During the January 23, 2019 episode of the Dance Megamix, Don Play had an enlightening conversation with Fyre Festival survivor, and local blogging hero Seth Crossno about his experience at Fyre and his role in the two competing documentaries about the event.
Below is a transcript of the interview, edited slightly for clarity only. Many thanks to Seth for being so generous with his time and for telling a great story.
Click the “Play” button above to listen to the audio, use the download link above, or read the transcript below.
Don Play: I am thrilled to introduce tonight’s guest.
Seth Crossno is a local media personality and blogger right here in Raleigh, North Carolina. His website, ITB Insider, covers all the latest real estate transactions, business openings and everything inside the Beltway of Raleigh, and I gotta say it’s a must read if you’re local here.
You know him online as the fictional character William Needham Finley IV on Twitter with the iconic @WNFIV handle, and that’s where I think I first came across you – when you were live tweeting inside of a locked airport inside the Bahamas back in the spring of 2017.
So right now you can catch Seth starring in both of the competing Fyre Festival documentaries on Netflix and Hulu, and soon you’ll be hearing from him on his own forthcoming podcast, Dumpster Fyre.
Seth. thanks for joining us here on The Dance Megamix.
Seth Crossno: Thanks for having me.
Don Play: So there’s so many layers to this onion. This is such a crazy story. Just tell me how you how did you hear about the Fyre Festival to begin with?
Seth Crossno: A friend of mine called me up in December of 2016 and it was right after I had left my job to try to do blogging and the whole media – quote-unquote “media empire” full-time, and he said “I just saw this trip. It’s like Coachella but in the Bahamas. It’s the first year they’re doing. It’s going to be great and it’s only like a thousand dollars.”
This is how these things start the first years cheap and it’s like, you get in now and who knows who’s going to be there, and it’s going to be this crazy thing. And it’s not really my thing but my friend is hard guy to say no to and so he talked me into it and he was saying “yeah, just go and like write about it, you know cover it and this is something William Needham Finley would go to.” And so I thought, you know, I could kind of do the whole, like, “I’m trying to become an influencer” storyline and that might be funny.
So I decided that that’s what I would do and we got tickets and that was in kind of mid to late December, right when the big promo video came out — and yeah, we just thought it would be part vacation but also kind of something I could write about and maybe you know, it would be a funny situation. We had no idea it would turn into what it did.
Don Play: So you had never been to a festival before this is a first-time thing for you?
Seth Crossno: I think I did go to Bonnaroo when I was like in college, but you know after that I was like these are not really my thing. But he’d gone — my friend had gone to Coachella, and he’s a big music guy, and so he was really pushing me on it.
And and you know, we figured we’d go check it out.
Don Play: So for those people who don’t know your online persona, William Needham Finley IV — which is like the most Raleigh name I’ve ever heard of, I love it — tell people, give people an idea of like what how much of your decision to go to Fyre was based on your interest versus this character.
Seth Crossno: It was probably 80% William Needham Finley IV will look — I don’t want to say cool in this situation, because my hope was that it would it would really, you know be what it lived up to be, and everyone would go, “why are you there? I see you have four thousand followers on Twitter. You’re this like Raleigh guy. What are you doing?”
And and I just thought it would be kind of a funny situation. So probably 80% and then 20% oh, this looks kind of cool and four nights in the Bahamas, you know seemed fun at the time. It was, you know, a thousand dollars like it’s kind of a good deal.
Don Play: So and so we’ll get back to $1,000 thing later.
So, you know on this show we talked a little bit about music festivals and I try to pay an homage to dance music culture and the original disco DJs and all that stuff. So I’m I have a I love ranting about stuff. I have a particular bone to pick with festivals in general.
They they kind of drive me bananas when it comes to dance music. Like things like Bonnaroo, I think are great, but people on the shoe of listen to the show before know EDM festivals are really not my thing.
But were there any like performers there that you were excited about, or that you’ve got the feeling we’re like gonna make the difference in this festival, or was it really more about the kind of like lifestyle, overall brand experience?
Seth Crossno: It was sort of the lifestyle thing that I’d wanted to write about because I noticed on Instagram, just this rise of people saying “I’m an influencer.”
And I wanted to know how these people went from ten thousand to a hundred thousand to a million followers when they were just, you know, like regular people that you know. And it’s like I don’t understand how this is happening and how you’re making six figures off of this. Can anyone do this? And what is this whole thing about? So that’s kind of what attracted me to the festival.
But we didn’t even know who was going to play when we got our tickets. They hadn’t even announced the lineup and then as things came out it was announced that the G.O.O.D Music family would be there.
