Fyre Fraud (2019) Movie Script

[tense music building]
[crickets chirping]
CALVIN: You're living in
your parents' basement
and you pull out your phone,
which you look at
100 times an hour.
MAN: The actual experience
exceeds all expectations.
CALVIN: You see a music
that exceeds all expectations
on a deserted island
owned by Pablo Escobar.
There was music,
private planes,
and beautiful women swimming
on an island with drugs.
Man, that's about
as sexy as it gets.
And then you see these
wonderful, beautiful people
in places that you're not,
doing things that you can't
afford to do.
It really didn't matter that
these guys may be waifs,
and this guy hosting this party
was an obvious fraud
because many of
these influencers
are people that you follow
that you aspire to be
and also this rapper whose
music that you listen to.
So when an opportunity
presents itself
to get out
of your parents' basement
and go be part of something
that's culturally relevant,
you're gonna absolutely
jump at that.
JAKE: This tapped into all
the biggest millennial trends.
[laughing] Yeah!
MAN: Wow.
[laughing] Never been
so happy in my life
to see this group of bozos.
CC: It's like history
in the making.
I mean, everyone's supposed
to be here,
like Bella Hadid,
Kendall Jenner...
OREN: Fyre Festival was
supposed to be
the new Coachella,
the new Burning Man,
the new whatever.
DANIEL: The whole thing is
wrapped in sex appeal.
It's in the Bahamas
on a private island
with a milliondollar
treasure hunt giveaway.
SETH: There was swimming
with pigs
and cuisine unlike
anything you've ever had.
It was gonna be
an immersive experience
bordering on impossible.
JESSE: Exclusivity with
unbelievable access
to premiere talent.
Kanye was gonna be performing
at this festival.
JIA: People spent tens
of thousands of dollars
on tickets.
STEWARD: ...and your seats in
their upright position.
AUSTIN: We were all packed into
a yellow school bus,
and people are thinking,
"What's the worst thing
that could possibly happen?"
What's happening?
There's no water over there.
Oh, Jesus.
I mean, this is just crazy.
There's trucks all
over the place.
Still setting things up.
SETH: There were Amazon
boxes everywhere
and there was a shower,
but you couldn't
open your mouth
'cause the water was green.
Oh, get the fuck out of here.
Let's get the fuck out of here.
AVA: You can party like
an Instagram model
and, you know,
live the life of your dreams,
but on the beach, everyone was
just sort of wrecked
and sunburnt and, like,
this is not what I thought
was gonna happen.
It's an absolute circus.
I don't know what's going on.
JAKE: People were like,
"What did I get myself into?"
We don't even know.
We're stranded.
CC: Tents are blowing away.
All of the acts
have pulled out.
MAN: It was a shitshow.
SETH: You know, like,
a camp counselor could have
done a better job.
At one point, a guy was just
on this little plywood table,
answering questions one by one
with a line of 100 people
behind him.
REPORTER: Billy McFarland
created the festival
and is blaming the disaster
on poor weather
and bad planning.
We took a big jump here
and a big risk
and, uh, V1 has failed.
You have to start to wonder,
what is going on with this guy?
Let's take it back
to where it all started.
I'm a technology entrepreneur,
but I've always really
been interested in payment
tools and credit cards.
POLLY: If you ever see
videos of him,
it's kind of like the same
highenergy spiel at all times.
So it's a communityoriented
payment tool
that provides guidance,
access, and experiences.
It's like the ultimate
usedcar salesman.
I wanna get the key and show
you guys in here.
We've actually developed
our own little factory.
POLLY: And he really wanted
to sell you a car.
And he'd give you a deal.
CALVIN: You're sitting
there saying, like,
"I have no idea
what this guy does,
"but I'm pretty certain,
"because I can't define it,
that it's not legitimate."
The 25yearold entrepreneur
created the Fyre Festival
with rapper Ja Rule.
MAN: For people who don't
know what Fyre is,
tell the people what Fyre is.
Like, so, just to ex
Hey, how you doing?
Uh, welcome.
CALVIN: I guess once you attach
Ja Rule to something,
you know it's legit.
I mean, that...
Well, I'm gonna let my
partner in crime here,
Billy McFarland,
give y'all a introduction
of what Fyre is andand what
it's bringing to the table.
I see Fyre Fest
as this big snowball
rolling down Scam Mountain...
That has rolled up all
of the previous scams
into one
the rise of social media,
the rise of the
Silicon Valley ethos
you know, make it up first,
suck up a lot of money.
Fyre Fest is all of these
things zooming
straight at all of our brains,
landing straight in all
of our Twitter feeds.
CALVIN: The cacophony of sound
that they were able to create
using the influencers and
their social media strategy
was so overwhelming
that not only did very smart
financial guys give them money,
but, like,
facts were just totally ignored
based off of the strength
of their social media strategy.
VICKIE: What Fyre Festival did
is that the power
of influence is real,
because at the time, there was
nothing else but influence.
BEN: While social media
was their tool,
it was ultimately
their downfall.
REPORTER: Fyre Festival
trending along with the hashtag
MAN: Fyre becomes a meme
in and of itself.
Some people are calling it
rich people's problems.
JIA: People like to see rich
millennials get scammed.
It would be perplexing and
funny if it wasn't criminal.
And it is criminal.
But it still is perplexing.
And still a little bit funny,
but still horrible.
The Fyre Music Festival
creator now arrested
and charged with wire fraud
in a separate case.
And Erielle, you got a comment
from the lawyer
for William McFarland?
The attorney
just moments ago saying
and this is a quote
"When this is all over,
you will see
"that he is hardly the villain
the government
portrays him as."
JAKE: The investigation against
Billy McFarland
is being led by the
Department of Justice,
and specifically the Southern
District of New York,
which you might know from
the show "Billions."
Drop your credentials
at the guards' desk
and get the fuck out of here!
JESSE: The Southern District
of New York
is the premiere office of
the Department of Justice.
They consider themselves able
to prosecute anything,
anywhere, anytime.
JAKE: Billy McFarland's
presented letters of support
from friends and family.
All kinds of people felt
compelled to come out.
"He is the most inspiring
and motivating person
I have ever met aside
from my mother."
MAN: "Creative, passionate,
and exceedingly optimistic."
smartest person I know."
BOTH: "Billy was and still
is a visionary."
ANASTASIA: I believe that
we all make mistakes.
And I believe in love.
I love him.
II do my best to support him.
I think he did really want
that festival to happen,
and he did work very hard
for it to happen.
You can read, like,
all the news,
but it's, like, all, like
it's all super bad
and super negative.
He wanted to tell his story.
What's up?
MAN: Welcome.
Nice and dark and ominous.
ANASTASIA: And he wanted
to go deeper
than the festival failure.
I think it's really easy to
play Monday morning quarterback
for myself right now,
looking back saying,
"I should have done this,
I should have done that."
And I certainly made a lot
of mistakes,
andand there's no question
about that, but...
Before we had the worst luck,
I think we had the best luck.
And, like, it sounds crazy,
but so many things
had to go right to make it
this big of a failure.
And everybody fully believed
that we were going to put on
an event
that was going to change
the landscape and deliver
an experience people would talk
about for years.
There was no hidden secret.
There was no hidden agenda.
We're all like,
"Whatever it takes,
"we are all in,
and let's go
and make this happen."
[pensive music]
JIA: There's this idea that
this is the model of success
in the millennial era.
You can become the biggest,
buzziest company in the world,
where you have this
moonshot vision,
and you figure it out later.
Because, like,
why couldn't you do it?
[dialup modem ringing]
MAN: There are about 80 million
of them born
between 1980 and 1995.
They're called millennials.
BOY: Wow, look at those
cool graphics.
JIA: The millennial
understanding of the world
has been shaped
by extreme precarity.
[screaming and gunfire]
And now people want
to construct their own reality.
Do you know what
we're fighting about?
There are people who...
[overlapping shouting]
JIA: With the dream of being
successful enough
that you are beyond
And Billy McFarland
is the person that
is, like, baked in that oven
and comes out fully formed
and does Fyre Fest.
BILLY: I was raised
in New Jersey,
and my two parents
worked together
as real estate developers
and we grew up
as a close family.
McFarland's mother,
"and there is much that I would
like you to know
"about my son.
"As a child, Billy was always
ahead of the curve.
"He walked and talked
well before the norm,
"was first to finish
his math times tables,
"could swim in the ocean
as a toddler,
was scuba diving at age ten."
BILLY: My first combination
of technology and marketing
happened in second grade.
I was put next to, uh,
a girl who I had a crush on.
And her crayon broke.
I said, "If you give me a
dollar, I'll fix your crayon."
The school bought very basic
Internetconnected typewriters,
and I realized that this
is the best way
to market my crayon business,
so I figured out the school's
administrator password
and I started messing with
I changed the password and,
locked all the teachers out.
So every time the AlphaSmart
was turned on, it would say,
"For your broken crayons,
basically come and find me."
POLLY: I definitely think Billy
was always inspired
by being a businessman,
even if he's a teenytiny
crayonbased businessman.
[funky electronic music]
CALVIN: Billy McFarland came
of age with the Internet.
BILLY: The Internet
doesn't have parents.
It doesn't have teachers.
It doesn't have rules.
No one really told you
what was right or wrong.
MALE VOICE: Welcome.
You've got mail.
JESSE: As this young man
is growing up,
there's a huge boom.
