Fyre Festival, organized by rapper Ja Rule and entrepreneur Billy McFarland, collapses a day before its inaugural launch. Attendees arrive at Bahamian island Great Exuma to find a tent town in shambles instead of a glamorous getaway. Social media explodes as attendees scramble for the first flight out.
Festival officially canceled. Ja Rule tweets emphasizing it’s not a scam and he’s working to get everyone home safe.
Fyre Festival’s website refitted with extended statement summarizing roadblocks organizers faced, offering a mea culpa and full refunds and announcing Fyre Festival 2018 in the U.S.
Vanity Fair publishes leaked pitch for outside investment into Fyre app. Writer decries influencers involved in campaign for their "deceit."
"Fyre Festival organizers blew money on models, planes, and yachts," according to a Vice story. Kendall Jenner, one of 400 influencers used in the campaign, reported to have pocketed $250,000 for one Instagram post.
McFarland tells employees they will not be paid in short term, according to audio obtained by Vice.
Variety reports McFarland had initiated talks with FTI Consulting for crisis management. More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed against Fyre Festival. At least one names PR firm 42 West and creative/production agency Matte Projects as co-defendants.
The New York Times breaks news that festival is the subject of a criminal investigation by Southern District of New York and FBI.
Hit or miss?
"Let’s just do it and be legends, man" is not a credible strategy. Transparency and ethical concerns are mounting about influencers, with the press increasingly wary.
Lesson #1: Don’t believe your own hype.
Reputations ride on products meeting customer expectations, not social media impressions. Be wary of strategies that rely on the size of an influencer’s following or number of influencers. Ascertain "authenticity" of relationships between brands and influencers.
Lesson #2: Vetting and transparency
Don’t abuse trust, or you’ll bleed fans. Vet jobs. Be transparent. Tag posts. Label promotion.