And so then you’re like, “oh, Kanye might show up.” That should be cool.
Don Play: So that’s code for someone on Kanye’s label, but we don’t we don’t know who, right? Just someone.
Seth Crossno: Yeah. Yeah, but you never know. I mean like, when you look at that video, you see all of those models. You see like Kendall Jenner posting about it.
You’re like, well, Kendall Jenner and Kanye — they’re family, and like, in our minds it’s like, oh Taylor Swift’s going to drop by, and The Rock will hang out, and like this is going to be the coolest thing ever, you know?
Don Play: And so at this point no one knew — you were kind of an anonymous figure at that point. No one knew who you were as William.
Seth Crossno: Yeah. Yeah. I mean locally, I think there have been some stories and stuff. You know. it wasn’t it was like a loosely kept secret. Somebody said, “are you the guy that did that?”
“Yeah, I do that. Hope you like it.” But yeah, it wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t really out there that much.
Don Play: And so let’s run through this this headlining lineup.
We had someone from Kanye’s label, Blink-182, Major Lazer — actually the guy from Major Lazer was in the documentary which was a bit of a surprise — Disclosure, who I could rant about but I’m Gonna Save everyone from that. Migos which seems really random. I don’t know why they would be there. And someone named Lil Yachty, which I’m convinced is not a real name, but really just kudos to that guy for picking that name.
But I really wanted to highlight something that the documentaries didn’t cover which was like the bottom of the ticket. So this is the stuff that dance music nerds like myself get very excited about right.
These are the DJ’s who were playing dance music. So this is a real thing. The Fyre Festival was supposed to have what was called the Pirates Cove EDM Stage and that was to feature Claptone, Lee Burridge, and Tensnake, who are all actually, you know, I’d be down with that. That’s pretty cool. But I don’t think I could bring myself to hang out at the Pirates Cove Stage.
So I was a little skeptical when I saw that myself, but you know when you got there like did you have any awareness of that any of the artists? Like I know Blink-182 pulled out of the last minute like did any of them go there? Like did you get get wind that anyone was dropping off before you got there?
Seth Crossno: No, the only one we saw was Blink-182. And you know, they had announced the lineup through late December and then over the next few months they’d leak a little bit, and then they finally announced the full lineup and I’m looking over it. I’m like, I don’t know who the majority of people are, but I’m not really going for this music festival.
Plus there was a million dollar treasure hunt that I was convinced I was going to win because everyone else was going to be Instagramming until they had carpal tunnel, and I was going to be off like figuring this thing out. So I was going to make a million dollars off of this.
So we get there we get to the airport and we see a tweet that Blink-182 posted saying that they couldn’t attend because the festival was not going to provide them with the experience they needed or something like that and it’s kind of vague.
It wasn’t like this is a shitshow, don’t go. So I just kind of looked at it and didn’t think too much of it because we were literally walking onto the plane. And we got on the plane and we went and then found out what Fyre Festival was all about.
Don Play: So, you know, you talked about the treasure hunt and I they didn’t really go into the treasure hunt in the documentaries.
I could have used like a little bit of treasure hunt footage. I could have used whatever the planning was for that. I’m sure
Seth Crossno: Yeah, we got clues and stuff like and then the treasure hunt changed from being a million dollars to you would own a piece of the island and you know, so and was this…
Don Play: Was this happening when it was supposed to be on Norman’s Cay or was this after they had moved it to Exuma?
Seth Crossno: We never knew about all of this like island-hopping that was going on. We always thought it was going to be in this private island. Not that like really matters. But that’s just what it was advertised as and and they point out in the in the film that they had just like cropped off the the other section of the land on the map. And so it looks like an island.
Don Play: So with with the treasure hunt, it sounds like you weren’t there to party so much, like you were in there to kind of like do the influencer thing for your persona and then, you know win a million dollars or a part of an island or whatever.
So like you weren’t there like doing tequila shots and everything. Maybe you were but you know, you can talk about that next but one of the things that was crazy was I you know, I think I tuned in to your Twitter feed while you were locked in the airport, and I kind of caught up through there and I’m thinking to myself, man, everyone else there, their phone batteries must be dead by now. And this guy is powering through it like a champ.
What did you pack for this trip? It seems like everyone else was going there for like a cookout, and a party and a bunch of the pack like a bunch of tank tops and liquor, but like I got the impression that you brought matchsticks and a tent and all that stuff. W alk me through like you’re packing list for this.