MAN: The information
technology revolution:
it's affecting the way we do
business and live our lives.
And that's why
it's so profitable.
The investors
are going crazy.
To pass the time,
help yourself
to some more stock.
BILLY: My first real company
when I was in fifth grade
was a webposting company,
and I had three fulltime
people working for me, uh,
in India.
I'm talking to people, like,
entirely across the world
when my friends are focused on,
like, kickball at recess.
I had, like, the worst fake
deep voice on the planet.
I would pick up the phone and
just never say how old I was
be like, "Hello?"
"Billy has been gifted
"with both a blessing
and a curse:
He can only think big."
POLLY: Billy thought that he
was going to be Mark Zuckerberg
and that he was on the road
to be Mark Zuckerberg
and that nothing
would stop him.
BILLY: I went to college
at Bucknell.
Bucknell had this, like,
pitch competition,
and I created the content
for Spling.
MAN: You just found
a hilarious video,
delicious recipe, or even
an interesting article online.
Now you want to share it
with your friends.
What do you do?
Spling was basically
a duplicate of Google+
kind of vibe.
I'm Billy McFarland,
the CEO of Spling.
I don't know if you've ever
seen the video from demo day,
but the pitch for Spling
didn't go so well.
Let's see a quick demo.
[awkward music]
Sorry, one second.
Remember, Spling it.
Thank you very much.
After that, we were urged
to explore
new versions of our idea.
We moved to New York,
and we were just so concerned
with, like,
"What's the next step?
What's the next step?"
JAKE: When he moved
to New York,
I think it was a moment
where millennials
as a generation
are struggling to understand
the world around them.
It was the worst day
on Wall Street.
JIA: All of the pillars
of upward mobility
have been crumbling
for decades.
REPORTER: More millennials
are living with parents
than with spouses or partners.
JIA: You can't buy a house
and settle down
because you can't afford one.
There is the rise
of this, like,
insane college debt bubble.
CALVIN: There are fewer and
fewer jobs where people can
not just better themselves but
just sustain the status quo.
JAKE: This is what was
and it was very clear
that Billy understood
what his friends want.
BILLY: I was literally
at dinner with friends
and we all split the bill,
and we all had our
introductory debit cards,
and this idea struck me.
And I'm like, "Wow, like, what
if I could make these cooler?"
So I went and ordered a sheet
of metal from China
and, like, magnetic tape
and this, like,
giant sheet that was super thin
and I found a way to copy
my debit card onto
the sheet of metal.
And I did it and it worked,
and I, like,
went down to the deli.
So I went and, like,
bought something with this,
like, stupid card,
and I'm like, "Shit, it works.
I can go to the store andand
buy stuff with this."
And that was the genesis
of the Magnises card.
[exciting music]
Jessica, you're chasing
a story about the millennials'
version of the black card.
What do you got?
JESSICA: Billy McFarland wanted
a life with the perks
of the black
American Express card,
so he created it for himself.
This is Magnises.
MAN: How did you come up
with that name?
Uh, the name is made up.
I think I spelled it wrong,
though, 'cause, like,
it probably should have been
but I spelled it MAGNIS,
so a lot of people said
"Magnessis," but whatever.
What is Magnises?
It's a card.
But it's more than that.
It's a card.
It's a card.
It's more than that.
I don't know
if it means magnet.
Some meteorological element.
Someone had a way
better joke about it.
They go, "Well, it just means
magnum penis, right?"
And I was like, "Yeah,
that kinda works.
That makes sense."
This card will piggyback
off of your current credit card
with extra perks that you
can't get anywhere else.
EMILY: The main selling point
to me was this townhouse.
This is the main floor.
It's really greata communal
workspace during the day.
Then at night we move all
the tables and chairs
out of the way, have a lot
of events and speakers,
parties, dinners.
EMILY: You had this place to go
to meet people like you
and I think if you're, like,
new to the city,
that sounded cool.
That sounded like,
"Oh, that's my way
to make introductions."
In reality, the people who hung
out there were not the people
that they advertised.
[quirky music]
It was, like, guys who lived
in Murray Hill
that, if they could join an
outofcollege fraternity,
they would.
BILLY: Grant was a Magnises
member who called me one day,
yelling about 20 things
we could improve on.
And we said, "Why don't you
come and fix it for us?"
And that was the start
of the relationship.
EMILY: So when Billy and Grant
got connected,
it was like "The Office"
except with, like,
no redeeming qualities.
What is a business?
EMILY: Billy was Michael Scott.
Grant was Dwight,
so, like, tattling right away
he'd be like, "Michael!"
You know, like,
that was kind of like
he'd be like, "Billy!"
Grant made the Magnises
marketing deck.
Like, one word would be "luxe."
[chill trendy music]
Uh, "nuance."
We actually, like, started
running out of time
because it's 152 pages,
and at that point.
Grant just is flipping through
the thing so fast.
"Luxe, NYC, blah, blah, blah,
And he was like a robot
kind of like
going through it really fast.
But, like, we were expected
to listen to this as if
this was Tim Cook giving the
Apple Town Hall of the year.
JAKE: When I think
about Magnises,
I think about
Entertainment 720.
There is no actual business.
It's just guys
being in business.
BOTH: We're flush with cash
[dramatic music]
BEN: It's funny, but Billy knew
how to reach out
to Silicon Valley,
how to reach out
to private equity to get money
to fund his endeavors
at a high level.
CALVIN: As he's building
Billy meets Aubrey McClendon.
REPORTER: Aubrey McClendon is
the CEO of Chesapeake Energy,
one of the country's
most powerful
independent gas producers.
We have discovered
the equivalent
of two Saudi Arabias of oil.
CALVIN: Aubrey McClendon
is a colorful figure.
BEN: Aubrey McClendon owned
the Oklahoma City Thunder.
REPORTER: He is the outspoken,
influential heir
of one of America's
wealthiest families.
In my mind he was, like,
the best entrepreneur
I ever could have imagined.
He could walk into a room with
50 of the most power people
in the world,
and he owned that room.
We had a meeting with Aubrey
about getting involved
in Magnises.
We were at the Four Seasons
in San Francisco.
We started, like,
shooting the shit for a minute,
and I pull out the card
andand dropped the card
on the table.
Of course he's the center
of attention of the room,
and all the top VCs are there.
All the guys are there.
Everybody wants to talk
to Aubrey.
And he's there just clanging
this card on the table,
just, like, throwing it down
and, like,
taking pictures of it.
A half hour later, and when
I was on the plane,
he sent me over a term sheet
to invest $500,000 in Magnises.
[hiphop music]
And the rest is history.
[air horn blowing]
JAKE: After Aubrey McClendon
invests in Magnises,
Billy drops money on
influencers and musicians.
He showed up with a bag
of cash to pay Rick Ross,
and it really happened.
[explosion booms]
JAKE: As it turns out...
[air horn blows]
It doesn't take much to trick
a New York City media reporter
into writing a story about
how great your company is.
[air horns blowing]
BEN: There were positive
articles that were influenced
heavily by publicists
and marketing teams.
JAKE: These press stories
end up turning Billy
into this image
of the next entrepreneurial god
of New York City.
They were just rerunning
a press release, you know?
It's like, "Ooh, exclusive club
for hot, elite millennials."
[quirky music]
JAKE: Right around this time,
Billy meets Ja Rule,
who himself has had some
problems with the law, um
So, you spent two
years in prison.
Yeah, I went in on my state
charge for the gun charge,
and they ran it concurrent
with my... [quietly] Tax stuff.
What's my
motherfucking name
As an investor, when
I heard Ja Rule was involved,
I immediately think of the
inimitable Dave Chappelle.
We got Ja Rule on the phone.
Let's see what Ja's thoughts
are on this tragic
who gives a fuck
what Ja Rule thinks
at a time like this, nigga?
This is ridiculous.
I don't know if you've
seen this clip.
It's hysterical.
Think when bad shit
happens to me,
I'll be in the crib like,
"Oh, my God.
"This is just terrible.
"Could somebody please
find Ja Rule?
"Get a hold of this
motherfucker so I can
make sense of all this.
Where is Ja?"
JAKE: Ja Rule,
like many other rappers,
is looking for
the next big thing.
Ja, what is this new look?
I don't know, man.
Sheshe want me to leave
the street life alone.
Guess that's what I'm gonna do.
[quirky music]
EMILY: They gave him a role
like, a title technically,
but, like, just so when he was
on camera he would be
associated with Magnises.
He had nothing
to do with Magnises.
So many celebrities become
brand ambassadors
for something or other.
Why'd you choose this?
Uh, you know, it's
it's a very unique situation.
Whenever you can
marry the affluent
with the less fortunate,
you get the birth child...
How didwait, wait.
Which is called hiphop.
Okay, well,
this isn't called hiphop.
This isthis is called
a credit card.
Yeah, this is
a credit card...
This wasn't a viable
or a sustainable business,
as best I or anyone with
common sense would assume.
[dramatic percussion]
And then Billy gets sued by
the owner of this townhouse
that Magnises
was anchored out of
because he'd completely
trashed the place.
EMILY: The townhouse was
the big selling point,
and that wasn't part
of it anymore.
At that time,
Magnises needed quick cash.
Memberships weren't selling.
They kept trying to come up
with ideas of what would sell,
what would make this cooler.
Billy started coming up with
ideas that we thought
seemed at least shady.
Billy could get a lot of money
quickly when he would try
to sell tickets,
'cause he would sell things
he knew people wanted even if
he didn't actually have them.
