Two Holy Ships in 2015? Hard's Gary Richards Pushes to "Grow and Still Keep It Dope"
Photo by Ian Witlen
As an electronic music promoter, you either fail or succeed.
But one win doesn't mean the struggle is over. A second attempt must prove your accomplishments were no fluke. You've got to avoid the sophomore slump.
Pull something off not once but twice, and you've officially hit a watershed. It's the third time that's the charm. The third time, you cement your legacy.
Gary Richards, the man behind Hard and Holy Ship, knows this first-hand.
"In the beginning, you're just trying to survive," Richards says. "The main goal obviously is to produce an amazing event, and for me, it's to get the great music. But also, it's a business, and you've got to at least not lose money."
Holy Ship is no mere music festival. Rent a giant Italian cruise ship, fill it with the biggest dance music acts in the world, try to sell 2,800 tickets for the maiden voyage, and you're taking on "a huge fucking gamble."
"You could lose millions of dollars," he points out. But Richards is a gambling man. "I just knew in my heart of hearts it would work."
He took the bet, put his reputation and his investors' capital on the line, and hit a home run. In 2012, the inaugural Holy Ship was a huge success, albeit a messy one.
"We crossed that hurdle, but I don't think people knew what I was trying to do," he says. A simple after-video allowed Richards and his team to share their vision with the wider world.
"We were able to show people on the second one, so we sold it out right away. And when you know you're going to sell the tickets, then you can really focus on making it amazing."
At least part of the Holy Ship magic is the overall sense of community. Ship Fam isn't just a buzz term, it's a real source of identity for hundreds of passengers. This cruise has earned some of the most hard-core fans in the business, because it's come to represent more than the usual rage fest, both sonically and atmospherically. Fans and artists alike anticipate every edition of the three-day party at sea, looking to escape reality, reunite with old friends, and make new connections.
In fact, Richards claims "a ton" of collaborations have resulted from the close quarters and chill vibe. Skrillex is what they call an "OG." Skrill hasn't missed a year and has since worked with fellow shipmate Boys Noize as Dog Blood, and told us of how he just wrapped up a two-track collab with Flume, a Holy-Ship-virgin-no-more.
"I've introduced so many artists to each other," Richards says. "I go out of my way to do that 'oh, this is this guy and this is that guy.' I let them all brew and do their thing."