9 douchiest facts about the bro behind Fyre Festival who’s not Ja Rule
Fyre Festival, as you know, was a total disaster, and now people are wondering, “Who’s capable of pulling off such a douchey venture?”
As its organizers are hit with a $100 million lawsuit, Fyre Media, which spearheaded the doomed event, is gaining attention.
Ja Rule is, of course, one of the co-founders of Fyre Media. And while he bore the brunt of the blame, co-founder Billy McFarland is also responsible for the fiasco.
Fyre Festival, however, isn’t his first shady venture. Here’s a look back at some of his douchiest moments.
1. He created a wannabe black card that cost $450.
McFarland at 22 years old lamented the fact that he couldn’t apply for an American Express black card. So he decided to make his own and charge others a hefty chunk of change for the same privilege.
Magnises, as the black card was known, wasn’t actually a real credit card. The magnetic strip on the card was a duplicate of one of your existing cards, so it charged the same account as your regular old Visa or Discover. So essentially, McFarland charged people $450 (later $250) for a stainless steel rectangle.
2. In order to get the black card, you had to be judged as cool enough.
Magnises took off, with the promise of exclusive perks and services outweighing the price tag, and hundreds of people added themselves to the waitlist. Interestingly, the Magnises application didn’t follow the traditional credit card template.
Instead of being concerned with your monetary value, Magnises placed more emphasis on your social value. According to the New York Post, questions included, “What do you like to do for fun in NYC?” and “Where do you like to shop?” An advisor to Magnises was quoted as saying they wanted people from “great schools, so they have the family background and education,” a comment that is strikingly ironic as Magnises’ founder McFarland dropped out of college in his freshman year.
The New York Post spoke to one 30-year-old who was denied membership presumably because he was from (gasp) New Jersey.
3. He takes pictures like this.
4. He rented a duplex in the West Village for $13,750 a month as a black card holder
frat house clubhouse.
Those who had a Magnises black card had access to a West Village townhouse where members could indulge in some causal cocktails and oysters. It was also where McFarland would throw some pretty intense ragers like…
5. He threw a 500-person party that caused $100,000 worth of damage.
McFarland was actually sued by his landlord for this party. According to the New York Post, the landlord claimed McFarland “maliciously vandalized” the townhouse which McFarland had agreed to use “exclusively for residential purposes” and wanted McFarland to pay $100,000 for the damage repair.
McFarland, of course, claimed these accusations were “not valid,” but also he wasn’t exclusively using this West Village townhouse just for living, was he?
6. His company offers elite VIP services that don’t seem to follow through.
Magnises morphed from that stainless steel rectangle to a full on luxury benefits service, where members paid $250 a year for a digital “concierge” that could help with anything from VIP club access to Hamilton tickets. As membership grew and the company matured, it even started to offer travel packages, where private jets could fly members to New Orleans or Cuba.
Or that’s what Magnises claimed. In practice, the service was riddled with problems and complaints. Business Insider spoke with several members or ex-members who experienced multiple ticket cancellations, often the day before an event, and even trip cancellations. Members also complained about the inexplicably long time it took to receive refunds.
7. He says he met Ja Rule because he loves computers, oceans, and rap music.
He literally told Rolling Stone that. Here is McFarland in an interview post-Fyre Festival debacle:
I was a computer programmer, and after computers, the two things I love most are the ocean and, for some reason, rap music. So these three hobbies of mine somehow led me to meeting my partner, Ja Rule.
We’re still waiting for our interest in unicorns, cherries, and pop music to get us an introduction to Katy Perry.
8. He was surprised that putting together a musical festival on a island with no existing infrastructure was so difficult.
McFarland attempted to explain the failure of Fyre Festival by essentially saying that he and his team never realized just how hard putting on an event like this would be, very similar to how Trump never realized how tough being president would be.
He told Rolling Stone how excited he and Ja Rule were about the idea, about the website they created, about the marketing campaign, but as soon as actual work had to be done things went downhill.
“There wasn’t water or sewage,” McFarland said of the location. “It was almost like we tried building a city out of nothing and it took almost all of our personal resources to make this happen.”
One can’t help but wonder why this information wasn’t considered before they had already decided on a venue, a website, and the models that would market for them on Instagram.
“Next year, we will definitely start earlier,” he also said. “The reality is, we weren’t experienced enough to keep up.”
Yes, maybe next year you can start by first making sure the place you want to hold your festival is capable of holding a festival. Or you can not even try to put on a festival, period.
9. Next year, he wants to donate just $1.50 to the Bahamian Red Cross for every $450+ Fyre Festival ticket.
So we get that throwing a festival as luxurious as the one Fyre Festival was supposed to be isn’t cheap.
But are you really serious? Only $1.50 per ticket? Tickets started at $450 and went up to the hundreds of thousands of dollars. McFarland talked about this donation to Rolling Stone as part of his post-Fyre Festival interview, throwing it in at the end in an attempt to make us feel like he’s really trying to right his wrongs when really it’s a completely transparent gesture and a pittance compared to the disruption that this festival would actually cause to the locals who live on this island.
Next time, McFarland, if there is a next time, do your research, plan appropriately, and if you can’t handle it, hire a team that can.