Billy McFarland, the convicted Fyre Festival founder, has apologized for his role in the controversial 2017 music festival.
“I need to apologize. And that is the first and the last thing that needs to be done,” McFarland said. “I let people down. I let down employees. I let down their families. I let down investors. So I need to apologize. I’m wrong and it’s bad.”
McFarland pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud in a federal court in 2018 and also admitted to using fake documents to attract investors, who put more than $26 million into his company, Fyre Media, which hosted Fyre Festival, ABC News reported.
He has since served nearly four years of his six-year sentence, including two periods in solitary confinement. He is now out of prison on supervised release.
He recently appeared on “Good Morning America” and said he had time to reflect on his wrongdoings while locked up.
“I was wrong. I messed up. And I was so driven by this desperate desire to prove people right … I think I was just so insecure that I thought the only way to prove myself to them was to succeed,” he said. “That led me down just this terrible path of bad decisions.”
“I started lying to get the money and I would literally wake up every day to a document that we called, ‘Urgent Payment Sheet.’ And it had an amount of money that I had to acquire before the bank closed that day to stop the company from going underwater,” he continued. “So I was literally day-by-day doing whatever it took. And looking back, it was so incredibly stupid.”
In 2017, Frye Festival promised to be “an immersive” experience on a small island in the Bahamas. The event was promoted by top models and social media influencers, which pulled in nearly 5,000 hopeful attendees.
Ticket prices started at $500 and maxed at $12,000. Attendees thought they were found to have extravagant accommodations and celebrity chef-cooked meals. However, the first guests to arrive for the scheduled two-week experience only got boxes with plain cheese sandwiches and lodging in the form of Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.N. disaster tents.
As a result, matters quickly ensued on the island and the event’s failure quickly spread on social media. Fyre Festival co-founders McFarland and rapper Ja Rule were forced to cancel the event.
Ja Rule later apologized in a note on Twitter, writing, “I’m heartbroken at this moment. My partners and I wanted this to be an amazing event. It was NOT A SCAM … I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT… but I’m taking responsibility. I’m deeply sorry to everyone who was inconvenienced by this.”
Ja Rule has never been charged in his role for the festival and he was dismissed as a defendant in a civil lawsuit filed by attendees.
“I think the hardest thing for me is the trust that I violated and whether it was friends, investors, or employees, people gave up a lot to try to make this happen,” McFarland told “GMA.” “How do I call them now and look them in the eye when I let them down?”
McFarland has to pay back roughly $26 million in restitution to investors, vendors, and concert-goers. His earnings will be garnished until it’s all been paid back.
McFarland has plans. He is trying something new by launching a venture called “PYRT.” He acknowledges that he will have to”slowly” win back trust but said he’s changed and plans to keep evolving.
“I went way too fast before. So I need to do everything now in a manageable way that I can actually make work,” he said, adding, “I hope I continue to change for the next 40 years. So I’m certainly not done changing yet.”