Fyre Festival may have been two years ago, but the drama that led up to the entire mess is still unfolding.
Since the release of two back-to-back documentaries about the disastrous music festival, Fyre founder Billy McFarland is back in the spotlight. McFarland was a professional grifter even before scamming festival attendees out of millions of dollars. With his company Magnises, he managed to swindle investors into backing his glorified fraternity.
Although Magnises claimed to be a luxury credit card, it was essentially a membership for millennials who wanted to be rich, but couldn’t afford to be rich. Members would have their credit or debit card copied over to a magnetic strip mounted onto a metal card — instead of its own financial institution, Magnises promised its members social perks like last minute Beyoncé tickets and access to an exclusive townhouse with an open bar. Membership was “referral only” to add to its exclusivity.
McFarland tried to rent a $30k townhouse because he thought it would get him laid
Real estate agent Jenny Bapst was interviewing for a position at Magnises and helped McFarland find a new townhouse after the company was evicted from its original headquarters for causing so much damage during its parties. Bapst said they viewed several, but she couldn’t figure out how they’d legally run a commercial business from a residential property.
When they checked out a $30,000/month house, the Magnises COO shut McFarland down because they couldn’t afford it. But McFarland was determined:
McFarland insisted that he get the place. Bapst confronted him in the bathroom, trying to figure out if they could afford it or of she was just wasting her time.
“That’s when he told me, literally, ‘Jenny, do you think I would get laid more by models if we get this space?'” Bapst said.
“I would get laid more by models” isn’t the best reason to further bankrupt your company.
McFarland tried (and failed) to go undercover to figure out how their competition ran their business
As Magnesis took off, so did another company that offered discounted and exclusive access to events. Select, which is still in operation, “spent its early years developing relationships with restaurant companies and event venues” while Magnesis focused on marketing. Magnesis members only got access to Hamilton tickets because McFarland managed to get them last minute from scalpers.
In a quest to figure out Select, McFarland lied about his name during a hospitality industry networking event. McFarland told Select executives that his name was “Lyon or Daniel or something else that’s not his name” and asked if their partnerships with restaurants was “legit,” which was code for admitting that Magnises’ partnerships weren’t.
“At the end of the conversation, finally my colleague was like, ‘Yeah, I’m not gonna tell you anything about our company,” Select COO Christopher Stanley said. “And by the way, I know who you are, Billy. He was just a very weird dude.”
If anything, McFarland’s crumbling company foreshadowed how much of mess Fyre Festival would be.