David Taylor, co-founder of the just-announced Starfest Music Festival debuting in Plano on Sept. 8, is the first to mention Fyre Festival, the disastrous “Coachella in the Bahamas” that earlier this year set a new standard in event planning debacles.
“With Fyre Festival, you had a group of guys with no contingency plan,” says Taylor, whose LinkedIn profile describes him as a “marketing innovator and disruptive technologist.” He is the founder of Crudefunders, a company that crowdfunds investments in the oil and gas industry, and says his experience in event production includes a handful of concerts in Dallas, as well as a SXSW showcase he helped sponsor. “We know what we’re accomplishing.”
What Taylor and his partners, promoter Shamar Willis and a guy who “used to work for Showco” among them, hope to accomplish is a “park experience that will rival some of the largest festivals in the United States,” according to the Starfest website. Starfest is going about this in an unorthodox way, waiting until barely a month before its premiere to announce its existence, and its first headliner, Lil Wayne. The festival, which has the ambitious plan of putting 60 artists on two stages in two days at Plano’s Oak Point Park, will dribble out information about its other performers over the coming days and weeks. Taylor offers assurances that the first eight acts “will be monsters” of hip-hop, pop, and country music.
“The hardest part about this whole festival has been keeping it quiet,” he says.
Taylor elaborates on why Starfest won’t be a Fyre Festival-esque fiasco, or the latest misfire of a North Texas music festival to be relegated to the garbage heap. The Starfest team has spent months planning with the city of Plano, which is helping promote the event. Sponsors are on board, and an advertising blitz is planned for Cumulus radio stations in Dallas-Fort Worth. Several “high net-worth individuals” are involved, including NFL players and oilmen. There will be top-level talent on stage, and the novelty of a surprise “pop-up festival” will also be appealing to festival-goers, Taylor says.
“If we’re going to do this, we’ve got to do it big,” he says,
That can’t help but echo the famous last words ascribed to one Fyre Festival organizer — “Let’s just do it and be legends” — and some on social media are already predicting a similar fate for Starfest. Their evidence is not insubstantial.
Leaving yourself little more than a month to promote an event is bold. Expecting 25,000 or more people to come to that event is something else, particularly when the only announced headliner, Lil Wayne, couldn’t sell out a 3,800-person-capacity venue when he performed in Dallas in April. (Others have pointed out that Lil Wayne has not listed the festival on any of his online channels.) Taylor says the “lineup will speak for itself” once it’s revealed, but right now, it’s not saying much.
People won’t pay hundreds of dollars to see Lil Wayne and a bunch of question marks, no matter how delicious the pop-up gastropubs on the festival grounds. Unless Justin Bieber is hiding behind one of these question mark faces, it seems like a stretch that Starfest will hit its attendance goal.
To Starfest’s critics, pricing is another point of contention. Two-day general admission tickets to the festival are going for $140, while VIP tickets range from $675 to $1,250. But visitors to the Starfest website will also see two-day tickets for section 300 ($225), section 200 ($275), and section 100 ($375.) This is confusing until you see the festival grounds’ map, which appears to have been created in a Microsoft Windows ’95 edition of Paint and has since been deleted from the Starfest website. Then it becomes alarming.
Taylor says that the general admission passes will be similar in spirit to the “Party Pass” tickets at Cowboys games, where fans fit into a standing room only section in the most extreme nosebleeds of AT&T Stadium, and watch the game on the screen of their choice. For these Starfest ticketholders, Taylor says, video screens will be placed throughout the park.
Those wanting to actually see the performers on stage would be better off paying extra for one of the three sections, where, again, two-day passes range from $225 to $375. For comparison, three-day tickets to the well-established Austin City Limits, which announces its lineup comfortably in advance so that festival-goers know what they’re getting themselves into, go for $255.
Starfest skeptics have pointed out the logistical difficulties of running a music festival, especially for a team with little to no experience planning events of this size. Fortress Festival, perhaps the best-case example of a new music festival breaking into North Texas in recent years, had the backing of experienced promoters and festival organizers, and even that had its freshman hiccups.
Starfest won’t be the next Fyre Festival. No Instagram models are promising a utopian experience on a desert island, Plano is a long way from the Bahamas, and there’s no camping at Oak Point Park. Ja Rule is not involved, and the people who will go to this festival — well-meaning North Texas music fans — aren’t as ridiculous as the wealthy young chuckleheads stranded on a beach eating slices of cheese and lettuce.
Like Fyre Festival, however, Starfest feels poisoned from the start by the hubris of men whose obsession with “disruption” and need to make grand statements preclude more practical considerations. People with reasonable doubts about this kind of so-called disruption are often labeled “haters.” Could Starfest prove the haters wrong? Sure. But sometimes the haters are just trying to save you from wasting your weekend and $375.