The failure of Fyre Festival has become one of the most famous fiascos of the past few years. Not only was it a poorly executed festival experience (after all it has been dubbed “the greatest party that never happened”), it also opened a can of worms when it comes to misleading marketing and the toxic Instagram culture.
In short, Fyre Festival highlighted that with the right mix of marketing techniques you can sell anything.
To some point, Fyre Media CEO Billy McFarland and his team might have been able to pull Fyre Festival off if the basic infrastructure required at a festival, and for basic human living, had been implemented. For those who didn’t watch the Netflix documentary, Fyre Festival was to be held on an island in the Bahamas (originally this was Norman’s Cay but later changed to Great Exuma) in a secluded area which unfortunately had limited access to running water, shelter, drainage, electricity and food. This meant there was nowhere for the guests to sleep (even though they were promised luxury cabanas), not enough food and water (again they were promised 5 star food) and there was nowhere for them to shower or use toilet facilities.
According to the documentary, this basic infrastructure was the last thing on the organiser’s minds.
Essentially, what the organisers failed to acknowledge throughout the planning process was that hosting a festival is actually as complex as building a mini city. For a festival with 10,000 people for example, the power alone can cost between £60,000 – £100,000. There are also infrastructures such as security and police which need to be factored in; at the Isle of Wight festival this is estimated to cost around £1 million.
Whether building a city, a single building or a festival, planning requires a significant amount of time. In the UK, legislation is just one mechanism in controlling how all these elements are executed correctly so it’s surprising that festival organisers weren’t guided by these types of rules (I assume maybe things are more relaxed in the United States).
Either way, from small scale to large scale, so many different types of people need to be considered in the process along with materials and suppliers. They also have to be given adequate time but unfortunately the labourers hired for the Fyre Festival site were only given 45 days! They were set up to fail.
Ultimately, with this project the fundamental elements of the planning process were ignored; scope, time, cost, objectives, milestones, a work schedule and project tracking. Even more alarming was that a new member of the team , who was brought in to help plan for ‘unconsidered issues’ – like the massive lack of suitable shelter, was just ignored and eventually he left.
It seems that everyone involved in the project had no control over what was going on; it seems there was no plan.
In construction, managing expectations and scope is really important. Clear communication and honesty is crucial even for your own mental wellbeing. Lying and overestimating to investors and the general public is another route to failure and eventually led to McFarland receiving a six-year prison sentence.
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