FYRE Failure

Anybody else out there watching these FYRE Festival documentaries?!


Almost immediately I lost count of how many times I said “WTF.” The hubris of Billy McFarland and many members of his team is astonishing. It’s never a good sign when the all of the people asking very logical, essential questions meant to improve an event are told to leave because they aren’t “solutions people.”

There are a handful of redeemable characters in this saga -- those who tried to right the ship, but to no avail. They give us a few nuggets of useful wisdom to keep in mind when working on events.

Keith van der Linde, a pilot who got thrown into the planning mix for Fyre Festival simply because he knew the layout of the island, summed up the essence of an event producer’s job more succinctly than anyone I’ve ever heard before, “Instead of thinking about models, I have to think about toilets.”

Be glad that there are those of us who think about event logistics in this way, as opposed to the glitz and the glam of the party atmosphere.

It’s interesting to listen to everyone reflect on how, despite all the warnings and failures along the way, there were still so many bizarro reasons why this festival was allowed to plow ahead and defraud hundreds (thousands?) of people.

Let’s talk about Red Flags, shall we?

1. Lack of detail: Repeated stock photos? Vague details? Deleting social media questions and negative feedback? That’s a problem. I know that I often am TOO wordy, or provide TOO much information up front, but anticipating people’s questions and trying to provide information up front gives me and hopefully my clients peace of mind. People like Billy McFarland, who appear to be making money but never actually DO anything always throw me for a loop. How? Where is this money from? WHAT IS YOUR WORK?

2. Environmental Impact: How does an event affect the community in which it’s hosted? NPR and other outlets shed light on what happens to giant stadiums and other temporary facilities that were built for the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in Brazil and other countries. Events that don’t take into account their environmental footprint are not viable in the long-term.

Abandoned kayak facility in Greece

Abandoned kayak facility in Greece

Locally, we’re fortunate that organizers care about this.

Since the beginning, the annual Mines of Spain Trail Races adopted a “leave no trace” mentality. They avoid imported mass-produced shirts or trophies that runners don’t need, and instead opt for handmade awards from found materials. All the food and beer is sourced locally, and one year the “participation medals” were made from upcycled ribbon and wildflower seed bombs. The focus is on providing a quality experience for runners and spectators, instead of wasting money on useless SWAG.

Being a good steward of the environment does take a little more thought and energy, but is worth it. As long as you plan enough, you really can pull off anything.

Everybody wins with these “Participation Medals.” Even Mother Nature!

Everybody wins with these “Participation Medals.” Even Mother Nature!

3. Timing. For people who don’t regularly put on events, allotting ample time for planning and executing is one of the hardest things to get a handle on. It’s hard to explain to someone that yes, it does in fact take hours, or even days, to set up for events. And I’m not talking about decorating. Permits, food prep, seating, stage/lights/sound equipment, etc., can all take months to coordinate. As an event attendee, you just show up the day of and get to see the final product. If everyone’s done their job, everything should just flow without interruption, like dominoes.

Andy King, one of the poor event producers who put his own career on the line for the FYRE Festival, put this in perspective. “To do a proper music festival, I would say you should try to start the design and fundraising and everything at least 12 months out. The true core team that came in literally had 6-8 weeks to build this thing and put it together.”

This helps explain why the entire festival was a shit show. The people who were saying there wasn’t enough time to pull it off weren’t being naysayers just to be difficult. They know from experience that time matters.

I could go on, but even just paying a little attention to these three things will make your event WILDLY successful compared to the FYRE Failure. Your team matters, as does your willingness to listen to their honest assessment of your expectations. Professionals exist for a reason. Let them do their jobs.


I HIGHLY recommend checking out the FYRE documentaries on Netflix or Hulu. Let me know what you think. In the meantime I’ll just be over here hate-watching Gossip Girl.