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Influencers' no-show at festival adds fuel to fyre

They promoted failed music event on social media, but did not turn up or disclose sponsorship

FYRE UP IN FLAMES

It was touted as the "cultural experience of the decade", but it turned out to be an expensive lesson in teaching the public to take what social media influencers promise with a pinch of salt.

The Fyre Festival was meant to be a luxury music festival for the elite and affluent - opulent to the extreme.

Promoted by Instagram influencers, including models Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski, ticket packages for the event, which was supposed to take place over two "transformative" weekends, started at around US$1,200 (S$1,690) and reportedly went up to more than US$200,000.

Aside from celebrity-chef- prepared meals and beautiful people jumping off yachts, festivalgoers could also expect to start each morning with yoga and guided meditations on the beach.

The presentation deck shown to investors before the event had a quote from poet and philosopher Rumi which read: "Come, seek, for searching is the foundation of fortune."

But attendees who had sought their fortune on the private island in the Bahamas, supposedly once owned by the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar, were sorely disappointed. What they found instead was an island that looked nothing like what was advertised.

"In case you're wondering, those 'cabanas' are actually disaster relief tents," said one Twitter user.


The Fyre Festival, touted to be a luxury music festival for the elite and affluent, has been plagued by complaints and lawsuits. PHOTO: TWITTER

There were also complaints about the lack of staff and the food.

One user posted a photo of his "premium" meal comprising two slices of bread, two slices of processed cheese and salad without any dressing.

#fyrefestival and #Fyrefail became trending hashtags as more videos and photos of the chaos on the ground and flight cancellations to the island surfaced.

Acts that were scheduled to perform - such as American rock band Blink-182 - had also pulled out.

"We're not confident that we would have what we needed to give you the quality of performances we always give fans," a spokesman said.

While the blame has largely been laid at the feet of the organisers, who are facing several lawsuits related to the event, many have also pointed fingers at the influencers who promoted the festival on social media but did not even bother to turn up. Several Instagram posts had led people to believe these influencers had arrived on the island prior to the festival.

Jenner, who has 80 million followers on Instagram, was reportedly paid US$250,000 for a single post, while other lesser-known influencers were paid at least US$20,000 each.

Leaked promotional material from the organisers claimed that these posts reached 300 million people within 24 hours.

Jenner and several other influencers have since deleted their posts, but not before a lawsuit was filed against them.

According to the suit, several of the influencers did not disclose that they were profiting from the publicity, or were sponsored, which is a requirement from the Federal Trade Commission that protects consumers.

Aside from transparency, the fracas has also thrown up questions on how much accountability influencers should shoulder when it comes to hawking events or products, particularly if they do not turn out as advertised.

Or, perhaps, the responsibility rests on social media users themselves, who should have known better than to base their decisions on an online post.

As Twitter user Iron_Spike said: "To recap: Some Instagram kids just paid… $12k… to be stranded… in a tropical tent city. Just because some models told them to."

BE CAREFUL OF WHAT YOU TWEET

Mr Steve Bannon is a political aide to United States President Donald Trump. A photo of him and a rabbi visiting the White House went viral last week, but for all the wrong reasons.

Behind the two smiling men was Mr Bannon's wall-sized checklist of political goals written on a whiteboard.

Whiteboard gaffes are common.

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Last month, for instance, basketball team Orlando Magic's plans on trading a popular forward for a new player were revealed when a photo taken by a player's agent was posted on Twitter.

In Mr Bannon's case, netizens wasted no time in zeroing in on the items on the checklist, which includes "suspend immigration from terror-prone regions", "suspend the Syrian refugee programme" and "repeal Obamacare".

But some also believe Mr Bannon's plans were intentionally "leaked". One reason for this was that the original tweet, posted on May 3, has not been deleted.

CHRIS PRATT APOLOGISES

Guardians Of The Galaxy star Chris Pratt has taken to Instagram to apologise to his fans for a recent post and called for better captioning capability on the social media platform. The cause of the ruckus was a recent video he made with subtitles.

As Instagram autoplays videos silently, Pratt requested that viewers "turn the volume up and not just read the subtitles".

He said he realised that in doing so, he offended many people who have a hearing disability.

"More than 38 million Americans live with some sort of hearing disability. So I want to apologise," he said. "I have people in my life who are hearing-impaired, and the last thing in the world I would want to do is offend them or anybody who suffers from hearing loss or any other disability."

In a post that has been viewed more than 3.3 million times, Pratt then proceeds to apologise in sign language. But he also called for Instagram to allow for automatic captioning for videos.

"Why doesn't Instagram have some kind of technology to automatically add subtitles to its videos? It seems lacking in that area. Get on it Instagram!" he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 07, 2017, with the headline 'Influencers' no-show at festival adds fuel to fyre'. Print Edition | Subscribe