He tried to sell access
to a private JLo party,
and then he was saying he had
exclusive tickets
for JayZ and Beyonc.
But, like, the worst ticket
scam in my opinion
was for "Hamilton."
You could yell at him saying,
"There's no possible way you
have 200 tickets for 'Hamilton'
one night. There's
It's absolutely impossible.
And he would say,
"It's possible."
It would come to the night
of, when people are like,
"Where are my tickets?
It's the night of the show."
And he would, like,
last minute buy them
on, like, StubHub
for insane prices
and would give them out, like,
literally in person.
I could see clearly, like,
Billy is gonna run
this promotion,
get a ton of money
from "Hamilton,"
and then he'll pay off
the Beyonc tickets
he sold earlier. And all the
sudden he'd be like,
"By the way, we're selling
Super Bowl tickets."
Because he had to pay
for the Hamilton tickets.
BEN: I think ultimately,
Magnises is what cemented
Billy's idea that he could
really make money
from defrauding millennials.
JAKE: And then Aubrey
Billy's most
important investor
becomes a sign of everything
that goes wrong.
REPORTER: Aubrey McClendon,
one of the bestknown
of the US shale boom,
indicted by
a federal grand jury Tuesday
on conspiracy charges
linked to rigging the price of
oil and gas leases in Oklahoma.
Aubrey McClendon
is a fraudster.
REPORTER: Chesapeake has had
to borrow more than $6 billion
to stay afloat.
REPORTER: Chesapeake could be
the next Enron.
JESSE: He's leading a company
that is built
on a tissue of lies.
And eventually he's indicted
for securities fraud.
Police in Oklahoma
are investigating the death
of a legendary energy titan.
Aubrey McClendon died yesterday
in a fiery car crash
one day after being indicted.
[sinister music]
Yeah, um...
I think I convinced myself
for, like, a week
he wasn't actually dead.
I think that was, like,
obviously wrong,
but I hit
a mental block there.
JAKE: This, in a nutshell,
marks the end of an era
for Magnises
and the beginning of trouble
for his company.
But right around this time,
Billy meets Carola Jain,
a very welloff investor
and the wife of Bob Jain,
who runs one of the biggest
hedge funds in New York City.
Carola becomes one of Billy's
most important
and core seed investors.
I found out some of our
coworkers were working
on a side business for Billy.
And we kind of were like, "Hey,
like, that doesn't feel right."
"Is he starting, like,
another fraudulent business?"
DELROY: When I first met Billy,
I was on Norman's Cay.
I was a bartender there
at MacDuff's Restaurant.
I'm like, "What the fuck these
guys coming here to do?"
'Cause there's nothing
on this island.
I think, "Well, let me just be
quiet and do my job."
[blender whirring]
I'm the bartender.
Let me get them drunk
'cause a drunk mind speaks
a sober tongue.
And it happened.
Billy said,
"Bring out the laptop.
Show Delroy what you got."
BILLY: Our pitch was simple.
We want to bring music
on this island
and allow hundreds of people
to come and experience
the magic at one time.
And we were hoping to build
this creative center
in the Bahamas where maybe
our music artists would come
and record and models
could come and shoot.
And we were hoping to have
a yearround creative center
that was culminated
in this annual festival.
Said "What do you think?
Can we pull this off?"
I looked at him.
I was like, "Billy, uh,
[engine idling]
They're just like, "I'll
be back in, like, two weeks."
So I'm like, "Yeah, right.
[dramatic music]
AVA: People like Billy
McFarland were not unique
to the Bahamas, you know?
This is not the first time
that we've had someone purport
to be something
and they're not.
Because of our proximity
and our high visibility,
the Bahamas have always been
a firststop shop for scammers.
We're a country of industrious,
hardworking people,
but unemployment
is incredibly high.
We're still
a developing country.
WOMAN: Call 1800Sandals.
AVA: The culture
of exclusive resorts,
this ultraluxe lifestyle
in an environment
where there's so much poverty
there is a level of collusion
and payforplay
and kickbacks involved.
[water splashes]
It's so ripe for fraud.
DELROY: I'm riding past
the runway
and I see this plane coming in.
Billy said, "Hey, Delroy,
I told you I'd be back."
This other dude walked
off the plane.
It's Ja Rule.
And apparently, Ja is the face
for the festival.
And he came to make sure the
shit kick off the right way.
I am cofounder of Fyre.
Me and myme and my brother,
And this is what we call
a moonshot.
I checked the calendar.
Checked the date.
All I did was just
scratch my head.
I was like, "Boy, I don't know
if this shit can happen."
Get ready, baby.
Fyre Festival coming in April.
The best shit in the world.
DAVE: I'm in
the music business.
Everyone talks.
And we started hearing these
rumors that Ja Rule
was working on this highend
event in the Bahamas
called Fyre Festival
and it was gonna
be really expensive
villas, private yacht rides,
exclusive dinners with artists.
This utopian concept that's
about culture and art
and music
that kind of festival culture
that, "We could create
our own society here
It started with Woodstock
and Monterey Pop.
This is our generation, man.
We're all together, man.
It's groovy.
DAVE: Fast forward to the '80s
and Live Aid.
We love you!
DAVE: And then in the '90s,
Perry Farrell
launched Lollapalooza.
And there was Burning Man.
But in 1999, Goldenvoice
launched Coachella.
There was no VIP area.
There was no glamping.
It was a site in the desert and
hot dogs and porta potties.
That's really the start
of the modern festival movement
in North America.
But now Coachella
is $100 million,
almost highend luxury event.
It seems like, you know,
only the very wealthy
can afford to really have
a comfortable experience.
JIA: Coachella is about putting
on your deeply inappropriate
feather headdress and,
like, posing in front
of the Ferris wheel.
It's like, "I've got money.
I've got tons of friends.
I'm, like, young and attractive
and carefree."
And the music festival's
a great place to display that.
And there a lot of people
in the millennial generation
that are interested
in experiences
that are effectively, like,
pretext for really
good Instagrams.
And I hate to speak on behalf
of millennials,
'cause there's nothing worse
than a millennial
speaking on behalf
of millennials.
I'm sorry, who are you again?
ANNOUNCER: "The Millennials."
Some of the stereotypes
about millennials are true.
Taking a break
from social media.
JAKE: We are obsessed
with our phones.
ALL: No!
We are a little
bit narcissistic.
I think that I may be
the voice of my generation.
JAKE: A little bit arrogant
as a generation,
I guess you could say.
CALVIN: But certainly,
our generation
loves to be a part of the hype.
We identify ourselves with
what we're attached to
or who's involved or who
follows us or who likes us
or who comments.
"Do I have a blue checkmark?"
"Am I trending
at the right event?
You're either tagged in posts
or you're sharing memes
or you're sending videos that
everyone can relate to
and laugh, like Star Wars kids
or dramatic gopher
or Antoine Dodson.
You see what everyone else
is doing.
The fact that you're
not there creates this fear
that you're less
of an individual.
BILLY: I think the world's
always been where
there's always
somebody smarter,
more successful,
taller, whatever than you,
but people didn't see it
as much as they're
exposed to it now.
They weren't in your face
all day long.
And that's what drives a lot
of these things.
It's tapping into FOMO
fear of missing out,
which is kind of a core thing
for millennials.
If I missed out
on chili and cheese,
I'd have a bad case of FOMO.
Fear of missing out.
So you're, like,
a millennial?
JIA: FOMO is something
that was invented
by the social media paradigm.
It's this underlying anxiety
where if you don't continue
to escalate your visibility,
your identity will start
to crumble in pieces.
VICKIE: Millennials are
spending around twohoursplus
a day on social media.
Every day, I start by hitting
up Facebook, Twitter,
Tumblr, and Instagram.
If you're not relevant
in social media,
if you're not talked about,
you don't exist.
social media marketing,
influencer marketing
is the most impactful form
of marketing for
an entire generation.
So, an influencer is anyone
with a social following.
There are plenty of people who
are models and celebrities
that have influence,
like Kendall Jenner,
Hailey Baldwin,
Bella Hadid.
We call them macros,
but those are celebrity
JIA: What an influencer is
is someone who has effectively
monetized their identity.
That is their work:
the performance
of an attractive life.
That is their job.
I'm Austin Mills.
I do a lot of TV hosting.
I do some social media
My name's Alyssa Lynch.
I have almost half a million
followers on Instagram.
SETH: So, my name is Seth.
[music winds down]
I don't know who that is.
SETH: I created this
influencer character,
William Needham Finley IV,
the most influential
I'm just kinda poking fun at
the whole influencer culture.
It's all a joke.
[quirky music]
JAKE: Everybody is now an
influencer in a certain sense.
Everybody is a brand.
Um, when I say "my brand,"
um, I just mean
kind of, like, the lifestyle
that I want to live.
So, positivity, um...
Health, wellness,
and honestly just, like,
VICKIE: I look at influencers
as really brave people.
They're sharing
a lot of information
and they're sort of taking one
for the team
for all of us
to relate to them.
And FuckJerry was one
of the original influencers.
REPORTER: Believe it or not,
27yearold Elliot Tebele
makes memes for a living.
JIA: FuckJerry's part
of the same ecosystem
that produced influencer
marketing in the first place.
JAMES: If you wanna learn how
to dominate social media
and how you make money
off of it, watch.
MAN: We come up with campaigns
for big brands.
