For festival promoters, the nightmare that took place at the Fyre Festival last week should be a wake-up call. At first blush, it looked like such a disaster that many professionals in the festival industry assumed it must have been a scam. But as the drama has unfolded, it appears the producers simply failed to execute on every single element of the logistics that typically go into putting on such a big event.
It’s clear that the atrocious accommodations, disgusting “bathroom” facilities and lousy food were just the tip of the iceberg. Even though we’re still learning the details of what exactly went wrong, there are already some pretty clear lessons to be learned from the most poorly organized festival since the Rolling Stones played Altamont. Let’s take a look at some of the logistical mistakes made at the Fyre Festival, and how you can avoid them.
1. Make Getting Into the Festival Easy
The moment people set foot on the island, it became clear there was a problem. According to one attendee, “They wouldn’t let everyone into the festival, so they were holding everyone in this halfway house with an open bar to try to get them all hyped up…then we finally got on a shuttle to the festival. It was absolute chaos the second we got there…At one point, one of the partners of the festival was standing on a table trying to calm everyone down, but the people were just screaming over him.”
Take a moment to unpack all of that. For starters, the producers didn’t have a plan to get thousands of people onto the festival site when they arrived. Then, they offered this group of confused, travel-exhausted people free booze. When they finally got them to the festival, it was chaos. The producers took a bad situation and then added free liquor. Not a smart move. If you make entry difficult, the entire experience will begin on a sour note. And the fans won’t forget it.
2. Make Sure Sleeping Accommodations Are Sorted Out
One of man’s most basic survival instincts is for shelter. How would you feel if you didn’t know you’d be sleeping in a secure, relatively comfortable shelter tonight? Imagine you paid $4,000 for a luxury weekend, and when you arrived you found out you’d be sleeping in a surplus disaster tent in a field covered in garbage and overturned Porta Potties. Now imagine the tents were overbooked and you had to sleep outdoors, on that same garbage-covered field. As a festival producer, you owe it to your attendees to treat them like guests—not refugees.
3. Have Plenty of Bathrooms
If your festival attendees are dancing in place because they need to pee, and not because the music is bangin’, you have a problem. Providing ample bathroom facilities is a cost of doing business. If you skimp on giving people a place to relieve themselves in order to save a little money, you’re doing a disservice to your audience. You also risk creating an unsanitary environment, because eventually people in that massive crowd are going to look at a long bathroom line and decide they might as well go behind the nearest tree. Or behind your production office. Whichever is closer.
4. Don’t Starve the Audience
Every generation has an iconic photograph that has defined its zeitgeist. The Hindenburg explosion. Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald. The “Tank Man” in Tiananmen Square. For millennials, they now have their own iconic image: a floppy cheese sandwich the Fyre Festival tried to pass off as “food.”
The surest way to make someone miserable is to starve them. Respect your audience enough to make sure there is plenty of tasty food on hand and keep them happy. Remember: hungry + angry = hangry. And hangry people are almost always front and center in an unruly mob.
5. Have a Properly Trained Staff
No matter how well you plan your festival, unforeseen things are bound to happen. That’s why you need to work with experienced partners and have a properly trained staff. A great staff can help fans get to where they need to be, keep crowds moving in the right direction and even save lives. A poorly trained staff can add to confusion or even make festival-goers fear for their safety. Make sure your people are trained and ready to execute according to plan when it’s time to open the gates.
Angry mob or cheering crowd? It’s up to you to decide.
The single biggest take away from the Fyre fiasco is that the producers were simply too inexperienced to know how to run a festival. And the sad fact of it is that because of Fyre, fans all over the world are now questioning how much they can really trust the entire festival industry. So you need to protect your festival’s brand now more than ever. That starts with delivering on your promises and mastering your logistics.
If you’re ready to learn more about mastering festival logistics, please join us on May 16, 2017 for our free webinar: Festival Logistics: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You.
Vendini can help you with everything you need to produce a kick-ass festival. Hit us up for a free consultation.