Seth Crossno: Yeah, so, leading up to it, we kept getting these kind of vague details. Like this is a cashless event. You know, everything is on your Fyre band, and now is a chance to unplug. Leave your laptop at home. And then it’s like we’ll have charging stations.
And I’m like, look, if the whole purpose of me going down here is to document it, I have to have an outlet.
So I bought one of those battery chargers that does like a like five cycles worth of battery it one charger. And then I had another three smaller chargers that — I don’t know how big they were — but y ou get at like a trade show or something. And so I actually my buddy, his girlfriend, had a ton of them. He’s like hey, you think we’ll need these so we don’t have to like sit there and plug our phone into the charging station?
I was like. yes, please give me as many as possible.
Don Play: That’s awesome.
Seth Crossno: But three of those, and then like the five were five batteries worth of extra charger, and that other one. I started with those three and burn through those pretty quick, and then was using that other charger. And you know, I got on the island at about 6 o’clock on Thursday and we got back to Miami by 11:00 in the morning the next day. And by that time my battery had died.
So that was probably seven or eight charges worth in less than 24 hours.
Don Play: Were there any other crazy supplies you had or was it really just like the phone? Like you didn’t bring like dehydrated food products and things like that?
Seth Crossno: We thought we thought with our luxury VIP artist pass it had everything included — drinks, your food, your backstage or exclusive access, and all this. Because you know, we signed up for this and we thought it was a thousand dollars. And then things started getting added, and it’s like, do you want the Cabana for 50,000? Do you want that?
I’m like, whoa. Yeah, we might be out of my league here. If we get to this thing and it’s like, oh you’d like a beer? It’s $300.
I was like well, if we have this pass, and it includes everything, we can at least know put a limit on on our expenses here. And so we bought these these artists passes but we’re like $2,700. And so we thought all right, we’re good.
And we even emailed the guy because at one point they said, you know, “it’s time to put money on your wristband. We recommend three to five hundred dollars for each day that you’re there.”
And I emailed and I’m like dude I have this VIP, I’ve got this wristband. What more can I possibly have to buy?
And he’s like, oh, “no, you’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
And so that was reassuring at the time but that was our plan with all that.
Don Play: That’s amazing.
So I got to give credit to my wife on this. She said if they didn’t really have internet, like Wi-Fi going on at this event, could those RFIDs — did they even work?
Did you even get confirmation after the fact that those things were real or was it just like a piece of plastic that was slapped on a bracelet?
Seth Crossno: I think I heard that they were real, but I don’t know that anyone actually used it on the island.
I know I didn’t use mine and they were they were very, you know, adamant that you needed to put money on this thing. And you see in the documentary why.
But it was at one point: Put money on it, please. Okay, here’s a reminder put some money on it. Okay, you can’t go unless you activate it. You activate it by putting money on it.
I was like, Jesus. So I just put $5.00 on it and activated it just because if this thing gives me free drinks, free food, and everything, I’m not gonna put $800 on this thing to take the plane ride around the island.
So I just activated it and I’m not sure if it actually worked but I doubt it.
Don Play: So so now like the cost of starting to add up. I read in Gabby Bluestone’s article that it was you and three of your buddies, right?
Seth Crossno: Yeah.
Don Play: Okay. So now between all of you guys it sounds like it came out to about $13,000? Is that right?
Seth Crossno: I mean, my cost was right around 5,000 for everything.
That’s for flights are going Raleigh down to Florida, and then getting an Uber down to Miami, and then the whole package and everything. So it was right around $5,000, and my buddy had actually purchased the lodge part of it.
So he upgraded to VIP for that, and then we bought the artist pass, so he and I both spent about $5,000. Our friends probably spent like two thousand each. So yeah, maybe around thirteen, fourteen thousand.
Don Play: So you guys you take the plane trip down there. Were you part of the group that took the initial detour? Or did you go straight to the to the site?
Seth Crossno: We went straight to the site. That initial detour group was the 6:20 in the morning, and some of the other earlier flights. Ours left around like 4:30 or 5:00. We got there around six.
Don Play: So you get there and there are people already there. They’ve been there for hours, theoretically, right?
Seth Crossno: Oh yeah.
Don Play: And so you’re in the bus, you drive through the site. What are the first thoughts you guys have when you see what’s happening, what this Festival really is?
Seth Crossno: I mean it was just stunning to see. You were like, this is three or four months away, right? This is not ready.
There are shipping containers, and restroom and shower trailers, and pallets of boxes, and mattresses, just everywhere. And people, and workers just everywhere. Tents still under construction.
A decent amount of tents were set up, but I just kept thinking, okay, this is not ready. But maybe we came in the back way, or surely something is not right here.
