The last weekend in April, bros and aspiring socialites posing as music fans got stuck at a makeshift bar in the Bahamas that ran out of alcohol. There’s no fatality count, but one attendee, Janan Buisier, wrote that “this festival put people’s lives in danger,” while sharing a video of people stuck in a long line at an airport. But victims of Fyre Festival, have no fear. Slate is here to save us from corporate festival greed!
Writer Ron Knox warns that the “culture and economics of the American music-festival circuit have created an environment in which the exorbitantly priced Fyre Festival is an acceptable concept.” He bemoans the fact that the rich kids of Instagram are raising the prices of concerts for the rest of us with each ticket they purchase. “Only people of a certain means can be involved at all,” he complains.
The problem of expensive tickets to overhyped festivals demands intervention! What can be done? Knox raises the tempting suggestion of a subsidy being paid out for each expensive festival ticket, like Obamacare, only for music.
Liberals want to make everything a right these days, but this is going a little too far. Even Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn’t include the right to debauch oneself with models on a private island once owned by Pablo Escobar in his 1944 speech proposing a “Second Bill of Rights” (unless he would have included that under “recreation”).
Yes, the Fyre Festival was an outrageous scam, an overpriced navel-gazing fest, and an utter mess. Yes, the same is true of many other festivals. But, no, it’s not some massive social problem that the forgotten man doesn’t have access to this particular entertainment and leisure product. We already have a solution for expensive tickets to stupid events: Don’t buy them.
Fyre was never even meant to be a music festival for music fans in the first place. It was publicly marketed from the start as a kind of communal exercise in self-actualization through consumerism. Most of the images on the festival’s promotional video show stock footage of models playing on the beach and jumping off boats, with comparatively few pictures involving any kind of music. “Two transformative weekends,” the onscreen text says, while a male narrator reads a quote by female engineer and space tourist Anousheh Ansari.
It’s not just that the event was unorganized and built on lies. Perhaps the only promise it followed through on was “adventure,” one thing it would have lacked if it went as promoted. Even if it went exactly as the video suggested, it would have been a soulless and contrived endeavor. The fact that Fyre’s ridiculous pitch worked on so many impressionable followers of Kendall Jenner does speak to the festival industry as a whole. Fyre’s organizers knew precisely which kind of empty aspirational words to throw around to make the hipsters swoon.
The same is true of other festivals. Coachella touts its “world class art” and food, with emphasis on the availability of “ample menu items for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free guests.” “South by Southwest®” “foster[s] creative and professional growth alike” and is “the premier destination for discovery.” Bonnaroo says its “new Community Experiences will empower and amplify the Bonnaroovian family!” (“Each and every Bonnaroovian … brings their authentic self and creative spirit…”).
To each his own, I guess, but for me those elitist festivals sound like places I would want to stay the hell away from. By presenting such festivals as attractive destinations anyone and everyone should have a right and an inherent desire to attend, Knox is buying into the same snobbish lifestyle that caused the prices to rise and the festivals to turn away from music in the first place.