Talent agency Paradigm has been participating in settlement talks with the trustee overseeing the Fyre Fest bankruptcy, taking a different position from agencies like CAA and UTA, which have not been able to reach an agreement on $585,000 in payments to artists booked to perform at the famously doomed festival.
On Wednesday, lawyers for trustee Greg Messer filed more than a dozen lawsuits against companies including American Express, modeling agency DNA and four talent agencies in connection with about $16 million fraudulently raised and spent by founder Billy McFarland, who is serving a six-year prison sentence in connection with Fyre. Besides suing a number of agencies for bands connected to the festival, none of which performed, Messer is also suing models Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski for accepting hundreds of thousands in payments in exchange for promoting the festival on social media.
Agency IMG and 12 of its fashion model clients have also began settlement talks with Messer, although Paradigm is the only talent agency for music acts currently in settlement discussions with the trustee, according to a stipulation filed in New York federal court asking for an extension of time to resolve the case. (Messer is also engaged in settlement talks with IMG).
“The Trustee and Paradigm Parties intend to continue to engage in discussions regarding the Potential Claims, but will be unable to complete doing so before the Deadline expires,” special litigation lawyer Fred Stevens writes, saying the two sides “wish to voluntarily extend the Deadline to avoid, if possible, the commencement of litigation.”
Agents for Paradigm had booked a number of acts to play the festival, including Major Lazer, who was set to headline, as well as artists Sergio Munoz Martinez and Israel Salazar of Fur Coat and recording artist Kaytranada. In total, $690,000 was paid to the agency.
Paradigm now has until Jan. 17, 2020, to come to an agreement on a potential settlement. Paradigm officials did not provide comment for this story, but a settlement would be a departure from how most booking agencies view payments to their artists. Generally, new festival promoters like McFarland are expected to pay 100% up front to the artists they book and, typically, artists wont return payment if the festival is canceled. Artists have a limited number of days in a year to perform and if they are willing and able to perform, then promoters are on the hook to pay the artist in full, even if the event has to be canceled because of bad weather or financial problems.
In the case of Fyre, Messer argues that the money McFarland paid to the agencies was fraudulently obtained in misrepresentations he made to investors and backers of his Fyre app. Messer is seeking the return of the money, arguing the funds were the “unfair expense of Fyre Festival’s defrauded investors, creditors and ticketholders.”
The bands booked for Fyre “never showed up or performed at the festival,” he said, arguing that the money should be returned.
Messer also appears to be in settlement talks with Matte Productions, which co-produced the documentary Fyre for Netflix with Jerry Media, the company who created Fyre’s social media strategy. Messer wrote that McFarland transferred “over $500,000 to the company that shot and edited Fyre Festival ads and Festival footage which ultimately used that footage to produce a profitable and popular documentary panning the Festival (without sharing any of the proceeds of that documentary with those victimized by McFarland).”