Music Cruises Hit the High Seas, But Who Can Afford Them?

From The Los Angeles Weekly:

When you think “transcendent, all-night dance party” you generally don’t think “cruise ship.” But on the increasing number of electronic–dance music cruises, the trendy and cash-flush EDM fan can now justifiably imagine Skrillex buying them a cocktail at a ship’s bar, before watching Diplo perform an intimate set on the main deck, while sailing into a Caribbean sunset.

Recently, however, electronic music has begun to dominate. HARD Events’ Holy Ship launched in January from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas with A-Trak, Fatboy Slim, Steve Aoki and Skrillex in tow. Goldenvoice will move beyond Indio’s grassy fields for two cruises in December, from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas and Jamaica. While Coachella is not known primarily for EDM, the S.S. Coachella bill includes Hot Chip, James Murphy, Z-Trip and the Gaslamp Killer.

But why are companies that can often sell tens of thousands of tickets for landlocked events hosting sea-bound parties that are much smaller? “There’s only so much profit you can make from a cruise,” admits HARD founder and Holy Ship head honcho Gary Richards. “A businessperson would probably prefer to have a Lollapalooza than a Lollapalooza on a boat, as the economics are a million times better. But it’s important that we do [cruises] because it’s pushing the level of having a good time.”

A worthy cause indeed. A major draw is the intimacy provided by these water-bound vessels. Holy Ship takes place aboard the 2,800-person MSC Poesia, while the S.S. Coachella — a boat called the Celebrity Silhouette — has the same capacity. (Both ships typically host traditional cruises.) Holy Ship has five clubs, each featuring a different EDM style from sunset to early morning. Richards and his partners are exploring the possibility of expanding Holy Ship to the Mediterranean and other foreign waters.

“It’s a multimillion-dollar venture,” Richards says of these productions. “Renting the boat alone costs seven figures, and you can’t cancel. … Then there’s talent costs, power, staging, lights, security, so many things. It’s difficult to put on a mini-festival on a cruise ship. There’s not a lot of space.”

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