We’re now two years removed from the infamous Fyre Festival, the most fabulous experience that never was, brought to you by the most significant power duo since Jay-Z and Beyonce. If it wasn’t clear enough we’re talking about entrepreneur Billy McFarland and hip-hop legend, Ja Rule. All jokes aside, these two did an awe-inspiring job promising something that never even existed. I know some skeptics think this was a complete failure all around and these guys were just some fools without a clue, but as much as these guys were in way over their heads, this was a combination of marketing genius and how far production value can take you.
McFarland & Rule knew their target audience, the millennials, just as much as the millennials know themselves. Their marketing campaign had no problem ignoring the older generations that aren’t on social media, because truthfully if you weren’t on social media, you probably wouldn’t care to be at this whole shindig. I believe millennials are smart enough to understand production value to know when money is invested, into whatever they are viewing. If something looks cheap, it’s easily dismissed. The Fyre Festival was a perfect example of how high-production value can replace certificates of authenticity. People used to trust that if money is spent, then there is legitimacy behind it. Low-end production value, like memes and mobile-videos have taken off since, possibly in a psychological retaliation to the polished flood of lies choking the zeitgeist
The Fyre Festival was a music festival that enlisted some serious stars to come and perform. However, it comes off as if Billy wasn’t as interested in selling a music festival, but instead was more interested in getting these rich kids interested in pirate ships and partying in villas; ultimately for the average joe to feel like a rockstar. The Fyre Festival team knew that there are several festivals throughout the year, and to separate themselves from the others, they made it their mission to sell an experience. This experience would be sold to these normies¹ but promises a fantasy weekend of the lavish lifestyle that matches only the most beautiful and coolest people in the world². This was essentially a calculated attack on the millennial culture, who unloads their money on a perceived experience over bona fide material. This isn’t something that was standard of yesteryear when the only way you could prove your “worth” or how cool you were was for people to see what car you drove or the clothes you wore. Now, we live in a world where you can be in London, sharing a drink with Paul McCartney and everyone you know can witness with envy on your Instagram in real time.
So what did Billy McFarland and company do? They paid some of the biggest influencers in the social media sphere to come to the Bahamas where the festival was going to be held and shoot a commercial. This commercial focused on projecting everyone’s dreamland which entailed: drinking on boats, hanging out with models, and walking the beaches with pigs? A commercial that shutterstock made a parody of, commenting on how simple and dumb this whole thing was. Then the promoters had 400+ influencers, actors, musicians and actors post an orange tile on their Instagram at the same time. This was a form of “visual disruption” that separates itself from the sameness that is all over everyone’s social media feeds. This ended up being an absolute stroke of genius, utilizing guerilla marketing.
Now that Fyre Festival had everyone’s attention, they shared the commercial, which became viral instantaneously. This pushed the influencers that weren’t involved, to start begging to be a part of this festival. Mind you, when the promotional material started rolling out it was January, but the Festival was supposed to take place that April. They sold glamorous huts to people for large sums of money that ended up being FEMA tents and porta potties. When they hadn’t raised enough money, they started selling way more expensive villas which, except for a couple, didn’t exist. There are two documentaries out right now streaming that show in great detail how exactly this turned into a disaster and are incredibly entertaining due to absolute lunacy that unfolded.
The Netflix documentary was produced by the same team that promoted the event – FuckJerry, and it paints them in the kindest possible light. A former FuckJerry employee assisted in the Hulu streamer titled FYRE FRAUD. What becomes obvious in viewing both of these tragedies is the extraordinary opportunism that drives each team. Any voice of reason or caution was quickly shunned. One might wonder, had the artist deposits and flights never been cancelled, could this have been rectified? Most likely, no. Even if Third Eye Blind had showed up to play, they’d likely have been enraged by the lack of a viable stage, sound or lighting equipment. Perhaps some of these superstars would have turned a campfire into a magical experience, but we’ll never know.
There is a lot to learn here in regards to conducting a marketing plan to connect a product to consumers. Not everyone has a Fyre Festival in the Bahamas to sell to the public to replicate this, but the unprecedented marketing accomplishment is admirable. I want to think millennials can now turn to this as an example of what and who to trust. It is as much of a commentary on today’s society as it is some bright young minds coming together to create an illusion that they all believed was real. But the most exciting thing about this all is that we live in a world where we are continually looking for reviews for whatever we are purchasing, but in this case, we are looking at a crowd of people who want to be pioneers. These people want to do something amazing that’s never been done before, so for a year, they can say they’re the only ones to have experienced the phenomenon that is the annual Fyre Festival.
¹ normies: Someone who is of zero social importance. Although this “social importance” is paramount to millennials, it has absolutely nothing to do with real value to society.
² the most beautiful and coolest people in the world: In this context, it really just means models, influencers, or any other unimportant group of persons you can add to this motley crew of people millennials look up to for no reason.