Marc Weinstein on What Happened at the Fyre Festival
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Interview location: Los Angeles
Interview date: Monday 18th March, 2019
Company: Wave Financial
The two documentaries on Netflix and Hulu about the Fyre Festival highlight what can go disastrously wrong when you pitch a grand vision which can’t be delivered. The Fyre Festival was sold as the ultimate music festival, situated on a beautiful island with the best artists, food and accommodation.
A highly successful marketing campaign working with influencers created a buzz around the festival, and it sold old almost immediately, but the team did not have the money or means to deliver the vision.
Both documentaries highlight how chaotic the organisation of the festival was and how the lead organiser, Billy McFarland resorted to fraud to try and keep his vision alive.
In this interview, I talk with Marc Weinstein, who featured heavily in the Netflix documentary about what happened on the island and how the team worked around the clock to try and make it happen. Marc reveals what it is like to organise a festival and how ill-prepared the Fyre team was. We also talk about crypto, Bitcoin and the stresses and pressures life can throw at you.
00:05:03: Marc’s Background and involvement with crypto
00:09:06: Introduction to the Fyre Festival documentaries
00:14:03: The beginnings of Marc working with Fyre
00:19:28: The basics of running a music festival and associated timelines
00:24:38: Marc’s first experiences in The Bahamas with Fyre
00:30:35: Red flags that were highlighted by Marc
00:38:02: First Impressions of Billy McFarland
00:42:16: Further examples of significant problems in the run up to the festival
00:47:30: Marc’s experiences of Billy sending fraudulent wires
00:53:47: The situation 2 days before the festival was meant to start
00:56:37: Implications that the weather had on the site and the festival
01:02:29: What happened on the first day of the festival
01:11:04: What was the reaction from the public to Marc?
01:17:21: Marc’s perspective on the cancellation and evacuation
01:21:44: The clean-up operation after the festival had been cancelled
01:26:39: What were the next few weeks and months like for Marc after the festival ended?
01:30:06: The GoFundMe campaigns for Maryann and the day labourers
01:32:01: Further views on Billy McFarland and his crimes
01:38:12: The FuckJerry team and debating their responsibilities
01:41:55: Discussing the documentaries and the “media machine”
01:46:43: Peter’s upcoming interview with SpankChain
01:52:08: Debating issues with the crypto industry at the present time
01:59:31: Marc’s upcoming Podcast
02:05:28: Final comments and ways to stay in touch with Marc
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Mentioned in the interview:
Marc’s Medium post: Lessons from the Fyre
Links to documentaries:
Go Fund Me Campaigns:
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Peter McCormack: Usually I have loads of questions, I’m already prepped, but it’s a really tough one with this one because I know the story and there’s just so many interesting avenues to go in. One of the problems I have, when I have my questions ready is that I’m looking at the questions I’m not listening to the person. I think in this one, I just want to ask the questions, listen to you and then kind of work my way through it. I mean, obviously, you know this is a 90–95% Bitcoin podcast, occasional other crypto things. I very rarely touch outside of Bitcoin unless there’s a loose connection. I did the interview with say, Ross Ulbricht’s mum, because of the Bitcoin connection, but we didn’t really talk about Bitcoin.
Then obviously we have a mutual friend who got in touch and said, “Pete, do you want to interview Marc Weinstein from the Fyre Festival?” I’m like, “I’ve literally just watched Netflix. I’ve just watched Hulu. Yes, of course”. It’s not crypto and in my head, I’m like, how do I justify this? Now I don’t want it because I think there’s enough in this that people hopefully will enjoy it, learn something from it and look, even if they don’t, they can just skip an episode. I do nine a month all right!
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, exactly!
Peter McCormack: So let’s set it up. Let’s do the crypto connection first. We might not even align there so we might just have to move on quickly, but let’s do it anyway so we’ve got it.
Marc Weinstein: Okay. So what’s the crypto connection here?
Peter McCormack: Yeah.
Marc Weinstein: So where do I start? So basically, I have a finance background, worked in investment banking for a couple of years, never really wanted to be on that traditional finance path. Came up studying economics during the financial crisis and it changed my views on how economics works and how the machine works. When I quit banking, I started my first company, which was called Tinco and we were creating a private market alternative to inflation-linked securities issued by governments. In hindsight now looking back five years, I realized that it was all about sound money because we thought that there might be some kind of inflationary environment in the US dollar because of all of the monetary easing that was happening.
I worked on that for about a year and a half with my partner, before we realized, one, we were competing with banks is probably the most competitive lending environment in the history of credit. Two, our minimum viable product was a $10 million loan backed by receivables and inventories of fast moving consumer goods. So we partnered with a lending company that ended up going bankrupt two months later and realized that the challenge was probably too insurmountable for us to create this new asset manager without a track record and in that type of environment. So moved on.
But right when I finished that company, I discovered Bitcoin, this was at the end of 2013. The store of value thesis or really the digital gold thesis resonated with me because I felt and still feel that we might experience some kind of sovereign debt crisis in the near future. So that’s when I discovered Bitcoin. Price was around $600. Four months later it dropped to $200, I think Mt Gox happened and I basically said, “alright, I’m gonna forget about this, as it’s either going to be a zero or a 10,000x”.
So forget about it, decided to move into a totally different industry; the music industry and we can talk about how I got there. I worked on that for a number of years, started my own festival company, which I sold at the end of 2017 and through the process of selling it, I started thinking about Bitcoin again. This was around January of 2017 and I looked at the price and for the first time since I had last checked, it was a profitable investment. It was like $900 a coin or something. I was like, “this is crazy, but I have this intuition that Bitcoin is going to go through the roof”.
It was either Trump’s election or just the psychological barrier of $1,000 again and I really didn’t have any justification. So I was like, okay, I need to figure out why I have this sense that Bitcoin price is going to appreciate. So I started doing all this research and all of a sudden Bitcoin price was at $2,000 and then $4,000 and I was like, “fuck, I missed it. I missed it!” I kept thinking like, I missed it, but then I said, “you know what, I have this small investment that I made. Why don’t I use that and just keep learning?” So I started researching more and more, discovered Ethereum, invested into Ethereum and with some of the Bitcoin. Then I discovered ICOs and we can talk about that.
Peter McCormack: Yeah ICOs are not going to go down well on this podcast. Even for me, do you know what? I don’t even think we need to get into the debate on them.
Marc Weinstein: No, not at all. I don’t think it’s a worthwhile argument. I mean, I think the jury’s out on a lot of those already. But you know, that’s where I started deploying some ETH and then just kept learning and studying as much as I possibly could about the space. Of course got so deep down the rabbit hole that I was like, “I need to do this full time”. and I’ve been doing that ever since.
Peter McCormack: Right. So we’ve covered crypto!
Marc Weinstein: Yes, that’s crypto! We can talk more about it, but hopefully, I can be on here one day for that!
Peter McCormack: Okay. So interestingly, the Fyre festival for me is really recent because I’ve watched both documentaries in the last three months. But actually it’s quite old for you, right?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah. It’s definitely getting a bit old. The festival was in May 2017. So I started working on the festival in the first week of April 2017.
Peter McCormack: So what the fuck man! So my first question is and there’s so many I’ve got. I’ve watched both documentaries. You lived it. Which is the most accurate documentary?
Marc Weinstein: So it’s not fair for me to say. I didn’t watch the Hulu documentary. Basically, Hulu asked me for an interview, after I had already done the interview with Chris Smith, the director of the Netflix documentary, which wasn’t associated with Netflix at the time. This was like September 17. I think it was just VICE when he was recording.
I had heard rumours that they had Billy on as an interview guest and I decided that if they had paid Billy, that I wouldn’t want to work with them. So I spoke to them and I asked, I was like, “did you pay Billy for the interview? They were like, “no, we didn’t pay him for the interview”. “Well did you pay Billy at all?” “Yes”. So it turns out Hulu bought his life rights, which I believe it means they own anything that he says in relation to this or not in relation to this, or rights throughout the rest of his life.
Peter McCormack: It’s interesting that you chose not to watch it though. So I’ve watched it and the biggest difference between the two, they tell the same story, is the way FuckJerry are painted. They’re painted in a really bad light in the Hulu documentary. Did they have a connection to the Netflix documentary?
Marc Weinstein: Yes. So as I said, when Chris first asked me to interview, it was just VICE and then I think as he was going down the path, trying to find new content, he connected with the FuckJerry team with Mick the CEO and they had all this footage and they had been close to it. So they came on and I believe that in the credits they’re executive producers or just producers. I don’t exactly know. But they definitely helped Chris in gathering interviews, getting content for the Netflix documentary. I think that’s really the extent of it.
But it’s actually funny when I spoke to the production company that did Hulu, they brought up FuckJerry and they were like, “well, you did the Netflix documentary. What do you feel about doing something that is going to enrich people that promoted the festival?” I just felt that these were two really different things we were talking about. Billy’s in jail for wire fraud, he’s in jail for faking investment documents. A lot of what he did on social media is morally questionable. But I think it’s definitely a little bit of a different scope between the FuckJerry team and Billy.
Peter McCormack: It’s funny how external people will paint a narrative or view or decisions that you make without knowing your own intentions. They choose your intentions. I’m literally living that right now. At the moment I’ve got people telling me that I’ve used Bitcoin to promote my podcast and now I’m shilling shit coins or that I’m only doing things for money and all kinds of accusations, which just aren’t true. You’ve probably lived a much worse version of that. What’s that like?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if it’s been that bad. I think I’ve become immune to it in a lot of ways. I think you just keep doing you. You know your own intentions and no one really is able to figure that out. You’re creating content that you want people to listen to. I was trying to produce a music festival, trying to do my job, so I don’t really think about it that much to be honest.
Peter McCormack: When did you last speak to Billy?
Marc Weinstein: Ooh, I probably spoke to Billy in May 2017, right after the festival and then never spoke to him again. I sent him an email, “you owe me this amount of dollars, this is for the record. Please let me know if you’ll be able to make payment” and never heard from him again.
Peter McCormack: And I guess you never will or never want to.
Marc Weinstein: Well, I hope not. If I hear from him again it might be for something that I don’t really want to talk about
Peter McCormack: So let’s unpack this. You started work on the Fyre in April 2017?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, so I was introduced to Billy about probably the last week of March. I mentioned this in the documentary how I had heard about the festival months prior and me and some friends in the industry basically laughed when Ja Rule presented it because we felt, that this is a really challenging undertaking to do a festival anywhere. I had done a festival on Governor’s Island in New York as an example and the logistics of producing on an island, even one that’s a 20 minutes ferry ride from New York City is crazy. They were doing it in The Bahamas, which means you need to ship all of your production equipment there, all of your food, everything.
So we kind of laughed and then fast forward two months later and the promo video comes out, I think this was like January 17 and friends are messaging me, “hey have you seen this Fyre event, do you want to go?” All of a sudden it’s sold out. I was connecting with my friend Max who produced the commercial or the promo video and I was like, “so what’s the deal? Are these guys real or is this kind of BS?” He’s like, “no, they’re real. They paid all of these models to do this promo video and they sold out the festival” and selling out a music festival in a first year is an incredible undertaking.
Obviously, we know they did it on some lies, but at the time it seemed like, “wow, these guys really know how to market”. So didn’t really think about it again, three months later, my friend who works in venture capital called me and he said, “hey, we’re looking at this company, it’s called Fyre App. They’re changing the way that talent gets booked in the music industry. We’re really excited about it. We’re going to invest”, submitted an LOI, actually for $20 million and was like, “they’re producing this festival to promote the app, but they need help with logistics. Can I connect you to the CEO?” And I was like, “sure”. At this point, I had seen multiple touch points and was like, okay.
