Fact Check

Luxury 'Fyre' Music Festival in the Bahamas Descends Into Chaos?

Amid reports of stranded attendees and no refunds, some are hinting that the entire festival was a scam.

Published Apr 28, 2017

Image Via Twitter
The Fyre Festival was oversold and rapidly descended into chaos, leaving attendees stranded due to its last-minute cancellation.

Weekend revelers who were expecting a "luxury" music festival on a private island in the Bahamas starting on 28 April 2017 instead arrived to find "Fyre Festival" in a state of chaos. Attendees hoping to see high-profile bands, enjoy beautiful scenery in comfortable surroundings and eat gourmet food instead were stranded on an island with no alcohol and cafeteria-style sandwiches, leading to comparisons to the novel Lord of the Flies:

Fyre Festival staff posted an apology to the event's web site, which has since been otherwise wiped clear of other information, saying:

Fyre Festival set out to provide a once-in-a-lifetime musical experience on the Islands of the Exumas.

Due to circumstances out of our control, the physical infrastructure was not in place on time and we are unable to fulfill on that vision safely and enjoyably for our guests. At this time, we are working tirelessly to get flights scheduled and get everyone off of Great Exuma and home safely as quickly as we can. We ask that guests currently on-island do not make their own arrangements to get to the airport as we are coordinating those plans. We are working to place everyone on complimentary charters back to Miami today; this process has commenced and the safety and comfort of our guests is our top priority.

The festival is being postponed until we can further assess if and when we are able to create the high- quality experience we envisioned.

We received an autoreply to our e-mailed question about the event saying that the event's staff were overwhelmed with inquiries. But according to Vanity Fair, which spoke to an organizer before the chaos ensued, attendees could spend hundreds or even tens of thousands of dollars in hopes of a yachting beach adventure:

It’s possible to spend “in excess of $104,995,” per a spokeswoman, to have the Fyre experience. Yachts can be rented for $60,000 on the low end. V.I.P. tickets are $3,500, but you can knock a grand off that price if you B.Y.O.Yacht (the docking fee at the marina, however, is five grand).

Vanity Fair reported that the festival was organized by Fyre Media:

Fyre Festival is a product of Fyre Media, an entertainment booking startup that that rapper Ja Rule launched with his tech partner Billy McFarland in 2015. As noted above, its closest spiritual forefather in the bloated festival-scape is probably Coachella. But while Coachella is a music festival that turned into a series of brand activations, Fyre Festival is a brand activation that plays at being a festival.

We sent e-mails to all three contact address on the organization's web site and all bounced back with an "address not found" message.

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism issued a statement expressing dismay at the "chaos" of the event, and noting that although they offered ancillary support like facilitating communications between organizers and government agencies, they were not a sponsor of the festival.

Some are now questioning whether the costly event was nothing more than a scam. Farah Benghozi told CBS News, "This was a scam for sure. It could have been something, but they didn’t put effort into it." Janan Buisier tweeted from Exuma Airport calling the event a "hoax":

Although the Fyre Festival was promoted loudly for months on Instagram, there were a number of scattered red flags before unwitting festival-goers found themselves trapped in rapidly devolving conditions. As early as 29 March 2017, Twitter account @FyreFraud began suggesting that the island party could not possibly be executed as purportedly planned:

The same account continued to point out inconsistencies in Fyre Festival's claims as the ill-fated event quickly approached, along with what appeared to be a last-ditch effort to raise further funding from attendees:

On 11 April 2017 a Reddit subreddit was created, ostensibly so putative Fyre Festival attendees could interact before the purported festivities. But two of the subreddit's first submissions pertained to rumors the much-hyped festival was a scam or fraud. A vendor identifying themselves as a caterer for the festival was besieged with questions about the event's legitimacy, and a highly-rated 11 April 2017 submission to r/fyrefestival was simply titled "Fyre Festival is Sketchy." The submitter listed several substantive discrepancies between purported marketing claims and the situation as it stood on 11 April 2017:

If you look at just about anything they claim on the website you'd see that nothing adds up.

-It's not on a private island
-Nothing has really been built yet
-You won't fly in on a private plane
-Their accommodations are hugely inflated in price
-Some of their artists are complete nobodies and others have booked gigs in other locations
-None of the artists are promoting this event

Not saying its a scam but it doesn't sound completely legit either.

Among predictions that came to pass included promises pertaining to luxury accommodations which didn't appear to have been honored:

As of 28 April 2017, the Fyre Festival fiasco remained underway. Much was yet to be determined, including to what degree organizers planned to reimburse attendees of the non-existent event:

The same day, Ja Rule, one of the Fyre Media co-founders tweeted a message denying the festival was a scam and that he was working to make things right with people who purchased tickets:


Bryant, Kenzie.   "Can a Critical Mass of Victoria’s Secret Models and a Hadid Give Bahamas Tourism an Insta-Boost?"   Vanity Fair.   26 April 2017.

Coscarelli, Joe.   "Fyre Festival, a Luxury Music Weekend, Crumbles in the Bahamas."   New York Times.   28 April 2017.

Weisell, Kristin.   "Hundreds Claim Scam at Luxury Fyre Music Festival in Bahamas."   CBS News.   28 April 2017.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who has been working in the news industry since 2006.

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