We produce the pictures
and the videos.
We post it to their Instagram,
Facebook, or YouTube
because you've got all of these
brands that are trying
to get in on
the viral meme game.
These big brands don't know
how to think like we do.
You now have 30 million
followers across
the entire Jerry network.
The campaign objective is to
truly shift mainstream opinion.
What's up, fam?
He's the CEO.
He's a lot smarter
than he looks.
VICKIE: It doesn't surprise me
that Fyre would turn
to a social media marketing
entity like FuckJerry
because that's what
they do best.
OREN: I was on the FuckJerry
design team.
The first client that they
gave me was Fyre Festival.
This was supposed to be
the new Coachella,
the new Burning Man,
the new whatever.
And I was designing it.
[light music]
I came to a meeting with Fyre.
In the meeting it was like, uh,
you know, two agencies
never met each other but
bidding kind of
for the same business.
So it was very, like...
[clicks tongue]
"Who are you guys?"
Like, "We don't want anything
to do with you."
The Fyre team said they wanted
to do a music festival
in the Bahamas,
but they wanted to do it
in only six months.
I'm like, "Whoa."
[light music dies, restarts]
The second we stepped outside
onto the street
with the other agency,
it was kind of a quick exchange
of, like
[exhales sharply]
"This is crazy."
Like, and both of us were like,
"This can't happen."
Like, "This will never work."
Saying it out loud on the
street justand being like,
"Well, let's, uh
let's just do it.
It'll probably be fine."
Like, "We're, you know
We're both pros at what we do.
What could go wrong?"
JAKE: Billy understood the
sense that you need to be part
of this world of status
that you need to be
where influencers
and Instagram stars are.
BEN: And so what did he do?
He stole money from people,
and did a commercial.
MICHAEL: I get a call
for a job in the Bahamas.
What they told us was this
client was pretty much here
to party.
Yo, everybody come here.
Cameras, get us coming
up on him.
Get right here.
Hey, the cameras
And so we needed to keep it
professional and get
the commercial out of the shoot
even if things around us
were chaotic.
MAN: When are we leaving?
Right now?
MAN: Yeah, we're
leaving right now.
It was one
of the more ridiculous,
ambitious creative treatments
that I'd seen.
Included on it was, you know,
getting the models
swimming with sharks
in open water.
That M. I. A. music video
on the runway with the cars
where they're all, like,
riding sideways
we wanted to do something
like that with golf carts
on an airplane runway.
Pretty quickly became clear
that it was unfeasible.
Everyone kept talking,
"When are we gonna go
to the pig island?
I'm excited for pig island."
Okay, I guess it's an island
with a bunch of pigs.
And as soon as we get there,
they're all swimming up
and someone's
feeding them beer
and thinks it's funny.
And they'reyou know,
they're like pigeons
except they're pigs
with mouths and teeth.
[screaming, laughing]
Oh, my God.
Get down here.
Get down here
Back up, back up.
MICHAEL: Chanel Iman actually
fell 'cause she's getting bit
by a pig.
The pigs at one point bit Billy
in the balls
and he's running off,
and people are just laughing.
And my point guy was Grant.
Um, he was just overly excited
about pretty much everything.
DAVE: Somebody had leaked to us
this thousandword email
that Grant sent out to his
staff about how the video
should be scored.
[Ludwig van Beethoven's
"Symphony No. 5"]
[man screaming]
Someone created a composition
based on it,
and this is the actual piece.
I'm going to read
the actual letter.
[voice overlapping]
"I want to use odd meters
and compounded time
"Global music elements."
"Extremely constant key
He mentioned using a xylophone;
a surdo,
which is a Brazilian drum;
"tiko drums," especially
during the "more exploratory
elements" of the composition.
[upbeat music]
It just reeks of disconnection
from reality.
OREN: Once video production
was done,
FuckJerry has to market
this thing.
My whole idea was like,
stop the Internet.
And so to do that,
you have to kind of
figure out a way, in this time
of advertising, how to
stop somebody who's scrolling
at speeds that are like
you have less than
a second, most times.
Every influencer
that you follow,
every art account,
every food page,
whatever they're posting
is not neon orange.
That's a stopper.
That's gonna stop as fast
as you're scrolling.
And now I've got
your attention.
We think about visual
disruption all the time.
You have a ton of sameness
in your feed,
and something like an orange
square creates pause.
BILLY: We had 400 musicians,
athletes, models,
actors at the same time post
this orange tile to Instagram.
OREN: And everyone that you
love and follow is now
feeding into it,
and you're going crazy.
You need the answers.
BILLY: Our target customers
when they were browsing
their Instagram feed,
they were like,
"What is this?
Why is there orange
all over my feed?"
CALVIN: These guys figured out
a way to optimize
social media
almost weaponize it.
OREN: When you click
the orange tile,
it linked to the video.
And it worked perfectly.
JAKE: Almost immediately,
the promo video
goes completely viral.
MAN: The actual experience
exceeds all expectations
and is something that's
hard to put into words.
All these things that may seem
big and impossible are not.
It gives people that
type of energy.
That type of power.
JIA: The promo video was
perfectly generic fantasia
of what an Instagram
come to life would be.
It was nothing but backdrop,
like, montagefriendly bliss.
EMILY: The boat is going across
the blue waters of the Exuma
and all of these, like,
really hot models are, like,
dancing around and then there's
just random white guys there
for, like, who knows
what reason.
CALVIN: Beautiful women
on a deserted island?
Yeah, 100%, I'm going.
Take my money.
Here, II will throw
my credit card at it.
DAVE: You see these super
models on jet skis
and you're thinking like, "Wow,
I really want to be there."
CALVIN: It was going to be
on a deserted island
owned by Pablo Escobar.
Man, that's about as sexy
as it gets.
OREN: Pablo Escobar's actually,
like, a criminal
who's murdered people brutally.
And I was getting messages
again on Instagram
private messages from people
telling me their parents
were murdered by Pablo Escobar,
and I'm the
I'm the social media guy.
What am I supposed to...
[dramatic music]
CALVIN: Then Billy convinces
Kendall Jenner,
one of the largest influencers
in the world,
to post about
the Fyre Festival.
VICKIE: Kendall Jenner
is defining a generation.
She can take a brand
from zero awareness
to a brand that has
a phenomenal amount
of brand equity
with one social media post.
CALVIN: By some accounts,
she gets paid $250,000
per post.
I think 250's a steal.
To, like, post
how many Instagrams?
CALVIN: The point of Kendall's
post was to announce
that G. O. O. D. Music
was involved with the festival.
OREN: But there was this huge
meltdown on the Fyre side.
"We're ready to go."
Everyone's freaking out.
"No, hold on.
Hold on."
"Launch it."
"No, don't"like...
we eventually got it up.
CALVIN: And so when she does
post about the Fyre Festival,
she gets millions
of impressions.
So the presupposition,
at least on social media,
was that Kanye was gonna be
performing at this festival.
DAVE: Who would wanna miss
seeing Kanye in the Bahamas
with Kendall Jenner?
I mean, talk about
the FOMO movement.
Like, it elevated it
to a ten.
I had influencers
begging to go
because all the other
influencers are going.
CALVIN: You're in Lower
where you're freezing.
You got an election
that just upended
the political environment.
The thing that you're
absolutely focused on
is escaping from that.
And so people are dying
to be a part of something
that was going to be the
the Woodstock
of the millennial generation.
People would message me
things like,
"I quit my job because my boss
wouldn't give me time off."
"I sold, like,
everything I own."
And just listing all these
crazy actions that they took
just to go to this fantasy
island festival.
But there was nothing built.
JAKE: And mind you,
this is January,
so there's only four months
to actually pull this off.
CALVIN: You could not produce
a festival on a deserted island
in a foreign country with such
a truncated time frame.
It's not going to happen.
Billy started panicking.
Billy's like, "No. Shit."
He said, "Listen, people are
actually buying into it,
soso we have to have a
New Year's Eve, we had a dinner
party in Staniel Cay.
Here's to living
like movie stars,
partying like rock stars.
BILLY: And fucking
like porn stars.
[excited chatter]
DELROY: After everybody
got done, I stood up.
I said, "Okay, can I have
like, a moment of silence?"
It's like, "Yeah. What's up?"
I said, "Okay, everybody,
wine, dine, eat, drink.
"Who didn't fuck got suck?
Who didn't suck
"had a good fuck?
"Now as of tomorrow,
"you guys need to start
making your phone calls,
"dealing with the festival
to get this shit to start
coming in now."
Everybody looked at me,
and they laughed.
They said,
"Delroy, sit down, man."
They said, "Why are you
so worried?
We got this. We're straight.
We're good with this, man."
I'm like, "Okay."
JAKE: As it turns out,
Billy doesn't actually have
a site for the festival.
So Billy goes island shopping.
[dreamy ukulele music]
CALVIN: You know, Johnny Depp
has an island.
Richard Branson has an island.
An island is a very
aspirational thing to own.
But in the Bahamas,
buying an island is sort
of an involved process.
Under a truncated time frame,
if you had all the money
in the world,
it takes several months,
if not years.
AVA: If any investors had
really done
any real sort of research,
they would've realized
that there's not really
much infrastructure here,
so they would have to create
all of the infrastructure.
We're looking at a year of
planning and construction.
CALVIN: You don't buy
an island in February
to then host a party in April.
That is an impossible thing
to do.