So I get on a call with Billy at the end of March. We have a chat, then I get on a second call with him and Ja Rule. We have another conversation and then they’re like, “okay, well if you want to do this, let’s fly you down to The Bahamas so we can meet”. Actually, I was supposed to fly down to New York and then at the last minute, they changed it to The Bahamas. So I flew down to The Bahamas and I was supposed to meet with Billy and we kept trying to connect, but instead I ended up meeting with his right hand, who’s not in either documentary, a gentleman who worked in private equity at a multi-hundred million dollar fund for a number of years, very legit operator and we spoke about what my role would be.
Basically, they needed help with logistics and so we shook hands on a deal, I flew back to LA to pack my bag, got on my first phone call for Fyre having signed my contract. It was classic, first-year festival stuff. This bill hasn’t been paid, this shipment’s late, things changing, a lot of moving parts. I remember getting off the call and being like, “wow, this is a mess” and not so much of this is a mess, that this is never going to happen, but this is a mess and do they have enough money to pay for this?
So I called the guy that I had negotiated my deal with and I basically said, “I think we should read negotiate terms”. He was like, basically “FU, take it or leave it”, and I was kind of like, okay, all expense paid trip to The Bahamas for one month. The potential to work on… If we pull this off, this could be one of the biggest festivals of recent memory maybe ever, not by attendance, but just by the buzz around it. I thought, okay, I’m just going to go down. So I flew down the first weekend in April and the rest is in the documentary!
Peter McCormack: Okay, so at the point, you’re contracted, how much time is between the point you’ve signed a deal and the festival is meant to happen?
Marc Weinstein: Four weeks.
Peter McCormack: Four weeks?!
Marc Weinstein: Four weeks. So I’m really in the documentary way more than the amount of time that I spent on the festival. I think most of the producers were onboard maybe max eight weeks before the show.
Peter McCormack: Right, because it gives the impression that you were involved a lot earlier. So there’s four weeks…
Marc Weinstein: Which is, by the way, another interesting thing about how the media works. The perception of the documentaries, both of them versus what actually happened is… And I love Chris, the director, but there are definitely bits missing and there always will be when you have a story to tell.
Peter McCormack: I mean the overriding thing that I think for you, that comes across is that you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place in that you won’t be paid if you leave. Yet you have a duty to try and help fix it. So let’s go back a step. You’ve run your own festival before. How many people were at that festival?
Marc Weinstein: So my first one was 5,000 attendees. I work with a company now called Prime Social Group. We’ve done festivals up to 25,000 attendees, multi-day stuff with camping.
Peter McCormack: But the one you organize, the 5,000, one day, two day?
Marc Weinstein: One day in New York City.
Peter McCormack: So one day, 5,000 attendees. Music festival?
Marc Weinstein: Music festival called 90s fest. Food, sponsorship, music, logistics, the whole works.
Peter McCormack: How long did that take from idea to the event?
Marc Weinstein: About a year and a half.
Peter McCormack: Knowing what you know, what’s the best time you think you could now redo that in? Could you do it in six months, three months?
Marc Weinstein: I think that we would probably… You can get something done faster, you just have to pay more. But even then I think you really need six months to produce a festival.
Peter McCormack: See there’s a couple of things. There is getting the stuff that you need on site. That’s like you say, you can pay, if you need water or vodka there’s a price you can pay. But then the logistics of having the right people co-ordinate an event doesn’t feel like something you can rush, because you have to have teams who know what they’re doing at specific points on the side. You’ve got security, you’ve got I guess people looking after bands. You’ve got so many different things that I guess that’s kind of different.
Marc Weinstein: Well, typically I think the way that I think about music festivals is you start with the venue. So the venue’s the absolute most important thing that you could possibly have. If you don’t have the right space, then the festival’s not going to work. An example of that is again, going back to Governor’s Island, we produced our first festival in Brooklyn, right in the heart of Williamsburg and then our second one moved to Governor’s Island. It changes everything. Even just the attendees. Some people just don’t want to go on an island and so the venue is crucial.
I think that at least in the Netflix documentary and I really should watch the Hulu one you’re right, but in the Netflix documentary, I think they do a good job of showing that they never had the right venue from the beginning. They announced before they had a venue confirmed and that’s a really big no-no. The second is when you book your talent because most of the time if you have a first-year festival, even if you’re trying to sell a dream like these guys were, you need good artists to support that dream.
So by the time that’s done, you’ve paid 50% deposits for your talent. You’ve put down your 50% deposit for your venue and now you need to build out your marketing plan or you’re probably doing that simultaneously. So you start building out your marketing plan, you start hiring the team to get all of the logistics in order and then you announce.
Peter McCormack: With the festival or festivals that you’ve organized, what are the most painful lessons that you’ve learned in doing that?
Marc Weinstein: That’s a good question. I think nothing ever works out the way you expect it to. You’re constantly putting out fires, ironically! It’s a labour of love because when you launch like a tech company, you can launch an MVP and it can have bugs and you can re-launch your Beta. When you’re doing an event there’s no Beta. Even a walkthrough can’t replicate what happens during the festival. So everything has to be completely buttoned up 100% when the guests walk through the door.
Peter McCormack: A walk through being a dry run of the festival?
Marc Weinstein: A walk through being, yeah, a dry run of the festival. Just you and your production team walk through the venue, go through the checklist, make sure security is right, make sure that the exits are right, make sure you have the right staff, everybody knows where they need to be at what time. What’s the run of show? when do acts come on? When do they go off? What kind of sound engineering you need doing a check of the sound on stage. So all of those things happen maybe the day of the festival in some instances. But even that can’t replicate what’s going to happen.
I remember my first festival in New York. It was little things like not leaving cones out the night before and then having a truck park right in the front of the entrance so that we couldn’t even get things through. The festival on Governor’s Island, we had one of our sponsors bring a 26-foot truck with their full activation onboard and it couldn’t clear the 13-foot height for the ferry. This is something that we had been through for months with the sponsor and just got lost in communication. So we had to unload the truck, put everything onto the ferry and that adds another five or six hours for build. So things are constantly going wrong and you just have to figure out the best solution for them, because you don’t get a second shot. It just happens.
Peter McCormack: So you get to The Bahamas. You see everything. So who do you first meet? Do you meet Billy straight away or are you introduced to somebody else?
Marc Weinstein: So I met Billy’s right hand at the time. Billy was also out raising money. He was doing the Fyre app thing. He would come to the island. He would leave the island. Typically when he and his team were there, they were just fucking around on jet skis having a good time, hanging out at the Grand Isle by the pool. Doing work, but they were kind of inaccessible to most of us. They were super busy. I met some of the other production staff. There were probably around eight people that were living on the island full time by the time I had arrived.
Peter McCormack: Amongst the group of people there, were there any people that you became allies because you thought, “okay, you know what you’re doing, you’re a good person, you’ve got your shit together”, and there’s other people that you’re maybe like “you’re a joker. I can’t rely on you at all”.
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, having thrown festivals before and being a first time festival producer coming from an entirely different industry, there’s a level of arrogance that one has when you get into this space because it’s like, “oh, I’ve been in finance, I worked in investment banking, I’m smart, I get it”. Then you realize, “holy shit, this is really challenging”, because it seems like such a simple business. You book the talent, you sell the tickets and then everybody shows up and the festival happens. It’s just really not like that.
So when I got to the island, I think what I saw happening and what really ultimately happened, was you had this tiering where you had the main Fyre staff, which you know of the names that are mentioned in the documentary is Billy and Grant and then a few others who no one on the production team really took seriously. But we needed them to actually communicate to fans when changes were being made. We needed them to make key decisions. We needed them to pay the bills.
Then you had the eight core production staff members at the time, which I think grew to like 25 as the month went on, who were making the logistical decisions. So we kind of formed this really strong bond, this camaraderie between the producers, many of whom were all seasoned event producers, who had produced things like III Points in Miami, which is a huge festival, the Gay Pride Parade in New York City, Mark Musters is in the documentary, he’s done that for years.
Obviously, Andy who’s in the documentary and Netflix has done a number of events at scale. So you start building a camaraderie with fellow producers and of course throughout the weeks we’re all laughing at the absurdity of it, extremely stressed, not sleeping, communicating with one another, trying to figure out where the pain points are. Quite frankly going back and forth on whether or not this event is actually going to happen.
Peter McCormack: So you first get to the island. Do you have a first meeting?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, we have a first meeting. So met all of the production staff. By this time, I think we were doing a daily, where Billy would come in and we would talk about logistics issues for an hour or so. I don’t know if it was every day or maybe it was every other day.
Peter McCormack: Were you seen as the guy to come in and fix the problem?
Marc Weinstein: That’s what I thought. I thought that I was being hired to come in and try to help from like a high level. Then what happened was they just didn’t have enough hands. So we didn’t have runners. We didn’t have drivers. We didn’t even have houses for staff at some points. So I became the de facto housing guy and that was really because I had a combination of event production history, but also knew how to manage a spreadsheet. The housing thing was basically matching anyone that needed offsite housing with a bed off-site. So we went around the island and booked houses and counted the number of beds and then we would say, “okay, this is how many people we have, this is how many beds we have” and we’d start matching them up.
Peter McCormack: You get to The Bahamas, they’ve already made the decision to move from the previous island?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah. By the time I got there, they’re living at the Grand Isle in Great Exuma and they’re on the new festival site, which is Roker’s Point.
Peter McCormack: Based on the old festival site, could that have been achieved with a long enough timeline?
Marc Weinstein: No, not at all.
Peter McCormack: So the vision was impossible?
Marc Weinstein: I think the vision was impossible and I think the first gentleman, I forget his name, the pilot that was hired, he had the right idea. If they had just done like a cruise ship and set up some production on that island, it could have been done. But you really couldn’t have had anyone camp there. It would have been a miserable experience.
Peter McCormack: I mean a cruise ship is quite easy.
Marc Weinstein: Yeah. but they refused. So before I got there and before the production team that was there when I arrived got there, there were two production teams that had been fired. One was called DPS, which is in the deck that’s now circulated, this infamous Fyre deck, which talks about 40,000 attendees, which is a joke because it was max 2,000.
But DPS is like a festival in a box. I mean these are the best of the best producers. Apparently what happened was they quoted somewhere around a $50 million budget and said they could get it done in time, but that’s what they needed and they needed Billy to trust them to get it done. He didn’t have that budget, fired them. Then they brought in another company, I think it’s called CIE.
Peter McCormack: How long were DPS given?
Marc Weinstein: I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I think it might’ve been like a month when they were negotiating terms.
Peter McCormack: But they could have done it?
Marc Weinstein: They said they could have done it. Who knows exactly how they would have pulled it off, but for $50 million.
Peter McCormack: It goes back to your point, you can buy anything for the right price.
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, because then you can pay for staff, you can ship everything in that you need to get done. You could probably double the workforce, which means you could double the speed of the build.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so you’ve got to the island. What is the status of the project? So you look at it and you’re going…
Marc Weinstein: Nothing’s built. Nothing.
Peter McCormack: None of the tents are there?
Marc Weinstein: None of the tents. I don’t even think the tents had arrived. None of the beds. None of the houses that we needed had been booked. Maybe like 11 suites at the Grand Isle resort for the festival. Production staff, they’re working through logistics. But the thing is… It’s not that crazy that there wasn’t anything built one month before because really you want everything up and running one week before the festival for something like this. So it wasn’t that much of a red flag to me.
Peter McCormack: What were the red flags?
Marc Weinstein: I think the red flags were payments not being made on time. Changes to the actual plan and the layout of the festival, four weeks before. I think the first day that I arrived, they realized that there wasn’t enough room on Roker’s Point for tents for the paid guests. So I think we needed enough beds for 2,100 people and there were enough for 1,800. So Billy went through this whole logistics thing and decided we’re going to add a whole set of tents on the second site, which was called Coco Plum Beach. We’re going to make this… It’s going to be like a VIP area where Coco Plum is the beach that everybody wants to go to. We’re going to make this like… There’s this day club in Miami, I forget the name of it, it starts with an N or something. We’re going to make it like that.