And I figured, we’ll just keep on going and they’ll drive up to where our lodge is and it’ll be fine. We just kept driving around the corner. We got that blue house and that’s where there’s three or four hundred people, just kind of in line, trying to check in, as a stage was off the background blaring music loudly and constantly.
Don Play: So how long did it take for the switch to flip for you? Like, you know, you’re thinking oh, this doesn’t look good. Uh oh, I got to wait in this line. I know there’s a lot of stuff unprepared.
When were you just like, okay, this is not happening? This is a bad situation and we’re on our own out here. When did it stop being a trip for you and start being kind of like a survival type situation?
Seth Crossno: So for my friend whose idea it was, as soon as we got out and stood in line, within five minutes he goes, “we’re getting off of this island.”
And I’m like, “Mark, come on. Let’s let’s like talk to somebody.”
I even was gullible and dumb enough that I thought we’d been upgraded to a villa, because when we first checked in and checked our bags, the guy at the airport gives me a luggage tag and it says “Villa” on it.
Not like we got the lodge. These villas are the fifty thousand dollar thing. Did they just mess this up? And I asked him. He’s like “nah, you’re good. Villa.”
I’m like, Mark, we might be in one of these houses.
Don Play: So you were thinking you were thinking maybe maybe there was a mistake and for the better?
Seth Crossno: And yeah, exactly. And so because I knew that they had houses somewhere. We had seen the tents on the Instagram. We were like, okay, these are the tents that are like 500 bucks or a thousand bucks. I got a lodge is somewhere maybe our lodge has been changed into a villa. I don’t know.
And so I’m like Mark, let’s just talk to him and figure it out. And so that’s when Billy finally stood up on a table. And you see in the in the movie that they were kind of making progress, and had a system, and it kind of went out the window when Billy just stood up on the table and started kind of answering questions from people
But I just kind of said, “Billy!” Or I didn’t, even. I guess I was like, I think that’s the guy Billy McFarland. I didn’t really know much about him, but I’m like, “hey, where do you go if you’ve got, you know a lodge or Villa?”
And he kind of looks up and says, “if you have a lodge, just go grab one of those tents,” and points to that section of tents next to the blue house.
The dozens and dozens of people around him to sort of ran to the tents, and I was like, well this isn’t going to work. I know these tents are numbered. I know that our staying is not one of these tents. This is pointless.
But we just kind of kept walking around and Mark was like, how am I supposed to find my bag? And our other two friends were actually staying in one of those tents. So we thought we maybe will find their camp and be able to crash there, and figure something out.
Don Play: And so you’re scrambling, trying to figure out where you guys are going to be, then when does it click? Okay, now there’s no place for us. We got to get out of here.
Seth Crossno: Yeah, it was probably like we get to the tent and we you know, I think maybe probably within like an hour or so because we just kind of realized there wasn’t something around the corner. There wasn’t like another area that we were going to get taken to. It was just nobody was in charge, and maybe like an hour or so in, that’s when we’re calling my friend’s wife and trying to book a room.
And I was still thinking, hey, let’s get an Airbnb. Let’s get a hotel. We’re already here. You know, let’s just make a vacation out of this. Our flights aren’t till Monday or Tuesday. So, let’s do that.
And then of course we found out that everything was booked because the island Regatta was being held, and that’s like their biggest event of the year.
Don Play: That was an amazing detail in the documentary that I did definitely did not know about going into it.
Seth Crossno: Yeah. Yeah, we didn’t either. And so there’s like, well, there’s no place to stay now. We got to get off this island. And we had heard things.
Like, you know, you just passed people and you hear stuff like the flights are cancelled, and no more planes are allowed in, and then we’re walking around trying to find our luggage and somehow we do.
And then my friend walked into the blue house somehow.
Don Play: I love how they just gave you guys free rein to the house. They’re like, yes, go to the house or the people organizing this are. That just seems like the worst possible idea. What why would they have ever sent you there? And then they had no answers of course, right?
So yes go on. You’re storming the castle?
Seth Crossno: Yeah, yeah. That’s what my friend did, and I’m walking around and doing a Periscope, and just try to take as many pictures as possible because I’m just like, this is insane.
And he walked in and comes back out and we’re like kind of waiting around for a while. And he keeps telling me like I’ve got us on this list, and I talked to this person, and she’s emailing me, and we’re on this spreadsheet, and they said we’re going to get off of this time and that time.
And we’re just kind of hanging out there, and I walk around again, take some more videos and pictures. And as I was doing that, all of a sudden my friends find me and they’ve got my bag, and were like, we’re going now! We were about to leave you!
