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The return of Fyre Fest? Billy McFarland is selling tickets for a relaunch


Do you all remember the calamity that was the Fyre Festival back in 2017? Well, that failed luxury music festival was the brainchild of Billy McFarland, someone federal prosecutors later called a, quote, "consummate con artist." He was eventually convicted of defrauding investors and ticket buyers of more than $26 million. NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas says McFarland has a new plan to return Fyre and himself to the spotlight.

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: In 2017, ticket holders to the original Fyre Festival had reportedly paid as much as $400,000 to attend a swank, two-weekend event in the Bahamas. They were promised luxury accommodations, fine cuisine, hot music and perhaps even the chance to cavort with some of the world's top models on pristine azure beaches, as seen in a promo video.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The actual experience exceeds all expectations and is something that's hard to put into words. All these things that may seem big and impossible are not.

TSIOULCAS: Instead, festival goers were greeted with disaster tents and Styrofoam boxes of cheese sandwiches. The billed musical acts, including Blink-182, Major Lazer and Pusha T, had all already wisely pulled out. Social media and the traditional media jumped on footage from enraged attendees. Eventually, there were two competing Fyre failure documentaries on Hulu and Netflix. What the documentaries showed was that the backstory wasn't just about Instagram influencers getting ripped off. In the Netflix documentary, Luca Sabatini, who was brought in to handle technical production for the festival, explained there were local businesses and workers who didn't get paid either.


LUCA SABATINI: There was a huge workforce of people that had been working under the sun for, you know, a month, a month-and-a-half without being paid.

TSIOULCAS: McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison. While there, he pleaded guilty to running another scheme from behind bars, selling fake tickets to the Met Gala, Burning Man and Coachella. And McFarland now says he dreamed up another new plan in prison - to relaunch Fyre Festival next year.


BILLY MCFARLAND: And it really all started during the seventh-month stint in solitary confinement. I wrote out this 50-page plan.

TSIOULCAS: The announcement was short on details, but McFarland is urging folks to buy, buy, buy and get in on the ground floor.


MCFARLAND: Guys, this is your chance to get in. This is everything I've been working towards.

TSIOULCAS: By yesterday afternoon, the Fyre Festival website stated that the initial drop of tickets was already sold out, despite having no confirmed date, location or lineup. Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF GNARLS BARKLEY SONG, "CRAZY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.