If you spend a lot of time on social media, then you've probably heard about music and culture event Fyre Festival — the exclusive Bahamas getaway all the pretty people were headed to this week. If Coachella was for the plebs, Fyre Festival was supposedly for the truly cool.
And because the festival is for the truly cool, you can charge thousands of dollars for it. After all, getting pretty people to shill for products of questionable effectiveness is a hallmark of the influencer industry. So it's understandable why the people behind Fyre Festival (A.K.A. Ja Rule) would charge a minimum of $1,500?
If you haven't been living under a rock, you probably have an idea of what happened next: The festival, billed as a luxury getaway, just about imploded on all fronts, with musicians pulling out, laughably bad food, lack of accommodations, and so on.
Fortunately (or unfortunately if you're Fyre Festival), now everyone knows about the disaster because a bunch of social media-savvy people who paid a lot of money for something that turned out to be a disaster ended up ... posting about it on social media for us all to enjoy. And in the process confirmed everyone's worst assumptions about social media influencers.
For a first-time festival, Fyre had plenty of media and social media buzz — much of it centered around the influencer blitz.
"Hey quick question: What's Fyre Festival, and why are all the models in the Bahamas promoting it?" asked Fashionista back in December. "And most importantly, will it be lit?" the subhead added.
"Can a critical mass of Victoria's Secret Models and a Hadid give Bahamas tourism an Insta-boost?" asked Vanity Fair.
Hell, even Kendall Jenner was involved.
If influencers have turned social media platforms into a gigantic version of high school (complete with the social stratifications), Fyre Festival seemed to represent a chance to hang with the cool kids and get a taste of their life — for a price. Many packages included chartered airfare and "glamping" accommodations. There was even a $400,000 package that offered a house on the "VIP island" that included "dinner with a performer."
It's an attractive offer to people who follow Instagram stars and imagine the lives behind their sunset-on-the-beach photographs.
Think: less music festival, more a millennial version of those fantasy rock-and-roll camps.
Turns out, it's pretty hard putting on a gigantic event with tons of moving parts.
Problems were already apparent in the weeks leading up to the event: Deadlines missed for paying artists, confusion spread about travel logistics. The event's cofounders even had to seek outside investments to pay for costs, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
Perhaps even more interesting? Fyre came right after Coachella, among the biggest and most successful U.S. music festivals. People who bought Fyre packages conceivably picked it over Coachella, which had a better lineup of acts and, you know, the promise that it would actually happen.
The promotion worked and the festival was sold out of general admission tickets. Bad press somehow wasn't able to overcome bikini-clad models on boats.
Meanwhile, Fyre organizer Ja Rule was speaking at SXSW on a panel about authenticity in advertising. You honestly can't make this stuff up.
Fyre Festival ended like it began — as a social media firestorm, though not the way its organizers intended.
By Friday morning, the schadenfreude was in full swing. Twitter, Instagram, even Reddit were filled with horror stories. The organizers cancelled the festival, and transportation was a mess. There wasn't even beer.
This tweet of food, allegedly from the festival, summed up much of it.
Are we all going a little overboard in our enjoyment of this disaster? Yes, but not without reason. Fyre Festival brought together so much of what many people find disgusting about social media influence — crass materialism, braggadocious vanity, empty aspirations — and packaged them into a single event. Then, it confirmed our assumptions that the entire scene is fake.
When a bunch of pretty people pay big bucks to discover that fact we all already know — social media is intensely staged — it's hard not to laugh, particularly when entire thing was then roasted by the same social media platforms that made this possible in the first place.
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