If like us, you saw the Fyre Festival documentary on Netflix this weekend recounting the lies, failings and false advertising of a luxury event experience, it’ll have been a hot topic of discussion in your office this week. No one can forget the carnage that ensued following the catastrophic failings of the festival organisers in 2017, and we all smiled wryly at the ironic role social media played in the build-up and then undoing of this event.
As event-professionals, it’s obvious what our opinion of the whole fiasco is, and this hasn’t changed since we first heard about it in 2017 – abysmal. However, something that really got us thinking after watching the documentary was the relevance of experience, and how today this is a fundamental goal for all events. It’s no lie that producing unbelievable experiences with creative people is the reason most of us work in the events industry and is something we’re all passionate about – but what’s so obvious from this disaster is how much the consumer craves a unique experience from the events they attend.
It’s easy to see how an inexperienced, lifestyle-driven and ambitious person such as Billy McFarland could get themselves hyped up about the idea that was Fyre Festival. Consumers were looking for the same thing and were sucked into what looked like a totally unique experience that they could share with their friends. If it’s good enough for Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid, it’s good enough for me, right? They were promised a luxury, exclusive and totally new experience, unlike any other festival, promoted by a slick promo video and some high-profile social media influencers. At first look, the festival appeared incredible, and our FOMO was definitely piqued – compounded by the fact we’d never be able to afford to attend anyway. We all know that consumers are driven by experiences, and in the world of social media, people can show off their ‘perfect’ lives to everyone else and experience immediate validation.
You can understand how ticket holders were suckered into this dream, but it’s worth considering the contractors and event professionals who were also drawn into the Fyre Festival Fantasy. Poor Andy King, the event producer, who recounted some truly shocking stories from the production office, had one of the toughest jobs on his hands. We can’t imagine Ja Rule and Billy McFarland being the easiest clients to manage. Many people will criticise King and wonder why he didn’t walk away when it was so clear that the event was not going to work. Although Andy took going above and beyond to a potential new level, aside from that one detail (if you know, you know), we can give our advice and be strong in our convictions, but the ultimate decision is with the client and we are committed to seeing the job through. It’s worth remembering that before you judge.
The money-can’t-buy experience is a goal many consumers are craving, and clients are quite rightly looking to supply these. On the surface, it sounds great but what Fyre Festival reminds us is that any event experience requires money, and lots of it. The idea behind Fyre Festival was a good one, arguably even a great one. The biggest failing of the organisers was not having the financial wherewithal to deliver their vision, and not having the experience to see the necessity to scale it back. Throughout the documentary, McFarland is repeatedly advised to postpone, reduce numbers or cancel. He didn’t take this advice, and it blew up in his face – resulting in six years in prison. With any large-scale public event, you need to have money to make money, it’s that simple. It’s a risky game, and one that required sound financial backing and a solid business plan in order to achieve success. In a society ruled by impatience, the inexperience and naivety of the organisers is obvious, even cringeworthy at times, and ultimately cast a shadow across the lives of those who worked on the event, some of whom never got paid.
We hope that people will learn from Fyre Festival and appreciate just how much goes into producing an event. Be it large or small, you need skill, experience and an open mind. Listen to the people around you, and take advice from industry experts – they don’t like saying no and will not give negative feedback lightly or without very good reason. Most of the time, there is a very effective solution coupled with a no, and it might even result in a better outcome than the original plan! What may be considered as boring detail such as waste management, infrastructure, health and safety and security, are all vital logistics. These take place behind the scenes of the glossy creative ideas, big name acts and luxury locations, but without careful consideration… well, Fyre Festival has already proved what can happen.
If you’ve not seen the documentary, we highly recommend you watch it. You won’t be disappointed, just amazed at how the Fyre Festival Fantasy really burst into uncontrollable flames.
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