Justice is a dish best served cold, like a cheese sandwich in a styrofoam container. A $5 million judgment was made last week in Wake County against Billy McFarland, the founder of the infamous Fyre Festival. In what shall be known as “the trial of the millennials,” attorney Stacy Miller obtained the judgment for two North Carolina consumers. I was one of them.
I had a front row seat as Stacy recounted the fraud committed by the 27-year-old New York entrepreneur. McFarland already agreed to pay $26 million to investors and a ticketing company as part of a plea deal related to fraud charges brought by the FBI. In June, McFarland was charged with wire fraud and money laundering related to a DIFFERENT ticketing scam that he was allegedly running while waiting to be sentenced for his Fyre fraud charges. Stacy described McFarland’s greed as, “Pure, unadulterated greed. Greed on an epic level. A greed so disgusting that it makes headlines all the way around the world.” (Call Stacy Miller 919-348-4361 if you have questions.)
That’s when I started getting a lot of texts and calls on the topic. To save time, I’ve provided answers to some frequently asked questions.
Did this really happen?
Yes. We appeared in front of a judge in Wake County Superior Court on Thursday, June 28. Stacy and his team at Miller Law Group had been working on the case for a year. Stacy presented the facts and a judgment was awarded.
How much were you awarded?
The judgment was for $1.5 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages for myself, and the same for Mark, for a total of $5 million.
But you’re not going to get any of that money, right?
We intend to collect. ITBlake the intern may have to make a trip to New York soon to investigate.
What is Billy McFarland doing now?
He is currently in jail in New York waiting for his next court date on July 26.
Are you going to buy the Lambo that keeps parking in a no parking zone on Glenwood?
No. Lambos are a waste of money.
Did you really buy the Fyre Festival trademark?
Yup. While doing research for the Dumpster Fyre Podcast I discovered the trademark was about to expire. I had a copyright attorney file an application, so I can now use the mark on clothing and for the purpose of putting on a music festival. Don’t worry, I promise not to leave people stranded on an island. And I’m not smart enough to defraud investors of millions. Guess that makes two of us.
Why are you still talking about Fyre Festival?
I know there are more important things going on in the world. However, I’m still intrigued by this story, which is about a lot more than the festival and McFarland defrauding investors. You’re free to unfollow or stop reading whenever you’d like.
What does this mean for ITB Insider?
Nothing. We will continue to be the fastest growing startup media empire in Raleigh, focused on leveraging synergies to maximize engagement and meet key performance indicators. For those of you who didn’t go to business school, this just means we’ll keep writing stories and making videos of ITBlake doing dumb stuff to get views and likes that validate our existence.
Where are you putting the statue of Stacy?
In front of Broughton.
None of this would have happened if we didn’t have Stacy Miller as our attorney. I’d highly recommend him for your consumer fraud legal needs. Hopefully Billy McFarland will learn something from this. The great King White said it best:
A lot has happened in the last year. A fellow Fyre Festival™ attendee and I filed a lawsuit against the festival organizers once we returned home. I’m not legally allowed to talk about it, but let’s just say that Stacy Miller is the best attorney in the world. Once that was resolved, I made a pretty big purchase to celebrate. No, I didn’t buy VIP passes to Coachella or take a trip back to Exuma. I bought the Fyre Festival™ trademark.
While doing research for my upcoming podcast, I discovered that the trademark for Fyre Festival™ was set to expire in April 2018. I’m somewhat of a business expert, having gone to college, and I had a feeling this mark was not going to be renewed. See, when a company goes bankrupt, or when people involved with it are facing prison time, they sometimes forget to renew their trademarks. So I had a copyright attorney file an application as soon as it expired. I now own Fyre Festival™.
This means that I have to actually put on a music festival in order to use the mark in commerce. While I have no idea how to put on a music festival, I definitely know what NOT to do. My goal here is to see if I can throw a festival, have a good time, and give back to a good cause or charity. I know there are some people in Exuma who are still owed quite a bit of money after not being paid by festival organizers. I also have some friends who just opened the first and only special-needs home and therapy center for orphans in Panama. I’m sure they’d be glad to take donations.
That all leads to the Dumpster Fyre Podcast, a docu-style series that explores how the first festival became the biggest dumpster fire ever, and also follows along as we try to plan another one. Stay tuned for more updates on the podcast and Fyre Festival™ II. It’s gonna be lit.
To celebrate the one year anniversary, I now present “Twas the night before Fyre Festival™”
Twas the night before Fyre Festival™, and one year had gone by,
Not an influencer was stirring, and we all knew why.
The disaster relief tents were gone, and the stage was not there,
In hopes that all would forget and that no one would care.
