The decade in live: 2017
The start of a new year and, perhaps more significantly, a new decade is fast approaching – and while many may be thinking ahead to New Year’s Eve plans and well-meaning 2020 resolutions, IQ is casting its mind back to the most pivotal industry moments of the last ten years.
The memories of a turbulent 2016 were left far behind in 2017, as the concert business enjoyed a record-breaking twelve months, as the year’s gross revenue and number of tickets sold saw 2013 finally knocked off the top spot.
The success of the live business in 2017, however, was somewhat overshadowed by a number of devastating terror attacks, with the Manchester Arena bombing, the shootings at Route 91 Harvest and BPM Festival, the Reina nightclub shooting and other incidents targeting music fans.
In response to the tragedies, the live industry united and made a positive impact, in the form of the One Love Manchester and We are Manchester charity concerts and candlelit vigils and fundraising for victims of the Route 91 Harvest attack.
Elsewhere, the booking agency world continued to consolidate through 2017, with a number of acquisitions, mergers and partnerships while Live Nation welcomed several more promoters, festivals, ticketing agencies and venues to its fast-growing family.
2017 in numbers
The live music business reached new heights in 2017, with the top 100 tours worldwide generating a record US$5.65 billion, up almost 16% from the previous year.
The number of tickets sold throughout the year also saw a notable increase from the year before, climbing 10.4% to 66.8 million, at an average price of almost $4 more per ticket than in 2016, at $84.60.
Eleven tours surpassed the $100m mark in 2017, with U2 topping the year-end charts having generated $316m on their Joshua Tree tour. Guns N’ Roses narrowly missed out on $300m, grossing $292.5m on the Not in this Lifetime tour.
Coldplay came in next, as the band’s A Head Full of Dreams tour made $238m. Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic tour was also successful, grossing just over $200m, whereas Metallica’s WorldWired tour generated $152.8m.
Depeche Mode, Paul McCartney, Ed Sheeran, the Rolling Stones, Garth Brooks and Celine Dion were the other acts whose 2017 tour earnings exceeded $100m.
2017 in brief
A lone gunman attacks New Year’s revellers at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul, resulting in the death of 39 people and injuries to a further 70. Two weeks later, four are killed and 12 injured during a shooting at the BPM Festival in the coastal resort of Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
AM Only and The Windish Agency rebrand as Paradigm Talent Agency, signalling the next phase of their joint ventures, launched in 2012 and 2015, respectively.
Global asset management firm Providence Equity Partners acquires a 70% stake in Sziget Festival and reveals plans to launch eight to ten branded festivals, with James Barton, former president of electronic music for Live Nation, leading the international expansion.
AEG Live finalises negotiations to acquire New York-based promoter/venue operator The Bowery Presents.
Ticketbis, the multinational resale operation acquired by eBay in May 2016, is rebranded as StubHub, bringing to an end the Ticketbis name across Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Live Nation enters the Middle East’s biggest touring market with the acquisition of a majority stake in Bluestone Entertainment, one of Israel’s leading promoters.
Iron Maiden’s decision to use paperless tickets on the UK leg of The Book of Souls arena tour helps reduce the number of tickets appearing on secondary sites by more than 95%, according to promoter Live Nation.
Live Nation acquires a controlling stake in the UK’s Isle of Wight Festival.
The Australian leg of Adele’s Live 2017 tour makes concert history after playing to more than 600,000 people over eight stadium dates.
Sziget Festival 2017 © László Mudra/Rockstar Photographers
In the biggest primary deal so far for the world’s largest secondary ticketing site, StubHub is named the official ticket seller for Rock in Rio 2017.
Creative Artists Agency increases its investment in the Chinese market via a new alliance with private equity firm CMC Capital Partners.
Luxury Ja Rule-backed boutique event, Fyre Festival, descends into chaos on its first day, with visitors to the Bahamas site comparing conditions to a refugee camp.
22 people, including children, lose their lives after a suicide bombing at Manchester Arena, for which Islamic State terror claims responsibility. The attack targets people leaving the 21,000-cap. venue at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.
Pandora Media announces the sale of Ticketfly to Eventbrite. Despite purchasing the company for $450m less than two years ago, it sells for a package worth $200m.
AEG invests in Immortals, one of the world’s leading esports teams, with professional players in the North American League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Super Smash Bros, Overwatch and Vainglory leagues. The team will now play their Los Angeles tournaments and matches at AEG’s LA Live entertainment district.
