fbpx

PROFILE

MY SUBSCRIPTION

LOGOUT

x

The latest industry news to your inbox.

    

I'd like to hear about marketing opportunities

    

I accept IQ Magazine's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

Fyre Fest founder speaks out after prison release

Fyre Festival founder and convicted fraudster Billy McFarland is planning a comeback following his release from prison.

The 30-year-old received a six-year jail term in 2018 and a US$26 million fine for his role in the notorious festival, pleading guilty to defrauding investors and running a fraudulent ticketing scam.

Fans paid between $1,500 and $50,000 to attend the 2017 festival on the island of Grand Exuma in the Bahamas, with the promise of luxury accommodation, gourmet food and music from acts such as Blink-182, Major Lazer, Pusha T and Disclosure.

However, the event spectacularly collapsed on its first day, as ticket-holders arrived to find half-built tents, insufficient food and a dearth of performers upon arrival.

Fyre Festival was immortalised in two documentaries, Hulu’s Fyre Fraud and Netflix’s Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened, which delved into what went on behind the scenes.

Now, in an interview with New York Times following his early release from prison, McFarland suggests his future lies away from music as he attempts to raise the US$26m he owes to the investors he defrauded.

“I lied. I think I was scared. And the fear was letting down people who believed in me – showing them they weren’t right”

“I’d like to do something tech-based,” says the disgraced entrepreneur. “The good thing with tech is that people are so forward-thinking, and they’re more apt at taking risk. If I worked in finance, I think it would be harder to get back. Tech is more open. And the way I failed is totally wrong, but in a certain sense, failure is OK in entrepreneurship.

“I lied,” he adds, discussing his crimes. “I think I was scared. And the fear was letting down people who believed in me – showing them they weren’t right.

“I deserved my sentence. I let a lot of people down.”

And despite being barred from becoming a company director, McFarland does not rule out starting his own firm.

“At the end of the day, I think I could probably create the most value by building some sort of tech product,” he continued. “Whether that’s within a company or by starting my own company, I’m open to both. I’ll probably decide in the next couple of weeks which path to go do.”

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Talent agencies embroiled in Fyre Fest lawsuit

A Fyre Festival trustee has filed a lawsuit against major talent agencies, demanding a return of fees paid to artists they represented to play in the failed event.

Multiple artists were paid to perform at the festival, at which no music was ever played, despite fans paying between $1,500 and $50,000 for tickets. Festival organiser Billy McFarland was later given a six-year prison sentence for fraud and ordered to pay a $23 million fine.

A festival trustee is now attempting to sue Creative Artists Agency (CAA), United Talent Agency (UTA), ICM Partners and Nue Agency for a collective sum of over US$1.75m.

New York’s Nue Agency is facing the greatest amount, with the trustee reportedly asking for the return of $730,000 paid to Pusha T, Desiigner and Tyga.

The lawsuit is also seeking $585,000 from CAA, who represent Fyre headliners Blink-182 in North America, Australia and Mexico. CAA is also reportedly being sued for the fees paid to Claptone, Bedouin (North America) and Lee Burridge (the Americas, Asia, Australia).

CAA, UTA, ICM Partners and Nue Agency are being sued for a collective sum of over $1.75m

The trustee is demanding $350,00 from LA-based ICM Partners for the fees paid to artists Lil Yachty (North America), Migos (North America) and Rae Sremmurd (now CAA), whereas UTA is being asked for the return of $90,000 paid to Skepta (North America).

The same individual has filed lawsuits against models Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski, for the $275,000 and $300,000 they were paid respectively for promoting the festival on Instagram with a “clear lack of good faith”.

Saddleback Cay, the Bahamian island featuring in much of Fyre Festival’s promotional material, has recently been put up for sale at $11.8m.

The trustee is also seeking to void the transfer of $14.4m from the festival to parent company Fyre Media, of which $11m was allegedly transferred to McFarland.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Island of Fyre Festival fame up for sale

Saddleback Cay, the Bahamian island that served as the backdrop for the ill-fated Fyre Festival’s infamous promotional material, has been put up for sale at US$11.8 million.

The 35-acre private island is located in the northernmost section of the Exuma Cays, which contains Great Exuma, the actual setting for the festival.

Saddleback Cay appears in opening of a promotional video for the event, which shows Instagram models and influencers partying in the Bahamas.

Fyre Festival – billed as “the adventure of a lifetime” amid the “beautiful turquoise waters and idyllic beaches” of the Bahamas – spectacularly collapsed on its first day, with festivalgoers arriving on the island to find a half-built festival site and no sign of the luxury accommodation and dining included with their $1,500–$50,000 tickets.