Don Play: That’s amazing. And so your blogging career almost got you stranded on Exuma, basically.
Seth Crossno: It did. Yeah.
Don Play: I mean, that was a big hour for you there. You had a lot of real big hits, I would say, from that hour you had on the island.
So for me the the event planner’s notebook was probably my favorite picture you took. But the there was the abandoned concierge hut. Was that your video you took a billy trying to direct the crowd?
Seth Crossno: Yeah. So a lot of footage that I took is in both.
Don Play: We ‘re back here on the Dance Megamix.
On the line, once again, we have Seth Crossno talking about the Fyre Festival, his role in it, and these two documentaries on Hulu and Netflix.
So let’s pick it back up where we left off. Seth you on?
Seth Crossno: Yeah.
Don Play: Alright perfect. So we were talking about what was going on in that hour you are on the island. So you saw some things and documented them very quickly. The lockers that were not secure and did not have padlocks on them. The planner’s notebook.
Seth Crossno: Everything was just yeah just kind of dropped off in the middle of nowhere. Amazon boxes and concierge desks that were set up with nothing to them, and food kiosks that didn’t have any food or people at them.
So it was it wasn’t ready yet.
Don Play: What was the most egregious thing? Was there anything there that you saw that was just like, come on guys? To me it was the notebook. Seeing that, I would be like oh man.
Seth Crossno: The notebook probably did it. Just seeing, chips? Lifesavers. We need 4,000 Lifesavers.
You know, I mean this list looks like a project for fifth graders to work on or something. And you know, seeing the documentary, you learn more about the actual planners, who I don’t want to knock, because it does seem like they really did try. And they just were under some insane circumstances.
Don Play: Yes.
Seth Crossno: That notebook itself is just so funny.
Don Play: I don’t really talk about myself too much in the show. But in my mine non-radio life, I do event planning. And I’ve done big events, and the timeline they had for this event was absolutely insane. The location quadrupled the amount of everything that needed to be done. They shortchanged themselves on the front of it, and then they were incompetent and doing all this crazy stuff in the back. So yeah, I felt horrible for those guys and I the whole time I just I felt like I was one of them when I was watching. T hat’s definitely something worth checking out in the documentary.
So you’ve got this hour on the island, and now you get to the airport and they basically quarantine you guys and put a padlock on the door. And you continue to tweet. So in all this madness, did you forge any bonds with the people who were there?
What kind of folks at actually attended? Because there’s a stereotype that it was a bunch of entitled, rich Millennials who were there. What kind of people were actually there once the veneer of the party was gone? D id you actually meet anyone or was there any kind of bond that happened because it was such a stressful situation?
Seth Crossno: E verybody was so kind of tired at the point where we were in the airport , but it was a lot of, kind of normal people.
You know I did notice a couple of influencers on our plane. There were about a hundred and eleven people and I recognized like three or four people that I’d seen before on Instagram. And those are normal people too, they just happen to like make a living off of posting on Instagram.
But everybody seemed like normal people going on a trip. It really didn’t seem like a lot of trust fund kids or anything. And you know, I think we were all just so confused and didn’t know what was going on that nobody really said much to each other.
I mean there were a few people I remember talking to, and we’re just like yeah, we don’t know either. What have you heard? Or, I think this is the last flight out — stuff like that. We’re just kind of like sitting around waiting and not knowing. Like well, okay, the flight will be here at 11, you know?
Okay. Well then the next thing happens and it’s like ten o’clock the next morning. You’re still there and you’ve been on and off the plane three or four times and all this stuff has happened. We have no idea when we’re actually leaving. So just crazy.
Don Play: So you have this horrible experience. You finally make it back to Raleigh. You write a little bit about it. But you say there’s more to come.
And then the documentary — I’m in spoiler sort of mode — so something else happens after the festival that has to do with the festival indirectly, right?
So you go from being swept up in this this event scam, to then getting these emails that are very sketchy. And now, all this time later no one really got a good handle on what actually happened .
Because there was so much shame, I guess I would say is the word, about the portrayal (of Fyre attendees) in the media.
So now it’s all coming out in these documentaries, and at the end of it all you find yourself in the middle of the streaming wars between Hulu and Netflix.
So this is the third piece of Driftwood that you’re floating on in all this.
What’s it been like to be taken into this battle, that you’re kind of just a passenger in, between Hulu and Netflix?
Seth Crossno: Yeah, it’s really strange because I love talking about it. Because to me it’s just an insane story that I was a part of. The 15 minutes of fame, that whole thing.
