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Category: Brand · 4 min read

5 Takeaways From the Fyre Festival

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on March 21, 2019

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on March 21, 2019

Man and woman meeting with a professional-looking man

Have you heard about the Fyre Festival? This disastrous attempt at a music festival happened in 2017, but it’s back in the news again, thanks to two recent documentaries about the ordeal on Netflix and Hulu.  

Here’s the basic rundown: Entrepreneur Billy McFarland had an idea to create a music festival, called Fyre Festival. He partnered with musician Ja Rule to help create it, and reached out to social media influencers and celebrities to market the event. It was promoted as an exclusive, tropical music festival on a private island in the Bahamas. But, when the festival attendees arrived, they realized the shocking truth: there was no festival. It had all been an elaborate scam.  

Turns out, Billy McFarland duped everybody. The musical acts weren’t paid, so they didn’t come. The festival was so poorly planned and put together, that there wasn’t any food and hardly any shelter. All in all, it was a disaster, finally brought to a head with lawsuits and criminal fraud charges, and a prison sentence for McFarland.  

But, this disaster provides us with some learning opportunities. Here are five key things we can glean from Fyre Festival. 


1. Always be Honest 

Don’t be like Billy McFarland. Don’t deceive your clients. It turns out he was promising money and funds he didn’t have. Instead, this is a good lesson to always be honest about your business. Be honest about your intentions and your reasoning, with business partners and clients. Act in your clients’ best interests. McFarland kept lying and lying until it all caught up to him and he couldn’t lie anymore. If you keep lying, chances are it will backfire.  


2. Be Careful who you Partner With 

It’s best to be selective about who you choose as a business partner. Partnering with someone new means you’re putting your livelihood in their hands, to some extent. You’re depending on them to keep their end of the deal and act with integrity. I’m sure the companies and people that partnered with McFarland and Fyre Festival regret their decision, and may have had some of their reputation damaged from the ordeal. So, make sure your partners are credible and will follow through. You want anyone you partner with to own and fix their mistakes, not hide them.  


3. Focus on the Details 

The devil is in the details, so find success by nailing down the details. This is another area that Fyre Festival got wrong. Its creators nailed the promotion aspect of starting a festival, but they ignored the substance of the festival: arrangements for shelter, food, performers, and other critical elements were never completed. When it comes to your clients, the details matter, too. In fact, taking the time to think about the details and plan out your prospects and clients’ experience at the beginning can help you forget any crucial steps in your clients’ journey.  

Make sure your partners are credible and will follow through. You want anyone you partner with to own and fix their mistakes, not hide them.  

4. Say “No” Sometimes 

You don’t have to be a “Yes” man or woman all the time. In fact, it’s healthy to say no sometimes, even if it’s easier to only say “yes”. The social media influencers that promoted the music festival, and the people that partnered with McFarland, could’ve and should’ve said no. They should’ve stood up for themselves and questioned what was happening. They should’ve realized that this wasn’t okay. So, say “no” to unreasonable asks. Respect your time and energy, and only use them on programs that will help your brand and business grow. 


5. Be Cautious 

Fyre Festival isn’t the first scam, and it won’t be the last. This means we need to be a little bit skeptical. Don’t blindly accept everything that comes your way. Be cautious in your business, and ask a lot of questions of opportunities that come your way—whether they seem great or a little fishy.   

You can also be cautious about the current partnerships or relationships you have. It’s important to not fall for the sunk cost fallacy, that many of the Fyre Festival partners did. The sunk cost fallacy says: “we’ve done so much work, we have to see it through” or “we’ve already come this far”. Sometimes, it’s better to cut your losses and move on if a relationship or partnership isn’t working.  

Be cautious in your business, and ask a lot of questions of opportunities that come your way—whether they seem great or a little fishy.

It’s difficult to decipher if Fyre Festival was a scam from the start, or a good idea that spiraled out of control, but either way, it’s a disastrous event that we can all learn from. The business mistakes they made shouldn’t be replicated, but they should be examined. Fyre Festival went down in a blaze (and so did Billy McFarland), and these takeaways can help protect your business from encountering the same kind of devastation.  


For Financial Professional use only, not for use with the general public. #19-0131-031520 

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Written By

Mark Williams

President and CEO

Mark Williams is the President/CEO of Brokers International. Over his more than 25 years of financial services experience, Mark has been both a producing independent agent in the field and a home office leader consulting to agencies and field marketing organizations. Currently, Mark is focused on the future of the insurance industry, from the disruptions of InsurTech and robo-advisors to the changing demographics and needs of customers. He also is an avid mentor, helping financial professionals navigate the industry.

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