Imagine that you bought an all-inclusive luxury adventure, but when you showed up, none of it existed and you were trapped on a foreign island with no way to get home. It sounds like the premise for a movie, but it happened to thousands of people in April 2017.
Ticket holders were mostly young, wealthy people who paid thousands of dollars for tickets to the experience of a lifetime in the Bahamas. Instead, the organizers pocketed the money and failed to create any basic safety, infrastructure or even food.
Everything was a lie. The Fyre Festival was a scam.
When the embers had cooled and the ticket holders left the islands, investors and ticket holders launched six different lawsuits against festival organizers. A judge sentenced the co-founder, who in the aftermath of the scandal continued with criminal activity, to pay $26 million and up to six years in prison.
What can the public learn from this event?
Organizers lied to the public and to investors to secure funding for the event. Some of these lies were elaborate forgeries. Others went undetected out of pure negligence.
The co-founder was a chronic con-artist who targeted young, wealthy people looking to have fun and their wealthy families who would willingly help to fund their adventure. They failed to listen to expert advice. They conned investors with false documents and misleading advertisements.
The Fyre Festival’s only success was their marketing campaign. It drew the attention of young, fashionable celebrities and young people who wanted to didn’t want to miss the biggest event of the year. Thousands of ticket holders bought into it even though the product didn’t exist.
Such too-good-to-be-true investment opportunities are hallmarks of scams and schemes. Many reporters claim that attendees willfully ignored red flags such as missing information, while others claim that the organizers were skilled in misinformation. It taught a new generation of consumers to distrust big marketing and their own desire for luxury.