FYRE Festival Goes Up in Flames

May 2, 2017

Festival season is upon us, and amdist the deluge of photos on your social media feed of girls with flower crowns swaying to the beat at Coachella, you may be hearing about a different festival in the news – the Fyre Festival.

This new luxury music festival, set to take place over two weekends on the private Bahaman island of Fyre Cay, created a “fyre storm” as festival-goers arrived on the island and immediately realized the event was completely misrepresented. Despite paying between $4-$250K for luxury accommodations, private beaches and “the best in food, art, music and adventure,” attendees arrived to find there was reportedly almost no food, water, security or electricity at the venue. Attendees immediately took to social media with complaints about the complete lack of infrastructure, which ultimately led to the festival being canceled indefinitely.

This clear complete lack of planning on behalf of the festival organizers – including Ja Rule and entrepreneur Billy McFarland – has created a public relations crisis that is likely to escalate over the coming days. Memes circulating on social media and posts deeming the festival as the “Lord of the Flies sequel” are certainly not helping to repair the image of this festival.

As a first line of defense, the Fyre Festival issued a statement as news began to break, blaming the situation on “circumstances beyond our control.” Given the blatant false marketing around the festival and total lack of organization, this statement does not go far enough. Similarly, Ja Rule, the most high-profile person associated with the festival, issued his own statement where he apologized and said, “this is NOT MY FAULT…but I’m taking responsibility.” With everyone involved passing the blame, it further perpetuates an image of pure dysfunction.

If the event organizers wish to repair the image of those associated with the festival, they should immediately take full ownership of the circumstances. In any crisis, tactfully putting some distance between a brand and the crisis can be necessary, but authenticity and taking responsibility are often key to repairing trust with consumers.

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism called out the event organizers, saying hundreds of visitors to the island were met with “total disorganization and chaos.” The ripple effects from this crisis will undoubtedly continue to play out as attendees attempt to secure their refunds and belongings and get placed on the limited flights off the island. Event organizers will need to be more strategic and take ownership to try and protect their brand as artists and vendors associated with the festival continue to issue their own statements.

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