But I’ve done interviews all the time about this. I just don’t share those with people on Twitter because I don’t like promoting myself. But if you’re from The Guardian and you want to talk to me about the Fyre Festival, I’ll be glad to talk to you. I did interviews with every outlet out there, and I’m not profiting off of it.
I’m not making any money. I didn’t even have the podcast set up. It really was probably kind of a not the best use of my time. But I’m like the only person that seems to want to actually help tell the story of what happened, because I think the influencers that went — which there wasn’t a lot of — it’s not good for their brand to be associated with it.
They’re supposed to be doing the cool stuff at the infinity pool with the drink with the umbrella in it. And this makes them look bad if they’re like, oh my god I went to the Fyre Festival!
Don Play: And you were basically in the opposite situation, right?Because you basically ripped the mask off after this all happened.
Seth Crossno: Yeah. Yeah. And so I think somebody from Billboard wrote an article that was like, “The Man Behind the Tweet.” I’m like, who’s going to read that? Nobody cares who I am.
Look at the pictures, you know. They always ask, is there a picture of you on the island? I’m like, no. Why do you need to see that? That’s stupid.
Look at this insane stuff around us. That’s what you should be paying attention to. And it’s funny. There’s a another few influencers who license some of their footage, and then in all the footage, the camera is on them and they’re like, this is so crazy!
You’re missing out on the story here. The story isn’t that you had a crappy time. Turn the camera around. But you know, a lot of people don’t talk about it. And so I’m fine.
People email me all the time. A lot of these other projects will license your footage. So it’s a good way to make some money. So I’ve got a lot of footage and I’m licensed it to a lot of different projects.
One of those was a Billboard / Cinemark project that was purchased by Hulu, and you know, interviewed with them. They flew me up to New York did an interview in person. That’s the Hulu documentary.
And then the other originally started as a Vice project with director Chris Smith. The Jerry Media guys got on board and Matt production guys. Those are the people that film the epic commercial. So they provided footage and that’s what I think made the Netflix one so good. And then I think by that time, it did get to a point where people were willing to talk with Chris Smith about it because he is such a good director, such a respected person.
They knew that he wasn’t going to make fun of these people. T hat was one of the things when I started the podcast, started recording for it, I was talking to different folks and they were saying like, oh, I know Andy King, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s the guy that has the epic water story.
Don Play: And he’s the main event planner, basically.
Seth Crossno: Yeah.
Don Play: I sympathize with him deeply. That was amazing.
Seth Crossno: Yeah, but I had heard stories of some event planners who had gone on to do other things, and someone said, oh wait you were involved in Fyre? And then they got removed from that project.
So it was a big like stain on their resume and that’s why I think a lot of people didn’t want to talk about it and why it took almost two years for these these things to come out. But I’m glad that they did and you can see a lot more of what went on.
And there’s still so much more to the story which is why I’m doing this podcast. Because you know, the notebook is something you could talk about for an hour. Like the wristbands and that whole thing. And Billy’s other frauds, Magnesus, NYC VIP Access. It’s tough to cover all that in a ninety to a hundred minute film.
Don Play: For sure for sure.
So, you know, how did you feel — because when I saw that that Billy was interviewed in the Hulu doc, and he got paid for it, that was when I was like, okay, I’m out on the Hulu one. I’m not going to watch it because I know, having done these events, I knew everyone got stiffed on this. N ot just the people who went, but especially the suppliers who they used to to buy all these goods and services.
I just knew it was bad. And for this guy to get the money, I felt like. I was going to step away.
Having watched both of them, do you have a preference between the two?
Seth Crossno: I like the Netflix one better. And and when I interviewed with the Hulu project I did not know that Billy was paid.
I knew that they had an exclusive interview with Billy that was eight hours of footage. And I thought I’m fine being in a documentary with the guy, but when I found out he was paid, way after the fact, I was like, I’m not really okay with this. And I don’t know the amount. But still, it went into his pocket. It didn’t go to the victims.
And he originally had a deal with the Netflix project where 12% of his of the of the profits or something would go to paying back the victims, which is extremely generous. It’s like, Billy you have a chance for somebody to basically give you free money that you can use to pay off your debt and make things right .
And he said that wasn’t good enough. The 12 percent to the people and the contractors wasn’t good enough for Billy. He had to go try to shop the deal to Hulu and then play them against each other and then go back and forth asking for 250,000 and a hundred and fifty than 125 and — I don’t know what he settled on but they paid him an amount. And you know, that’s just kind of… shady.
Yeah, and then on top of it if you watch the Hulu doc, he doesn’t say anything or admit to anything. He just kind of stares at the ground sometimes and the interview is pretty worthless.
