All (And We Mean All) Aboard!
- By Brandon Chiat
- Published on July 24, 2012
Periodically, we’ll feature an article by a columnist on the Headstash staff who will give you a personal take on themes within our scene, including anything from jam bands to electronica acts and environmentalism to drug reform.
Coachella is in the news again – and no, it isn’t because they tabbed hologram Jerry Garcia to headline the 2013 installment.
Instead, Paul Tollett and his trendy, taste-setting SoCal institution have borrowed once more (surprise) from the jam scene’s festival model. Reflecting a growing trend of youth-focused music cruises, Coachella will introduce the S.S. Coachella in December, with two trips through the Caribbean featuring Pulp, Hot Chip, Girl Talk, Yeasayer, Sleigh Bells, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and about 15 other acts.
If this sounds a lot like Jam Cruise to you, well, that’s because it is. See, mainstream festival events are quickly discovering a problem the jam community has been facing for the last half-decade: over-saturation.
In an era where every Podunk town across America hosts a festival, mainstream events like Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo have risen above the rest. Bonnaroo, the only of the big festivals to have direct ties to the jam scene, attempted but failed to expand their brand into Las Vegas with the ill-fated Vegoose venture. On the other hand C3, the promotions company behind events like Lollapalooza wasn’t particularly worried about diversifying, as they also happen to be the masterminds behind Austin City Limits. The point is, if you want to remain competitive in the modern festival business, you have to keep things fresh.
Well if you’re lacking ideas you can always check out what the jam scene is doing. While largely marginalized by the mainstream as being run by a bunch of drug-taking, aimless-minded, free-loving hippies, the scene has quietly demonstrated a consistent ability to develop top-notch, financially successful music events on a large scale. Yet, as is happening in the mainstream festival market, over-saturation began to plague the festival circuit.
Take, for example, an event like Nateva, which, despite an idyllic New England locale and a stellar initial lineup could not sustain over-time. The first Rothbury Music Festival, would have suffered a similar fate if String Cheese Incident didn’t step in and re-brand the event as Electric Forrest. Even Phish, curators of the modern festival as we know it, drew less attendees than expected to both their Festival 8 and Super Ball IX events. This is perhaps why the Summer 2012 tour did not feature a stand-alone festival
The debate about what makes a great festival experience can linger on long past the cherry from your slow-burning rolling-paper has gone out. The fact remains that festivals are not instantly profitable endeavors and to become even remotely successful in today’s hyper-competitive market, a promoter must deliver an event the heads have never experienced before.
Enter: Jam Cruise. A music festival at-sea and in paradise. That’s a marriage that makes more sense than Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. Cloud 9 Adventures, the promotions dream-team behind Jam Cruise, its electronica inspired kid-brother Holy Ship! and Mayan Holidaze, specialize in delivering an unrivaled concert experience. They don’t just defy expectations they completely changed the game on what a festival could deliver. Not surprisingly, every single Jam Cruise has sold out. (And Mayan Holidaze doesn’t even get past the grandfathered pre-sale.)
That causes promoters like Paul Tollett to take notice.
In our digital age, it has become widely understood that the live concert experience has replaced music sales as the industry’s main source of revenue. While it remains to be seen whether or not S.S. Coachella will enjoy the same commercial success that Jam Cruise has, one constant seems to ring true: the mainstream continues to model their promotion and production strategies after the proven success of the jam scene.
Now that Coachella has broken the festival-at-sea concept to the masses, it won’t be long until there are scores of media-backed destination festivals popping up around the company. I’ve already got money saved for the Justin Bieber concert on Disney’s Cruise lines. Message board rumors dictate The Jonas Brothers will come out of retirement as the supporting act. Sweet.
Of course by the time that happens the jam scene will have already moved onto the next great innovation. Phestival on the moon, anyone?
What do you guys think about the S.S. Coachella? Hispter paradise or vapid copy-cat? Let us know in the comments below . . .