So people are going to sleep, they’re going to wake up and they’re going to have their bottle service and we’re going to up-charge them for it. So that’s our brilliant solution. But then, of course, he makes the decision, all right, go for it and of course, it’s like, “okay, but you need an entirely new security staff, right. You need more transportation, you need more labourers to build that site. So the second and third order consequences of this type of decision were not being thought through, specifically three to four weeks out from the event.
Then it was up to the production staff to try to figure it out and if we came back with, “this is really just not logistically possible”, the response was always, “we need solutions, not problems”, which is something that…I hope we can talk about other things besides just the logistics of the festival, but I think the solutions, not problems comment is something that we see a lot of. Not just in events but in startup culture in general and of course with a festival, the consequences of that are so dramatic and so in your face because when things fall apart you can see it so clearly. With startups, that kind of “yes culture”, that entrepreneurship porn a little bit, like sleep on the floor of your office, get it done. You don’t see as much what the negative consequences are.
Peter McCormack: Well, it’s like you say, you can push timelines in tech. When a dev tells you two weeks and if it’s three weeks it’s fine. Or if you have a bug, you fix the bug. Or if a customer has a bad experience and you can compensate them or you can use customer service. With a festival, you have a fixed date and your entire reputation is based on that single date, so you don’t have that flexibility and we should discuss that. So you’re at the site. You’ve got an idea of what’s going on. How quickly do you realize this isn’t going to happen? On the first day or is it a few days?
Marc Weinstein: I mean, I wish I could say that I was so prescient to know that this wasn’t going to happen from the beginning and I was the smartest guy in the room and I got it. As I said, festivals are a mess typically. There’s a couple of examples, Tomorrowworld is a festival that was produced by SFX, which was at the time it launched a billion dollar company. It’s produced by the same people as Tomorrowland, which is one of the largest festivals in Belgium and in Europe, massive festival! They tried to replicate it in Atlanta. This is 120,000 person festival and it rained like crazy during their second year. What happened was they had thousands of attendees stranded on site because the buses couldn’t move through the dirt roads. So that festival got cancelled.
You had Pemberton in Canada, 40,000 attendees Festival cancelled, attendees not paid back because of logistical challenges. People don’t even realize that the first year of Coachella was a disaster. They lost a ton of money and it almost went under. So festivals are always a mess and it’s the job of the production staff to just roll with the punches and so that’s why I think a lot of us were kind of like, this isn’t going to happen or maybe it is and didn’t really walk if that makes sense.
Peter McCormack: Yeah and I guess there is that, “will it happen, won’t it happen?” But also the, “it’s not going to happen to the degree” or “it’s not going to be what was sold” and that must have been pretty clear early on?
Marc Weinstein: That was very clear. That was clear.
Peter McCormack: I mean, once the tents come on site?
Marc Weinstein: Well, yeah, but the thing is you have siloed work. So my job is to find houses for people offsite. You had one person’s job was managing the entire festival site. You had another person’s job who is marketing and communications. So there’s this company called Tablelist, which I don’t think is mentioned in Netflix, maybe not mention in Hulu. This was a company that was a VIP booking service for clubs in New York, LA, whatever. They were doing really well, startup going out of business because of Fyre. They did all the bookings for anything related to this festival and weren’t really a ticketing company.
So they didn’t have a proper ticketing company for communications and what happened was nobody was communicating these changes to guests. So after Fyre, like two months after, I wrote something, a little bit of reflections on the festival and I think that it was a mess of course. But I think that had they been communicating to guests, the changes throughout, you know, “hey, this is what your package is going to look like”. If guests were able to say, “hey, you know, that’s not what I paid for. I want my money back”, then I think it would have been fine.
So in the end, these tents look terrible, but the inside was actually really nice. It was carpeted. You had I think two full-size beds, of course, Ikea furniture, but it was kind of like a glamping experience. If they had been marketed glamping then it would’ve been interesting. It would have been nice. But none of these changes is kind of marketed and so as the producers, we’re heads down trying to get things done and we’re being told that these communications are happening and they’re not. So you try to just do your job.
Peter McCormack: Did you get any 1–1s with Billy at all?
Marc Weinstein: Yes. I got a few 1–1s with him.
Peter McCormack: So tell me about your first 1–1. How long into being on the island was that? Do you remember what you talked about?
Marc Weinstein: I don’t remember my first one to one with Billy.
Peter McCormack: Do you remember your first impressions of him?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, my first impressions of Billy were, one, he has money, so he’s going to be able to pay his way through this. Two, at the time this doesn’t take no for an answer kind of mentality I think was something that impressed me. I was like, “oh, whenever somebody presents a problem, he doesn’t freak out. He’s pretty level headed”. He was always smiling, always seemed calm until the very end. So I thought that was kind of impressive in the face of all of these challenges he was keeping his head and he had people around him that were really impressive as well.
Some of his investors are people, seasoned entrepreneurs, people with a lot of financial backing. So I think my first impression was honestly that I was a little bit impressed. But then you start to pull back the facade and you realize there’s not a lot of depth. So decisions are being made without really any thought going into them and as time continued to progress, I realized that all he cared about was his image and the image of the festival. So a really simple solution to the housing crisis that we had offsite because we had zero beds book by the time I got there. We needed, I was told 400 beds and then eventually it was 1,200 beds and the island has a population of 3,000–5,000 people depending on what source you look at.
The simple solution is, we have a second weekend and we have all the beds on the entire island available to us that weekend if we need them because the first weekend was this national regatta event. Simple solution, cancel all of the Influencers from weekend one. Anyone that doesn’t absolutely need a bed that didn’t pay for a bed should just be moved to weekend two. It became so clear to me that all he and his team cared about were the Influencers and it wasn’t even because of the marketing angle, which I think they understood and noticed, but I think it was because they wanted to hang out with models.
Honestly, it was like we want to ride jet skis with models. So in some ways, I think he produced the festival for his own personal… It was like a plaything for him.
Peter McCormack: Well you get that picture from the early footage when they recorded the advert. You see the early experience and it’s almost too wrapped up in the enjoyment and the success before they’ve delivered. Which kind of feels sometimes a little bit like the crypto markets at times. You know what I mean?
Marc Weinstein: Absolutely. You want to talk about ICOs, I mean raising tens of millions of dollars before you have even a team in place and you just have an idea. I mean that’s pretty similar.
Peter McCormack: So did Billy have any obvious weaknesses when you first met him as well? Beyond the… It was a plaything.
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, I mean that was definitely one of his weaknesses. Inexperience, again there’s a certain level of arrogance I think that comes with having been a tech founder, having a level of success and then you think I can do anything and events are easy. I really think that that arrogance is something that a lot of people bring with them when they go into an industry that might seem simple, like opening a restaurant.
Which in the end is extremely challenging. So I think arrogance was definitely something that I saw. It’s one thing to try to find solutions to problems. It’s another thing to not take advice of the people that you hired around you because they have the experience that you don’t. It was clear that he wasn’t taking people’s advice and so I think that that definitely ties to some level of arrogance.
Peter McCormack: So the days are going by, what are the big red flags where you’re like, “okay, we’re in big trouble now?”
Marc Weinstein: Well for me the first big red flag was about two weeks out from the festival. I finally had convinced… So I’m in it for two weeks. I’m continually matching beds. Maybe it was even a week and a half out of the festival. I make my first call to one of the Influencers on our Influencer list. So the guys had tiered Influencers into three categories and finally, I had convinced them to cancel some of the Influencers who had been promised free accommodation for posting that little orange square on their Instagram accounts.
I get on my first call and I’m trying to communicate with this person, we have a second weekend, you can move there. They’re like, “well, our flights are booked, to Miami from Los Angeles and we were promised a villa by the beach, me and two guests”. So that’s when I realized like we had about 200 of these people who were all promised a three-person villa on the beach and those just didn’t exist. Not to mention I was the first voice that these people had heard since they posted the orange box on Instagram. So they had had zero communication about anything. So that’s when I started kind of freaking out a little bit and that was the first major red flag.
Obviously, there were a bunch of little red flags along the way. Another one was when, I had been brought into this specific role because when I visited the island the first time to negotiate my deal, I sat down with one of the investors Carola, who was working on this housing thing and I started just working in a spreadsheet with her. So she and I started working really closely together and I would update her pretty regularly, almost daily about the housing situation because these were investors, these were press, these were people that they really wanted to make sure we’re taking care of.
Every day I would send an email to Carola, to Billy, to all of the senior management with the numbers and I got a call from Grant basically telling me that they were trying to get more money from Carola, that my emails were alarming her and that I needed to cut off all communication with her. So I said, “absolutely not, this is not how I operate. I want to operate with some level of honesty and openness”. I spoke to Skywalker who was interviewed in the Hulu documentary and who’s awesome, seasoned event producer and I was like, “look I don’t exactly know how to navigate this situation”. He was like, “don’t worry about it. Every email you send, I’ll share with Carola. It’s fine. We’ll just deal with it that way”. So that’s red flag number two, like a major red flag.
Major flag number three is we lost our caterer one week until the festival, due to lack of payment. They tried to renegotiate. We had Starr Catering, which is fancy culinary masterpieces. He owns six of the best restaurants in Philadelphia and New York. So we get the word that we lose our caterer because we had been in negotiations with them. They kept cutting back costs, whatever. Starr pulls out and everyone’s like, “okay, the festivals are done, we have no food, so no festival”.
So there’s this email that leaked to mic.com right after the festival, which was a producer basically on a Porta Johns chain and I know her well, she’s great and she meant well, but the food doesn’t come. So basically she sends an email in response, “it doesn’t matter how many Porta Johns we have because people won’t be eating. So they won’t be shitting”. Of course, we talk about media and taking things out of context! Two months after when the festival did happen and it was a mess, this looks like the most arrogant, disgusting email ever sent. But the reason it was sent is because we didn’t have food, so we thought that the festival is cancelled.
Peter McCormack: Okay. So you’re a week out. You’ve got no catering. Haven’t got enough villas. I mean it must get to point, you go, “okay, yeah this is done”. There must be conversations where people are saying “we have to cancel”.
Marc Weinstein: Yes.
Peter McCormack: Is Billy the only person who can make that decision?
Marc Weinstein: So Billy is the go, no go. Short of every single person walking out, which when I reflect on it and I say this in the documentary as well, it’s like if we hadn’t kept working, maybe this never would have happened, because he needed people working for him.
Peter McCormack: So in some ways, you’re feeling complicit?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah.
Peter McCormack: Okay. I mean that’s a brave thing to admit.
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, for sure. It was like we were pulling rabbits out of hats. We didn’t have enough beds. So, in the end, I ended up sourcing that cruise ship that we spoke about and it was a small one because it was on very short notice, 10 days! We had a cruise ship to come and house 225 people. Had that not happened, we definitely wouldn’t have had enough beds for staff.
Peter McCormack: At what cost?
Marc Weinstein: The cost, I think it was half a million in the end and we put down $250,000 and the cruise ship is how I discovered that Billy was sending fake wires. We can talk about that. But basically, the day after everyone arrived, we had about 1,100 people on the island. We were working with the charter company to evacuate them. Billy was nowhere to be found. At least for me, I think Skywalker was in touch with him.
