Fyre Festival organisers tried to skimp on 'bare necessities' like soap and toilet paper, leaked emails show

One consultant warned that social media influencers were expecting villa housing despite there being no evidence that the villas ever existed

Roisin O'Connor
Music Correspondent
Tuesday 06 June 2017 14:10 BST
Trash and remnants of the failed Fyre Festival remain on the site in Great Exuma, the Bahamas
Trash and remnants of the failed Fyre Festival remain on the site in Great Exuma, the Bahamas (Scott McIntyre/The New York Times)

Fyre Festival executives were warned about insufficient facilities ahead of the disastrous event, leaked internal emails show.

The luxury event was organised by hip hop star Ja Rule and tech entrepreneur Bill McFarland, and was supposed to feature performances from the likes of Blink-182, Disclosure and Skepta.

It was advertised on social media as a glamorous party that would be attended by supermodels including Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski.

Instead guests arrived on Exuma Island in the Bahamas and reported half-built 'cabansas' that were "actually disaster relief tents", short supplies of food, water and electricity, cancelled headliners and mountains of rubbish.

Fyre Festival attendees locked in airport 'for their own safety'

According to some of "several thousand" emails seen by Mic, organisers attempted to cut corners at the "luxury festival" by cutting the number toilet and shower trailers on the island, and skimping on "bare necessities" such as toilet paper.

Less than a month before the festival was due to launch, executive producer Lyly Villanueva sent an email to senior staff including co-founder Bill McFarland with the subject line: "RED FLAG - BATHROOMS/ SHOWER SHIPPING."

In the email, she warned of the cost of getting the recommended number of toilet trailers (18-20 trailers that held around 125 toilet stalls would accommodate an estimated 2,500 people) - to the island.

"These were equations given to us by bathroom providers and confirmed via my own research and experience," she wrote.

Fyre Media president Conall Arora replied: "If we cut it in half, we would just have double the line wait? I'm seeing some sites that say we could get away with 75 toilets."

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He later added: "It sounds like we can save a lot of money if we sub in port a potties."

Mic reports that everyone it has contacted from the emails either declined or did not respond to requests for comment.

One week ahead of the festival, consultant Marc Weinstein wrote in an email titled "***DO NOT IGNORE*** HOUSING UPDATE & ACTION ITEMS FOR YOU" that there would not be housing for an estimated 593 attendees, staff and vendors.

He suggested renting a cruise ship as a last minute solution, and also to dismiss 130 staff members and bump some of the social media influencers and the lowest-paying customers to the second weekend of the festival.

Chief marketing officer Grant Margolin replied that bumped customers would get an upgrade to villa housing, but there has been no evidence to suggest that those villas ever existed.

In another email sent on 22 April - just five days before guests arrived on the island - Weinstein suggested an "outreach campaign" after speaking to "even low level influencers" who he said expected their own rooms at private villas on the beach.

"Of course," he wrote, "these villas don't exist." Later that same day he would write again asking whether organisers wanted to stock housing with items such as toilet paper, soap and water.

Fyre is currently facing multiple lawsuits, some of which allege that organisers should have been aware that site conditions did not compare to what had been advertised, and is also the subject of a federal investigation.

Founders McFarland and Ja Rule face lawsuits alleging fraud and breach of contract, one of which is a $100 million class-action complaint filed on behalf of guests by entertainment law firm Geragos & Geragos.

One of the key allegations is that organisers knew about the issues facing the festival months in advance, Rolling Stone reported.

It claims: "The festival's lack of adequate food, water, shelter and medical care created a dangerous and panicked situation among attendees - suddenly finding themselves stranded on a remote island without basic provisions - that was closer to The Hunger Games or Lord of the Flies than Coachella."

McFarland and Ja Rule have disputed those claims.

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