Over the last couple weeks, two documentaries have detailed the ill-fated Fyre Festival event: a music festival hosted by entrepreneur Billy Mcfarland and rapper Ja Rule in the Bahamas. Guests were promised a luxurious island experience, with beautiful outdoor cabanas, private suites, and top-notch musical acts. Some attendees paid up to $12,000 for tickets to the event, where they expected to mingle with models and celebrity influencers against a backdrop of white sand and clear waters.
Instead, the opposite happened. The island was barren and isolated, no musical acts came to perform, there were no cabanas or high-end cuisine, and soaked mattresses loitered the floor. The event started off with a modest and grand vision, but simply wasn’t executed accurately or on time. However, Fyre Festival provides several important lessons that any business can learn when they’re hosting events on their own. Here are a few:
Plan Ahead of Time
Proper event management is a must. With any event, early preparation is necessary to achieve success. There’s a reason why business conferences are planned 1.5-2 years in advance; same for weddings. Organizing vendors, arranging speakers, booking venues, and much more all take weeks at a time. Fyre Festival organizers failed to create a timeline that was realistic. Furthermore, they failed to heed the advice of others who warned organizers that they were working towards idealistic and impossible goals.
“Festival vendors weren’t in place, no stage had been rented, transportation had not been arranged,” said. Chloe Gordon, a talent producer who was hired to handle planning and logistics. Gordon had been led to believe the team was much further ahead in planning than they actually were.
“If Fyre Festival seemed last-minute, that’s because it was,” additional sources told Vice. “McFarland thought of the idea in October 2016 and announced the festival on Instagram a month later, spending millions on models, private jets, and yachts to promote what would be his first-ever large-scale event.”
When working on an event, it’s crucial to be realistic about your timeline. Hire organizers who are efficient and have a portfolio of successfully planned events—and most importantly, heed their advice when they tell you something isn’t going to work out.
Build a Proper Infrastructure
One of the biggest reasons Fyre Festival failed dramatically was that they were unable to create a proper infrastructure on the island. There were simply not enough toilets or running water to accommodate the hundreds of people who had flooded in. “Any time you’re putting on an event, it’s crucial to that you have the infrastructure in place to suit it,” says Fix It Right, plumbers in Geelong. “All plumbing needs to be checked several weeks ahead of the event to ensure everything is in working order in preparation for that event.”
In this case, event organizers failed to do this. The cost of sending toilets and showers to the Bahamas for just the weekend was nearly $400,000. Ultimately, the organizers couldn’t afford to set up bathrooms and build facilities; instead they arranged port-a-potties, and had just three showers available for hundreds of guests. The lack of running water, toilets, and showers wasn’t the only infrastructure issue; there was also no electricity or WiFi available, as was guaranteed, leaving many people stranded without a way to reach their friends and family.
Raise Your Money First
Another major reason Fyre Festival failed was that they didn’t have enough capital. For starters, money that they did have was squandered early on. The team spent over $1.5 million on influencer marketing alone, and had no solid system in place to follow metrics or analyze the ROI they received from their extensive influencer marketing campaign. However, even if they didn’t spend a dime on paying influencers, they will would have come up astronomically short. Potential investors warned Mcfarland that an event of his caliber would cost upwards of $15 million, yet Mcfarland believed he could achieve it for much cheaper. In reality, it would have costs nearly double that.
Always raise your money far in advance, and accommodate for unexpected changes. Penny pinching a major event is never a good idea; accidents and last minute changes are common in the event space. Start approaching investors early on, and get an accurate valuation of your company. McFarland nearly raised $90 million from Comcast Ventures, but lost it merely because he failed to accurately prove what his company was worth.