They were maybe five of the producers still there trying to get people off, having not been paid. The cruise operator calls and says, “hey, we have 225 people on this boat. We were supposed to be moored for two weeks. We have enough fuel to get us to Miami. I’m in touch with the Coast Guard there. I can bring people home”. I’m like, “this is a great option. Let’s do that”. I finally get ahold of Billy and he’s like, “sure thing, we’ll get it done”. I’m like, “the guy says he needs payment in his bank account by 5:00 PM” Billy was like, “we’ll send a wire. Isn’t that good enough?” So I called the cruise owner and I’m like, “hey, Billy says we’re going to go through with this. We’re going to send you a wire confirmation”. He says, “absolutely not. I need the money in my bank account by 5:00 PM today”. I was like, “why? Wire confirmations are as good as whatever”. He’s like, “the last time I got a wire confirmation from Billy, it didn’t come for five days after and it was a different confirmation number than the one he had sent to me”.
Peter McCormack: Okay. So I don’t understand wires and wire confirmations. So can you explain how that works and how you do it fraudulently?
Marc Weinstein: For sure. So I think what was happening was, when you are about to send the wire, for some bank accounts it gives you a little strip at the bottom and it says transaction details, transaction number, amount sent, to whom, etc. Then it has at the end again the transaction number and then it’s like click send to confirm. I think what Billy was doing is he was taking a screenshot of that page, then sending it out and not clicking it. So we were sending these thin strips with all of that information that looked like it was confirmed, but it would never be sent.
Peter McCormack: Okay. So like I say, you’re still a week out, it’s clear it’s screwed but Billy’s not taking no for an answer.
Marc Weinstein: Not taking no for an answer and in all honesty, there is this still kind of element amongst the crew who’ve been working on this, day in and day out. We’ve all been in events before, things are messy. But if this has to happen, this has to happen, we’re going to make it work no matter what.
Peter McCormack: Even two days out, even a day out?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah. I mean the head production manager in two meetings prior to the event said we should cancel. The day before and the day before that there were two all-hands meetings, where the production manager, the lead who’s not, who’s in neither documentary…
Peter McCormack: Good person?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, really good person, seasoned event producer, good head on her shoulders. I think overwhelmed as we all were, lacking sleep, but it was like, “we need to cancel this thing”. “No, It has to happen”. The response is kind of ridiculous. It was like money solves all problems.
Peter McCormack: But the money wasn’t there?
Marc Weinstein: The money wasn’t there. But I think in Billy’s mind, they were I believe $19 million in the hole on this festival. So real dollars were spent, real building happened.
Peter McCormack: How much was raised in total?
Marc Weinstein: I’m not sure. But a lot of revenue was used to pay for this and so there was this whole part of the documentary where they started encouraging people to load up their RFID bands. That was, I think, their way of trying to get new working capital to fund expenses.
Peter McCormack: But did they even have an RFID supplier?
Marc Weinstein: They did, yeah.
Peter McCormack: So can you even explain how stressful is?
Marc Weinstein: Well, my shoulders are up in my ears right now talking about it.
Peter McCormack: So it’s stressful now even thinking about it?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, two years later. I mean, it was really stressful. We were a skeleton crew trying to pull off the impossible with basically like no sleep. I was doing housing and I slept on a different couch or different bed pretty much every night because we had more people coming in throughout the month and we needed people to have beds. So as the staff grew, we were trying to get houses for them and it was just a disaster.
Peter McCormack: Everyone was stressed?
Marc Weinstein: Everyone was stressed, chain-smoking cigarettes, breakdowns pretty much every day. You’re in this beautiful place in The Bahamas and you’re sitting in front of a computer all day inside of a house or running around on phone calls. There were fights, there were crying breakdowns. It was definitely a mess.
Peter McCormack: Then it starts to rain! I mean, come on! I watched that and I just watched that moment and I almost felt with you guys. That was the moment where I wasn’t just watching it, I suddenly became immersed and had that combination of massive sympathy and couldn’t stop laughing.
Marc Weinstein: Yeah. Me neither!
Peter McCormack: The only rain in what, months?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah. It hadn’t rained really the whole time I was there and I never had even considered it. The thing is, when you’re so underwater on just getting the plan A, the plan B for rain is non-existent. As bad of a plan as it was, the idea was we had waves of guests coming in each day and the people building the site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, had decided we had enough tents for the first wave. So it’ll be a mess. But they’ll come to the site, they’ll go to the main production house, we’ll assign them a tent, they’ll go to their tent and we’ll have enough beds. That’s what was thought and we’ll keep the production staff building all day on Thursday and we’ll finish the last 100 tents.
I think in the end there was a cargo ship that never came because customs wasn’t paid and that had all the air mattresses for all the houses that I was accounting for. So basically I was short 200 beds. It had all of our walkie talkies. So there was no communication except via cell phone, which was a mess. Cell Service was terrible. Phones were dying across the island and it had, I think the remaining tents as well. So that never could have been pulled off anyways. But then it rains and the tents that we had were all flooded because a lot of them were left open. People didn’t think to close them!
Peter McCormack: How much of a negative impact did the rain have? Or was it fucked anyway? Or did that compound things actually make it much worse?
Marc Weinstein: It’s really, really hard to say whether or not it would have been completely fucked without it because… I hate saying this because it’s some vindication of the things that Billy did, but there were guests that were like, “this is fine. We want to stay. We paid for a trip to The Bahamas”. They didn’t want to leave on the flights that we got for them on that Friday. They were like, “yeah, we’re in The Bahamas. There’s beautiful beaches”. Thursday we had a group of DJs, kind of the undercard DJ’s, who all played on Thursday.
Peter McCormack: Hold on. So none of this is told?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah. I think they tell it on Netflix. Luca, who’s in the documentary, Unreal Productions, he’s another person who I think is honest about had we basically held firm deadlines for payment and really been forceful, there never would have been a stage. So there never would have been a festival. But they shipped and built two stages.
Peter McCormack: Well that’s the one that in the documentary where it looks like everything is as it should be, the stage and the setup…
Marc Weinstein: Exactly. Unreal Productions did an incredible job on the stage.
Peter McCormack: So I saw that and I thought that looks right. So I’m guessing even with crappy beds, even with crappy food, as long as you can supply some alcohol and you could get people to the stage, they can have some fun.
Marc Weinstein: Exactly and that I think was as you said, like go, no go decision a couple of days before, do you guys think this is going to be a disaster? That was the mindset. It was like, it’s not going to be what people expected it to be, but we’ll be able to get them into their beds and the logistics are going to be a mess. But then they’ll start having fun and all the liquor was there.
We had 45 hospitality staff ready to go. What we were lacking was really the pyramid of festival production, we were lacking the foundation, which was housing, transportation and the core staff to get it done. The builders, the runners, the drivers, everything like that. So there was this kind of hope that we could get it done and then it starts raining. Now the problem is you can’t bring people to the site because their tents aren’t ready because the tents are soaked.
Peter McCormack: You held them at the bar?
Marc Weinstein: We basically had no place to hold them. And it was now 5:00 AM when the first plane was supposed to arrive at 7:00 AM and it ended up arriving at 6.20 AM.
Peter McCormack: Just a side point while I remember. One of the things that stood out to me when I was looking at the site, it looked dangerous because it seemed to have that steep edge down to almost like a river before the sea. Do you know the bit I’m talking about?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah. So Roker’s Point had these cliffs.
Peter McCormack: How high are they?
Marc Weinstein: Probably like 10 to 20 feet high.
Peter McCormack: So I had just had this really bad feeling… They weren’t fenced off. You would have drunk people, it’d be quite dark and they could easily fall off these edges. Was that a concern.
Marc Weinstein: I’m sure it was a concern. I think that there was definitely a plan for fencing. I don’t remember if there was fencing put in around these edges, but safety was a paramount concern. Another thing, when you’re building on an island…
Peter McCormack: Like if somebody dies?
Marc Weinstein: This is a totally different story. In the end, so this is another kind of, I don’t know, again, to your point about having people like troll you or whatever. The day that we evacuated the 1,100 people was one of the proudest days of my life.
Peter McCormack: Well listen, let’s come to that. But also physically, I can see your face has changed in the last five minutes. It’s almost like I’m bringing the stress back. So I’m going to add to that stress, sorry probably with this question, but you wake up on the day of the festival? 3 AM, 4 AM, do you remember?
Marc Weinstein: I didn’t sleep. Jorge, who was doing transportation to all of the houses and I were together pretty much side by side for the last 10 days. He slept 20 minutes and I woke him up!
Peter McCormack: Okay, so what time do you consider that day has started?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, so we were at this house, which was for an investor and we didn’t have beds. We went there because they had these lounge chairs, movie theatre things. So we slept on the leather chairs or sat on them, a couple of people slept. I think it’s 6. Another element of the rain is we had this cruise ship that I sourced for staff the night before because I wanted them in comfortable beds and then they were going to turn it, as it’s going to be a floating hotel the next day for Influencers. The cruise ship turned out, we were so close, it was 20 feet too large for the dock. So it had to be moored off-site. We worked with the Coast Guard to try to get it done. In the end, they said no.
So it’s moored off-site, so there’s this whole tender operation and the rain happens, the sea is rough off and we had a 40 person hospitality crew meant to welcome the guests that were stuck on the cruise ship So Jorge and I drive to the airport, we get the call, we had a rain plan, we articulated it to a couple of the producers, change of plans immediately right after that. But me and Jorge are the only two people at the airport to welcome the first flights. We’re laughing because we’re like, “it’s raining. At least the flights will be delayed. Nothing’s ever on time in The Bahamas” and the flight comes an hour early. So we’re there.
The guests come off the buses and another ridiculous decision that was made was that the bags were supposed to meet the people onsite. But the reason that was made was because there was supposed to be a crew in Miami tagging bags with tent numbers, but the tents weren’t ready so there were no tent numbers. So no bags get tagged because there’s no one there. There’s no communication with the hospitality staff in Miami and all the bags are basically taken right off the plane, thrown into a truck, driven to the site with no tags and the driver is just this local guy who has no idea what he’s supposed to be doing and he just chucks them into an empty cargo bin, like an empty shipping container.
Jorge and I are there greeting the guests, we’re the only two people and they’re all like, “where are our bags?” Some of them just came off of 10 hours of travel from Europe, from Los Angeles and they’re in their plain clothes and they want to go to the beach and they’re like, “we need to change, where our bags?” Jorge and I are onsite going “we don’t know” because we’re not involved in this plan. We’re not supposed to be greeting the guests. It’s just because we’re the only people left. The reason we were at the airport is because there’s no addresses on this island and there’s one set of keys for every house that we booked.
Peter McCormack: And the keys were lost?
Marc Weinstein: I had the keys.
Peter McCormack: I thought the keys went missing?
Marc Weinstein: No, they didn’t go missing. That was reported by Billy in the Hulu documentary apparently.
Peter McCormack: Yes, in the Hulu documentary, that the box of keys went missing?
Marc Weinstein: No, the box of keys didn’t go missing. We were greeting all of the guests with the keys, giving that the one set of keys for the houses and then Jorge would tell the taxi driver where to drive because he was the head of transportation and he and I were the only two people that knew where the addresses were for the houses. This bag thing is a huge issue because now the guests aren’t going to the site anymore and originally we wanted to send them to the rec centre, hold them there say, “because of the rain we’re going to hold you here for a little bit”, serve them breakfast, figure it out.
But instead, somebody makes the executive decision to send them to the Grand Isle resort. Now, this is a fully functioning hotel, one of those all-expense paid type places. A yellow school bus of 120 millennials shows up unannounced and they just start raging. So the Grant Isle kicks them out and then everybody gets sent to Maryann’s bar and Maryann is there. Finally, the hospitality staff is out and there’s bar staff there, Jorge and I are still at the airport, now my phone dies. This bag thing is clearly a real problem, one of many and we don’t have communication because we don’t have walkie talkies.