The organisers of ILMC announce the launch of the Event Safety and Security Summit (E3S), a one-day meeting focusing on security at live events.
The reality of Fyre Festival © Here_Comes_the_Kingz/Reddit
Helsinki-based Fullsteam Agency acquires Rähinä Live, whose roster includes some of Finland’s biggest hip-hop and pop artists.
Oak View Group, which counts Irving Azoff and Tim Leiweke among its founders, completes its acquisition of Pollstar, adding the US-based concert business magazine to its portfolio of trade titles.
Madison Square Garden Company makes a significant move into the esports sector by acquiring a controlling stake in Counter Logic Gaming.
Paradigm Talent Agency acquires Chicago- and California-based agency Monterey International, including its 14 agents and 200 acts.
Live Nation launches in Brazil with former Time for Fun (T4F) chief entertainment officer Alexandre Faria Fernandes at the helm.
Three quarters of staff at Function(x), the online business founded by former SFX Entertainment CEO Robert Sillerman, are effectively laid off, with the company telling investors it lacks the funds to pay them.
A sovereign wealth fund controlled by the government of Saudi Arabia, says it is forming a new SR10 billion ($2.7bn) investment vehicle in a bid to kick-start the kingdom’s entertainment sector.
Music returns to Manchester Arena as a capacity crowd turn out for We are Manchester, a benefit concert that raises funds for a memorial to the victims of the 22nd of May bombing.
The We are Manchester charity concert drew a full-capacity crowd at the 21,000-cap. arena © Showsec
A gunman kills 58 people and injures a further 546 at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas. Local resident Stephen Paddock targeted the concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel.
WME-IMG rebrands as Endeavor, with company assets that include martial- arts promoter, UFC; ad agency, Droga5; Professional Bull Riders; the Miss Universe Organization; Frieze Art Fair; management companies, Dixon Talent and The Wall Group; and joint ventures such as Euroleague Basketball and esports championship ELEAGUE.
Ticketmaster confirms its long-rumoured expansion into Italy. The launch of Ticketmaster Italia, headquartered in Milan, follows the end of the exclusive long-term online partnership in Italy between Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation, and CTS Eventim-owned TicketOne.
After 11 years in East London’s Victoria Park – now exclusive to AEG – Eat Your Own Ears’ Field Day Festival will head to Brockwell Park in South London. Live Nation’s Lovebox and Citadel are also rumoured to be moving to Brockwell Park.
Secondary ticketing websites will, from January 2018, be subject to stringent restrictions on their use of Google AdWords, as the search-engine giant cracks down on ticket resellers’ controversial use of its online advertising platform.
Leading self-service ticketer Eventbrite announces a series of new partnerships, rolling out integrations with events guide The List, festival package provider Festicket, word-of-mouth ticket sales platform Verve, and brand ambassador software Ticketrunner.
Michael Rapino, CEO of Live Nation Entertainment since 2010, will remain in his role until at least 2022 after signing a new five-year contract worth up to $9m per annum. Also re-upping are leading execs Kathy Willard, Michael Rowles and Joe Berchtold.
Primary Talent’s Dave Chumbley (1960-2017) picks up his Platinum Endurance Arthur Award at ILMC 25 © ILMC
Who we lost
Peter Rieger, founder of German promoter Peter Rieger Konzertagentur (PRK); Joseph Rascoff, business manager to the Stones, David Bowie, U2, Sting and more; ILMC’s long-time producer Alia Dann Swift; ShowSec International Ltd founder Mick Upton; Dave Chumbley, Primary Talent International director; Mary Cleary, former booker and tour manager; American singer-songwriter Tom Petty; pioneering concert promoter Shmuel Zemach, founder of Zemach Promotions; Australian country music promoter, agent and artist, Rob Potts; Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington; Reading festival founder Harold Pendelton; Washington, DC, promoter Jack Boyle; Live Nation Belgium booker Marianne Dekimpe; rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry.
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.
Vestiville organisers arrested after Belgian fest chaos
The two organisers of the Vestiville festival are still being held in a Belgian jail, three days after the last-minute cancellation of a chaotic event dubbed, inevitably, ‘Fyre Festival 2.0’.