Don Play: Well you get what you pay for I guess, or not.
So, at the 11th hour it sounds like you got a frantic message from Hulu. Did they really threaten to can you from the documentary at the last minute if you appeared in the Netflix one?
Seth Crossno: Yeah wasn’t even like a threat. I just got a call.
You know, I was quiet about everything because you’re supposed to not talk about your involvement. And I had heard at the point that the Netflix teaser got dropped, you’re allowed to say you’re in this. I think I maybe shared the trailer, and then people would say, are you in this? And I would just say yeah, it’s going to be lit.
And so I got a call from somebody on the Hulu project that was high up and they said, “Hi, are you involved in the Netflix project? Someone saw your social media and said that you said you were.”
And I said, yeah, I interviewed and licensed footage just like I did with you. And they went okay, is that all? And they said yeah, we are going to be removing you from our project probably because we wanted to be different than the Netflix one. And I was like, okay, that’s fine with me, no problem.
Don Play: So weird.
Seth Crossno: And so I was surprised that I was in the Hulu one. I was actually on the flight to take off from Raleigh to go up to New York for the screening of the Netflix one. And on my phone it was a retweet by Hulu.
I’m like, why are they retweeting me? And then five minutes later, it was like Fyre Fraud is now live, check it out.
I was like, oh boy.
Don Play: So you called their bluff.
Seth Crossno: I downloaded and watched it and I was in it. And it was fine.
Don Play: After the dust has settled now, and the event is over, obviously things are not the same for you but also for the people on the island. So we talked about the vendors and things who got stiffed.
I know right now there’s a lot of people feel like they want to do something. What’s going on with that? How can people help the situation or make it better with the vendors?
Seth Crossno: Yeah, I think the Netflix on did a great job of actually interviewing those that were impacted. And they told a really powerful story of Mary Ann Rolle, who was the restaurant owner/caterer down there who had been feeding all of the people working on the festival, and was also supposed to be feeding (I think) the festival attendees as well.
Obviously they never paid her, and then she dipped into like $50,000 of her own savings. And she was just, I mean, it’s like it’s very emotional watching it. Because you can see she’s like, I don’t even like talking about this. I don’t want to talk about Fyre anymore. I just wish they never would have been here.
Because they talk about how Billy, and Fyre Festival had promised the government they would be there for five years and build all this infrastructure, and it would be this huge thing.
So they were really betting or believing that this was going to be a big economic driver for their community. And then it wasn’t, and so the director, Chris Smith, actually helped Mary Ann set up a GoFundMe, and he told me about it a couple days before the film’s screening.
And I noticed it at the end of the film it says, you know, Seth Crossno was awarded $5,000,000 settlement. And I remember sending them that text to use and just totally forgetting that I should have said something like which they’re still collecting.
Don Play: Yeah, hypothetical money.
Seth Crossno: Five people came up and they were like, um congrats on this, but have you given any back to the to the people?
I was like listen, I haven’t gotten a cent, okay? It’s like as soon as I do I’d be glad to donate. I’d be glad to even set up a GoFundMe. I’ve talked with people in the past about this and the biggest problem was how do you get the money to the right people?
Fortunately Chris worked with Mary Ann to set up the GoFundMe. He told me about it a few days beforehand and I said, okay, I’ll wait till Friday to make it live.
I put it on the Dumpster Fyre Podcast website, put it in all of my bios, put the link in as many places as I could, and fortunately the tweet I posted got a lot of retweets and views and whatnot. Then Gabby sharing it got even more because she was an executive producer and she was with Vice and everything.
So just sharing that, I think obviously the story got picked up. She got over $180,000. Her goal was $123,000. And as of a couple hours ago was well past that, so that was great to see.
And then another one started, I think yesterday, to help the other workers in the community for about four hundred thousand. I think that one’s at around but like 8,000 right now.
But yeah, anything we can do to help contribute, retweet it, share it.
Don Play: That’s really good news. And good on everyone who is donating to that because I know I know the struggle of those suppliers and what they go through from my other previous work life.
But what’s interesting about this, is, well, two things, right?
So you mentioned the settlement. You have this suit actually filed here in North Carolina, right? You were awarded five million dollars in damages, but of course that’s hypothetical money that Billy McFarland may or may not have.
Does him getting paid for the Hulu doc help you in a weird way?
Seth Crossno: I mean, I guess it would, but I’ve heard some stories about where that money went and it’s a couple airplane rides away and maybe in a buried treasure chest somewhere.
Don Play: That million-dollar treasure hunt might happen.