So I’m like, “we need to get this sorted”, I drive to Billy’s house to meet with him and he’s not there. The whole point is we need someone with the authority to tell the airport to let people take their bags with them and more flights are coming in. So then finally Billy’s not there. I charge my phone and this might be why maybe someone said the keys were missing. So then I get a call, I also get a call from Tablelist and I had logistically matched all of the VIP guests and all of the Influencers with a house. I start getting calls from Tablelist of new guests that had been booked for VIP Housing and paid extra within the last five days.
So there I am trying to cancel as many people as I possibly could and the Fyre team are out booking more VIP guests, who were promised houses, for cash. So I’m freaking out. I get a call from Tablelist and I’m like, “I don’t know what to tell you”. I had everything set up, we had enough beds but these people were not on the list and they can’t get a house, we need to put them on site. So it’s clear we don’t have enough beds, even more abundantly clear and I go to the blue production house on site, to again get someone to make this decision to let the bags out.
It’s mayhem! A line around the block, everybody inside of the house is freaking out. Literally, I’m now getting pulled physically by my shirt, by all of the core Fyre staffs and admins. Each of them had their own secretary for some reason and they’re like, “this group came and that sponsors here and they need this and they need that”, and they’re like, “Marc, Marc, Marc!” I throw my hands up in the air, step outside, I don’t know what to do. I decided, okay, I’m going to get in one of these cars and just drive. So I get in a car and I drive to where I had been staying and I jumped in the pool fully clothed! Basically then stripped down from my clothes, sit under a tree and just fall asleep because I hadn’t slept for like three days.
Peter McCormack: Did you have a cigarette?
Marc Weinstein: Potentially!
Peter McCormack: I mean I guess you get to that point where it’s almost overwhelming. You’re like, “I don’t know what to do!” I’ve probably had a couple of moments like that in my life, where I’m just like, “everything is too much. I can’t fix this”.
Marc Weinstein: There’s nothing to do and at that point, again I called the head of production and Carola and I’m like, “we’ve talked about this many times. If the decision hasn’t already been made, there should be no more flights coming into this island”.
Peter McCormack: Is Carola a victim of this?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so we’ll come to that. It’s funny, I usually try and do an hour interview. We’re at an hour and three minutes and I’m writing down more questions than we’re getting through it, because this is…
Marc Weinstein: And we haven’t even talked about crypto yet!
Peter McCormack: We haven’t, we’ll cover it at the end!
Marc Weinstein: He told me we were going to talk about crypto!
Peter McCormack: Well, I mean you started out with Bitcoin. All right, so listen, you go to sit under a tree. What time of day is that?
Marc Weinstein: I think at this point, it’s not dark yet. It’s probably around 2.
Peter McCormack: This is the Thursday?
Marc Weinstein: This is the Thursday.
Peter McCormack: So we’ve already had the bit where Billy’s gone and stood on the table as well?
Marc Weinstein: No, that hasn’t happened yet. That happens a few hours later.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so you fall asleep under a tree.
Marc Weinstein: I wake up 20 minutes later.
Peter McCormack: You’ve had your power nap.
Marc Weinstein: Now I just start again. My phone’s been blowing up because there are new guests coming that need the keys to their houses.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so what happens next?
Marc Weinstein: So I’m driving around the island to meet up with as many people as I can to get them into their house.
Peter McCormack: How are people being with you? Are you explaining like, “this is a shit show. I’m sorry”, or are you just pushing into their houses?
Marc Weinstein: Remember that my role was for people that were getting housing off-site and most of them were investors, Influencers, press, staff.
Peter McCormack: Were they all aware that…
Marc Weinstein: So I had been the only point of contact for some of these people for the previous week and I had told most of them not to come. So I had been like, “don’t come” or “come the second weekend, you’re not going to get what you were promised. You were promised a villa by the beach. I’m telling you right now you’re going to be in “model style housing”. So air mattresses, bunk beds in a shared house with people that you don’t know”. So most of those people that I had told this to are treating me with some level of gratitude and respect, like I had no idea that it was this bad type of thing, but thank you.
Specifically, they had hired a 40 person marketing team to come film and I had been on calls with this team for a whole week is like, “don’t come”, going back to Grant saying “we need to cut this crew, we don’t need content”. When I did a festival we had three people filming to get the recap video. That’s all you need. You don’t need this crew and if you want to bring them, bring them the second weekend, again we had another weekend. “No, no, no”. I’m arguing with these people. These are contractors, they can’t share beds, they can’t share rooms. That’s a huge liability for them and they’re telling me “we need our own rooms for each guest” and I’m telling them “these don’t exist” and so they get down and they had thought I’m the bad guy.
A lot of Influencers too thought I was the bad guy because they thought I was trying to rob them of their experience and then they get down and they see this and they’re like, “wow, I’m sorry!” Now that was the majority. There was a couple of situations where I got… I don’t think I’ve ever lost my cool, the way that I lost it on the Casamigos team for example.
Peter McCormack: Ok, so talk me through that.
Marc Weinstein: It’s now 1:00 AM, the Casamigos team comes with the crew that’s twice the size of what had been promised, what I had been told, they need a house and I’m trying to figure out what house to put them in. I connect with them multiple times. I drive to them, they’re at some bar and I give two of them the keys to this house. They get to the house. It’s not to their liking. They’re calling me nonstop, my phone’s dying, I’m over my head trying to figure it out.
Finally, it’s night time, I get to the production house and they’re there. The lead starts going off at me, basically telling me I’m going to get fired, telling me, “do you know who I am?” I just snapped. I was fired! I haven’t been paid. I’m running around trying to make sure that you have a bed to sleep in and this is the way that you’re treating me. Later on, I think he and I had a chat the next day and it was fine, but that was one example.
There was another example, which I feel pretty terrible about, but an athlete came with his daughter. He had done the Influencer marketing and I think his daughter was sick and his agent and I had been on a call and we cancelled most of the people that they had booked. But there was this one guy that they really needed to come because he had promised this beautiful experience to his daughter who was sick. I thought that I had enough beds for him at the Grand Isle and apparently he got to the Grand Isle and there was no bed for him.
So she called me freaking out and she and I got into it, this was probably about two in the morning at that time. Of course, I feel terrible because that was something that slipped through the cracks. Then finally it was 2:00 AM to 3:00 AM, every single person that needed a bed had one. At least from my perspective, the job was done and everybody was onsite in their tents, the line had finally cleared. We had a meeting at the production house, we’re going to have an all hands at 7:00 AM the next day.
Peter McCormack: So at that point, you’re thinking, “okay, we’re maybe scraping through this”?
Marc Weinstein: No, I mean all the flights had been cancelled. It was just, how are we going to treat the people that arrived. The Twitter storm had already taken off. All of the main acts had cancelled, mostly because they hadn’t been paid their remaining deposits. So there was going to be no music and it was just like, how do we deal with the people that are still here?
Peter McCormack: But you said there was some music on the Thursday? So what happened, was there some camaraderie, were people almost experiencing some element of a festival?
Marc Weinstein: I mean again, I was running around doing my thing. I think one, the Influencers that had their houses off-site had an incredible weekend. I have spoken to some of them. They basically just had a free weekend in The Bahamas where they got to just do whatever they wanted and just never really went to the site, which is the irony of the whole thing. I mean it’s a beautiful place. You have some of the nicest beaches in the world.
A lot of guests, there was the first wave of people that just wanted to get out of there and that was the whole airport fiasco, which I didn’t really know much about. But they wanted to get out. The first flight out was delayed and then they got locked in or something into the airport and that was a disaster. But then after that first wave, there were probably about 500 people and all they wanted to do was stay and have a good time. All the liquor was free. The food was free. It was just sustaining and I think a lot of people really had fun, which is crazy.
Peter McCormack: Well, sometimes when something goes completely shit, the whole event changes, but it becomes fun in a different way because you have to… I don’t know, you’re part of a story.
Marc Weinstein: Yeah. They adapted and they thought they were part of something special!
Peter McCormack: We’ve probably missed so much, but talk to me about the evacuation, the decision, you said it was your proudest moment. So what brings the decision for cancellation and talk me through the evacuation.
Marc Weinstein: So that afternoon when I called the head of production and I called Carola, basically it was like, if it hasn’t happened already, this is unsustainable. We need to stop the flights coming in. They were like, “decision has been made, it’s done”.
Peter McCormack: So was that decision made outside of Billy?
Marc Weinstein: It was made outside of Billy yeah. I think maybe Billy was looped in and finally realized… You could see him, he was frazzled for the first time.
Peter McCormack: Was he getting a lot of aggression towards him?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, for sure. You have all these unpaid workers, unpaid customs. People were really pissed. So Andy says that he hid in a trunk somewhere. I don’t know that he needed to do that or how dangerous it really was. But you know, he left.
Peter McCormack: So Andy was an interesting one because he comes across as responsible, organized, but at the same time it felt like he was the guy who should have had the clout and the ability to convince Billy to cancel.
Marc Weinstein: Yeah and I think he’s self-reflective in the documentary as well. We would go to Andy and Andy would say, “I’ve worked with Billy before. He always gets it done. He always finds a way. He always raises the money at the last second. This is the way he operates”. So he was a bridge in a lot of ways.
Peter McCormack: Anyway, back to the cancellation, the evacuation, what happens?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, so everyone’s cancelled. There are about like 800 attendees onsite. We have a 7:00 AM all hands, none of the Fyre staff are anywhere to be found, meaning the core team, they’re off somewhere. We think Billy’s on a yacht or they’re at the Grand Isle hiding or they left the island. It’s me and five or six other producers and we’re like, “okay, what are we going to do?” Skywalker basically takes de facto control and the decision has been made, I’m in touch with the charter company, they’re working with us.
We’re going to get flights today, moved up because all the flights were scheduled for Sunday, Monday and we’re going to get people off of this island. So we work literally all day. We have two or three people taking names. Everybody’s getting on flights. We have to validate who came through. Literally, the charter company has a legal obligation to get everyone off the island that they brought onto the island.
Peter McCormack: Right, because I was going to ask who paid for that?
Marc Weinstein: Honestly it’s them because I think it’s contractual if a charter company brings people out of the US to a foreign country, I believe they’re responsible for bringing them back. We basically just worked all day. This was the time when you see in the video that the workers came, there were about 30 of them. Security hadn’t been paid and they’re outside of the house and there’s five of us.
We’re at this point actually concerned that there might be some violence because people worked really hard and it’s hot and you’re working 20 hours a day or however long they were working, not getting paid, you’re going to be pissed. And I think Skywalker stepped outside, I was outside with a few other people and we’re able to really talk to them because I think they realized that we were in the same position that they were in a lot of ways. We hadn’t been paid, we were still working. We felt like we had been taken advantage of. We didn’t want this to happen and so it kind of fizzled, which was nice.
There was like a camaraderie there and then again, we got everyone off the island. We had had a group of 18 doctors that were supposed to come, but the license was never paid for, for them to operate. The only person that got hurt with someone that stepped on a sea urchin and that is a huge accomplishment considering how big of a mess this was. So I remember watching the last flight take off, I was at the airport with another producer and she and I basically just hugged, saw the last flight take off, we were like, “we did it. We got them off!”
Peter McCormack: When was that?
Marc Weinstein: It was probably around midnight on Friday.
Peter McCormack: So one thing that isn’t covered, that I’d be interested to know is, well then what? Is there a clean-up operation?
Marc Weinstein: That’s a great question. I ended up staying for a week after the festival. There were a few of us that stayed unpaid.
Peter McCormack: Were expenses covered? Are you being fed?
Marc Weinstein: We’re being fed.
Peter McCormack: Who owns the duty to clear up at that point?
Marc Weinstein: So I think that there was definitely one major investor who took a certain level of responsibility. He’s a really stand up guy and successful entrepreneur. Skywalker was working with him and they took de facto responsibility of the situation, trying to make amends. I mean we had potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise and worth of liquor in shipping containers on site. It was really just about getting people paid at that point, getting customs paid so that we can start breaking the site down and shipping it back.
