News & Events

24th January 2019

What we can learn from #FyreFail

Fyre – a must-watch Netflix documentary for every #Eventprof contains key insights on designing environments for youth audiences.

Like many UK-based event professionals, I was vaguely aware of the failure of the Bahamas-based Fyre Festival in the Summer of 2017.

I remember taking a sharp in-take of breath at the news that the organiser had no cancellation or event insurance in place of any kind. I may even have chuckled at the photo of a dried-up cheese sandwich that had gone viral on social media after guests had been promised sushi chefs and food by U.S restauranteur Steven Starr.

And the wry thought most certainly will have crossed my mind that this event management lark is a lot harder than it looks, and people should really only trust us experienced professionals when it comes to staging high-profile events.

What I hadn’t realised however is just how quickly the production team’s problems had escalated while their founder, Billy McFarland was busy defrauding investors and refusing to acknowledge the absolute cluster-f**k that was heading their way.

Or, how they thought they’d get away with pitching hurricane relief tents and passing them off as luxury glamping accommodation on an island that had no event infrastructure to speak of, or even clean drinking water.

Thanks to Netflix’s latest documentary, Fyre (an absolute must-watch for every #eventprof), viewers can witness the very worst-of-the-worst example of what happens when event planning goes wrong.

It really is the stuff of nightmares. However, although I had to watch some bits through my fingers as my toes curled into the carpet, what I found most interesting was the insight into the values of a Millennial and Generation Z event audience.

With over a third of today’s youth more likely to trust a social media influencer’s word over a brand, it’s no surprise that models like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner had a tremendous impact on the sales and marketing of Fyre festival.

Some 400 of these in-demand influencers, each with millions of followers, posted an orange tile on Instagram, which lead to a promo video and included the hashtag #FyreFestival. These posts generated over 300 million impressions in just 24 hours and the festival sold-out as a result.

In other words, Fyre sold out so quickly because it not only promised a unique festival experience (ticket holders certainly got that!) but it also promised Instagram content that friends and followers wouldn’t be able to compete with.

This FOMO (fear of missing out) resulted in Millennials and Generation Z paying anything up to $12,000 for VIP ticket packages, just to try and guarantee real-time social content for Instagram Stories that would drive their follower count and support the illusion they were living their best lives on a private island in the Bahamas.

The demand for ‘Instagram-able’ content is such that Millennials have been flocking to an art installation of the inside of a private jet currently touring America, just to pose for selfies and fool their followers into thinking they’ve chartered the Gulfstream G3.

While a raft of brands and retail stores are now building Instagram-worthy design into their showrooms, outlets and experiences.

So if there’s two things to take-away from this latest Netflix documentary, don’t let one of them be what Fyre’s event producer was prepared to do to release the drinking water from Customs officials (no more spoilers, you’ll have to watch).

Consider instead, the importance and wider role of the experienced event professional in understanding compliance, health and safety and other regulatory aspects, along with our creative skill-sets to make parts of your event environments more attractive to a generation that views its surroundings through an Instagram lens and the number of ‘Likes’ they’ll receive.

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