That news brings little solace to Fyre Fest attendees who traveled to the Caribbean island paradise hoping to party at the Instagram tastemaker VIP event only to find themselves stuck on a half-built festival site with lackluster food, unfinished overnight accommodations, a cancellation by headliner Blink-182 and hours spent trying to escape the island at the tiny Exuma International Airport.
The cancellation is a blow to Fyre Festival organizers and raises serious doubts about the organization and planning for the lavish two-weekend festival. Headlined by the G.O.O.D. Music crew, including Tyga, Desiigner and Pusha T, Fyre Festival was announced with a buzzy Instagram video that showed models Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin and Emily Ratajkowski sailing on a yacht and swimming off the waters of the tropical festival site, luring in fans spending thousands of dollars on the promise of private beaches, pirate cays and six-figure accommodations.
Now that most fans have made it back home, festival co-owners Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule have released the following statement to Billboard, telling their side of the disastrous story and promising fans refunds for the thousands of dollars many spent on tickets.
Billy McFarland and Ja Rule started a partnership over a mutual interest in technology, the ocean, and rap music. This unique combination of interests led them to the idea that, through their combined passions, they could create a new type of music festival and experience on a remote island.
They simply weren’t ready for what happened next, or how big this thing would get. They started by making a website and launching a viral campaign. Ja helped book talent, and they had hundreds of local Bahamians join in the effort. Suddenly, they found themselves transforming a small island and trying to build a festival. Thousands of people wanted to come. They were excited, but then the roadblocks started popping up.
As amazing as the islands are, the infrastructure for a festival of this magnitude needed to be built from the ground up. So, we decided to literally attempt to build a city. We set up water and waste management, brought an ambulance from New York, and chartered 737 planes to shuttle our guests via 12 flights a day from Miami. We thought we were ready, but then everyone arrived.
The team was overwhelmed. The airport was jam packed. The buses couldn’t handle the load. And the wind from rough weather took down half of the tents on the morning our guests were scheduled to arrive. This is an unacceptable guest experience and the Fyre team takes full responsibility for the issues that occurred.
Everyone was very concerned for our guests. They needed a place to sleep and everyone did their absolute best to rebuild. We took everyone to the beach and built as many tents and beds as fast as possible, but as more guests arrived, we were simply in over our heads. Ultimately, we didn’t think security could keep up, so we had to postpone the festival. The response to the postponement was immediate and intense. We had no other options this morning, so we began the process of getting guests quickly and safely back to Miami, which continues now. Our top priority as a company is to ensure the comfort and safe return home of all of our guests.
Then something amazing happened: venues, bands, and people started contacting us and said they’d do anything to make this festival a reality and how they wanted to help. The support from the musical community has been overwhelming and we couldn’t be more humbled or inspired by this experience. People were rooting for us after the worst day we’ve ever had as a company. After speaking with our potential partners, we have decided to add more seasoned event experts to the 2018 Fyre Festival, which will take place at a United States beach venue.
All festival goers this year will be refunded in full. We will be working on refunds over the next few days and will be in touch directly with guests with more details. Also, all guests from this year will have free VIP passes to next year’s festival.
We’re grateful for the Bahamian Government and The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism for their assistance during this challenging time—their efforts have been exemplary. We want to thank the people of the Bahamas for their support and for graciously allowing us the privilege of visiting their islands. We apologize for any inconvenience the past 24-hours has caused and we look forward to making a considerable donation to the Bahamas Red Cross Society as part of our initiatives. We need to make this right. And once we make this right, then we will put on the dream festival we sought to have since the inception of Fyre.
Thank you for all your continued patience and understanding. We apologize for what all of our guests and staff went through over the last 24 hours and will work tirelessly to make this right. Please check our official social media channels (@fyrefestival) for further important updates.
From Billy and the Fyre Festival Team"
|Cindy Ord/Getty Images|
UPDATED: Fyre Festival Cancelled, Stranded Attendees Label it a Scam
After tapping a handful of Insta-models, such as Emily Ratajkowski, Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Elsa Hosk, to promote Fyre Festival on Instagram in December 2016, the music festival in Exumas, Bahamas is being labelled a “hoax” and a “scam." According to reports, organizers left festival-goers stranded at the Miami and Exumas airports and failed to provide other accommodations as promised in its pricey weekend packages before cancelling the festival in its entirety after guests arrived on Thursday evening.
