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The Beatles take a dip in Nassau, Bahamas on Feb. 23, 1965.
SHOW TIME

A music festival is charging $250,000 a ticket—and still looks to be in financial trouble

By Amy X. Wang

Major Lazer, Migos, and a DJ regularly employed by Middle Eastern royalty are among the artists slated to perform at an extravagant, brand-new music festival in the Bahamas this year. Maybe.

Fyre Festival sold out within weeks of its December announcement, thanks to promotion help from hundreds of supermodels and entertainment moguls. Depending on amenities, tickets to the high-end concert cost between $1,500 and a wild $250,000, and more than 12,000 people are expected to fly out to the Bahamas for the shows. But the festival—scheduled to kick off during a weekend at the end of April—has missed a number of payment deadlines to artists, according to a new Wall Street Journal report (paywall), which suggested it’s not in the best financial health.

How could it be struggling? California’s Coachella is earning more than ever, breaking its own profit record several years in a row and making $94 million in 2016. It added an extra 25,000 tickets for this year. Its oldies-rock sister festival, Desert Trip, might have done even better.

But even if Fyre sold a bunch of expensive tickets—and that’s a big if—high-end festivals also cost a lot to run. Industry experts estimated that Desert Trip had to pay as much as $7 million to each of its biggest acts, which included Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and Paul McCartney. Since charging several thousand dollars a ticket doesn’t cover those steep fees—especially when operations and staffing costs are added into the mix—festivals aiming to be ultra-luxe have to get creative.

Hence Frye Festival’s absurd amenities options, which include:

  • Boats and jet skis for rental, starting at $249 a person
  • VIP access and individual yacht docking rights starting at $2,500 a person (must bring your own yacht)
  • “The Great Northern,” a $25,000-per-person package offering a “bonafide ship including two expansive sun decks” that comes with a full crew to attend to you for the duration of the festival
  • “Artists Estate,” a $49,999-per-person package offering personalized experiences, open bars, and resort housing “in the vicinity” of performers

While several of the packages include flights to the Bahamas from Florida, the bare-bones general admission ticket doesn’t include travel, making a trip to Fyre significantly more expensive than any other music festival in existence.

So who’s going, exactly? Mark Musters, the festival’s creative director, told the Journal that Fyre is aimed at millennials who want to “capture those Instagram moments” in an “offline experience.” Translation: Wealthy people who don’t care about music so much as want to take a posh vacation—one that just happens to be set to a soundtrack.