As the initial eruption of Fyre Festival reaches its three-week anniversary, the embers of its follies continue to burn. Today, May 11, Vice News published a recording of a May 5 phone conversation between the festival founders and several employees. On the call, celebrity cofounder Ja Rule says little after noting, “I’m on the phone but I can barely hear you all because of this fucking hum.”
The rapper’s partner, Billy McFarland, acts as the bearer of bad news, informing festival staff that they would not be receiving paychecks for the past two weeks. The 25-year-old entrepreneur also notes that employees would not be fired, placing the workers in a tenuous spot due to the necessity of termination as a means to receive unemployment benefits and severance:
“After conferring with our counsel and all financial people, unfortunately we are not able to proceed with payroll. We’re not firing anyone, we’re just letting you know that there will be no payroll in the short term.”
In explaining what the future of the company holds for his employees, McFarland notes “I understand that this is not an ideal situation for everybody, and this will likely cause a lot of you to resign, which we totally get and understand. That said, if you want to stick with us, we’d love to have you and we’d love to work together and hunker down and get back to a place where everything resumes to business as usual as usual.”
On the call, the anonymized employees communicate reasonable incredulity at the co-founder’s offer to stay onboard in an unpaid position until the company reaches a spot where they can afford to pay wages. As the company faces seven lawsuits, including a class action of $100 million, it’s not unlikely that Fyre will never return to a state of financial solvency.
Throughout the call a number of developments outside of the issue of employee payment come to light. McFarland tells employees that Fyre had never closed a Series A funding round, which many allege to have been led to believe. Some of the festival staff who had been paid in cash or by wire transfer express concern over a pay stub issue which could affect an official record of their employment by the event. In response to an employee’s question regarding whether or not they should worry about an FBI investigation, McFarland vaguely notes, ““That’s really more of an individual thing.”
Given the concerns levied by staffers on the phone call, it doesn’t seem farfetched to assume that Fyre Festival’s lawsuit count will surpass the lucky number seven.
Listen to the full audio recording of the phone call on Vice News.