The millennials were nestled all snug on their phones,
Watching Kanye on Twitter, definitely in one of his zones,
And Billy awaited sentencing, probably in his home,
Eating a cheese sandwich, unable to roam.
When out on Twitter there arose such a clatter,
People refreshed their timelines to see what was the matter,
When what to their wondering eyes should appear,
A major announcement, not a joke, but sincere.
From a Fyre Festival™ survivor, who covered it best,
Came news that he hoped would top all the rest.
I went to Fyre Festival™ to relax and satirize
I could not make up what happened, it was such a surprise
A lot went wrong on that island, it was far from fine.
So I’ve filed a trademark, meaning Fyre Festival™ is now mine.
It’s time to make things right for all who were there,
Not just the millennials, but the people of Exuma who weren’t treated fair.
And what better way than to throw Fyre Festival™ II.
To promote the Dumpster Fyre Podcast, and also entertain all of you.
Originally published on May 10, 2017
Lord of the Fyres: Tales from a Surfyrevor
I survived the first Fyre Festival. The now infamous festival was supposed to be an event in the Bahamas unlike anything else. Entrepreneur Billy McFarland and Rapper/Actor Ja Rule (The Fast and The Furious) co-founded the festival in late 2016. They began promoting it in December with the help of famous influencers.
Along with this video, the festival’s website promoted a $1 million treasure hunt, luxury accommodations on a private island once owned by Pablo Escobar, exquisite cuisine, exclusive experiences like swimming with island pigs, and a music festival with soon to be announced big-name acts. This was clearly the trip of a lifetime. Three friends and I bought tickets during the first week they were on sale. We upgraded to VIP and one friend and I also bought an “Artist Pass” which included your food, drinks, backstage passes, 4 nights on the island, and “exclusive” experiences.
This was my chance to finally become BFFs with all the influencers and celebrities that would be there. I’d played the scenario out a million times in my head leading up to the trip. Emily Ratajkowski, Hailey Baldwin, The Rock, and I would be hanging out backstage looking at pictures of Dogs of ITB.
We would start chatting about how I run a media empire in Raleigh, and they’d all start following me for all my fire #content. The Rock would say, “I loved that story you wrote about how I’d be playing football for NC State next year. Will you be in Fast and Fur9ious? We need someone that drives a Tahoe.”
“Thanks, The Rock. I’d love to, if I can fit it in my schedule,” I’d say, trying to play it cool.
“Are you the guy that created the hottest buy/sell Facebook group for moms in Raleigh?”
“It’s not just for moms, Hailey Baldwin. micITBit is for everyone. It’s a closed group but I could probably approve you,” I’d say, negging her slightly.
We’d spend the rest of the weekend swimming with the pigs and Instagramming until we got carpal tunnel. “My ITBFF Justin Miller has a pig named Theodore. Don’t worry, you’ll meet him when you move to Raleigh,” I’d say, while telling them about inside the beltline. I’d influence them into buying luxury condos at The Wade. We’d all live there together and launch a reality show on Facebook Live produced by Walk West, since TV networks will be dead in 5 years. It was going to be perfect. And then, we got to the island.
As you can see, all of my dreams were crushed when Fyre Festival turned out to be a mashup of Lord of the Flies meets Outbreak meets Locked Up Abroad. They didn’t even have LaCroix. My media empire instincts kicked in and I started documenting the event like I was the Samuel Pepys of Fyre Festival. My coverage was used in pretty much every story about the event and my Tweets were included in the $100M class action lawsuit.
You’re probably thinking, “This is great for you. You gained thousands of followers and a ton of exposure!” To be clear, I didn’t want 15 minutes of global fame. I didn’t want over 50 million impressions on Twitter in April. I didn’t want to spend weeks doing interviews with the LA Times, People, CNN, the Washington Post, TMZ Live, Time, BBC, NPR, Inside Edition, and dozens of other outlets. Sure, all of those things were great for my #brand, but all I wanted from Fyre Festival was a relaxing vacation and new famous friends.
To show you what we went through, I’ve provided an in-depth account of exactly what happened. If you enjoy watching train wrecks, you’re going to love this.
Thursday, April 27th
12:000 pm – My friends and I had lunch outside of Boynton Beach. It would be our last meal not served in a styrofoam container for the next 24 hours. We left for the Miami airport and arrived with plenty of time for our 4:35 pm flight to Great Exuma. We boarded the plane and sat on the runway for about half an hour. Someone tried to open their window and this happened, which we should have taken as a sign.
Still, we continued on. We arrived on the island, boarded shuttle buses and rode for about 15 minutes. That’s when we saw this.
