SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCERS ARE THE NEXT PORT OF CALL IN THE UNENDING FYRE FESTIVAL SAGA

The Fyre Festival was the promise of social heaven; at least for the throng of social media aficionados who had spent quite a lot to be a part of it. Not that I wouldn’t have for the promise of a luxury Bahamas festival weekend with models and celebrities galore. Unfortunately, it ended with thousands of people stuck on a small island in refugee tents, eating limp sandwiches from Styrofoam packs, and with the organizer, Billy McFarland, jailed for fraud. Two years later and we are still reeling from the effects of the Fyre festival. Netflix and Hulu’s documentaries-released earlier this month- have been rather enlightening, and hilariously so, in filling in the gaps in the now famous tale of “The Party That Never Happened”. However, it just might imply some stringent measures for the set of people who have stayed untouched by Fyre- the social media influencers.

To begin with, the promotional video really set the tone for the proposed party. Bella Hadid and other supermodels promoted the upcoming festival in the Exumas, an island chain in the Bahamas. It promised luxury villas on the beach, gourmet chefs and a musical line-up topped by Blink 182 and provided by Kanye West’s label. There was to be a buried treasure hunt worth more than a million dollars. Oh, and they would fly you in on a private jet, touching down on an island once owned by former Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. The backdrop was perfect: glamorous yachts, secluded beaches and the bluest, clearest water you had ever seen. It was to be the biggest party of the decade. In retrospect, many who had been to the said island as well as others who had attempted a festival of that magnitude advised against it. They didn’t say it was entirely impossible, just not in the timeframe of three months. Billy McFarland reportedly fired on with his grand plans, managing to psyche himself and his crew on till the fateful day when it all went up in smoke and the fantasy became a nightmare.

The disgraced entrepreneur Billy McFarland, has received the legal repercussions following the disaster and is currently serving a six-year sentence in federal prison for mail and wire fraud, while civil suits are shedding light on more financial questions. Talent agencies representing big-name models that appeared in Fyre Festival’s promo commercial are also expected to receive subpoenas, forcing them to reveal how much money was paid to them by McFarland. Models in the commercial included Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Bieber, and Chanel Iman, which featured them swimming and having fun in the Bahamas. The models also posted photos from the commercial filming on Instagram and participated in broader social media promotion with paid posts. Jenner may also have to disclose more details about a $250,000 payment for a Fyre Festival-sponsored Instagram post. In the now-deleted post, she announced that members of G.O.O.D Music record label were slated to perform and included a discount code for fans to purchase admission tickets. Jenner did not disclose that the post was sponsored and promptly received a warning from the Federal Trade Commission, which mandates that such social media sponsorships must be disclosed to the public.

Bigger lessons in influencer marketing and promotions have never been served. The effort and capital required to pull off such a ruse effectively should have compelled them to think out a more rewarding festival experience but Fyre Festival and the still unraveling drama proves one thing- social media influencing can be a very shallow business. People stranded on the island were said to have taken to begging for bed and board.  Some of them frantically called home and stomped around in anger. Others were in a state of shock, weeping silently to themselves in frustration. Well-to-do millennials were now affectionately known as “refugees”. Worse for it all were the locals who had been employed as festival staff. They didn’t have millions of followers. The island was their home. For them, the Fyre Festival was more than a rip-off, a disappointment or an inconvenience. It was a loss of livelihood, and in some cases, the loss of their life savings. It shattered a dream and the promise of something better. Fyre consumed everyone in its path, especially the ones that needed it most.

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