Last fall, at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon, Portugal, the rapper Ja Rule addressed a small audience seated in front of the event's music stage: "I'll let my partner-in-crime here Billy McFarland give you all an introduction of what Fyre is." At the time, Ja Rule and McFarland were promoting an app that would, we now know, share its name with one of the least-successful music events in recent memory, currently the subject of a $100 million lawsuit. The Fyre app, like McFarland's other venture Magnesis (a rarefied "concierge" for the young, beautiful and hip), is directed at "young urban professionals" and "influencers" (brace yourself to see that word a lot). The app allowed promoters, venues or just whomever to book artists for small, lucrative shows for small, well-heeled audiences — much like the concept that underpinned the event with which it now indelibly shares a name.
In the social media-driven present, these influencers are one-person marketing vehicles for all types of products, capitalizing on conventionally attractive faces and the enviable lifestyles they portray on their profiles. They were, as we see from the marketing deck for Fyre and the Fyre Festival obtained by Vanity Fair, the ostensible key to success for McFarland's and Ja Rule's disastrous music event.
The first 10 pages of the 43-page presentation focuses on the app, touting a roster of artists including Iggy Azalea, Queen Latifah, Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled and "hundreds of other notable artists, athletes and influencers." It operates by allowing those looking to book artists on its roster to negotiate offers and payments and that talent to accept it, with Fyre taking a 10 percent commission from bookers.
The remaining 33 pages focus on the first edition of the Fyre Festival — yes, first. The deck explains Fyre Festival's long-term vision: new event spaces, built from scratch — with the Trumpian phrase "through the purchase of significant land" — each year for the next five years, "referencing the five elements of the earth." Its inaugural element? Water. (Irony alert: This despite there reportedly being precious little of it on hand for last week's attendees).
"Come, seek, for searching is the foundation of fortune," goes the Zoolander-esque tagline. "What if we reimagined what it means to attend a music festival," one slide wonders. The next: "The actual experience exceeds all expectations and is something that's hard to put into words," a statement that, if you replace the word 'exceeds,' is woefully accurate in retrospect.