Seth Crossno: Yeah. So yeah, there’s a lot of wild stories around Billy and money and I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to track those down. Because I’ve talked to a lot of people that worked with him, and you just hear crazy stuff about him hiding two billion dollars in cash in a jacket, allegedly. And it’s just all these wild stories. They may be just rumors, but I don’t know.
The government said he had about one or two million dollars in assets. He’s required to pay back 27 million dollars to investors before anyone else. Then the other day I saw he had to pay back another like hundred fifty eight thousand to the people he scammed in the other scams, so it’ll take a while if it happens at all.
Stacey Miller is my attorney and he’s got a strategy for it all. But I just keep telling people I don’t have five million dollars.
Don Play: Please stop the emails and the picketing outside the door! It’s not helping, Raleigh!
So that’s great news. We’re all we’re all rooting for you there.
But it sounds like there’s an outside chance you actually might be the person who could make all of this right by making good on the Fyre Festival’s premise. Could you go into the trademark situation? What’s the story with the trademark?
Seth Crossno: So in doing research for this podcast, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t actually infringing on the trademark.
And so I have a copyright attorney that was looking into it, and she goes, oh, well, the Fyre Festival trademark expires in about a month.
Hmm. I said, well does that mean I could buy it or apply for it?
And she’s like well, yeah, it’ll expire and I doubt they’ll renew it because they just filed for bankruptcy. So you could just file it in the same classes, and then you know, you’d have to use it — which would mean you’d have to put on an event and you’d have to sell merchandise and stuff.
And I said, so if I buy this if I filed the application, I can tell everyone that I own Fyre Festival? She was like, yeah, pretty much.
I was like, well, this is the best joke I’ve ever heard. So please do this. And so we filed it.
I thought it was a done deal, but apparently the USPTO was reviewing it, flagged it for something. And it wasn’t even that they flagged it because it was related to Fyre Festival. It was like a previous thing. And so we disputed that and it’s still in the process.
But the whole point was if I have the trademark, let’s throw a Fyre Festival. Let’s be as transparent about it as possible. Let’s serve cheese sandwiches.
Don Play: Yes!
Seth Crossno: It’s not an overnight thing. It’s a one-night thing because we have it in Dix Park in Raleigh.
Or maybe we have it through these people I’ve met. Like we could have it in Central Park, you know. The name recognition alone of this thing — it’s going to get a lot of attention. A nd I thought well, let’s do a fundraiser and raise some money for the people that were actually impacted by it.
I’m glad these other fundraisers are going on, but my idea to really throw one hopefully can happen at some point, but it might be a while.
Don Play: I think once you throw the small one, I think when you’re ready, we graduate and we do it for real. We go back to Exuma!
And I say “we” as if I’ve been there. I’ve watched a documentary. So it’s basically like I’ve been there.
We get 50 Cent on the headlining — because you know, he and Ja Rule really don’t see eye-to-eye on anything.
We get every famous Bahamian person. We got the Baha Men to perform “Who Let the Dogs Out.”
We get DeAndre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns and Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings.
And whoever else. Maybe Maroon 5 because they just they are playing everywhere these days, and some people seem to like them, but they could be like the Blink-182 of this version.
And maybe it’s for the people in the Bahamas. And the people who run it get paid.
That would be amazing for them to all have a happy ending to all this. That’s my dream for the Fyre Festival. And I really hope you do get that that patent so that we can make it make it happen someday.
And if it starts in Dix Park in Raleigh, I mean, yeah, I’ll be there.
Seth Crossno: If not, we can maybe call it the Dumpster Fyre Festival, that might be enough.
Don Play: So before we sign off, Seth, thank you so much for taking the time.
Where can people find you online, your podcast?
Seth Crossno: So the the Raleigh stuff is ITBinsider.com. And then ITB Insider is on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook.
And then WNFIV is William Needham Finley IV on Instagram Facebook and Twitter.
And then I just got the DumpsterFyrePodcast.com website up and that’s F-Y-R-E.And that’s up and that has social media accounts like dumpsterfyrepod, dumpsterfyrepodcast.
I’m trying to get the first test trailer up into iTunes so we can be on all the platforms and everything. Hopefully we’ll get the first episode up in the next couple weeks. Just so much stuff happens and, you get the director of the film going, I might be able to give you audio from like 50 interviews I did and they’re like, wow, it’s amazing how. So yeah, that’s where you can find me.
Oh, we also have DogsOfITB, if you just like dog pictures on Instagram or whatever.
Don Play: Thank you for taking the time and congratulations on both the documentaries and your success with the website.