As the 2017 tragi-comedy known as the Fyre Festival continues to unfold, the turmoil has spread beyond the wealthy, foolish festival-goers (and Bella Hadid) and is challenging the livelihoods of the Fyre Media employees, who—already faced with the embarrassing failure of the festival—now must contend with their employer, “entrepreneur” Billy McFarland, not compensating them for their work at the company.
In a recording leaked to VICE News and reported by editor Gabrielle Bluestone (formerly of Gawker and Jezebel), McFarland can be heard on a conference call telling his employees that payroll has been suspended.
Following a moment of confusion in which Fyre Festival co-founder Ja Rule—perhaps knowing what’s to come—claims “I’m on the phone, but I can barely hear you all because of this fucking hum” and hangs up, McFarland, abandoned by his cool friend, breaks the bad news:
“After conferring with our counsel and all financial people, unfortunately we are not able to proceed with payroll,” he says. “We’re not firing anyone; we’re just letting you know that there will be no payroll in the short term.”
The employees—upon learning that they aren’t exactly being laid-off, but also no longer being paid—are understandably confused.
Among the questions asked:
- “If people do resign, are you gonna make sure their payroll is covered up to the point that they were here?” (A: They’ll “do everything they can” to make that happen.)
- How is McFarland expecting his employees to remain employed while not paying them? (A: “We’re not asking anyone to remain employed. We’re saying that we can no longer continue payroll, so we understand if that means you’re leaving the company. If people want to stay and help out, we’re of course willing to do that.”)
- “Are you firing me?” (A: Not really! There’s just “no more official employment.”)
- Is McFarland aware that employees who resign cannot collect unemployment, but employees who’ve been laid off can? (A: He was not aware of that.)
- Should they have any concern about the FBI? (A: He doesn’t know!)
- Is there even a record of these employees working for Fyre? (A: Maybe?)
This is, as the ancient Greeks would say, an absolute clusterfuck. You can read VICE’s full report here.