Fyre Festival gives employees the chance to keep working for free until the situation improves
Fyre Festival, the luxury event in the Bahamas that turned out to be a fiasco, continues to generate controversy.
Googling the words 'Fyre' and 'Festival' is like peering into an infinite abyss of the wonderfully absurd. It's like pulling on a thread that you never want to reach the end of. It's a delicious orgy of schadenfreude. 'Fyre Festival Looks for Crisis Management Miracle', 'Is This the Worst Luxury Festival of All Time?', 'Post-Apocalyptic Images from Fyre Festival', 'Influencers Lose Their Influence', 'Bella Hadid says Sorry'. The Fyre Festival fiasco is the gift that just keeps giving.
The latest tidbit is that VICE News has leaked audio of a meeting between Fyre Festival organisers and employees. In the recording, Billy McFarland, the 25-year-old founder of the festival, tells his incredulous employees that there's no money to pay anyone.
'We’re not firing anyone; we’re just letting you know that there will be no payroll in the short term.'
Fyre Media co-founder, Ja Rule, was also on the conference call, but had trouble hearing due to interference: 'I’m on the phone, but I can barely hear you all because of this fucking hum,' he says.
Fyre Festival via Twitter
The meeting reveals the situation of Fyre Media employees to be a rather precarious one. They're not getting sacked exactly. Instead, they're being given the dubious opportunity to keep working – for free – until the situation improves.
'I understand that this is not an ideal situation for everybody, and this will likely cause a lot of you to resign, which we totally get and understand,' says McFarland. 'That said, if you want to stick with us, we’d love to have you and we’d love to work together and hunker down and get back to a place where everything resumes to business as usual.'
During the call, one of the employees – whose voices are distorted to protect their identities – asks why they aren't being fired so they can collect unemployment benefits. 'If that impacts you, you can email me,' McFarland replies.
'So you’re not going to lay us off, which would allow us to file for unemployment benefits?' another employee asks. 'You just are not going to pay us any more, making us quit ourselves.'
To be fair to Fyre Festival here, they are far from being on their own in trying to pull this particular stunt. Replacing paid employees with volunteers willing to work for zilch is pretty de rigueur for festivals the world over. In this unfortunate instance, however, it's the poisonous icing on the cake of calamity that Fyre Festival has turned out to be.
The festival was marketed by Fyre Media as a luxury getaway in the Bahamas, but it quickly devolved into chaos after organizers failed to provide basic amenities. McFarland and co-organizer Ja Rule have been hit with numerous lawsuits totalling more than $100m. They have been accused of fraud, misleading advertising and breach of contract.
McFarland conceded that ceasing to pay people was 'not an ideal situation'. He added later: 'The last thing I want to do is put anyone in a bad position.'
The event, originally touted as a dream festival for influencers, was promoted by celebrities such as Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner. Tickets cost up to $12,780 for a luxury four-person package. After the debacle, organisers said fans who attended the festival would be refunded in full and 'given free VIP passes' to next year's festival.
[via VICE News]