Set to take place on a remote island in the Exumas on Fyre Cay, Fyre Fest was the brainchild of rapper Ja Rule and entrepreneur Billy McFarland. But the event - scheduled to make its official debut on Friday and for which tickets cost between $1,500 and $250,000 – got off to a rough start as soon as guests began to arrive.
The festival grounds were littered with barely-erected, unfurnished tents and piles of trash. The gourmet meals that festival-goers were promised consisted of sad-looking cheese sandwiches. (Starr Catering Group, the company originally contracted to cater the festival, has since confirmed that the parties terminated their contract for the festival on April 2, 2017). The guests' luggage was thrown from the back of a truck onto the ground, and security was nowhere to be found when attendees began engaging in verbal and physical confrontations.
Blink-182 announced that its members were pulling out of the festival, telling fans on Twitter that they were worried that festival organizers would not be able to provide the production needed for their performance. This is just the latest blow in a series of setbacks for the festival, which was supposed to last for two weekends, and be headlined by musicians from from G.O.O.D. Music, including Tyga, Desiigner and Pusha T.
A First-Hand Account
According to one festival-goer's account: So, Fyre Festival was a complete scam. We arrived at Exuma International Airport and were told to get on buses if we are staying on site. So, Megan, Tobi and I get on our bus to go to what we think will be the ultimate glamping experience - king sized beds, solar powered lightbulbs, furniture, etc. What actually happened is that we go to a semi-constructed tent, a tiny stage and a huge line of very worried looking people who needed to check in to find their bags.
Unfortunately, they did not let us pick up our bags at the airport as we were told they would be waiting for us in our tents. That was a lie and it took us from 6:30 to 9:45pm to get our luggage back. Aside from this, the tents weren't even built yet, so of course there was not furniture inside (as promised). I spoke to a woman who had paid 10k for a VIP Villa Package - she was promised an exclusive villa, VIP access, and an upgraded culinary experience - instead she got a partially constructed tent and all of the stuff she put inside it was stolen.
Every single staff member had no idea what was going on which meant that all information we were told was wrong or contradicted what we had been told before. I didn't see any food but there were people going around encouraging people to drink. Obviously right off the bat we tried to leave but since it took us almost 4 hours to find our bags, we were stuck there and then lost the staff member who promised us a full refund as he (rather conveniently) did not pick up the phone.
So, now we are at Exumas International Airport waiting for a flight to Miami to arrive that was supposed to be here 2 hours ago. All of the flights from Miami to Exumas have been cancelled due to the deception, and the ones that are coming to Exumas from Miami have been labeled "rescue missions."
An article earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal stated that as of late March, Fyre's "organizers missed a series of deadlines to make advance payments to performers. Last week, some artists still hadn’t been paid what they were owed based on the terms of their contracts, according to people familiar with the matter, but the event’s promoters in recent days made progress in catching up with payments, and in some cases have paid acts in full."
The publication also reported that fans who had purchased VIP ticket packages, including airfare to and from the festival, were "nervous as the festival’s 'concierge' team has been slow to provide them with logistical details."
A source told Page Six, “It feels like [the event's organizers] have good intentions, but are out of their league … Several companies bailed on working with them because they were very disorganized. They don’t return calls.”
According to a statement provided by Fyre Festival on Thursday evening, "Due to over capacity on the island, we need to cancel all existing flights to ensure the safety of our guests. Fyre will reach out to every passenger individually to sort out details."
Refunds and Potential Class Actions
As for what festival-goers can expect in terms of a refund, the Fyre Festival website states, "All sales are final. There are no refunds." However, according to those in attendance, Fyre organizers were having guests write down their names and contact information for refund purposes.
Nonetheless, Reddit posts and tweets began circulating amongst festival-goers on Thursday evening regarding a potential class action lawsuit, which will almost inevitably be filed against the festival's organizers if they refuse to issue refunds to ticket holders. Others have stated they plan to contact their banks and credit card companies to initiate charge back procedures.
Despite Fyre Fest's "no refunds" policy, chances are, ticket holders might be able to get their money back. That is the industry norm, at least. Ticketmaster's policy, for instance, states: "If you bought tickets online or over the phone, you won’t need to do a thing. We’ll let you know the event is canceled and automatically refund your order (except UPS fees) to the same card used for purchase. Your refund should hit your account within 10 business days after we learn the event is canceled."