JAKE: According
to our accounts,
Billy hops on his jet
with a cook
who claims the perfect island
is actually Great Exuma.
[swanky music]
AVA: Exuma is one of the
more bustling islands.
For Bahamians,
our hospitality
our ability to be great hosts
is a part of our pride.
CALVIN: It actually
has an airport;
there's an established hotel;
there is some infrastructure;
but the problem is,
this site is a complete
gravel pit.
AVA: It's nothing like that
trailer that they shot.
It's just very barren
and just very concrete rubble.
CALVIN: When they posted
the photo of the island,
it's like,
"Here's Fyre Island!"
And I found that
this is a parking lot
on an undeveloped portion
outside of Sandals
Emerald Bay resort.
If you Google
"Sandals Emerald Bay,"
you will also find
"Fyre Island."
I mean thatthatgenius.
I'm seeing these things,
and it's like,
"This is getting ridiculous."
Like, "These guys are lying.
This isno way
this is going on."
Anyone who'd ever been
involved with event production
would have understood that
this wasn't possible.
Like, a wedding planner would
have known, like,
"Absolutely no way."
DANIEL: My first job
for Fyre Festival
was just an assessment
for them.
The scale of this project
was enormous,
but typically, you'd have
this kind of planning effort
around a festival of this scale
18 months in advance,
not four months in advance.
FELIX: When I was brought
we were a month and a half out.
I don't know how they thought
that we were gonna
be able to do this.
II just don't know.
And if it was gonna happen,
we were gonna have
to work 24hour days.
HENRY: We tried to
pick up our pace.
We started to work
day and night.
Some days, I came off the site
at 3:00 at night
and I went back at 7:00.
NICK: I was brought on
to be a general store manager
and a sourcing coordinator.
We were all working
18hour days, 19hour days.
I was sleeping an average
of three hours a night.
JAKE: Another huge problem is
that the two weekends
that Billy has chosen
for the festival
happen to coincide with the
Exuma Family Regatta...
[dramatic music]
Which is a sailing regatta.
It's the biggest event
that happens annually.
DONALD: We have the national
regatta going on.
That's bigger
than Christmas here.
The organizer was told,
"This is not the right time
to do this."
JAKE: The problem is,
with this regatta,
there's not gonna be any cars.
There's not gonna
be any hotels.
It'll be difficult to host
thousands of people
for the festival.
[tense music]
He's warned
that he should cancel it
that it just can't
come together.
DELROY: And Ja Rule came down,
and he saw it for himself.
He pulled me aside.
He's like, "Yo, Delroy.
"Just be straight up, dawg.
Is this festival gonna happen?
What'd you think?"
All I did was just
scratch my head.
I was just like, "Ja, it's
really not gonna happen."
Here's to living life...
Like motherfucking movie stars.
MAN: So Ja Rule didn't know
anything that was going on?
I was in charge
of the festival,
and I made the decision
to keep it goingtoto
toI was in charge,
and so it's on me.
MAN: But he was there with you
on the island frequently.
Uh, heyup, he was
on the island.
MAN: Did he tell you,
"Billy, we can't do this.
We need to cancel"?
I'm not gonna talk about
our different
private conversations,
but, you know,
we've had many conversations,
as well as I did with
the rest of the team,
and those were
the decisions we made.
CALVIN: And so they didn't
cancel the festival,
but what happened is
the story kept getting bigger.
And then people I knew,
you know,
you know, started buying
GA passes.
But what I think Billy
figured out very quickly
was that he was not gonna be
able to throw this festival
with the number of people
that were buying GA passes
for the cost that he thought
it was gonna be.
And so ultimately, they just
said, "Well, it's sold out,
"so the only thing
that you can buy now
are the premium passes."
So Grant designed these,
like, villas.
I think he just used AutoCAD.
[pinging and beeping]
CALVIN: And the whole thing
sort of became an ad hoc
"We're gonna sell one
of one for this.
We have two villas
available for this."
You know, "The Dolphin Villa
is available
for $25,000."
DAVE: I remember there
was a $250,000 package.
But those villas
did not exist
the ones that
had been marketed
just straight up weren't
not even there.
JIA: Billy might have very well
believed, you know, like,
"There's gotta be some company
that'll set up a villa
for me for super cheap."
I mean, it's like,
"Why can't we Amazon Prime this
or something?"
[awkward music]
JAKE: These guys were just
selling villas
because they needed another
to pay the production
and stage guys.
JAKE: In fact, very quickly
after the festival,
I acquired a trove
of thousands of emails
detailing the inner workings
of the Fyre Festival.
What they show is that
right around this time,
Billy is so short of cash
and he's trying desperately
to figure out how
to pay everybody off
that he begins engaging in
criminal acts and wire fraud.
He's securing services
by promising vendors
wire transfers.
He's sending screenshots
of a confirmation page
but the tracking number
is cut off
and he's not really
wiring the money.
It just seemed like
every day,
we'd wake up with an issue,
solve it by the next morning,
and then a new one
would pop up,
and it was just playing
this WhacaMole game
where we kept solving
the problems,
kept solving the problems,
kept solving the problems
and I guess gained a little bit
of confidence from that,
thinking everything
in the world was solvable.
CALVIN: And then
I started hitting up
my friends in the music
industry who were announced
as headliners at the festival,
saying, "Are you being paid?"
DAVE: They had Blink182.
Major Lazer was playing.
Lil Yachty.
And you had G. O. O. D. Music.
All these really big artists
are gonna demand
payment upfront.
And the information I'm
getting from them is,
"No, they're not paying on
the terms that we disclosed."
I spoke to a number of agents
who said
Fyre Festival went into breach
almost from day one,
were not making payments,
following wire instructions,
it was late,
there were excuses.
CALVIN: So I'm watching this
thing unfold from afar,
but what I didn't know was that
the festival was basically
just a big promotion
for Billy and Ja's bigger idea,
which was the Fyre app.
CALVIN: The Fyre app is a
booking app
so you can rent out celebrities
to appear at your events,
and I think this was sort of
the Tinder for booking talent.
You'd swipe right and make
an offer on Coldplay,
and Coldplay would either
accept and swipe right
or swipe left on you,
and then
you guys would be linked
and then, you know,
you'd have them playing
at Timmy's bar mitzvah.
A very dear friend sent me
a term sheet
from Comcast Ventures
to Fyre Media.
It was for a significant
amount of money
a really meaningful valuation.
But he was just indicating that
the app was far more profitable
than it actually was.
And that's really
when it turned from something
of rich millennials
getting picked off
to something that became, like,
a significant financial crime.
And so at this point,
I have a thesis that
this is a fraud.
So I called Comcast Ventures,
and I said, "Look,
"you gotta trust me.
It's not legitimate.
"Just do me this favor.
"Promise me that you won't
write a check to this company
until after
the festival occurs."
And to their credit, you know,
they ultimately didn't invest.
But still, more tickets are
getting sold.
And the more money people were
spending on this thing,
you know, the more I felt like,
"Hey, someone has got
to stand up and say,
'This isn't real.'"
And so I created
the anonymous Twitter account
and I just started posting
what I knew to be factual.
OREN: We would sit in meetings
with the Fyre team,
and we advised them to stay
away from Twitter
because there was,
like, an account
that basically called them out.
The guy would start talking
to other people
and connecting dots together
in the comments.
And I think everyone in the
room kind of had, like,
a little thing on their mind,
like, "Yeah, you're right."
Like, "How is this gonna work?"
How are 20,000 people getting
to this island
when you're pitching it as
Cessna planes are what's
bringing you there?
People are like, "Eh,
someone will figure it out."
Like, "It's fine."
This cliff is really high.
If people are drunk,
they could just fall
into this water.
They didn't even think, like,
"Maybe we need a fence."
I would say,
"Where's the beach?"
And they'd be like, "Oh, the
beach is five miles away."
We'd be like, "Oh...uh...
"this could actually be, like,
a failure, I think.
Could it?"
And everyone would be like,
"Could it? Could it?"
VICKIE: If you're
a business partner in this
and you have the information
that this is gonna be
a shitstorm,
you should tell somebody.
OREN: So there were a few
vendors who dropped out.
For everybody,
this is a red flag.
This is one of those things
that you kind of question,
"If they're doing something,
why aren't we?"
But it would always come back
to, like, "Nah," and...
VICKIE: If it were my agency
and I didn't think
that this was something
I could put my name behind,
I would've dropped out.
OREN: There's so much
so much money, so much force
behind everything
that it's like,
"This train's not stopping."
CALVIN: You can say
in hindsight
that this is very
easily a fraud,
but there's a point
at which I questioned,
like, "Am I wrong? Am I crazy?"
I needed some of the validation
that an actual journalist
could provide,
so I called
"The Wall Street Journal,"
and I say,
"Here's everything I know.
You need to put
a stop to this thing,"
because these guys were not
running an honest operation.
And they printed it in
"The Wall Street Journal."
Okay, I've done my civic duty.
We have killed this thing.
That's good enough for me.
And I was wrong.
They were unfazed.
In fact, they were
only emboldened.
They hit back with
a counterpunch
of what can only be described
as a social media blitz.
Somebody would post
a question on the thing.
The question would
immediately get deleted.
Anytime there would be
anything that was "distasteful"
or calling Fyre out
on anything.
It was always a matter of,
"Go to that source
and eliminate it."
If you're asked,
as a media company,
to start deleting things,
youthat's a red flag.