Probably four or five of us went to the site every single day and we’re meeting with the customs people, helping the catering company, not Maryann, but there’s another catering company that came, helping them get their people off the island. I was getting the houses cleaned, collecting all the keys. There were cars left all over the island. We needed to get them returned to the rental car place. So we were figuring out which keys went with which cars and trying to get that sorted.
Peter McCormack: How big a team involved?
Marc Weinstein: Again, there were probably five of us at this point.
Peter McCormack: Camaraderie between you lot? Was it less stressful? Were you having a drink at the end of the day?
Marc Weinstein: It was less stressful at this time. There were still probably 15, 20 producers on the island who needed a break and they ended up staying in one of the houses offsite. There was definitely a camaraderie for the group of us that kept going back to the side. It felt like we were, we had a mission and it felt really important to try to clean up the mess. So we got everybody off-site and then we were just working with customs every day. One of the biggest issues was the production equipment that Luca and his team had built was not his. He had rented it. They did a great job and they were left unpaid. But the equipment was basically held by customs and so part of the negotiation was like, “how can we help him get his equipment off of the island?” That’s where a lot of the focus was. It took a month and a half for that to happen.
Peter McCormack: What was the final job, where you knew, “we’re done. I’m done!”
Marc Weinstein: I think it was basically that we got there and there was just no more discussions to be had. So there wasn’t really a job, it was like the negotiations had stalled and the government took over the site.
Peter McCormack: Oh, they took over the site? So you realize, right, I’m done. I can now leave. Did you have a final night there? Did you get drunk?! I’m assuming you must have all got wasted!
Marc Weinstein: We had a night with 10 producers. Just great people. That’s what’s lost. Event producers are the salt of the earth in my opinion. It’s just humility and a love that they have for creating events that make people happy. It’s not necessarily the most financially rewarding role, especially when you’re doing things like logistics, but they’re great people and so yeah, we had a blast.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so the event’s done, were you paid anything?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah I got 30% of my fee upfront.
Peter McCormack: 30% upfront, the other 70% never came?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah and there was a lawsuit of guests against Billy and the company. There was a lawsuit of producers, that had the production manager put together a tally of what everyone was owed, put together a lawsuit and filed. I didn’t participate in the lawsuit because one, I knew there was no money there and I wanted to move on. Ironically, obviously, that hasn’t happened. Here we are two years later. But yeah, nobody had gotten paid.
Peter McCormack: But I think it’s a good thing that you’ve chosen to talk about it, even on my little podcast, because lots of people have watched the documentary. It’s one of those ones that’s just created a buzz and everyone is like, “have you seen the Fyre documentary?” But you told me so many things I didn’t know about today and you’ve changed some perceptions I had of certain people or certain decisions in the process. So I think it’s good that you do it and we learn from all situations.
Marc Weinstein: For sure!
Peter McCormack: Okay, so you’re done. You get on your flight. You fly back to New York and you must have been like, “what?!” What was like the next week, like?
Marc Weinstein: Again, I left that island feeling capable, which I know is going to sound ridiculous, but we pulled off small little magical acts throughout the course of that month and I’ve never felt more confident in my ability to do good work. I was kind of in the process of selling my business, 90s Fest, which hadn’t been as successful as I would’ve wanted it to have been and that was a mess.
Finally, I had regained some self-confidence after two startups that didn’t work out the way that I had hoped. The first week was just riding that wave of momentum and then I think the week after it finally hit, a little bit of that “wow, I just went through something really crazy and stressful”. I just got pretty down for about a month or so.
Peter McCormack: What were you doing that month? What happened?
Marc Weinstein: There just wasn’t much to do. While I was there trying to get a 90s Fest third year tour going and that fell through. So I was in, “now what” phase? When you have that empty space, you have a lot to think about. It was really around that time when the crypto work went from more of a hobby to, this is so real and I’m just going to dive into this as much as I possibly can.
Peter McCormack: So it sounds like you just needed a focus, right?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah!
Peter McCormack: How much direct flack did you take? How much attention was on you that you felt was unfair? What was going on?
Marc Weinstein: Well, I had stayed out of pretty much everything. I was just like a plebe in the whole thing and most of the producers have gotten out and are never mentioned. I didn’t really get much shit.
Peter McCormack: Sorry, because I know I asked you this earlier, but I’m now piecing the timeline together. So you’re off the island. Have you spoken to Billy in person or on the phone since you’ve got off the island?
Marc Weinstein: No. I didn’t really want to talk to him. I sent him an email.
Peter McCormack: Carola?
Marc Weinstein: Carola yes. We had a conversation or two, basically like, I would work with you again. That’s what I articulated to her and I felt sorry for the way things had turned out for her. People don’t like to feel sorry for individuals that have money.
Peter McCormack: Of course they don’t! But I mean, she lost a lot of money on that and reputation!
Marc Weinstein: She took a leap of faith and reputation and her husband’s reputation. She was named in the lawsuit because somebody needed to be named that had the purse strings to pay for it. So it’s a shame because she was, I think taken as much as anyone else.
Peter McCormack: So who got fucked with this, that we don’t know about? We know, obviously, the workers on site did not get paid. Or did they get paid anything?
Marc Weinstein: The workers, I’m not sure. They might’ve gotten paid because most people were getting paid weekly or biweekly, so they might’ve gotten paid some. I think every single producer that basically wasn’t paid, the GoFundMe campaign that we did for Maryann ended up raising $250,000.
Peter McCormack: Unreal!
Marc Weinstein: She was owed $55,000 or something like that in debt and like $120,000 in revenue that was owed to her. So doubled that! I’m hoping that she’ll take that extra proceeds and donate it to the second GoFundMe we created, which has now raised $50,000 for the day labourers and we want to get that up to $400,000 for security, for any local staff caterers.
Peter McCormack: Who started the GoFundMe campaigns?
Marc Weinstein: The GoFundMe campaign was started by Maryann with Chris Smith, the director of the Netflix documentary. The first donation was made by the FuckJerry team.
Peter McCormack: Okay, interesting. Maryann ran the bar?
Marc Weinstein: Maryann ran a restaurant and fed all of us for the whole month leading up. She did lunch and dinner every day for the full production staff.
Peter McCormack: She’s in the documentary. She’s great!
Marc Weinstein: She’s in it. She’s actually wonderful human. I love her!
Peter McCormack: Who else got fucked that we don’t know about?
Marc Weinstein: I mean, Luca. It’s really not articulated just how badly that guy got screwed. His rented equipment was tied up for a month on the island! He had done everything right except for saying “no”. His team worked countless hours to build up the stage and the site and he was in the hole for a lot of money. His reputation too, his team was angry with him as well. You’re the leader, you have to take that responsibility and they were all frustrated.
Peter McCormack: One of the weirdest things about both documentaries is that I end it thinking… The festival ends and gets cancelled partway through each documentary and I think, “all right Billy, you had great ambition, but you’re an idiot. You’re disorganized. You didn’t have the ability to pull this off. You’re out of your depth!” Then we have this whole fake ticketing fiasco thing and I’m like, “no, you’re a fucking criminal! You are a criminal, probably a sociopath”. I just didn’t understand. It was almost like he would do anything to maintain a certain standard of living.
Marc Weinstein: Yeah. So going back to after the festival, I had been under the radar. I got a call about a month later from mic.com being like, “we have these emails that were sent, which some of them are featured in the Netflix documentary. They have your name on it, just wanted a confirmation. Did you or did you not send these?” I said, “well, you have my name. So of course you know I sent them” and they’re like, “well, can we get a comment?” I said, “well, can we do this off the record. I don’t need my name associated with Fyre festival. It’s not really something that I care to have in the public”. They were like, “sure, we’ll do it off the record”.
So I give a quote and then two months later the head of production calls me and she’s like, “did you tell mic.com they could use your name”? I’m like, “of course not”. She’s like “me neither, but check it, this article got dropped”. So it has a quote from the email that I sent with “Fyre festival consultant Marc Weinstein”. So that’s when I realized, okay, I’m now publicly associated with this and I was reflecting on it.
The reason I’m bringing this up is because I was reflecting often on, was Billy just someone that was out of his depth. How much are we all just like Billy in some ways and then to what extent did he cross the line? I wrote this piece that I was going to publish with mic.com and then I realized; why am I publishing this with this group that released my name when they told me they wouldn’t? So I just put it on Medium and it’s about honesty on social media. It’s about if honesty could have saved Fyre festival. Again, I had my own questions. Is Billy just the classic entrepreneur that’s in over his head?
Then three months later I ended up recording the interview with Chris. Again I was uncertain, should I do this, should I not? I saw Chris’ previous documentary, which was called Jim & Andy and I met Chris and I was like, this guy is legit. If anyone’s going to tell the story right, it’s going to be him. I had a massive amount of faith in him and so the next day I went and I interviewed with him and he said, he told his girlfriend it was going to be a 30-minute interview and we ended up speaking for four hours. It was more cathartic than this because was the first time I spoke about it.
So Chris and I developed a relationship, he showed me the first cut of the movie and I was like, “I’m in it way too much relative to how involved I was. I’d like to you to cut me out more”. He’s like, “sure, sure”. Didn’t really and then two months before, he’s like, “you have to see this footage I just got. You’ll never believe it”. I went and I saw this footage that you’re talking about and I wasn’t surprised. But it was just like, why did he want this filmed? He being Billy.
Peter McCormack: That’s the other thing. Why did he want it filmed?
Marc Weinstein: He’s crazy!
Peter McCormack: Well that’s why I put it down to some kind of personality disorder whereby, if you researched narcissism or sociopathy, attention whether good or bad is still attention. I think he likes the attention. But I still think, you’re a fucking criminal. You’re a criminal. You have defrauded people. You have destroyed businesses. You’ve potentially ruined people’s lives, when you’ve crossed the line. People try and create businesses, they’re ambitious, things go wrong and that does have a chain reaction. But this, wire fraud? I mean, what other crimes was he convicted of?
Marc Weinstein: Well, so again to the point of the investors being victims, he massively faked numbers. I mean, that’s not even a question. The person that introduced me to him quoted a $20 million revenue number. There were two of the largest venture capital funds in the United States had submitted letters of intent to invest in this company because he faked numbers. The investors that put their money into the festival, which I think was a separate entity, were told that it would be backstopped by his Apple stock, which was worth two and a half million or whatever he promised.
But he forged the shares document and really all he owned was like $1,000 worth of Apple. Those were two things where he crossed the line. When you send fake wires, that’s a federal offence. When you doctor documents for investment, that’s a fraud. Then, of course, all of the marketing things that happened without those two elements you might ask, okay, well he marketed something that was a dream that he thought he could pull off and he couldn’t pull it off. But then you have to ask, did he ever really believed that he could give people what he promised them. When a private jet turns into a charter flight? When a private villa turns into a tent? You have to say no.
Peter McCormack: It does come down to this honesty thing. I know you’ve only been listening to my podcast for a short while, but I’ve always tried to operate with honesty and have honest interviews. I’m honest about my opinions. I’ve run every part of what I do transparently. I even have these income reports on my website, just so even in the future if anyone accuses me of a certain bias, I just always try and operate with honesty. I think it works mainly for the good.
You get some triggered people and you get some flack for being so transparent, but I think it mainly works for the good. It was really interesting that you brought up honesty there and then you also mentioned it with regards to social media. So I do want to talk about, FuckJerry because sometimes I’m like, “do they have a responsibility to the client of continuing the marketing?” Or fully aware themselves, do they then have a responsibility to turn around and say, “no, we’re not doing this because we’re perpetuating a lie”.
Marc Weinstein: Well first to honesty and social media, one of the ways I discovered you and your podcast was the tweet storm that you did.