The fallout from the festival and the demise of its fraudulent organiser, has been closely documented, with streaming service Netflix and Hulu each releasing documentaries about the event.

A GoFundMe page, set up for local caterers who were unpaid by organisers, has so far raised $231,754.


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Online fund raises over $100,000 for unpaid Fyre festival staff

The release of a Netflix documentary investigating the fraudulent Fyre Festival has sparked an online campaign to reimburse unpaid Bahamian workers who lost life savings in the Fyre fiasco.

A GoFundMe page set up by local catering staff who received no payment for their work with the festival has raised US$129,606 in just seven days. Almost 4,000 people have donated to the page which has almost met its $123,000 target.

The owners of a local restaurant that catered for Fyre Festival staff set up the page following the airing of a Netflix documentary on Friday. The film raised awareness for the many Bahamian workers left unpaid by organisers of the disastrous festival.

Maryann Rolle, owner of Exuma Point Restaurant Bar and Grill, explains in an interview for the documentary how she lost $50,000 of her life savings due to the festival’s failings.

“My life was changed forever, and my credit was ruined by Fyre Fest”

“It has been an unforgettable experience catering to the organisers of Fyre Festival. Back in April 2017 I pushed myself to the limit catering no less than a 1,000 meals per day,” writes Rolle on the GoFundMe page.

“As I make this plea it’s hard to believe and embarrassing to admit that I was not paid… I was left in a big hole! My life was changed forever, and my credit was ruined by Fyre Fest.”

The online fundraiser has verified the page, which has received the endorsement of the film’s producers.

Festival organiser and “serial fraudster”, Billy McFarland, received a six year prison sentence and US$26 million fine for his role in the festival, defrauding investors, fans and staff alike.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Rival documentaries shed light on Fyre Fest debacle

Almost two years on from the failed event, Fyre Festival and its fraudulent organiser are once again at the forefront of the media. Launched this week, Hulu’s Fyre Fraud and Netflix’s Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened investigate what went on behind the scenes of the infamous festival.

Hulu got the drop on its streaming competitor, releasing Fyre Fraud unannounced on Monday. Hulu’s surprise release came the day Netflix lifted its review embargo, linking the two films in search engine results. Netflix had announced in December that its own Fyre documentary would air today.

Further controversy lies at the heart of the depictions of the ill-fated event. The Hulu documentary criticises its Netflix counterpart for an alleged conflict of interest. Netflix’s film, directed by Chris Smith, is produced in part by Jerry Media and Matte Projects, companies that worked with Fyre Festival organisers to promote the original event.

The streaming giant dismissed the criticism: “We were happy to work with Jerry Media and a number of others on the film. At no time did they, or any others we worked with, request favourable coverage in our film, which would be against our ethics.”

In response, the Netflix director questioned the ethics of a decision by the producers of Hulu’s Fyre Fraud to interview disgraced festival organiser Billy McFarland. The objection lies in the significant remuneration McFarland is believed to have received for his screen time.

“At no time did Jerry Media, or any others we worked with, request favourable coverage in our film, which would be against our ethics”

McFarland received a six year prison sentence and a US$26 million fine for his role in the festival, pleading guilty to defrauding investors and running a fraudulent ticketing scam.

Fans paid between $1,500 and $50,000 to attend the festival billed as “the adventure of a lifetime”, to enjoy luxury accommodation, gourmet food and performances from acts such as Blink-182, Major Lazer, Pusha T and Disclosure. Upon arrival, festivalgoers found half-built tents, insufficient food and a dearth of performers.

A US judge placed Fyre Festival into involuntary bankruptcy in August. Last week, the court issued subpoenas to more than a dozen companies, including major talent agencies Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and International Creative Management (ICM) Partners, in a bid to track down the millions of dollars investors lost through the festival.

CAA and ICM Partners received $250,00 in payments from Fyre Festival, whereas talent agencies Windish Agency and AM Only together received $690,000 for representing acts Major Lazer and Disclosure.

The agencies’ lawyers will have two weeks to respond to the subpoenas, once they are served.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Fyre Festival organiser Billy McFarland jailed for six years

The 26-year-old founder of Fyre Festival has been sentenced to six years in prison for his role in organising and promoting the ill-fated April 2017 event.

Billy McFarland pled guilty in March to defrauding investors out of more than US$26m by misrepresenting the financial health of his company, Fyre Media, by “grossly inflat[ing] the company’s revenue and income”. In June he also pleaded guilty to running a fraudulent ticket scam, through his company NYC VIP Access, that involved selling non-existent tickets to events including Burning Man, Coachella and the 2018 Grammys using Fyre Festival customer data.