OREN: Instantly flagged words
about "lineup,
"lineups, performers,
details, info,
flights, fraud, stupid, scam"
"festival," even.
"Festival" was blocked.
It got that bad.
They would say, "Hey,
"like, I haven't gotten
my flights confirmed.
What's going on?"
And it would be,
that person would then
get blocked from the account.
OREN: And then I had to make
this list again in all caps
because Grant didn't believe
that it wasn't casesensitive.
CALVIN: They were so good
at silencing the dissenters
that I'm screaming this
from a rooftop,
and there's no one listening.
DELROY: Billy was running
out of money,
'cause I heard him on the phone
talking to one of the investors
and, like, this dude
was begging.
"Um, I need, like, um, a mill?"
POLLY: Someone was investing
in the Fyre app
and the Fyre Festival.
Billy created a spreadsheet
and wrote in "musical act,
thousands paid.
Musical act, thousands paid."
MAN: So Lil Wayne was
on the platform?
Every artist in your
in the
in materials that we created
as a team was on the platform.
MAN: Jamie Foxx was
on the platform?
Uh, as againonce again,
every artist that we created
in the materials
was on the platform.
POLLY: But the reality is
that there were never thousands
of acts booked
and there were never millions
of dollars paid.
It was about $57,000 total.
Even worse, he alleged that
he owned Facebook shares
to the tune of over $2 million.
In reality, he had over
1,000 bucks in there.
And after Billy submitted these
doctored loan documents,
this investor put $800,000
on the line for Billy.
He hung up.
He said, "Delroy,
"put it here, man.
Let's go JetSkiing."
[racing bass line]
by Dick Dale & the Del Tones]
Ha, ha, ha
JAKE: Despite all
of the warning signs,
as even the most basic things
just can't come together,
Billy becomes obsessed
with an idea
of bringing a pirate ship
to the Bahamas.
[scoffs] Like, what are you
what do you need
a pirate ship for?
You're alsyou're
you're drowning in debt.
You're literally drowning
in debt.
You can't even see.
BEN: He could sit
in the cannonball
and you could shoot him
and he would do three 360s,
throw out a bunch of money,
pour the drinks
in everybody's mouth,
and say, "Billy's here!"
JAKE: The team is really,
really against this idea,
but Billy is so obsessed
with it
that they go through
the process
of trying to find it anyway.
There was an urgent email
about the bathrooms
that instead of having
these luxurious bathrooms,
they're gonna have to
try to ship in porta potties.
And there's this great email
that I love.
The quote is,
"Well, nobody's eating,
so nobody's pooping."
DELROY: And then they order
2million dollars' worth
of booze.
Who the fuck orders
2million dollars' worth
of booze, dawg?
You know the duty on liquor
in the Bahamas?
45% of $2 million.
I was like...
Okay, and just a couple
of remaining items.
So then Billy took out
this loan
from someone named
Ezra Birnbaum.
Please indicate here if
I look like a schmuck to you.
I'm gonna say no.
POLLY: Ezra Birnbaum
gives a loan for $3 million.
The loan had a maximum
interest rate of 120%.
The interest on the loan
amounted to $600,000
in three months.
He needed to make a payment of
$1/2 million within 16 days.
II was a big boy.
I knew what I was getting into.
And, you know,
if I signed something
that doesn't makeit doesn't
sound smart financially,
that's on me, and it's
no one made me do that.
DAVE: But about a week before
the festival was to take place,
attendees started receiving
this email.
The email said,
"This is a cashless event,
"and you'll be paying
for the festival
using a wristband."
You load the wristband
with money,
and then whenever
you wanna buy anything,
you scan the wristband and
it's debited from the account.
SETH: The directions
in the email
said you were required
to put something on it.
"We recommend
at least $300 per day."
People asked me,
"Are those red flags?"
And I thought, "I don't know.
I've never planned
a music event before."
DAVE: Whenever he's
doing a scam,
it kind of always gets in this,
like, realm of believability
because festivals do use
cashless wristbands.
MAN: Did the decision
to make the wristbands
and have people upload cash
have anything to do
with your loan
to Ezra Birnbaum?
DAVE: Our reporting found
that plan itself raised
about $2 million.
FELIX: Every day,
it was something new.
Everyone was very stressed out.
There were a lot of people
that weren't paid.
DIALLO: And I remember
one day in particular,
we were out there working,
and all of the sudden,
I see a cop show up
and they're shutting down
the job site.
Why? Because these guys aren't
paying national insurance.
[dramatic music]
FELIX: A week before
the festival,
everyone seems to know that
this is not going to happen.
Seven days in advance,
we knew that we didn't
have enough accommodations
for guests, and now
the slippery slope begins.
AVA: The contractor was
begging for more time,
and they were like, "No.
There's no more time."
DANIEL: And you don't have
radio communication.
Why? Because the guy didn't
pay the customs bill.
OREN: The FuckJerry team
was still posting stuff.
I could say, "I'm scared."
I could say,
"This is dangerous."
It won't change anything
'cause the festival
has to happen.
FELIX: It was chaos.
At the end, I was like,
"This shit ain't happening.
I'm getting a flight
out of here."
NICK: People started
to have breakdowns.
People started to have
panic attacks.
No idea what they were doing.
It was a shitshow.
Just chaos and anarchy.
FELIX: The night before,
we worked through the night.
We were driving back
to the house.
It's, like, 3:00 a.m.
at this point
and it starts to rain,
and we're like, "Okay.
It might just be light rain."
And then...
NICK: And it started
We all started crying
of laughter.
It was, like, hours before
the first people
were supposed to get here.
And then thunder
and then the lights go out
and the roads look like
they're flooded.
I thought to myself,
"This is an act of God."
And, you know,
it was kind of like...
That's it.
That'sthat's it.
It's two hours from now.
We're fucked.
[alarm blares]
[eerie music]
DAVE: Before Fyre Festival,
there was definitely some
disastrous festivals.
[crowd shouting]
The Hells Angels stabbing
someone at Altamont Speedway
with the Rolling Stones.
MAN: Everybody, just cool out!
DAVE: And then Woodstock 1999,
it was almost like
this apocalyptic event.
Whenever a festival fails,
it's something about it
that really fascinates people.
So fastforward to today.
We are at high alert.
[alarm blaring]
We didn't know
what was gonna happen.
We just knew we had to tune in.
So I basically set up
a little mini war room.
We are at DEFCON 1.
Well, okay, so the war room
was at my house.
It was just me, but I had
the computer up.
I was watching different
Twitter feeds.
Anybody who was gonna
go to Fyre Fest,
I was following them.
It is Thursday, officially
the day of my flight to Fyre.
We're about to go
to Fyre Festival.
CC: So this Fyre Festival,
it's like history
in the making.
It's gonna be interesting
one way or another.
Going to the Bahamas.
SETH: We got an email Thursday
on morning that said
they were still putting
things together
so you might see some trucks,
you might see some people
moving some stuff around,
and just kind of bear
with them.
We even joked and, like,
bought toilet paper
before we went and thought,
you know,
"This might end up being
And then while we were
waiting in the airport,
we saw that Blink 182 had
tweeted out
that they were not gonna play.
"Well, one band has backed out,
but that's just one band."
Everything was gonna be fine,
AUSTIN: [sighs] I'm saying
my prayers right now.
Could be amazing.
Could be a disaster.
STEWARD: And your seats
in their upright positions.
Thank you very much.
All right, we are here
in the "private jet."
GIRL: [laughs]
It's actually worse than,
like, really, like,
being, like, low,
low economy class.
[awkward music]
AUSTIN: There were some people
already on the island,
including a couple
of our friends.
But our friends were redirected
to another place on the island,
which was one of
the nicer parts.
DANIEL: They decided that
they would ship
all their first three planes
to somebody else's resort.
Okay, so we got
the three cowboys in a row.
OREN: I went down
to the Bahamas
with the FuckJerry guys.
We're at that side party that
they threw everyone to.
This is weird.
This already seemed
like a nosedive.
You could tell everyone's like,
"All right.
Could we go do the thing,
like, now?"
Planes are landing
and people are showing up.
We're here!
[excited chatter]
AUSTIN: We were all packed into
the yellow school bus.
SETH: So a maybe 10
or 15minute drive,
and right as soon as you get
to the entrance...
WOMAN: [sobs] Oh, God.
MAN: Oh, my God.
WOMAN: Oh...
Oh, God.
AUSTIN: A girl next
to me on the bus
started bawling and crying.
WOMAN: [crying] Turn around.
MAN: There's no bed
in that tent.
There's no beds in the tents.
WOMAN: Amber was like,
"This isn't funny!"
SETH: It was just gravel,
mattresses stacked up
along the road.
MAN: That's an air mattress.
I see an air mattress.
AUSTIN: I mean,
this is just crazy.
There's, like, 50 tents
that are ready,
and all the rest aren't.
SETH: There was plenty
of liquor.
There were just pallets
of liquor bottles
sitting next to kiosks that
said "bar."
What's happening?
There's no water over there.
Oh, Jesus.
Maybe we all get
to burn it down at the end?
[laughs] We just burned all
of our money.
SETH: This is not what we
signed up for.
OREN: The first thing I saw
was, "These are FEMA tents.
What have I done?"
My child is like Satan.
This is such a disaster,
but I heard that
some influencers
actually got villas.
Like, mansions.
Look at this kitchen!
We actually did have a villa.
We felt real bad.
