Is the Founder of Fyre Festival a Massive Troll?

Billy McFarland, the 25-year-old behind the disastrous event, allegedly has a long history of failing to keep luxe promises

Laura Hensley
Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland and Ja Rule pose together
(Photo: Rex Shutterstock)

While Twitter delighted in the downfall of Fyre Festival, anyone who knows Billy McFarland—the co-founder of the disastrous Ja Rule-organized music event—likely wasn’t surprised. McFarland allegedly has a history of “overpromising” elite access to “status-seeking millennials,” meaning the model-endorsed shit storm that was Fyre was very on-brand for the 25-year-old entrepreneur.

As recently reported by the Washington Post, the New York-based McFarland founded a networking startup called Magnises—basically a pay-for-access club targeted at social climbing twenty-somethings—in 2013. For an annual fee of $250 USD, members are promised exclusive access to VIP events, discounted tickets to chic Broadway shows like “Hamilton,” and invites to secret concerts and mixology nights. As Magnises’s website says, “Never a hassle at the door, you’re always a VIP.”

But the reality of Magnises is apparently a lot less “VIP status” and a lot more “RIP money.”

Earlier this year, Business Insider revealed that many Magnises members got real pissed off when McFarland failed to deliver on the *exclusive* promises he advertised. People said they never got concert or Broadway tickets on time, or had their tix cancelled the day before the event and rescheduled for another date. “The whole value proposition is providing access to these events and twice they failed to deliver,” one angry member—who claimed they were screwed over multiple times—told Business Insider. “We’re having growing pains and it’s tough,” McFarland explained to the outlet. “We have to get through it.”

But instead of focusing on fixing said growing pains, McFarland took Magnises to the #nextlevel and started selling flights to Miami and the Bahamas via his airline, Magnises Air (slogan: “We’ll fly you private for less than a commercial flight”). The airline launched in 2015 with flights from New York City to the Hamptons, but last year it began flying to places like Cuba and Miami. The trips, however, didn’t always go according to plan.

One former Magnises member, Robert Egan, told Business Insider that his Cuba itinerary was disorganized AF. “There were no details at all about the trip—where we were flying to exactly, where we would meet, or anything like that,” Egan said. One week before his departure, Egan said his trip was cancelled. A day before the rescheduled flight, he learned he wasn’t going to Cuba—again—because the country was “in mourning” over the death of leader Fidel Castro. Egan told Magnises reps that he knew of people going to Cuba that same week, and demanded his money back. Eventually he was refunded, and he quit McFarland’s ‘exclusive’ club.

On Friday, as news of the Hunger Games-esque Fyre Festival exploded on social media alongside photos of flooded “VIP” tents and sad looking “gourmet” sandwiches, Ja Rule issued an apology for the failed event.

“We are working right now on getting everyone of [sic] the island SAFE. That is my immediate concern,” the rapper posted on Twitter. “It was NOT A SCAM as everyone is reporting. I don’t know how everything went so left but I’m working to make it right by making sure everyone is refunded … I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT … but I’m taking responsibility I’m deeply sorry to everyone who was inconvenienced by this.”

McFarland, also avoiding responsibility, told Rolling Stone that he and his team “were a little naïve” in thinking they could pull off a two-weekend music festival on a private island in the Bahamas without, you know, properly planning anything. “Next year, we will definitely start earlier. The reality is, we weren’t experienced enough to keep up.”

While this year’s fiasco has been cancelled, Fyre Festival 2018 is apparently a thing. Organizers issued a statement saying they had “decided to add more seasoned event experts to the 2018 Fyre Festival, which will take place at a United States beach venue,” and that “all guests from this year will have free VIP passes to next year’s festival.”

But if McFarland has anything to do with it, we’re not so hopeful.

Related:
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