Like nearly any other powerhouse brand in the electronic music industry, Space Yacht had humble beginnings as an underground dance party that sought to highlight some of the industry’s lesser known tastemakers. When Rami Perlman (who fans know as LondonBridge) and Henry Lu began throwing a regular party in a Los Angeles speakeasy in 2015 for 100 people, their goal was not to start the world’s hottest party company but to create a space for industry folk to gather over a shared love for the music. They accidentally achieved both.
Eventually, as demand for a more authentic and curated music experience grew, so did Space Yacht. Today creators Perlman and Lu curate and throw as many as 150 parties per year under the Space Yacht name, and the brand has travelled out of its original Los Angeles location and into some of the biggest clubs and events in the world. From a boat in Singapore to Salt Lake City‘s Great Salt Lake, Space Yacht’s five short years on the scene have quickly catapulted the brand into a global force to be reckoned with. Now, as the brand launches its own record label it only becomes more clear that Space Yacht is here to stay—and it’s not just because they hand out pizza at shows (though this approach has proven to be an effective way of making everyone at the party feel like they’re part of the crew).
Even its streaming approach after the COVID-19 pandemic further served as a way for Space Yacht to find and promote undiscovered talent in the industry. Earlier this year the brand launched Tune Reactor, a program through Twitch that lets music fans react to new music in real time and give valuable input to the producers. Tune Reactor serves as a sort of live demo reel for the group to work with in finding talent to sign (around 85% of the label’s releases are from this program), and helps rising talent connect with a new audience while receiving valuable input on their work.
We sat down with Perlman and Lu to discuss everything from streaming in the age of COVID-19, the launch of their new Space Yacht label and whether companies like Spotify understand the industry they’re working in.
Grit Daily: The pandemic has had a particularly brutal impact on the arts and entertainment industries, forcing everyone to adapt pretty dramatically and quickly. Most outlets and artists have done some form of live streaming, but you elevated things with your “Tune Reactor” program on Twitch. Could you tell us how that came together?
Rami Perlman: Tune Reactor is actually a program we had wanted to do for almost a year before COVID even hit. We were getting so many amazing unreleased submissions from artists who wanted to get booked on our live events. So we thought Tune Reactor could be a fantastic way to shine some light on all this great music we were hearing. What has struck me is the amazing community we have built out of the show. We have producers who submit music every show as well as more established artists premiering their tracks with us. It’s a really supportive and talented community of producers. The Space Yacht record label has spawned out of that community. The first batch of releases are all records that we found through the Tune Reactor streams.
Henry Lu: It took us SO long to get all the equipment and settings right. I wanted to add that our booking philosophy for live events was almost always to ask for unreleased music. The traditional stats sheets don’t matter nearly as much to us as the strength of unreleased music. I always say that it’s about where the artist is going, and less about where they’ve been. So for us to wrap our entire creative culture around unreleased music made it very easy to do Tune Reactor (and also to start a label)–that’s all we’ve been listening to for 5 years!
Grit Daily: Space Yacht’s reputation as a curatorial force is well deserved, so launching a record label does seem like a natural progression of your mission to share new talents. I thoroughly enjoyed my preview of the first single you have slated for release on October 15th titled “Moving Forward” by CLB & Formula. Will the label be focusing on DNB/Bass Music?
Perlman: We wanted to make a statement with our first release and felt that the lyrics in the track really spoke to what we were going through as a brand and as people: We keep on moving forward / No matter how hard you try / You try to stay alive. When COVID hit our entire business of live events went away and we knew we had to adapt or die. This song by CLB & Formula felt like the perfect way to start the next chapter of Space Yacht.
We’ve also been a big supporter of CLB over the past year so we are super excited to be putting out his music. Overall, we will be releasing a lot of different styles of electronic music. Space Yacht events were never about one specific genre or style so we applied that same thinking to the records that we are signing. You will hear everything from House to Dubstep to Pop.
Grit Daily: Celebrating EDM’s bootlegging roots is heartwarming for people like me, so I can safely say that having extended mixes, stem packages, and acapellas will be available for download directly from your website is an amazing way to cultivate a dedicated fanbase within the DJ/artist community. What made you decide to go beyond hosting remix competitions for your label?
Lu: Commercially-released remixes are often curated by the artist and label, and more often than not, you end up with a rather unsurprising remixer roster. But what about the producer far far away who isn’t in our radar? They don’t have a marketplace nimble enough to deliver that content at a moment’s notice to them, so we put it on our website. We have complete 24/7 control over that marketplace, and that aspect gave us the confidence to explore all kinds of alternative distribution methods.