[dance music]
[tense hiphop beats]
AUSTIN: I hate you for telling
me to come here.
[laughing] It wasn't me.
It was you.
AUSTIN: I hate you. I hate you.
People were freaking out.
No one had their room.
No one knew where
their bags were.
SETH: There were just
lines forming
in front of the blue house,
so we got in line.
NICK: So I went out there
with my laptop.
There was a line of, like,
600 people in front of me.
And I just, one by one, just
started plugging away.
You know, tent by tent,
tent by tent.
And we startedwe had
a system going.
We got through maybe
400 people,
but then Billy stood up
on that table
and he decided to undo
everything that I had done.
SETH: And he kind of just said,
"Go find a tent."
[overlapping chatter]
FELIX: And everyone's
just running.
NICK: It was just this mad dash
to claim your tent.
MAN: Shit.
AUSTIN: It was definitely
a state of panic.
MAN: They're just telling
everyone it's a freeforall,
to just find an empty tent
and grab it,
so this whole place
is pretty fucked.
Things could go terribly,
terribly wrong at this point.
It's about to be pitch
black out here.
People are panicking.
People are panicking.
Like, tripping out.
We have 250 houses rented
for millions of dollars
with paper receipts
and pictures of every house.
MAN: Why didn't your guests get
to those houses
that you rented?
We had a box
of physical keys,
cars to take people there,
and maps
for every single house,
and the box of keys
unfortunately, it went missing.
MAN: You lost a box of keys
to twomillion dollars' worth
of houses?
MAN: So why didn't you tell
that to the guests?
[awkward music]
DAVE: After Blink 182
dropped out,
a lot of the bands just never
got on the plane
because they could sense it was
a smoldering heap.
AUSTIN: This is, like,
five or six hours later,
we still don't have
our luggage.
What the fuck are
we gonna do?
SETH: And that's when we ended
up at that shipping container
where they were throwing
luggage out,
like the whiteglove concierge
service that they promised.
AUSTIN: There was absolutely
zero organization.
NICK: People had to
literally fight through
and try to find their bags.
That is the worst thing
you could have possibly done.
AUSTIN: People are
carrying mattresses.
SETH: So I tweet out,
"Look at this.
"Do you see these lockers?
"Do you see
the luxury food court?
Do you see this luxury
cheese sandwich?"
CALVIN: At the same time,
Billy's lawyers were issuing
cease and desist orders
to anyone that's actively
posting negative comments.
BEN: They were threatening,
"We're gonna sue you."
It wasn't just rich kids
trapped on an island to me.
At that point, it was also
a health concern
that there were people
literally trapped on an island.
AUSTIN: This shit is
a fucking disaster.
My immediate reaction was,
"We need to get out of here."
Like, #RescueMission,
AVA: There was just, like,
a run on the airports.
It was incredibly nightmarish
because they had to deal
with persons
who were high out of your mind.
Very rowdy...
145! Whoo!
ALL: Happy birthday to you
SETH: They had been drinking
all day.
There was a guy
putting baby oil
on his completely
sunburned body
just hammered at, like,
11:30 at night,
and we're just sitting
there like,
"When do we get off
this island?"
Mind you, at this point,
everyone's starting
to get antsy, grumpy,
hungry, thirsty.
SETH: One guy passed out,
and they had to take him
to the hospital.
AUSTIN: People were starting
to yell and scream.
They brought, like,
police from the island
into the room
to calm people down.
MAN: When do we get
our money back?
AUSTIN: Finally, we hear
a plane is actually coming.
We made it!
We made it!
SETH: We get on the plane
and the pilot does
the headcount,
and it doesn't match up
with the manifest.
We need to pay attention.
He's gonna be calling names.
AUSTIN: The U. S. wouldn't
let us come back
because we had 111 names
and 112 people on the flight.
SETH: So he's making
everybody wake up
and get off the plane.
We are officially off
the plane.
[bossa nova music]
So far, heading to be
the worst 24 hours of my life.
SETH: We get back on the plane.
4:51 a. m.,
still sitting here.
SETH: And then the pilot
comes back.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I got some bad news.
SETH: Due to FAA regulations,
that crew has to leave.
They've been on for too long.
MAN: Let us go home.
AUSTIN: We go back
into the waiting room.
SETH: And they lock the doors.
We couldn't have anyone going
out of the air side,
light up a cigarette,
a fuel truck explodes.
Then we have a bigger issue.
STEWARD: Please take your seat
and fasten your seatbelts.
[cheers and applause]
[engine roars]
SETH: On the plane,
I got an email that said,
"We got off to a rough start
on day one.
But day two's gonna be, you
know, awesome."
JAKE: And then things
just blew up.
Nightmare in paradise.
There was no music.
REPORTER: They were put into
disaster relief tents.
REPORTER: Slice of cheese
on bread.
For 48 hours, it was the
number one trending story
on the news.
JIA: The media loves to write
about millennials
that are really rich,
really white, spoiled,
so when you have all of them
stuck on an island
having a shit fit,
people were gleeful.
Other events that Kendall
Jenner has been promoting:
the Mount Etna
Active Volcano Rave.
JIA: You know, this, like,
tsunami of schadenfreude.
REPORTER: Some people are
calling it
rich people's problems.
JIA: It's like, "Inject it
directly into my veins.
"I want nothing but this
until the supply runs dry."
CONAN: What do you think
of the Fyre Festival?
greatest things
that's ever happened.
I mean, it's terrible.
I mean, I know it's terrible.
WOMAN: We had no electricity.
There was no showers.
There was no bathrooms.
There's no, like,
running water.
Man, white people love
camping unless it's a surprise.
Our firm started getting
from people who were there.
Images, screengrabs,
audio, video.
And it invoked these images
of "The Hunger Games"
or "Lord of the Flies."
Release the monster!
And it was like, you know,
"Holy shit. This is serious."
I called all the associates
into the office.
I said, "We're drafting
a complaint."
And we actually filed
on a Sunday night.
REPORTER: The failed
Fyre Festival has been hit
with a $100 million lawsuit.
BEN: We asserted
$100 million damages,
which is a large number.
It was my view that he should
basically pay back
everything that the company
could've been worth
to his victims.
CALVIN: While the Fyre Festival
was gone,
Billy still had the Fyre app,
which was a talentbooking app,
and, you know,
a number of employees that were
still working on it.
And there was this letter
where the employees
of the Fyre app were seeking
to separate themselves
from the festival.
The first demand they made
was that Billy fire Grant.
"Grant was abusive,"
they were saying.
You know, "Grant caused a lot
of these problems."
CALVIN: And then someone had
recorded this internal call
between Billy and
the Fyre app employees
and then posted it
on Soundcloud.
CALVIN: Billy was still
that this Comcast investment,
which I had effectively killed,
was still going
to be coming in.
DAVE: They started
expressing shock
that the Comcast investment
never really happened.
MAN: You told several employees
that "there was a $20 million
We're gonna be fine."
I can't comment on that.
CALVIN: Not only had he
successfully conned
ticket holders, but he had also
successfully conned employees.
And instead of trying to figure
out how to make it right,
Billy decides that he's
now a movie producer.
MICHAEL: I get a call,
and it's Billy McFarland.
I picked up just with, like,
a "hey, how's it going?"
Billy wanted to do
this "recovery documentary."
That's what he was calling it.
It sounded like a PR exercise.
He says, "Where are you?
Could you be here tonight?"
And he Venmos me $1,000 on
the spot to buy a flight.
So I get to his penthouse
and the elevator opens up.
[shower running]
And about 45 minutes goes by,
and he's still in the shower.
[shower running]
That...was interesting.
He was living in
this posh, clean penthouse,
removed from it all
by many layers of glass,
and he wanted to get
to the Bahamas
to try and recoup money
for investors.
As we're on our way to land,
the entire government
switches over
and comes out with a statement
pretty much barring Billy
and the Fyre Festival
for the rest of eternity.
[tense music]
Uh, Delroy was gonna help us
get all of our merchandise
all of our Tshirts
and sweatshirts and hats
out of Great Exuma,
but the customs has them
all locked down.
They didn't pay
their customs duties,
so the Fyre Festival's
merchandise was seized.
Robbing customs
was on the bullet list
of things that they
were planning to do.
I was just curious to see
how they were even gonna
possibly trick themselves
into thinking
they could pull that off.
MAN: You say that Billy tried
to get you to rob customs.
Yeah, he tried.
BILLY: Did he pay you anything
for stealing the merch?
Me ain't never stole
any merch.
JIMMY: Fyre Music Festival.
Did you hear about this mu
in the Bahamas?
[laughing] It was a disaster.
It was a big disaster.
The bands didn't show up.
Nothing was ready.
Now the organizers
are being sued
for $100 million.
[crowd gasps]
When asked how they're
gonna raise the money,
they said, "How about
a musical festival?"
MICHAEL: I wish it was a joke,
but after the Bahamas,
we went to Los Angeles.
Ja Rule was there.
Billy was there.
MICHAEL: We're talking just
a month after the disaster,
Fyre Festival 2018
was the goal.
CALVIN: When the thing
went belly up,
Ja Rule took absolutely
no accountability.
That's amazing to me.
But even though Ja Rule wasn't
sweating any repercussions,
Billy was gonna have
to deal with the FBI.
REPORTER: William McFarland,
who created and founded
Fyre Festival
with rapper Ja Rule,
arrested and charged
with wire fraud
by the FBI, Friday.