McFarland was also charged with one count of bank fraud, for writing a cheque in an employee’s name without authorisation, and making false statements to law enforcement.

Fyre Festival – billed as “the adventure of a lifetime” amid the “beautiful turquoise waters and idyllic beaches” of the island of Grand Exuma, in the Bahamas – spectacularly collapsed on its first day, with festivalgoers arriving on the island to find a half-built festival site and no sign of the luxury accommodation and dining included with their $1,500–$50,000 tickets.

“McFarland found out the hard way that empty promises don’t lead to jet-setting, champagne, and extravagant parties – they lead to federal prison”

McFarland (pictured) co-founded the event with Jeffrey Atkins (Ja Rule)’s Fyre Media company, but “ran the show”, says Atkins, who has denied liability for the disaster and has not been charged.

Sentencing, US district Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald yesterday ordered McFarland to be jailed for six years, followed by three years of supervised release. Buchwald also ordered him to forfeit $26,191,306.28.

Manhattan US attorney Geoffrey Berman comments: “Billy McFarland has shown a disturbing pattern of deception, which resulted in investors and customers losing over $26 million in two separate fraud schemes. As he had previously admitted, Billy McFarland did not deliver on his promises to his investors and customers.

“Today, McFarland found out the hard way that empty promises don’t lead to jet-setting, champagne, and extravagant parties – they lead to federal prison.”

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Ja Rule denies liability for Fyre Fest, blames McFarland

A solicitor for rapper Ja Rule, the co-founder of the infamous Fyre Festival, has told a New York judge his client is not liable for damages over the failings of the event, pointing the finger instead at his former business partner, Billy McFarland.

Rosemary Rivas, representing Matthew Herlihy and Anthony Lauriello, two of the festivalgoers suing Ja Rule (real name Jeffrey Atkins), McFarland and their Fyre Media company, noted in a recent court filing that Atkins “denies all substantive allegations […] and further states that the plaintiffs and the purported class failed to demonstrate that defendant, Atkins, committed fraud, made any misrepresentations, attempted to deceive them and/or is otherwise liable under a legal theory of common law or statutory fraud, misrepresentation, or conspiracy to do the same”.

Atkins’s lawyer, Thomas Herndon, yesterday elaborated on the nature of his client’s denials of culpability, telling judge Kevin Castel that McFarland had “hijacked” his vision for the festival.

“My client got wrapped up in this unintentionally. … His ideas got hijacked by McFarland”

“Billy McFarland ran the show,” said Hendon. “My client got wrapped up in this unintentionally.

“His ideas got hijacked by McFarland.”

The organisers of Fyre Festival – which collapsed on its first day, with festivalgoers arriving on the Bahamian island of Grand Exuma to find a half-built festival site and no sign of the luxury accommodation and dining included with their US$1,500–$50,000 tickets – are currently facing numerous lawsuits from disgruntled festivalgoers, and there have been calls recently for the various class actions to be centralised into one mega-suit.

McFarland, who became the public face of the festival, was arrested in July, charged with operating a “scheme to defraud investors” out of almost $1.2m. He was later released on bail, and is believed to be in plea-bargain negotiations with the US government.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Fyre Festival company placed into bankruptcy

Robert Knuts, a lawyer representing three Fyre Festival investors, has said he is looking forward “to finding out where the money went” after successfully forcing the company behind the doomed event into bankruptcy.

New York judge Martin Glenn placed Fyre Festival LLC into chapter-seven bankruptcy, or liquidation, on Tuesday, following pressure from Knuts’s Sher Tremonte law firm, which is aiming to recoup US$530,000 invested in the disastrous Bahamas festival by John Nemeth, Raul Jimenez and Andrew Newman.

As part of the ruling, Glenn has ordered Fyre Festival LLC to prepare documents showing all monies owed by the company.

Though Knuts represents a group of more than 20 investors (who collectively lent the festival some $4 million), theirs is just one of a number of lawsuits targeting Fyre Festival and its organisers, Billy McFarland, Ja Rule and their company Fyre Media.

Lawyers seek big wins over Fyre Festival woes

McFarland, who became the public face of the festival, was arrested in July, charged with operating a “scheme to defraud investors” out of almost $1.2m. He was later released on bail, and is currently in plea-bargain negotiations with the US government.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Fyre Festival promoter Billy McFarland arrested

Billy McFarland, the CEO of the company behind the ill-fated Fyre Festival, is facing up to 20 years in prison following his arrest for allegedly operating a “scheme to defraud investors” out of approximately US$1.2 million.