Peter McCormack: Oh Shit, that one! Man, I regret that. Do you know what I regret most about that? I’m fully happy I did the tweet storm, it was the right thing to do at the time. People kept talking about the next bull run. I’d gone up and then lost the money. It was painful and I made mistakes, but it is what it is. I get 2% of trolls who turn around and go, “who is this idiot? Why do you listen to his podcast? He lost $1 million. He’s an idiot.” I have had hundreds of DMs come to me and people saying “I’m the same”, except the numbers are different. One guy had gone up to eight figures, so you’re talking over $10 million and lost the lot!
Marc Weinstein: Life changing!
Peter McCormack: Yeah. I mean it was life-changing for me, but so many people have gone through the same, so I’m glad I did it. I tell you what I’m not glad I did, is the Guardian article. When they came to me and they said “we want to do a piece” and I said, “look, I’m not really interested” because I had been approached by the BBC, by Sky News and I had a feeling it was going to be a hit piece. I turned around to them and said, “look, I’ll do it if it’s not a hit piece. I want to talk about the positive side of Bitcoin because I believe in it”.
So we do the piece, I’m kind of agreeing on the article and then they go out with this headline; how I lost $1 million on Bitcoin. It goes in on Facebook. I’ve got friends contacting me, the comments are savage. It goes on Zero Hedge where the comments are brutal. I just wish I hadn’t done the press bit with it. I’m glad I did it. But yeah, that’s interesting you found me because of that.
Marc Weinstein: I mean to that point, I even had a concern about coming on your show. I’ve moved on from this, it’s been two months since the documentary and here I am kind of sharing more stuff. It’s definitely hard and exactly what you went through with that headline, that happened to me with mic.com, not to mention what’s happening with these documentaries. I’m getting a really inside look at the way that the media machine works.
You’re asking about FuckJerry, in my opinion to some degree, the whole FuckJerry thing is because of the duelling Hulu/Netflix fiasco where Netflix push the release up ahead of Hulu. Hulu rushed there’s out, up ahead of Netflix, turned it into a feature from a series and didn’t have really anything except the Billy interview to go off of and so needed a new spin. The entire power behind Hulu has been used to attack the FuckJerry media team, many of whom I don’t think had really any clue what was happening with Fyre. They were going to attend, but they weren’t the ones managing the account on the day today. Elliot as an example, who started FuckJerry, who is FuckJerry, I don’t believe he worked on the Fyre account.
Peter McCormack: I guess back to what you said earlier, festivals can be chaotic right up to the week before. So I guess they’ve got no idea. So that’s interesting because I came out of watching the Hulu one thinking, “fuck FuckJerry! You just took money, you perpetuated a fraud” and now what you’re saying to me is that they are just doing the job and they had no reason to know of the problems.
Marc Weinstein: I haven’t seen the Hulu documentary, so I don’t know what came out that might incriminate them further. I think two mistakes that they made, the first mistake they made was deleting comments. If you’re a private individual and somebody is trolling you, you have every right to delete comments. But if it’s a business and people are putting legitimate claims, like saying, “hey, no one’s contacted me”, whatever and they’re sharing information with each other, deleting comments is a huge mistake. I think that’s mistake number one.
Then mistake number two is that me, Mark, Andy and a few others who agreed to do the Netflix documentary, did so hoping that we could use it to repay some of what happened. I really wished that at the end of that documentary, there had been a slide that said, “proceeds from this documentary will be going back to repay workers in the Exumas”. It doesn’t have to be all of the proceeds, but just some. Instead what happened was that never went on and then a GoFundMe campaign was put together after all of this stuff and maybe it was always the intention, but instead of it being direct from the proceeds of the documentary, now it’s crowdfunded.
A lot of people were like, “why aren’t the models? Why aren’t FuckJerry? Why aren’t you Marc?” Because people think I’m rich or something from my Instagram account. I’m getting trolled comments. Like, “oh, that place is nice. Why don’t you pay back to workers?” That was the second mistake that was made. I wished that it had been just been, “proceeds from the documentary are going to repay these people” instead of a GoFundMe campaign. Had they done that, they would have been bulletproof. It would have been that obviously these guys did it for the right reason and instead now it feels like it was something that was done after all of this controversy kicked up. Even though the results is the same.”
Peter McCormack: You talk about the media machine and it’s really interesting as well… So I’m starting to get exposure from the media machine from two different directions. My own exposure just to one little story. It’s totally irrelevant in the grand scheme of life, but experiencing being manipulated and experiencing the reaction to a story. To the point now, I don’t think I would ever want to do something like that that ever again.
But I’m also seeing it from the other side, as a media creator, I get challenged. I get told I’m a journalist. A lot of people want to tell me how I should do my job quite regularly and they tell me I’m a journalist, so I have certain ethical responsibilities and I don’t consider myself a journalist. I’ve never been trained, I don’t know how to do it. But I also get a number of false accusations about my intentions all the time. It’s really interesting to see that there is pressure from the media and pressure to the media. I’d never considered either in detail until now.
Marc Weinstein: I mean there’s always going to be people that don’t agree with what you’re doing. I opened up my Instagram account after the festival because the follows were pouring in and I decided that there was a little platform here and there was something that I can do with it, which I’m still working on. I think I told you I’m starting my own podcast and there are certain messages that I think I would like to share. Whether my experience warrants that or not, I don’t know, but it gave me this silly little platform and there’s been a lot of hate comments on it.
A lot of people just trolling me and saying just really nasty things. But the reality is like, I don’t know those people. There’s always going to be people that hate and you just have to trust that you’re doing the right thing and keep doing your job. When we were going to interview, I listened to a few episodes of your podcast, recent episodes and really enjoyed them. You had to Andreas Antonopoulos on, you had Bill Barhydt on. You have real people coming on this show. Like I said, I’m probably one of the least real in this space that you’ve interviewed.
Peter McCormack: But one of the most real interviews, I’ve got to be honest. I think the reaction is going to be interesting because sometimes I want to step out of Bitcoin. Just occasionally for a story, whether it’s crypto or not. So I’m doing a bunch of stuff on Lightning and I wanted to get the most opposed to Lightning person that I could or somebody who would really challenge me in a way I didn’t expect. I asked this guy Peter Rizun. The fallout has been awful! Truly awful. People won’t stop talking about it and attacking me.
I’ve got to the point now where if I do the interview, I get attacked by Bitcoiners, if I don’t do the interview, I get attacked by Bitcoin cashers for cracking under the pressure of maximalists. It’s a lose lose situation. I can’t win it. Then yesterday I had the opportunity to go to SpankChain and I’ve got no real interest in the SpankChain token. I don’t like the fact they did an ICO. I’ve told you I’m not a big fan of ICOs. It took me a while to learn that by the way and now I’m getting attacked for that, telling me that I’m a shill. It’s really difficult because I want to push the bounds of what I do. But every time I do this, more and more people attack it.
Marc Weinstein: But I mean… A couple of things on SpankChain. Not that I’m a shill and full disclosure, I don’t own any Spank and I don’t know if the token will have value over time. But two of the number one use cases for crypto are banking the unbanked and removing centralized parties that extract more value than they create. If you look at the life of these cam girls, they can’t get banked.
So they don’t have access to traditional financial services and these centralized campsites take 50% of their fees in some instances. So the intention behind that makes sense to me and the use case for crypto actually seems relevant here now. Maybe it should just be Bitcoin and that’s what people are trying to say. Then you have Ameen, who in this team, who shipped one of the first layer two scaling solutions to be built on top of Ethereum and now he’s doing his work with Moloch Dao.
So I hold that team in really high regard. So, of course, people are going to attack you because they did an ICO. But at the time maybe there were individuals that were always like, “ICOs are bad”, but there was also a lot of talk even in traditional circles that ICOs were a replacement for traditional venture funding model and we’re democratizing access to early-stage companies. I still think that there is some truth to that statement. Why is it that only VCs have access to the best deals? What if you could actually crowdfund? Now security, utility, it’s clear that if you’re raising capital, you don’t have a working product, you’re not truly decentralized. This is a security.
But I think that was the promise of crowdfunding was like, why can only someone with $250,000 a year in income, I think that’s the number, it might be $200,000 and $2 million net worth, why does that mean they’re sophisticated and only they can invest in deals? Why is it money be getting money rather than, “oh, I actually understand crypto. I’ve been researching this for two years. Let me answer a questionnaire to decide whether or not I should be able to invest in this. I’m a sophisticated investor.” That was the promise of ICOs. But now in hindsight, yeah of course, whenever there’s money to be made, they’re scam artists that come along and take advantage.
Peter McCormack: Well, when ICOs first hit, I didn’t day one thing, “oh look at these ICOs, they’re all scams”. I thought, “oh, this is an opportunity to invest” and it’s only with time and with hindsight I started to learn, “okay, they’re not so great”. I’m a huge sympathizer to the views of maximalists, especially those who’ve been around from the early days, 2010 through 2011, they’ve watched repeated projects come and go, come and go.
So they’re pretty hardened now to the fact that most of these Blockchain based things are stupid and dumb. I just find it very hard to go for maximalist, “everything’s bullshit”. I feel like I just need to have a look at some things and the guy at SpankChain made a couple of points that I thought were interesting. We discussed Bitcoin. They want to do micropayments. Bitcoin can’t really do micropayments to the level that maybe they want to do.
Now some people argue you can, I’m just saying to the level they want, then Bitcoiners may come out and say, “well Lightning network”, but Lightning network isn’t ready yet. There’s some problems with it and it might be a year, two years. So I feel like I do want to look at it…
Marc Weinstein: But what about volatility?
Peter McCormack: Well, that was the other question.
Marc Weinstein: These girls can’t get banked. So how are they going to convert the Bitcoin into fiat and should they have to deal with the volatility in the underlying asset. Which is why stable coins were created.
Peter McCormack: So that was part of the conversation because the Booty coin… Yeah, I know. I did struggle to not laugh during the conversation!
Marc Weinstein: Well I think you could laugh. I think they’re serious about their tech, but they don’t care about their branding. Their branding and marketing is supposed to be kitschy.
Peter McCormack: Well for a long time I’ve thought, almost every single utility token should be a stable coin. Not that they should exist, but if they are going to exist, they should be a stable coin because you don’t need price volatility. You wouldn’t want to go around a supermarket and as you're going around filling up your shopping basket, things start changing price! You want to know, I’ve earned this much dollar, it can buy me this much stuff.
So we talked about that and they do have a stable coin because the sex workers don’t want to have volatility in the price. That makes total sense. So again, whether or not the tech is right… I’m not smart enough technically to know whether the tech is right and I can’t get into that. That’s not who I am.
Marc Weinstein: Few are!
Peter McCormack: I’m more about the story and the people. But when I was talking about it to him, he was bringing up issues that I think are relevant. If because of that interview that makes me people more aware of the issues for sex workers and maybe inspire someone to go and do a Bitcoin version of what they’re doing, then great. But I think it’s myopic to close off any debate because you think there’s potentially a “scammy” element there because my job is not going in there to shill SpankChain.
Marc Weinstein: Well this is the main issue with our industry right now, is that anything that people disagree with turns into a scam or someone shilling. There’s not a lot of room for discourse, for reasonable discussion. I mean, there are people that are having serious conversations, but just take Bitcoin versus Bitcoin Cash as a prime example. There are individuals that I’ve met in the last year in this space, who have told me, “I’ve sold all of my Bitcoin” and they’ve been in it since the beginning and they’re bullish on Bitcoin Cash.
If you ask them why, they say, “I didn’t sign up for digital gold. I signed up for peer to peer e-cash” and who am I to argue with these individuals who have way more experience than I do? There are some questions that I have, who’s benefiting the most? Is it the miners etc? But maximalism in any form, anywhere, I think is a red flag because it shows a lack of a desire for continued learning. I think that if Satoshi were a real person, he or she would not be a maximalist.