In their pre-event marketing, promoters of Vestiville – to have been headlined by Cardi B, Future, Asap Rocky and Migos – described the festival as “the new kid on the block” and said it aims to become “the premier hip-hop and urban music experience in Europe”. It was to have taken place in Lommel, near the Dutch border, from Friday 28 to Sunday 30 June, but was shut down by local authorities on the first day over safety concerns.
On Friday, the festival announced it would not go ahead, after the “mayor of Lommel decided not to let Vestiville start. After consultation with the security services and Asap Rocky’s security officer, it was decided that the safety of the artist and the public could not be guaranteed.”
The announcement from organisers followed a tweet from Asap Rocky in which he said he wouldn’t be performing “due to security and infrastructure concerns”. “The promoters told me it would be handled, but, unfortunately for you and me, they didn’t,” he said.
Fans, many of whom had come from abroad to see the largely American line-up, reportedly arrived in Lommel to find an unfinished, under-staffed site a world away from the complete, professional-looking festival build Vestiville trailed on social media.
“I don’t want to have to explain to parents why their child didn’t get home”
Announcing the cancellation of the festival on Friday, Lommel’s mayor, Bob Nijs, said: “I deeply regret this. Nobody wants to make this decision. But the safety [of those attending] the festival cannot be guaranteed. ”
“Together with the security services, we have done everything in recent days to rectify the situation. That did not succeed. […]
“I understand the disappointment of many people. But I don’t want to have to explain tomorrow to parents why their child didn’t get home safely.”
Among the failings, said Nijs, were a lack of emergency exits, non-functioning medical stations and an unfinished stage.
Videos shared on social media purport to show unrest after festivalgoers were ordered by police to leave the site, while others describe being stranded without food or water ahead its evacuation.
— Cristina LJoy 💚 (@CristinaXO_LJoy) June 28, 2019
While fans will be refunded by the event’s ticketing partners, Festicket and Eventbrite (a spokesperson for the latter tells IQ it has “decided to step in and refund all tickets that were bought via Eventbrite, starting today, while we continue to pursue the return of the funds from the organisers”), Vestiville’s organisers, Cambodian-born siblings Ravuth and Aymira Ty, remain in police custody on suspicion of financial fraud and forgery.
The Tys, who are also behind Vestival in the Netherlands, are being investigated by the Limburg public prosecutor for allegedly misrepresenting their financial situation. (Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland was jailed for similar offences.)
“Ravuth and Aymira told everyone that the tickets were almost sold out. That was not true at all,” Marie-Aimée Tournier, 19, who worked for the festival, tells Belgian daily De Morgen. “The festival was a flop.”
“He just wanted to organise a festival”
According to De Morgen, investors allege hundreds of thousands of euros worth of fraud, with mocked-up screenshots over-inflating the company’s earnings used to reassure creditors expecting payment.
According to Tournier, Vestiville’s sole backer was “a rich man from Asia”, who reportedly sponsored the festival for €1m, “but it ends there”.
The Tys’ business partner, UK-born Nik Chawda, is also being held by Belgian police.
In a statement provided to Gazet van Antwerpen, Ravuth Ty’s solicitor, Joke Feyntons, denies the allegations against his client. “He just wanted to organise a festival,” Feyntons says.
Why do festival organisers keep getting it wrong?
Being hailed as “Fyre Festival 2.0”, another festival fell victim to its lack of preparation late last month. Excessive queues, poor sound system and sub-par quality food plagued Australia’s Wine Machine festival throughout the day, and to top it off, an electric thunderstorm plunged the event into chaos.
Of course, you can never control the weather, but festivals of this scale must be prepared with a contingency plan when the heavens open. So, why do organisers keep getting it wrong? And what should they be doing to mitigate such disasters?
Throughout the day, the 11,000 attendees of Australia’s Wine Machine festival were left queuing for hours to be served food and drinks, earning the festival its unofficial name of ‘Line Machine’. In response to complaints about the long queue times, organisers blamed the severe licensing laws recently implemented in New South Wales that restricted people to only buying two drinks at a time. For the long food queues, organisers blamed the shortage of workers after two staff minibuses failed to arrive.
While the new licensing conditions placed upon the festival can’t be avoided, it should have been tackled in the initial planning strategy. Organisers need to understand what restrictions could hold them back and tackle these early on. Using such restrictions as a scapegoat for poor event planning is not acceptable and the organisers should have been prepared for 11,000 attendees wanting to drink at their festival, which was hosted at a winery.