Fyre Media founder McFarland – who was, along with rapper Ja Rule (Jeffrey Atkins), the public face of the Bahamian festival, which spectacularly collapsed on its first day on 28 April – has been charged with one count of wire fraud by the US district attorney in Manhattan, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years’ jail time.

The criminal complaint against McFarland follows several private lawsuits aimed at recovering lost funds from the doomed event, including from attendees, suppliers and a ticketing company, and McFarland and Atkins’ being banned from the Bahamas, for which the festival was a PR disaster.

Announcing McFarland’s arrest, a statement from the US attorney’s office for the southern district of New York says the accused “perpetrated a scheme to defraud, inducing at least two individuals to invest approximately $1.2m dollars in Fyre Media and an associated entity based on misrepresentations about Fyre Media’s revenue and income. In order to procure these investments, McFarland provided materially false information.

“For example, McFarland told investors that Fyre Media earned millions of dollars of revenue from thousands of artist bookings from at least July 2016 until April 2017. In reality, during that approximate time period, Fyre Media earned less than $60,000 in revenue from approximately 60 artist bookings.”

“McFarland allegedly presented fake documents to induce investors to put over a million dollars into his company and the fiasco called Fyre Festival”

McFarland is also alleged to have falsified financial documents to mislead investors as to the value of his own investments, making it appear as if he could personally guarantee their investment in Fyre Media. “Specifically, McFarland provided an altered brokerage statement that purported to show that he owned shares of a specific stock worth over $2.5 million, when in reality he owned shares of that stock valued at less than $1,500,” the complaint alleges.

William F. Sweeney Jnr, assistant director in charge of the FBI in New York, comments: “Under McFarland’s direction, Fyre Media created a promoter’s marketplace for entertainment bidding. In addition to this initial business venture, McFarland went one step further in establishing a subsidiary of the company, Fyre Festival LLC. But in order to drive the success of both entities, as alleged, McFarland truly put on a show, misrepresenting the financial status of his businesses in order to rake in lucrative investment deals.

“In the end, the very public failure of the Fyre Festival signalled that something just wasn’t right, as we allege in detail today.”

“As alleged, William McFarland promised a ‘life-changing’ music festival but in actuality delivered a disaster,” adds acting Manhattan US attorney Joon Kim. “McFarland allegedly presented fake documents to induce investors to put over a million dollars into his company and the fiasco called the Fyre Festival. Thanks to the investigative efforts of the FBI, McFarland will now have to answer for his crimes.”

McFarland, who reportedly used a public defender – usually reserved for those who can’t afford to pay for legal representation – was released on $300,000 bail on Saturday morning.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Fyre promoters barred from Bahamas as suits mount

While all who attended last month’s disastrous Fyre Festival in the Bahamas have been offered tickets to next year’s event in lieu of refunds, organisers are increasingly looking like they will be forced to find a new home for 2018.

In the run-up the festival – which has since spawned several lawsuits after collapsing on its chaotic first day – promoters promised “the adventure of a lifetime” amid the “beautiful turquoise waters and idyllic beaches” of the island of Grand Exuma.

Billy McFarland, who established the festival with rapper Ja Rule (Jeffrey Atkins), told The New York Times on 28 April the next instalment would be outside the Bahamas, likely “on a beach in the United States”; now, the Bahamian government has reportedly taken steps to ensure that is the case, barring McFarland and Atkins from repeat business on the islands.

TMZ reports the Bahamas’ ministry of tourism has also introduced a “stricter vetting system” for any future festivals on the islands, and will consult with with promoters multiple times during the planning process to avoid a repeat of the debacle.

The Bahamas’ ministry of tourism has introduced a stricter vetting system for any future festivals on the islands

A source tells the gossip site it would have intervened in Fyre Festival sooner but “didn’t have the authority. It was a private event, so the government couldn’t get involved until guests’ safety became an issue.”

Meanwhile, Rolling Stone reports McFarland and Atkins are now the target of a total of six lawsuits. A North Carolinan couple, Kenneth and Emily Reel, are seeking US$5 million for fraud, misrepresentation and deceptive trade practices, while contractor National Event Services has sued for $250,000 in damages on behalf of its employees on site.

NES staff found “uninhabitable” accommodation, “bloodstained mattresses and no air conditioning”, the complaint alleges, and NES had nowhere to send any patient who may have required emergency care overnight” as the medical centre was closed. The suit also accuses McFarland and Atkins of “falsely misrepresented critical facts” about the festival, including the “capitalisation necessary” to stage the event.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.