The Fyre Festival was promoted as once-in-a-lifetime musical experience on a private, Bahamian island with gourmet food and luxurious, modern accommodations. It was promoted on social media using GenX ‘influencers’ like model Kendall Jenner. And it became a cautionary tale for the event planning and marketing industry.

Fyre Festival ended up more like Lord of the Flies. It was a stunning example of how cool Instagram photos can promise unrealistic expectations, and how an event can fail spectacularly without proper planning.  Currently, Fyre Festival is facing a 100 million dollar lawsuit accusing organizers of defrauding ticket buyers. The organizers are also under criminal investigation by state and federal authorities on fraud charges. Here’s why:

  • The event immediately experienced logistics challenges when a hurricane forced flights to the island to be canceled or delayed. This stranded attendees and delayed musicians arriving for the event. The few guests who did make it to the island were met with a stunning lack of facilities and guest management (as in, there was none).
  • The ‘gourmet food’ guests were promised ended up being cheese sandwiches served in Styrofoam containers. Dining accommodations were banquet tables and chairs under a party tent, making it more like a campus party than the ‘culinary experience’ promoted on social media.
  • Accommodations also disappointed attendees. Instead of the luxury ‘pods’ promoted online, the pods were regular camping tents, many of which had not even been set up.
  • There was also no running water on the island, putting guests’ basic health and safety at risk.

Social media exploded with accounts of guests’ experiences, which went viral quickly. The event, meant to compete with music festivals like Coachella, instead became a punchline and a cautionary tale. An inside source claims event organizers plans were backward from the beginning. Promoters got caught up in the concept and promotion but paid little attention to the details and expense of planning the actual event.

“The traditional way of promoting a festival is: Find a great site, make sure it works, select talent, start marketing, put tickets on sale. They took this method and did it the exact opposite way.”

According to a statement after the festival, organizers defended themselves as being forced to deal with events beyond their control:

“The physical infrastructure (of the island) was not in place on time, and we are unable to fulfill  that vision safely and enjoyable for our guests.”

It’s natural to promise your guests the best experience, but if you don’t meet the expectations you promoted, or worse, put their safety at risk, you will have angry guests and a PR nightmare to manage after the fact.

The lesson is: if you’re planning an event or marketing one, consult with experts. There are multitudes of important ‘threads’ that must be pulled together and managed for any event, large or small. There are also a number of contingency plans you must consider for when and if things go wrong (and they almost always do.)

You hire an expert to do your taxes, handle legal matters, and fix your car. Why leave your event to chance, thinking it can be organized and managed by just ‘anyone’?