Festivals are becoming more environmentally conscious; a welcome development as a large-scale event can cause great strain on the local environment. However, it should not be at the expense of the guests. Cashless technology is becoming more popular for organisers to speed up efficiency, reduce theft and understand attendee behaviour at events.
Organisers need to understand what restrictions could hold them back and tackle these early on
It must be noted that such technology needs to be properly installed, tested and ultimately offer a real benefit for the festivalgoers. Instead, attendees of Wine Machine were faced with a surcharge on all their card transactions and were not allowed to use a cash alternative.
It’s important that organisers walk before they can run, ensuring that new technology can increase the enjoyment for the attendees rather than cause problems.
Overpromising and underdelivering
Just like Fyre Festival, Wine Machine was unable to deliver on its promises. The promotions across social media for the festival, situated in a winery, promised “the best chardy [chardonnay] ever”, but revellers could not enjoy such claims due to the huge unavailability of Chardonnay at the festival. This is another case of overstated marketing to get people to attend the festival and consequently being unable to live up to the expectations.
Sometimes it’s better to maintain an element of surprise for the festival guests, something that leaves them feeling satisfied. Instead of this, organisers nowadays have a tendency to overpromise in order to sell out and then fail to match those promises.
Social media is a powerful tool to build awareness of an event and extremely effective when generating a conversation among your target audience. A drip-feed strategy that clearly informs festivalgoers about what to expect is the most effective route.
When organising any event, no matter how big or small, safety is the number-one priority for organisers. In the case of Wine Machine, when the weather turned for the worst, there was no clear strategy for evacuating the guests and this caused chaos. Festival attendees were forced into the roads after being prevented from finding shelter inside the winery, with some hiding in disabled toilets to escape the weather.
It’s important that organisers walk before they can run, ensuring that new technology can increase the enjoyment for the attendees rather than cause problems
Furthermore, many guests complained about the treatment they received from security staff during the evacuation, with some citing the aggressive nature from the staff.
It’s important to always be prepared for an evacuation and while it’s no easy feat to move 11,000 people in the pouring rain, it’s not an uncommon occurrence. There needs to be clear instructions for everyone to understand what is going on and where they should go, with accessible transport to take them to a safe place.
Constant communication on social media and throughout the festival – making use of the speakers available – will ensure that the feeling of confusion among attendees is drastically reduced. A calm evacuation is vital for a successful evacuation.
The Fyre Festival documentary brought to life the disastrous consequences of poor organisation and execution, and event organisers are now under more pressure than ever before to make sure that they provide their attendees with the best possible experience. Social media has exposed some of the festival failures and left planners with no place to hide.
Always be prepared for every eventuality, ensuring that you have control of everything you can to give you the capacity to react effectively to what you cannot control. Have a back-up plan, provide clear instructions at every stage and have high-quality safety procedures in place. Take care to deliver on your promises to ensure that your attendees have the most enjoyable time and are not left feeling disappointed.
If these simple processes are followed and executed well, there should be no excuse for a poor festival experience.
Richard Dodgson is founder and creative director of Timebased Events.
Kaaboo Cayman: the Caribbean festival putting out the Fyre
The sold-out, inaugural Kaaboo Cayman took place from 15 to 16 February on Seven Mile beach, Grand Cayman, featuring performances from the Chainsmokers and Duran Duran.
The Caribbean festival hosted 10,000 people over two days of music, comedy and culinary experiences, overcoming obstacles posed following the well-publicised failure of the Bahamas-based Fyre Festival.
The Chainsmokers, Maren Morris and Flo Rida headlined the opening night, with Duran Duran, Jason Derulo, Shaggy, Blondie and Zedd performing on the Saturday. Stand-up comedy performances came from Darell Hammond, Kevin Nealon and Wanda Sykes over the weekend.
Jason Felts, chief executive of Virgin Produced and chief brand officer of Kaaboo Cayman, estimates the economic impact of the festival to be between US$15 to $20 million for the Cayman Islands.
“If we failed here in the Cayman Islands, it would hurt the industry overall, and so we were over-prepared so as to help the industry thrive on the whole”
Kaaboo teamed up with Richard Branson’s Virgin brand, which oversaw artist programming and procurement, and sponsors including Dart Enterprises, Digicel and BritCay.
Felts says it was “challenging” to regain the trust of the consumer and to convince both festivalgoers and industry figures that Kaaboo Cayman would not become another Fyre Festival.