The legal situation does not
involve any aspects
of the execution
of the festival.
BILLY: So financial dealings
have nothing to do
with the execution
of the festival?
Any payments made to vendors,
team members,
are not in question in terms of
any legal proceedings, no.
[dark music]
JAKE: I'm looking right now
at all of the details
that they're laid out
in their case against him.
"McFarland's fraud was
a deliberate plan
to deceive, motivated
by unadulterated greed."
he needed more money,
he lied to investors."
"Lack of remorse."
"He did not feel
that what he was
doing was wrong."
JAKE: "Throughout this scheme,
McFarland causes losses
"to at least 80
totaling more
than $24 million."
We didn't break the law in
the execution of the festival.
MAN: What were you
indicted for?
Uh, I'm not gonna comment
on any criminal
ongoing criminal proceedings.
MAN: But you were indicted.
I'm notI cannot comment
on any ongoing
criminal proceedings.
MAN: But there are
ongoing criminal proceedings?
I can't comment on this.
BEN: He can come on
he didn't do it,
but he's signing documents
that say he did it.
And ultimately,
you had a guilty plea.
MAN: Has anyone ever called you
a compulsive liar?
I've been called a lot of
things since the festival.
MAN: So you don't believe you
have a compulsion
to augment the truth?
It's like you're calling me
all these crazy things, man.
Like, show me one thing
that I said that's not true.
MAN: So you're not a liar?
Show me one thing I said
that's not true today.
I'm ready.
I'll sit here and wait.
MAN: Okay. Magnises.
We had over 10,000
paying customers.
We have 100,000 customers
around the globe.
to former Magnises employees,
Magnises never had more than
4,000 to 5,000 members.
We spent $30 million
to execute this festival.
But that was not true.
We had 250 houses rented.
I spent $5.9 million
of my own money.
He lied to investors.
Repeated misrepresentations.
Deliberate plan to deceive.
Fictitious and forged
A sham.
Betrayed and deceived
his investors, customers,
and employees.
Okay, I'm gonna take
a tenminute break
and I'll come back
and we'll continue.
MAN: Uh, what's
the tenminute break for?
To come up with that, or...
No, I'm taking
a personal break.
MAN: Okay.
MARIA: I would not trust
a single word
that Billy says
about his own motivations
or about himself
simply because Billy McFarland
is a con artist.
I know all about them.
You know, I've researched them.
I know they ruin lives.
They look into your soul,
they see what you're missing,
and they take advantage
of that.
The most surprising thing
about con artists
is just how normal
and likable they are.
For a con artist, deception
is a constant practice.
A con artist would pass
a lie detector test
with flying colors because
there's no tension there.
To them, this is the truth.
They aren't delusional.
They're doing it
very deliberately.
Billy has been running
small cons his entire life.
We're gonna be hearing
from him again.
All con artists end up
going back to conning.
and Billy met,
it was destiny for us, I guess.
It's like, it's love.
I don't know how to explain it.
Babe, what are you doing here?
We're going on a little ride.
Come on. Get in.
I never had this kind of
but he drew my attention
just with his energy.
MARIA: Con artists like Billy
are really personable.
They're fun and have just
extraordinary charm.
But then I Googled him.
That's when I realized that he
was connected to Fyre Festival.
My mind, maybe my head,
was saying one thing,
but then I had
these feelings in my heart.
MARIA: These are people
who get people to trust them,
and they have an explanation
for everything.
ANASTASIA: He kind of
explained me that, you know,
at some point, I guess he lost
the sense of reality.
REPORTER: The biggest event
in decades.
REPORTER: Tech mogul,
Billy McFarland.
REPORTER: The next Zuckerberg.
[overlapping voices]
[exhales, laughs] Sorry.
I think I'm shaking a little,
and that's getting...
[eerie music]
CALVIN: After the festival,
Billy was out on bail
and still living a
largerthanlife lifestyle.
I remember walking past Billy,
and one of my friends
was with him.
I said, "What are you doing?"
He's like, "I don't know.
Billy's got a table up at PHD.
And I'm thinking, like,
"Wait a minute."
You got this guy
that's still out buying bottles
in nightclubs in Manhattan,
and he had his girlfriend
pay cash
to rent a Hamptons house.
They're hanging out in
Amagansett together.
How is he affording to do this?
SETH: Around the middle
of December of 2017,
I got an email from
NYC VIP Access.
It was a guy named
Frank Tribble
offering Masters tickets.
My friends who had attended
Fyre Festival
got the same email,
and I kept getting them.
I got the Victoria's Secret,
the Met Gala, Burning Man.
CALVIN: You can't buy tickets
to the Met Gala.
I'd try.
You can't buy tickets to
Victoria's Secret fashion show.
I've really tried that.
These are things
that don't exist.
POLLY: If you've never been
out on bail before,
that's the time in your life
where you wanna be committing
the least number crimes.
SETH: I assumed Billy had
sold this email list.
Like, I didn't actually think
Billy was behind the scenes,
doing any of this.
So he was?
[both laughing]
You cannot make this up.
As it turns out,
NYC VIP was Billy.
JAKE: He's out on bail for
fraud and then he comes up
with another company
to defraud people.
This is really a return
to Billy's roots
when he built Magnises
it's promise people
exclusive access to events,
and here he is doing it again.
BEN: He's like a gambler
or an alcoholic,
where somebody keeps going back
to that negative behavior.
He keeps going back
to scamming people
like it's injected in his DNA.
JIA: In the millennial era,
scamming is the air we breathe.
BEN: There is, essentially,
a Fyre Festival going on
every day in the West Wing.
It's basically the
Fyre Festival of budgets.
JIA: One of the safest ways
of making money in America
is to get really good
at exploiting people
and to treat everyone
like a mark.
You've got Anna Delvey,
the socalled Soho Grifter
and Elizabeth Holmes,
the CEO and founder
of Theranos.
And then you have
Billy McFarland,
and all three of them coasted
for a really long time.
I think Billy truly believed
that he'd get away with it.
POLLY: But the rules
still exist,
and he ended up facing
three more charges
for wire fraud, bank fraud,
and giving false statements
to a law enforcement officer.
MAN: What does going to prison
look like for you?
I don't know.
I haven't really
gotten there yet.
BEN: Billy had his bail
revoked, and he was sent
to jail to basically start
his prison sentence.
"The United States of America
versus William McFarland,
"It is my conclusion
"that the defendant
is a serial fraudster
"and that todate,
his fraud, like a circle,
"has no end.
"Your choices, and yours
"are the reasons
for your sentence,
"which is six years in custody.
"There is an agreedupon
of $26,191,306.28."
JAKE: Billy has defrauded
people. He's harmed people.
People have really suffered.
But is six years in prison
actually enough
for what he's done?
[The Foundations'
"Build Me Up Buttercup"]
CALVIN: We're living
in an era in which
you can convince millions
of people to do anything
just on marketing alone.
But in its wake,
it leaves real harm.
Let me down
DIALLO: They skated out
of town and left
everybody high and dry.
Can I curse on here?
MAN: Yeah, go ahead.
He's a fuckshot.
He's a fuckshot.
It was a scam
from the beginning.
I need you,
I need you
BEN: Don't just focus on Billy.
There are people who helped
Billy commit fraud so that
they could make their money.
MAN: Yeah, that's
Billy and Grant,
our new EMTs.
EMILY: I heard that Grant
is now an EMT.
His favorite word was "urgent."
I had allcaps "urgent"
in my subject lines
all the time, so now he
actually has urgent situations.
CALVIN: I have
very deep concerns
around the marketing
anyone who kept promoting this
up until the very end.
actions taken by Jerry Media
were done at the direction of
the Fyre Festival."
"Like the ticket holders,"
"we were also misled."
"Per our previous
Oren Aks
has misrepresented himself."
Okay. [chuckles]
Well, fuck you guys.
[air horn blares]
OREN: I honestly can't believe
this documentary
there's two of them.
BEN: You kind of hope
they do the right thing.
You can hope all you want.
More frequently,
you have to sue.
Motherfuckin' Ja Rule's
in the building!
JAKE: So Ja Rule decides to go
on this show called
"Drink Champs."
There's not a better place
to brag about your crimes
than a show where a bunch
of guys get drunk.
People didn't really know
I had anything to do
with the festival until...
MAN: Until it went wrong.
That's the crazy part.
Until it went wrong.
"Ja Rule's Festival!"
MAN: And then theyyeah.
They're trying to blame
CALVIN: By the end of it,
he's like,
"Yeah, it was my vision
the whole time."
It was my idea,
my vision, to do this.
This whole thing is
is an incredible story
because now he's out trying
to do it all again
with Iconn, which is just
a rebranded Fyre app.
JIA: It's just an app where you
can book rich people
to, you know, play your
birthday party or whatever.
It's very different,
but itit's similar.
I need you
ANASTASIA: Jail sucks.
Don't go to jail.
He says in the letter,
like, uh...
[laughing] "I took
a shower in the sink."
It's also, like,
"Billy loves Anastasia."
Like, the drawings.
You see?
JAKE: Billy is now teaching
a class
on music entrepreneurship
to fellow inmates.
In a certain sense, I mean,
I guess you have to admire
the hustle.
This is him calling.
Can I answer really quick?
OPERATOR: This call is from...
BILLY: William McFarland.
Hey, babe.
BEN: It's a great time
to be a con man in America.
Why do you build me up
Build me up
Buttercup, ba...
[music dies]