comment, virtually the same response he gave when asked if they had video of the actual “festival” itself”) but still the story of the way he pulled his business out of its low point was inspiring and inspired.

A few weeks after the Fyre trip ended — with a chartered plane loaded with the crew’s gear grounded just before takeoff, after all the rest of Hattem’s setbacks, including cancelled hotel rooms, unresponsive producers, and a huge financial investment — he emailed a major festival promoter with the subject line “I Need A W.” He recounted the story to the promoter, who then hired Hattem and brought the business back from the almost-dead.

His main strategy? “Be nice,” Hattem said, simply. “No one [that worked Fyre with me] doesn’t take my calls.” And asked what he does differently now that he’s on the up and up, his response is not a surprise. “Allow flexibility — and understand what the worst-case scenario is.”

More Music

  • Greta Von Fleet - Jake KiszkaGreta

    Greta Van Fleet Put Spotlight on Solos at Asbury Park Tour Stop

    Michigan rockers Greta Van Fleet brought their “March of the Peaceful Army” tour to the Jersey Shore on Saturday night, performing at the legendary Asbury Park venue the Stone Pony’s Summer Stage. The band packed the outdoor venue on a moonlit, summer-seeming night in what staffers said was the series’ fastest-selling concert to date, with [...]

  • Madonna

    Madonna's Madame X Tour Adds New York, Chicago and L.A. Dates

    Madonna has added additional shows to her upcoming Madame X tour. Nine newly booked dates have been announced for New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The Queen of Pop adds five additional New York concerts at the Howard Gilman Opera House, which will take place between Oct. 2 to 7; two extra shows will take [...]

  • Doug Davis and Jodie ShihadehVariety Power

    Jodie Shihadeh Named Partner at The Davis Firm

    Jodie Shihadeh has been named Partner at The Davis Firm, PLLC. She joined the firm in 2011 and rose from associate to Managing Attorney and now partner. She graduated from Boston College and received her law degree from Fordham University School of Law in 2011. While still in law school she interned in the Business [...]

  • ZZ Top, Caesars Entertainment Team on

    ZZ Top, Caesars Team for Jukebox Musical 'Sharp Dressed Man' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees ZZ Top and Caesars Entertainment are developing “Sharp Dressed Man,” a jukebox musical set to open next year in Las Vegas featuring the band’s greatest hits. Members Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard are all serving as executive producers. “Sharp Dressed Man” is described as an “outrageous, [...]

  • Dakota Johnson Tracee Ellis Ross

    Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross Co-Starring in Comedy 'Covers'

    Dakota Johnson and Tracee Ellis Ross will co-star in “Covers,” a comedy set in the music scene in Hollywood. “Late Night” director Nisha Ganatra is helming from a screenplay by Flora Greeson. Focus Features is partnering with Working Title Films on the movie. Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will produce with Alexandra Loewy [...]

  • Academy of Country Music CEO Pete

    Academy of Country Music CEO Pete Fisher Exits; RAC Clark Named Interim Chief

    The CEO of the Academy of Country Music, Pete Fisher, has exited after two and a half years at the helm of the organization behind the annual ACM Awards. RAC Clark, the executive producer of the CBS broadcast, has been named interim executive director, effective immediately. No reason was given for the change at the [...]

  • Lumineers Explore Spiral of Addiction With

    Lumineers Explore Spiral of Addiction With Shocking New Series of Music Videos

    Last month, the Lumineers debuted their raw, emotive new single “Gloria” with an intimate performance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” complete with a living room stage design and vintage home movies looping in the background. The nostalgic, homegrown feel was intentional — an overt nod to their upcoming concept album, “III,” set for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content