“If we failed here in the Cayman Islands, it would hurt the industry overall, and so we were over-prepared so as to help the industry thrive on the whole,” says Felts. “As you look over our site, you can see the infrastructure is incredible.”
“There is no FEMA tent. I challenge you to find a cheese sandwich,” he adds.
The team is now planning for Kaaboo Cayman 2020, as well as the first Kaaboo Texas, which will take place in May this year at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The fifth annual Kaaboo Del Mar kicks off in San Diego in September.
All of my senses had a treat this weekend at @KAABOOCayman – saw some amazing chefs demonstrating; laughed along to some comedy and watched some brilliant bands https://t.co/zm7pPQYoub pic.twitter.com/vS6FbHMU3L
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) February 18, 2019
Fyre Festival: lessons learnt and myths debunked
The launch of two Fyre Festival documentaries earlier this month must have been the highlight of many event professionals’ week, or even year. Online streaming platforms Hulu and Netflix released separate documentaries revisiting the disastrous Bahamas-based Fyre Festival, and they have been the talk of the town ever since.
Aside from lashings of schadenfreude and a huge amount of empathy for those who lost money and livelihoods, a few things emerged from Netflix’s Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened and Hulu’s Fyre Fraud that are important to set straight.
True: Social media, influencers and brands can make or break an event
Get these three things right and the world is your oyster. The fact that Fyre sold out instantly was an incredible testament to the care taken by agencies surrounding the brand and design, as well as the power of social media and influencers. But the terrible fact was that this marketing was not based on reality.
While a set of supermodels sold the event, a simple tweet broke the horror story to the world: that pitiful, sweaty cheese sandwich. So, please be careful – the terrible experience of one customer can make global headlines in seconds.
Future launches of festivals and events will reveal whether consumer trust in new brands “selling the dream” has been broken, or at least whether fans will require more substantiation before deciding to part with their cash.
False: You can’t use cashless wristbands if there is no wifi
Thankfully, the Tappit team had no involvement with Fyre Festival. However, what we do know is that our solution does not require wifi to operate. Reporting and analytics by events organisers might be marginally slower as a result, but a lack of wifi does not cause a problem with regards to implementation. Even on a far-flung island – which Pablo Escobar may or may not have owned – you can integrate the Tappit solution seamlessly.
The fact that Fyre sold out instantly was an incredible testament to the care taken by agencies surrounding the brand and design
True: Going cashless is the future of events
Fyre correctly tapped into a major trend for customers and event owners alike: going cashless is the future. Cash is used in less than 1% of transactions in Sweden — and Tappit’s recent global survey of 800 festivalgoers found that 73% prefer being cashless at festivals.
For organisers, too, there are huge benefits to going cashless. Valuable data and insights are gained, helping organisers to understand their fanbase and target their marketing. Profits increase due to faster transactions, increased spending and a reduction in administrative costs and, of course, theft and fraud are virtually eliminated. Sadly, in the case of Fyre Festival, no one benefited at all.
True and false: The fans’ money was at risk on the wristband
One of the benefits of going cashless as an event organiser is to understand how much people are willing to spend at your event. This, in turn, gives greater insight into how to create a memorable experience and provide the products that customers want to buy.
At Fyre, from what it seems the fans did lose their money. However, this is an issue wherever and whenever people buy something long distance. Whether it is a gift card or a holiday, if a retailer goes bankrupt before the customer receives the goods, then their money is at risk.
If event organisers choose to work with Tappit, our dedicated account management team helps them to create the right solution for their audience. We work together to ascertain whether keeping funds in escrow or ensuring the transactions are stored on our partner’s merchant account is the best way to reassure customers or aid cash flow.
Being honest with fans might not have saved Fyre Festival, but it certainly would not have created a global story that provided enough content for two full-length documentaries
True: Honesty and timely communication make a difference
When things turned sour for Fyre, they went downhill quickly. Yet, as many people mentioned in the documentary, simple and fast communication might have made a difference. Being honest with fans might not have saved Fyre Festival, but it certainly would not have created a global story that provided enough content for two full-length documentaries.
So, while everyone is discussing Fyre around the water cooler for the next few weeks, please think about what you can learn and what you can do to ensure that your event is making the headlines for the right reasons.
Jenni Young is chief marketing officer of Tappit.
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.
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.
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.”