Live Up to the Hype: Don’t Become the Next Fyre Festival

Chris Latham

Smart businesses use social media to create expectations--and then they make sure they deliver on those expectations. Such basics as understanding regulations, properly estimating costs, and handling logistics and operations are critical to delivering on whatever promises a business makes.

In 2017, the Fyre Festival was hyped through a celebrity-fueled social media campaign as the ultimate experience in luxury resort travel and concert music. Mismanagement resulted in lack of hygiene, safety, accommodations, and the promised entertainment.

The organizers became the subject of numerous lawsuits, including one with more than 150 plaintiffs seeking $100 million in damages. One of the organizers even pled guilty to fraud, was ordered to forfeit $26 million, and sentenced to six years in prison. Meanwhile the Fyre Festival itself has served as the subject of two scandalous documentaries and an upcoming feature film.

By contrast, successful social media-fueled experiences match the hype. Take the October 13, 2018, debut of the Secret Project music festival in Los Angeles and the wildly popular Tomorrowland music festival, which has grown annually in Belgium since 2005.

Largely through posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter from August to October 2018, Secret Project was able to host more than 10,000 attendees in L.A.’s Chinatown and got a rave review in Billboard magazine. Tomorrowland hosted nearly 9,000 visitors its first year and hit nearly 400,000 visitors in 2018. Even more impressive, according to Billboard, in 2017 Tomorrowland became the biggest social media music event ever by garnering more than 1.2 billion views across platforms from over 200 million people.

The lesson? Any business venture must go beyond a catchy social media campaign by nailing the fundamentals before launching, and then execute in line with the expectations of all the key stakeholders. A sound strategy can help you avoid becoming the next Fyre Festival.

Once you have your idea, learn what is legally required in order to make it happen. Then plan out the necessary operations, logistics, and infrastructure. Next, raise sufficient capital based on an itemized calculation of associated costs and projected profits. Finally, deliver on what you have promised by producing a quality offering in tandem with a realistic social media campaign that attracts and retains happy customers. These rules apply whether you are launching a music festival or building the next killer app.


By law, your venture must conduct certain activities and refrain from others. It is your responsibility to be aware of the precise legal requirements, so confer with qualified attorneys at the outset. Depending on your industry, any number of state and federal level regulations could apply.

It’s advisable to make sure your official communication to stakeholders is honest, your product or service is safe for those who use it or work on it, your business pays on time all parties it is contractually obligated to pay, and that you conduct diligent recordkeeping to show authorities.


Bringing your project to life requires planning out the operations, logistics, and infrastructure. Define the technology, services, people, and space that will comprise the functioning business venture.

Technology includes hardware such as computers, vehicles, and production machinery, as well as software for document preparation, payment processing, and cybersecurity. Services are your proprietary offerings and the vendors performing tasks outside your core competency. People are your staff and your contacts at the vendors. Space includes your offices, factories, and venues. And you still must put this puzzle together with efficient workflows and processes that minimize errors while saving time and money.


Running the business in order to generate profits will likely come with costs you need help covering. Rigorous calculations on costs and projected profits should get you to justifiable figures that you can present to reputable sources, like banks and venture capital firms.

These entities will need to see your strategy in writing, and probably will want to assess your pitch in person as well as vet your background to determine whether you and your team have the experience and traits to execute according to expectations. Even then, banks and venture capital firms are likely to question and counter your anticipated costs and profits.


Once funded, it’s time to head to market with your business venture. This means building the infrastructure, producing the offering and implementing the social media campaign. Together, this draws in paying customers and talented employees, along with cash flow to sustain growth.

The major platforms — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest — each have their own strategic purposes and target audiences. As your social media presence develops, public commentary may lead you to modify operations post-launch. For instance, social media outcries forced Gap to scrap its logo change in 2010 and in 2019 forced the makers of the videogame-inspired film Sonic The Hedgehog to redesign the main character.

Daunting? Perhaps. But with a commitment to budgeting, quality control, and systemized tasks, you and your carefully selected team should now have the tools and resources for delivering as promised.