StubHub observes a similar policy: "If an event is cancelled and not rescheduled, we will provide you with a full refund (including any fees and shipping/handling charges). We will notify you that the event was cancelled and provide instructions on how to obtain the refund."
The process of collecting such refunds will almost certainly not be as seamless as if you were dealing with an established (and reputable) entity, such as TicketMaster, though. Moreover, this assumes that Fyre's promoters have the money.
The event's organizers very well may be unable to refund ticket purchases. That is exactly what happened in August 2010 when a Bret Michaels show in Syracuse, New York was cancelled. In that case, the promoter failed to make the advance payments it owed Michaels under his contract, and so, Michaels refused to perform.
It took seven months and action by New York's Attorney General before at least 100 ticket buyers stood to receive refunds. And even then, it was not guaranteed given the financial state of the promoter.
However, according to our sources, ticket holders that cancelled prior to the event have, in fact, been refunded.
UPDATED (4/28/2017): Fyre Festival has since provided a statement by way of its Instagram, which reads:
CURRENTLY ON GREAT EXUMA We are working to comfortably accommodate guests and deliver a great experience. If you have needs, please head to the "BLUE HOUSE" on the main festival site. Security, first aid, and Fyre Festival staff are here to assist immediately, 24/7.
FOR THOSE WITH PENDING TRAVEL TO THE EXUMAS TOMORROW Due to circumstances beyond our control, and in line with a culture of safety, all inbound charter flights to the Exumas have been canceled. Your ticket and any funds uploaded to your RFID band will be refunded. Thank you for bearing with us as we work through the growing pains that every first year event experiences. Revised itinerary information will be shared soon for the remainder of this weekend and weekend two.
Fyre Festival Organizers Apologize for 'Unacceptable' Experience, Promise Refunds: What Went Wrong
Fyre Festival organizers issued a lengthy apology on Saturday, April 29, to the fans who attended the disastrous, unorganized music event in the Bahamas, which was touted as a "once-in-a-lifetime musical experience."
As previously reported, festival goers shelled out up to $12,780 and traveled to the Caribbean to enjoy what was supposed to be a luxury weekend, only to find themselves surrounded by mass disorganization, bland food and a half-built festival site. Many attendees spent hours trying to leave the island of Exumas at a small local airport on Thursday, April 27, after headliner Blink-182 canceled their scheduled gig. Some people even compared the hectic scene to The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies.
"Yesterday was a very challenging day for all of us. But we would like to fully explain what happened," Fyre Festival organizers said in a statement on the event's website on Saturday morning.
Festival cofounders Billy McFarland and Ja Rule "simply weren't ready for what happened next, or how big this thing would get," the statement continued. "As amazing as the islands are, the infrastructure for a festival of this magnitude needed to be built from the ground up. So, we decided to literally attempt to build a city. We set up water and waste management, brought an ambulance from New York, and chartered 737 planes to shuttle our guests via 12 flights a day from Miami. We thought we were ready, but then everyone arrived."
The coordinators said the team behind the festival "was overwhelmed" and blamed the "wind from rough weather" for the collapsed tents across the site. "This is an unacceptable guest experience and the Fyre team takes full responsibility for the issues that occurred," they wrote. "Everyone was very concerned for our guests. They needed a place to sleep and everyone did their absolute best to rebuild. We took everyone to the beach and built as many tents and beds as fast as possible, but as more guests arrived, we were simply in over our heads."
The organizers postponed the festival and sent thousands of disappointed attendees home. To make up for the failed experience, the Fyre team plans to host the festival "at a United States beach venue" in 2018 with the help of "more seasoned event experts," according to Saturday's statement.
"All festival goers this year will be refunded in full," the statement continued. "We will be working on refunds over the next few days and will be in touch directly with guests with more details. Also, all guests from this year will have free VIP passes to next year's festival. ... We need to make this right. And once we make this right, then we will put on the dream festival we sought to have since the inception of Fyre."
The organizers concluded, "Thank you all for your continued patience and understanding. We apologize for what all of our guests and staff went through over the last 24 hours and will work tirelessly to make this right. Please check our official social media channels (@fyrefestival) for further important updates."