Fyre Festival Founder Billy McFarland is Out of Jail and Starting Fresh
In 2018, Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland pled guilty for his part in organizing the ill-fated music fest. Now, he’s
In 2018, Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland pled guilty for his part in organizing the ill-fated music fest.
Now, he’s out of prison and he’s ready to start fresh. Part of his plans to start over include righting the wrongs he perpetrated against people before – and helping to bring people together again.
And that may include plans for more festivals.
Fyre Festival Founder Billy McFarland is Free
News outlet FACTZ caught up with McFarland this week to ask him what it’s felt like in the 2 months since he was released from prison.
McFarland explained that it was “rough” behind bars. He adds that “10 months in solitary was totally totally brutal.”
The Fyre Festival founder was put into solitary because he tried to run an against-the-rules podcast from the prison.
People have also apparently been hounding him about the rumor that he was at the same prison as Mike “the Situation” Sorrentino. McFarland confirmed that they were in prison together, for about five or six months – before McFarland messed up and was sent away.
McFarland says that people have been more supportive than he expected, with people on the street offering encouragement. Some people he expected to stick around in his personal life ended up leaving, while others surprised him and stood by him.
Now, McFarland wants to heal some of the wounds he caused through Fyre Festival, and he’s working on a new venture he calls “Pyrt” (pronounced “pirate”).
Pyrt will be about connecting people, and McFarland has suggested that festivals could be a part of that blueprint.
All in all, the once-loathed festival organizer seems to be doing well and helping people – a far cry from the person who was jailed in 2018 for defrauding people.
A Quick Recap of the Fire Festival Founder Billy McFarland Scandal
To understand why McFarland talking about potentially re-entering the festival world, you have to know where it all went wrong before.
Here’s a quick recap of the story so far:
- 2014: Magnises is created by McFarland as a millennial version of an AmEx card black card. For $250, customers could be used as a debit and/or credit card, and they would have invitations to private events, 24/7, and access to big ticket events.
- 2016: McFarland creates Fyre app and Fyre Media – with the app intended to be like Tinder for users and artists, pairing them up to request and approve/deny a booking. And to celebrate the launch, McFarland wanted to hold a festival. Fyre Festival the concept was born. It was to be a luxury Coachella of the Bahamas.
- 2016: At the end of the year, a number of high-profile models and influencers (including Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, and Hailey Baldwin) tagged themselves in the Bahamas at “Fyre Festival” and people quickly realized it was an advertising stunt. A video was also released touting the festival.
- January 2017: Kendall Jenner boasted that her G.O.O.D. Music (founded by Kanye West) Family were “going to be headliners” at Fyre. Her social media post has since been deleted.
- Q1 2017: Early that same year, one festival organizer admits that they hadn’t done much to get the event off the ground, but his concern was met with eye-rolls. Venture capitalist Calvin Wells launched an Instagram handle shortly after named @FyreFraud, warning people that the event would be a disaster and was a “scam.” Pretty much no one paid attention.
- April 2017: The Wall Street Journal releases a report that says artists slated to headline had not been paid and VIP guests had not received their itineraries, suggesting that festival organizers were “wooing the wealthy” just to pay the bills.
- April 27, 2017: The day festival-goers were supposed to arrive, Blink 182 pulled out of the show – saying they didn’t believe the set-up would allow them to provide the kind of performance their fans deserved.
- Later that day, things took a dark turn. The first three planes to arrive were sent to a neighboring resort. Visitors arriving at the festival site found tents with plastic-wrapped mattresses, kiosks left unattended with crates of alcohol and a whole lot of nothing else. Visitors discovered a lack of running water on site, and McFarland stood on a makeshift stage to “answer” questions. Cheese sandwiches were offered to guests who paid for luxury meals.
- By the morning hours of April 28, the festival was canceled. Guests were sent back, flights were canceled – it was clear that the luxury festival had never materialized. Ja Rule, who had been one of the famous names to get on board early in the hype, apologized profusely and said that it was NOT A SCAM – but clearly, it was.
- 2018: McFarland pleads guilty to two counts of wire fraud, and twice again for fake tickets. He served 4 years of his 6 year sentence before being released.
So should McFarland get back in the festival game? Probably not. McFarland has apologized since his releasing, stating on a TV interview, “I need to apologize. And that is the first and the last thing that needs to be done. I let people down. I let down employees. I let down their families. I let down investors. So I need to apologize. I’m wrong and it’s bad.”
Actions speak louder than words though, and McFarland has a chance to take action now that he’s free again.