The “white glove concierge luggage service” required you to use your phone flashlight and dig through hundreds of bags to find your own. Maybe this was the treasure hunt they had advertised. I started to help unload a pickup truck full of luggage and just happened to grab my bag. A true Fyre Festival miracle. I dropped my luggage off at our temporary tent and then went to cover what was going on.
The number one thing on the to-do list dated April 14th (13 days before the festival) was “Complete our corporate application to HOPEFULLY start order”. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.
I’ll give credit where credit is due. They did have a stage set up. I don’t think there was a DJ at this point. I assume Billy just grabbed the aux cord and started playing his “Lit AF Beach Jams” Spotify playlist on his phone.
I took some food back to our tent, which we were then kicked out of. We walked over to the main area where we had been dropped off and saw that people were getting on buses to leave. My friend went inside the main house and somehow convinced them to put us on a flight out that night.
7:15 am – A girl loudly asks everyone in the airport “who is William Needham?”. (See the video below.) They were on to me. I remained silent. She continued, “No really. He’s in this room right now. Who is William Finley? He’s fucking hilarious.” Realizing that they weren’t going to sacrifice me to the island, I raised my hand. One girl asked, “Are you always this funny?” I just replied, “I try.”
If you recall, I had tweeted at my lawyer Stacy Miller as we boarded the plane (the first time) to leave the island at 1:47 am. He called me at about 7:30 am.
Stacy: Hey man are you ok? What is going on?
Me: I dunno, I haven’t slept in over 24 hours. I don’t really know how to make sentences.
Stacy: Are you still in the Bahamas?!
Me: I mean, I’m locked in an airport and they say a plane is coming soon, but yeah.
If you’re exhausted after reading all of that just imagine living through it. I don’t ever want to go back to Fyre Festival. I don’t ever want to go outside the beltline again. Final verdict: Fyre Festival gets 0 out of 5 beltlines.
Note: Fyre Festival organizers have allowed us to “apply” for a refund. During the application process they asked if we wanted to forgo our refund in exchange for double the number of VIP tickets to next year’s event. We all politely declined.
We still have not heard anything back after filling the forms out last week.
The media empire continues to expand. My streak of being featured in Vanity Fair has now been extended to two months, thanks to Spain’s September issue. You may remember that Vanity Fair also interviewed me and featured my photojournalism in an 8 and a half page spread about Fyre Festival in their August issue.
Since the whole world is dying to hear more about Fyre Festival, they ran the same story but wrote it in Spanish. I guess I now technically speak Spanish since my quotes in the article were in Spanish. However, I can’t read Spanish (I took Latin at Broughton), so I had ITBlake the intern read it to me. Hit play to watch the video.
Before I go any further, I just want to clear up some rumors. I’m not dating Monica Bellucci. We’re just friends. I do plan on sending her an ITBlessed tank top as a gift, since we will forever be linked by this issue of Vanity Fair.
If you weren’t able to swing by Spain and pick up a copy, heres an exclusive look at the issue.
The Fyre still burns. Vanity Fair chose to interview me and feature my photojournalism from the infamous Fyre Festival in an 8 and a half page spread in their August issue. Another day, another feature in an international publication. This comes on the heels of my third interview with BBC last week, my Bravo debut on Andy Cohen’s show in June, and dozens of other interviews I’ve done as the leading expert on surviving Fyre Festival. The Vanity Fair issue features a pregnant Serena Williams, one of the best tennis players ever, on the cover.
Before I go any further, I just want to clear up some rumors. I’m not the father of Serena’s baby. We’re just friends. I do plan on sending her an ITBlessed onesie as a baby gift, since we will forever be linked by this issue of Vanity Fair.
As a growing media empire, I try not to talk about the interviews and outlets I’ve been featured in, such as The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Time, Boston Globe, ABC News, NY Post, BBC, Buzzfeed News, In Touch Weekly, Us Weekly, NPR, Good Morning America, TMZ Live with my ITBFF Harvey, Channel 4, London Times, Bloomberg, Inside Edition, the Daily Mail, Washington Post, People, NY Times, LA Times, CNN, the Weather Channel, Billboard, Business Insider, W Magazine, USA Today, and more. I always thought it wasn’t in my best interest to promote my competition. But after working for weeks on this feature with the wonderful folks at Vanity Fair, I’ve realized it’s ok to collaborate with your peers.
In June, Vanity Fair reached out and asked if I would do an interview and also let them buy my soon-to-be award-winning photos from Fyre Festival. I did what I always do when I get these types of requests, I asked my lawyer Stacy Miller if it was ok. We’re still tied up in a Fyre Festival lawsuit (that I’m DYING to talk more about) and I have to be careful about what I say in public. Stacy said it was fine to talk to them as long as I sent all questions about our lawsuit against Ja Rule, Billy McFarland, and others to him.