Peter McCormack: That’s as a brave statement
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, I know!
Peter McCormack: In doing the podcast, what I do… I mean you’re going to do a podcast, we should talk about that. Anyway, I can help you out, let me know, I’ve got your back.
Marc Weinstein: Thank you!
Peter McCormack: But in doing the podcast, I don’t just turn up, meet anyone and just switch the button on and record. I’m always thinking of what I want to learn in the direction I want to go. I took myself right to the edge of maximalism. The peak maximalism point I did, was I put out a tweet at one point that said, “Bitcoin maximalism is common sense”. So I’d taken myself right to the limit, done as many interviews as I could. Interestingly, the first response was from Erik Vorhees, who I’m going to interview in two days.
Marc Weinstein: He’s awesome.
Peter McCormack: He is awesome in some ways. There’s some things he’s done I don’t like, but I’m looking forward to having the discussion with him about it. I think open discourse is great. I don’t appreciate the people coming and almost bullying me to the point of making me fear what interviews I should do because there are things that I think need discussing like with Bitcoin Cash.
Marc Weinstein: By the way, they can opt out of listening!
Peter McCormack: Oh, of course, of course! But the argument is, is that I’m giving a platform to scammers and therefore giving a voice to prove and scammers.
Marc Weinstein: This is an argument that Jack Dorsey was just on the Joe Rogan show twice, because of this exact argument. How platforms and media are used to promote bad ideas. Where does policing come into play? These are questions that you and I don’t have the answers to.
Peter McCormack: You can’t draw a line. I interviewed Andrew Torba from gab.com, not a very popular guy.
Marc Weinstein: I’m not familiar with him.
Peter McCormack: Well, he’s got a platform that’s like Twitter. They’ve been de-platformed on everything for the freedom of speech, allowing people to just talk about anything. I’ve been on the platform and some of the stuff on there is just disgusting and the things are not to my taste. But his view is, “let ideas out because where do you draw the line”? So say we’re Bitcoin Cash. I don’t like the fact that it’s called Bitcoin Cash. I don’t like the fact that it has a leader. I think there was something in there that said I would be interested to learn what bigger blocks mean. I just am. I don’t know why, I just am. Don’t do all these scammy things. Don’t attack Bitcoin. That would have been interesting for me to learn but just do it as a separate fork with a different name. But I wanted to sometime talk to these people.
I want the full range of information and it’s really, really hard when people start pressuring you or they start sending out tweets, copying in your sponsors, which is your line of income, saying “why are you sponsoring this podcast” or they’re bullying you or they’re telling you that you’ve got no reputation or pretend that you’ve got no integrity. I mean it’s really rough.
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, it hurts. I mean you’re just a person and we’re all just people. So this stuff really does cause pain and I think all we can do is ignore it. I mean you, you obviously love Bitcoin? You’re here for a reason.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, I’m a Bitcoiner.
Marc Weinstein: I too am a Bitcoiner. I discovered Bitcoin, non-sovereign censorship resistant sound money? Yes please! Where can I get more of that? I think most of us got here because of that and as the market comes down, I think most people revert back to being Bitcoin maximalists or holding more Bitcoin as a percentage of their portfolio because it’s been proven to this extent that it works. But that’s the point. The point is there’s always these extremes and you can’t do anything about the trolls. They’re going to come after you no matter what. You cannot win. There is always going to be someone that disagrees with you.
I think one of the problems is we don’t have real… Twitter is not a platform for dialogue. It’s a platform for simultaneous monologues. So we all talk at each other, but nobody’s really conversing. Then you meet someone in person and you’re like, “oh wow, I really like this guy or girl” and what they have to say is interesting and “oh, I learned from them”. People are more willing behind closed doors to change position.
Peter McCormack: I’ve just started blocking people now. I’ve just got to the point where it’s too exhausting.
Marc Weinstein: You reserve the right to block them!
Peter McCormack: Yeah, but what it is, is that it starts to affect you mentally and physically. So it got to the point where I was stressing over things, wasn’t able to sleep properly and worrying. I’m thinking, “I’m just trying to produce some content here”. This pressure’s too much. So yeah, I’ve started blocking people now. Anyone I have blocked by the way, they can always come back to me and say, “look, okay, let’s talk about this. Let’s be civil. I respect you, you respect me” and I will always unblock. I’ve unlocked people recently.
Marc Weinstein: But when they start attacking your character?
Peter McCormack: Yeah, over and over and then there is this mob mentality or groups of people starting to get together, it’s too much.
Marc Weinstein: It’s painful, but that’s the world that we live. One of the problems with the world that we live in today and one of the things that I talk about and plan to talk about on my podcast, I’m interviewing some people that are trying to change social media in general. The fact that from across the world, at any given moment in time, if you’re on your social media, your mood can be completely shifted by a text, by a Tweet, by a Facebook post, by an email.
No one ever had to live with that before. You could just be going about your day to day, open up your phone and all of a sudden, your whole day has changed for the worst. I think truth number one, I think compassion number two, and that’s fully lacking on social. It’s so easy to be a troll when you’re sitting behind a computer screen, but when you have to look someone in the eye and talk to them, it’s a different experience.
Peter McCormack: I’ve had to do it myself a few times. I’ve had to apologise to people! I’m saying this, I’ve been a dick myself sometimes on plenty occasions. So tell me about this podcast, man?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah. So, I don’t know, I’m just kind of rolling with it. I’ve started posting a lot about, ironically on social media, about social media, but meeting people where they are. I’m a really big fan of what’s called the “digital wellness movement”, or the “humane tech movement”, which is, again, when these devices were put into our pockets and the Internet took off and mobile Internet took off. I don’t know that the intention was what we have today with these social platforms.
So now more than ever, we have an attention economy where our phones control us more than we control them. There’s a lot of companies and individuals that are starting to raise awareness for that, Tristan Harris being one of them, with the Center for Humane Tech. It might seem like a small thing, but it has ripple effects across everything from politics and government, through mental health and what you’re describing. So the podcast, will start talking about that issue and then I’d like to talk about other issues by highlighting people that are on the front line solving them, that face, I guess millennials specifically. The opioid crisis in the United States might be one thing that I would talk about.
Peter McCormack: Is that Oxy? I’ve heard a lot about that.
Marc Weinstein: Yeah. I grew up on Long Island and I’ve known probably personally three or four people that have died from heroin overdoses. You know It’s real. We talk about another theme that keeps arising is psychedelics and their use for the treatment of mental disorders like PTSD. MDMA is in phase three trials for PTSD treatment right now for soldiers. So that could be an interesting topic.
Peter McCormack: How far away are you from getting this live then?
Marc Weinstein: Oh, I mean I’ve recorded two episodes. I’ve got my third episode tonight. I want to get a head start because I want to do what you do, which is one per week. I’ve got 10 people lined up but we’re here in person and this is so much better I think, than a video. So I’m going to ask you after this, how you deal with video chatting.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, I mean I’ll do it on this as somebody else might want to hear and listen to it. I prefer in person. I would do every single one in person if I could. There are certain ones I have to do in person. I knew I had to meet you in person because I knew there would be a lot of emotion with what you went through and I just had to get a feel for you. This would not have worked over Skype. For me when I got the opportunity of Hester Peirce at the SEC, I knew that had to be in person. Mark Karpeles, Mt Gox, had to do in person.
So there’s certain ones I have to do in person because… I had this debate with somebody recently who was criticizing my podcast and said, “you’ve only got sponsors to pay for your travel budget blah, blah, blah. You don’t need to travel. The content is the same whatever” and it’s just factually wrong. That 10, 15 minutes before we record, I get a feel for who you are, as a person by your hospitality, the questions you ask, by being with you. I’m not looking at you through a lens, I’m looking at you for peripheral vision and I see your arm movements, I see your face move. My interviews in person, I think are infinitely better than the others, although I do get some great ones over Skype.
Marc Weinstein: How do you balance, trying to get one a week…
Peter McCormack: Two a week! I have to balance that with the fact that I’m a single dad and who’s going to look after my child as well. So I tend to just… When I travel, I do as many as I can in a small amount of time to get them recorded, get them bashed out. In between travel, I’ll record them remotely, but if a special one comes up and I know I have to do in person, I will find a way to do that in person. I’ll find a way to cover the costs or find the way… I’ll just find a way. You’re here in LA. I’m in Bedford. There is nobody to interview in Bedford. Occasionally we get people come through London, which is great, but you’re in LA, there are plenty of people around here you can speak to.
Marc Weinstein: It’s a great community out here.
Peter McCormack: So when do you think you’ll go live?
Marc Weinstein: I think that I’ll go live in two weeks. So I’m going to get try to get a head start, of four weeks of content. I’ve got two interviews this weekend. I’ve got one tonight, so I’ll have five weeks, which is great. I was told just put it out there. So it’s going to be raw, unedited, just dialogue with people that I think are interesting, working on the front lines, solving some of these challenges.
First interviews with this guy, Andrew Murray Dunn, who created an open source platform for Android, that’s a new operating system for your phone. The whole point is that you get to take back control of your phone, not the other way around. I love that. So excited about Andrew and his story and hopefully I can keep getting more content and honestly, it will either resonate with people or it won’t. It’s probably not for your audience. Maybe there’s some overlap, but I don’t know, we’ll see!
Peter McCormack: How can I help you?
Marc Weinstein: Good question? Well, I definitely want to learn more about editing after the fact, sound or what equipment I need or keeping it at a certain length. The second interview I did went to two hours and I feel like that’s going to be boring for people.
Peter McCormack: We’ve gone to two hours here! But I’m happy for this one.
Marc Weinstein: This is different and hopefully people find it interesting, but maybe they won’t!
Peter McCormack: How are you feeling?
Marc Weinstein: Little bit stressed honestly, a little bit tense going back through that. This will be the last one that I do on Fyre for sure. I’m over it. I’m excited and onto new, greener pastures and the crypto world is just the best.
Peter McCormack: You feel like you’ve told the story in a different way than previously.
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, I mean definitely. I’m sure new things will come out for people that they didn’t realize had happened. I think I covered a lot of this for the documentary, but again, they have to weave a story in a documentary. So most of this gets cut out.
Peter McCormack: What else have you got coming up?
Marc Weinstein: What do I have coming up? Penn Blockchain conference, excited about that. I think institutional capital is moving into the space in a meaningful way. I think deals are getting better. Just more of this I think we’re in the right place still, in spite of 90% price declines or whatever!
Peter McCormack: How can people keep an eye on you? How can they stay in touch?
Marc Weinstein: I’m hesitant to put my Twitter because it’s going to get trolled, but it’s just @warcmeinstein. Twitter for mostly crypto things, some other ideas. Instagram is the same handle, where you can find other types of content. The podcast will mostly be from Instagram. Yeah, that’s it!
I work at a place called Wave Financial wavegp.com, we invest in crypto projects. We’re trying to bridge the gap for institutions to invest in the industry. If you’re a Bitcoin maximalist, there’s going to be nothing better than institutional capital pouring into Bitcoin. So yeah that’s what we’re focused on.
Peter McCormack: All right, man. Well, this was my first outdoor interview.
Marc Weinstein: It was fun. Isn’t it nice out here?
Peter McCormack: Yeah. I’ll be interested to hear it back. We’ll have to cut the helicopter out and there was a dog yapping at the start! It was really cool, so thank you! I really appreciate your time. Appreciate you being candid. Appreciate you opening up.
Marc Weinstein: Yeah, thanks for inviting me on. Maybe next time we can talk about… You’ll invite me back for the merits of my work.
Peter McCormack: The merits of your Bitcoin wallet?
Marc Weinstein: Yeah!
Peter McCormack: All right, take care! I wish you all the best with everything you do.
Marc Weinstein: Thank you!