We’re actively going to loosen the constraints on remixers, give them space to create, and find better ways to make them feel safe and potentially even onboard them officially. The whole culture of DJ’ing is deeply tied to remixing other people’s music and playing other people’s tracks, and we weren’t ever truly going to be able to lean in and embrace that culture if we didn’t have our own portal for that type of creativity. I’m expecting to get some amazing remixes out of nowhere just because we are keeping that space open for them.
Grit Daily: How do you feel about launching a record label in the current streaming-driven model of the music industry?
Lu: I am more excited than ever to launch the label division of Space Yacht. We’re all-hands-on-deck, and we’ve brought together an all star team both in-house and cross-organizational partners. We took our time (it’s been years), and it’s finally here.
Streaming technology made almost all of music accessible to anyone with a device and an internet connection. A producer can technically upload a song and get their music heard in less than 2 minutes. If you look at it from a higher societal point of view, the whole concept of streaming is outright amazing, but I think the underlying question is ‘how do we make this a great deal for those creators and producers?’
Streaming is certainly a driving force, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Our mission is to help our roster tap into every corner of today’s music consumers. Surprisingly, it seems like streaming is where a lot of today’s labels stop, [when] that’s just scratching the surface.
Perlman: There is a lot of opportunity to have success within the existing streaming models as well as try to find new ways in which to give exposure and monetize music. Platforms like TikTok and YouTube are huge in terms of discovery. But even further than that is the stuff we are doing within the world of crypto art, gaming and licensing that could potentially create just as much revenue for the artist as streaming does.
Grit Daily: What are your thoughts on Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s statement that artists will need to record music constantly in order to make money?
Perlman: He’s right, especially while touring is on hold. For most of the DJs we booked, touring accounted for the majority of their revenue. But even so, a lot of the top electronic producers are consistently putting out music. That’s been pretty normal in our community so I don’t think anyone is shocked by that notion. Staying relevant has become the name of the game in electronic music. I think that’s why you see so many people putting out a ton of music over the course of the year.
Lu: I understand that Daniel Ek’s [comments] were seen by the public as somewhat self-serving. I mean, it’s probably the last thing a vastly hurting industry of creators wanted to see—the painful truth, but he was stating what already has been obvious. To expand on what Rami said, it’s not like we haven’t been giving out music for free to promote touring. But in the absence of touring, it’s more important than ever to help artists navigate the waters of streaming and beyond. We don’t feel like it’s our job to tell a creator how to create or how often, but it IS our job to make sure those creations see the time of day.
Grit Daily: Listening fees for demos are a very common practice in other creative industries—such as publishing—and are a great way to make money. Do you believe that this is going to become a common practice in the music industry?
Perlman: We learned this move from a lot of other folks who did it before us. Given the state of the world, I think fans are happy to support the content creators that they listen to or watch. It’s pretty much standard practice within the world of Twitch. So we definitely see this as something that’s become more acceptable since COVID. I think you see this in the rise of Onlyfans and Patreon, [and it shows] that this is a model that can create entire new businesses.
Lu: If you know your worth and are providing a product, service, or experience that people want and care for, I think it’s definitely open for consideration at least.
Grit Daily: How do you manage to balance careers in promotion and production?
Lu: It’s all one mission for us—unearthing the next generation of electronic music. It’s been the same since day one, just manifesting in different ways and different day-to-day actions.
Perlman: We’ve never known any other way. We’ve always been an “all hands on deck” crew, so the promotion and production of our content and events are all one in the same. We’ve had to learn a number of skills across disciplines to make this happen, but it enables us to keep the majority of our operation under one roof.
Grit Daily: Do you think the music and live event industries will ever go fully back to how things were before the outbreak?
Perlman: Something will have to change regardless, and then those changes will adapt over time. But it also depends where you are in the country. We’ve seen places on the east coast that are fully open and people are out there raging. Whereas, I don’t think LA is going to go back to how it was any time soon. But out of this has come some really cool socially distanced events and new ways in which to throw a party. I’m all for that as long as it’s safe for real.
Lu: I think things will come back with new standards for safety. But we really haven’t thought much about how things were before the outbreak, we’re more focused on how to prepare for the future. I remember the week the pandemic hit in March 2020, we were already thinking “alright, well what’s next? Instead of fighting to keep things the way they were, how do we adapt quickly?”
Grit Daily: Some states are fully re-opening and allowing events to start again, but every company is choosing how and when to resume operations on their own. What is the near- future looking like for Space Yacht parties?
Perlman: For us it’s all about safety and location. We have seen some really great outdoor and drive-in events that seem very safe and we are open to that. But for us, safety is not just a word that we use to make people buy a ticket. We really mean it. It matters to us. If it doesn’t feel right, we’re not going to do it. But I do believe there are ways to do these things in a safe way and if we can do that, then we’d be stoked to be back in the event space when the time is right.
photos by Eden Shohat @edenskiz