So I started talking with Vanity Fair, figuring I would be on the cover of the issue. Once I found out that Serena Williams was pregnant I immediately told them not to put me on the cover. As the owner of micITBit, the most popular secret Facebook group comprised mainly of Raleigh moms, I know how important it is to respect women and babies and let them have the spotlight. Seeing what a gentleman I was, Vanity Fair released a few issues with this cover that I made for them.
Vanity Fair sent me some issues and, since I’m now a photojournalist, I decided to hold a tasteful photoshoot for the issue.
If you haven’t picked up the August issue of Vanity Fair yet, I strongly suggest you do before they sell out. I look forward to winning our lawsuit so that Stacy and I can be on the cover of Vanity Fair some time this fall. Stay tuned.
Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation, listed in the credits of Andy Cohen’s Then & Now on Bravo. I know some of you probably don’t watch Bravo, or know who Andy Cohen is, but a significant portion of my readers are obsessed with both. After clearing it with my lawyer, Stacy Miller, I can now give you all a ITBehind the scenes look of how I ended up on the show.
On June 13th, Bravo reached out to me about using my Pulitzer-worthy footage from Fyre Festival on a new show hosted by the one and only Andy Cohen.
Obviously I had to hear them out. I had never seen Andy Cohen’s Then & Now, but I assumed it consisted of Andy asking different Real Housewives about pop culture in hopes that a fight would break out. More than happy to contribute to such a worthy cause, I threw out an offer, which they then countered. Classic showbiz move.
I tried to play hardball by asking for a signed Andy Cohen headshot, mainly so I could brag about it in my secret Facebook group full of ITB moms who would eat that sort of thing up.
I also requested a shout out on the show, knowing that I would gain a ton of followers because Andy Cohen’s viewers do anything he tells them to. That’s just Influencer 101. And remember, I am an influencer. If you’re reading this and disagree, then ask yourself “Am I asking myself a question right now because William Finley IV told me to ask myself a question?” Yeah, you just got influenced.
Unfortunately, the show had already taped, so none of this was possible.
At this point in my career I consider myself the patron saint of Fyre Festival footage. It’s my duty to make sure I keep talking about it, and provide others with pictures and video footage so they can cover it, until justice is served. So I accepted the offer and started planning a big event for my Bravo debut. I thought I had weeks to pull everything together, but then I got an email saying the show would air the next day.
I quickly reached out to Vita Vite about hosting a watch party (because that’s what people who watch Bravo do) and planned to have some Humdinger Glowmosas for everyone to drink, using their new ITBlessed wine glasses, of course. It would be so synergistic.
After posting about this pop-up watch party on Facebook, I discovered that the show was actually airing in a few hours. I wasn’t even home to watch it but fortunately another Fyre Festival survivor’s wife sent me this clip. Note: I spent about 3 hours tracking down footage and creating a video highlighting my appearance, but YouTube took it down because of copyright violations. Don’t worry, YouTube will be hearing from Stacy Miller shortly.
The episode was titled “Being Rich” and here’s the description: “Andy Cohen dives into the opulent 1980s to explore how the wealthy spent their fortunes on everything from limos and jets to extravagant weddings, and how that’s influenced the ways the mega-rich spend their money today. With celebrity guests Susan Lucci, Jill Kargman, Amber Rose and more, Andy looks at how the gilded mega-mansions of the 80s created today’s high-tech minimalist homes, and how the pricey plastic surgery of yesterday influenced the anti-aging treatments of today. Plus, the Real Housewives spill their pre-nup secrets!”
You can watch the full episode here. While I may have totally botched the watch party for my debut appearance on Andy Cohen’s Then & Now, I’m still glad I helped bring attention to this humanitarian crisis. I hope you enjoyed this insider look at how media empires work together to cover important stories. Now I’m going to go pick up the latest issue of Vanity Fair so I can look at the Fyre Festival pictures that I let them use.
It’s been almost a month since Fyre Festival. While the experience was quite traumatizing, I believe the best way to get through this is to keep talking about it constantly. That’s exactly why I went on the Free Lunch podcast at Clean Design to tell my story. This was my second appearance on their show. On the first episode I taught the gang all about ITB, my growing media empire, and how I was about to go on the trip of a lifetime to Fyre Festival.
Little did I know that I would have to survive and escape the island while becoming a “minor celebrity” (according to Bloomberg). Clean Design asked me to come back on their podcast after seeing what a disaster the trip was.
I set the record straight on a few issues. We covered the “planning” notebook, which media outlets are super lame, how my attorney Stacy Miller plans to handle this, and more.