The serial entrepreneur behind the scammy Fyre Festival that left ticket holders stranded on a Bahamian island in FEMA tents with little more than water and cheese sandwiches in April 2017 has a new idea for a luxurious Caribbean getaway for a large number of influencers.
Just don't call it a "festival," he told NBC News.
Billy McFarland, 31, was released from prison in March 2022 after serving four years of a six-year federal sentence for wire fraud related to the infamous Fyre Festival, Oxygen.com previously reported. McFarland was convicted of defrauding vendors, ticket holders and investors in the supposedly exclusive weekend music festival on a remote Bahamian island and ordered to pay $26 million in restitution.
He also pleaded guilty to, in the wake of the Fyre Festival fall-out, selling fake tickets to other exclusive events — including the Met Gala, which is an invite-only event — Oxygen.com previously reported.
McFarland, however, is apparently undeterred by his previous failures and has launched a new project involving influencers, private island getaways, musical performances and virtual reality, according to Vanity Fair.
He's calling it PYRT, pronounced "pirate."
“This time, it’s a little crazier but a whole lot bigger than anything I’ve tried before,” McFarland said in an October TikTok video, according to NBC News.
He told Vanity Fair it was a "virtual immersive decentralized reality" in which users at home would be able to access the influencer-party online, watching while invitees to an unnamed tropical getaway engaged in a geo-location treasure hunt for a stay in a PYRT-branded hotel that was live-streamed. Viewers, he said, could vote on (and financially contribute to) events happening at the location, including the addition of venues.
“I don’t know if it’s going to work,” McFarland told Vanity Fair. “But I know that I’m going to try really hard and just do it the right way. If I lie to anybody again, I go to jail for a very, very long time.”
Though the promotional videos use footage of the Bahamas, NBC News reports that McFarland is still considered a fugitive there and no permits have been filed to host such an event. Vanity Fair reports that McFarland owes various Bahamian workers “$300,000-ish” but hopes to repay that by March or April.
“I think that once everybody is paid back, I’d love to have a conversation to see if that relationship can get repaired,” he told NBC News.
McFarland tells the network that the big difference between the Fyre Festival — which was initially billed as a promotional event for an allegedly forthcoming app that would have allowed users to directly book artists and influencers for private events — and PYRT is that PYRT is a tech project, not a one-off event.
“Really kind of getting back to tech, which I think is where my unique skillset lies,” McFarland told NBC News of the newer project.
At least one of McFarland's former employees disagrees.
“He was really good at pitching but had no technical skills,” Shiyuan Deng, who left her job as a product designer at Fyre Media shortly before its collapse, told NBC News. "Billy’s still Billy. He’s using different words, but he’s selling the same thing."
“As a previous employee who trusted Billy’s leadership in the past, new customers, investors and employees should all proceed with caution,” another former employee, who was offered anonymity by NBC News, told the outlet.