Space Yacht exemplifies an emerging promotional model that almost seems as ubiquitous as dance music itself. It's a fluid, undefined party brand based more on statements and connections than on spreadsheets and market research.
SoCal entrepreneurs Oliver Zhang and Henry Lu are the minds behind the collective, and have played integral roles in events throughout SoCal. They've become a fixture of the scene through passion and tireless work, making them prime subjects for the latest installment of our Industry Focus series.
Zhang and Lu made some time to meet with Magnetic Magazine and tell us about the ethos behind Space Yacht. In addition, they went as far as to share their own attitudes on the industry as a whole.
How did you start your career in the electronic music business?
Oliver Zhang: I’ve always loved music, but never considered making it a career until college. I got my start with Universal Music Group as a College and Lifestyle marketing representative, and running UC San Diego’s concerts & events office. UCSD is where I met Henry and some of my closest friends in the industry, so it was a very important and formative experience. We were lucky to book some amazing acts early on like Tommy Trash, TOKiMONSTA, and Clockwork.
After college, I joined a digital media agency called theAudience where I managed the social media channels of everyone from Steve Aoki to Pearl Jam. Henry, Rami [Perlman A.K.A. LondonBridge] and I then started Space Yacht together early last year since we were all itching to work on a project together.
Henry Lu: I got started as a student booker at Sun God Festival, which was a big college festival on the West Coast. I was part of a group that launched the dance music concept at the festival in 2009. What started as a tent with sparse production grew over three years into an LED monster. I met Ollie at some point during all this, and we’ve been great friends since then.
I built a few decent relationships from that and landed internships at Z-Trip’s management and then Windish Agency. I always knew I wanted to go my own way and Space Yacht is the third venture I’ve started. One of them I still run today.
What is the best part of the business?
Henry Lu: You can be as creative as you want to be. There is no one stopping you from carving your own lane. At Space Yacht we get to put on who we like and create an atmosphere that’s community driven. We’ve created nights where artists from different crews like Buygore, Dim Mak, Gotta Dance Dirty, Main Course, Moving Castle, and Perfect Driver, or many others cross paths and hang. Every single group has its own scene and it’s great to see the worlds collide--you can see a history of our events on our Facebook page.
Oliver Zhang: We are lucky to be working in a field that is fueled by passion and creativity. Through Space Yacht, we’ve been able to interact with so many different facets of the industry and it’s inspiring to see how music has united all of us. I have so much love for my peers and friends in this business. Being able to drive culture forward collectively is incredibly rewarding.
The best part of Space Yacht has been working alongside two of my closest friends and helping each other grow. I couldn’t ask for a better team to learn from.
What are the biggest challenges?
Henry Lu: One of my biggest challenges right now is fitting in all the artists we want to put on. There are so many incoming requests with sensitive timing that it’s not always possible to do it when we want. Now that we’re starting to get some buzz outside of L.A. we have artists from other cities who contact us about a date that’s not necessarily available. We’re working on bringing Space Yacht parties to other cities so hopefully we’ll get better at this over time.
Oliver Zhang: Speaking more generally, we invest so much of ourselves into our work. Henry is an absolute machine but I’m not afraid to admit that I can get burnt out. The challenge is really getting to know yourself better as you progress through your career.
I will say that the fun part of what we do is we get to tackle problems that we never would have imagined facing. It’s what keeps a growing business worthwhile and engaging.
What career advice would you recommend to someone just starting off?
Oliver Zhang: The music industry - and especially electronic music - is a small world. Your peers are going to be around you for a long time. Be good to each other and take your work seriously. We do our best to embody this spirit with everything we do in Space Yacht.
Henry Lu: Be conscious of the people around you, and even if you can’t help their cause, respect what it is they’re trying to accomplish. With Space Yacht we made it a thing to be in a place where we can coexist and collaborate with other events and brands in the scene, and ultimately help young artists build their stature.
The other piece of advice is to be relentless with bettering yourself and what it is that you bring to the world. For example, our resident and partner LondonBridge has been knocking away at his own brand of funky house ever since we started Space Yacht. His productions are getting better every release, and now he’s starting to get attention from big festivals like Coachella and EDC.
As the EDM industry continues to grow, what do you think the secrets to longevity in this business will be?
Henry Lu: I don’t care about the trends, nor do I care whether there’s a bubble. In fact, I am not even that concerned with longevity. Space Yacht doesn’t have to be around forever if we don’t want it to be. It could evolve into a different thing or we might take it away entirely if we feel like it.
To address the spirit of your question, I think the next shift in perception in this business is that we’ll stop looking at electronic music as a silo and start looking at cultural experiences driven by music and entertainment. This is how we look at it when we do our bookings. Space Yacht to us is not so much a promoter of dance music, but a moment in someone’s life. We started the party to hang with our friends and we book whatever the hell we want.
We’re here to celebrate a little moment in the universe.
Oliver Zhang: I don't think a brand that has only been around for a year and a half can really answer a question about longevity quite yet.
Did you start off as a fan of electronic music and then became involved on the business side, or did business bring you into the electronic music world? Describe that process.
Oliver Zhang: I wasn’t that knowledgable of electronic music until I got into college. Seeing Designer Drugs was the first act that really got me excited and engaged with dance music in the way I still am today. Funnily enough, I think Henry was the one that booked them at UCSD - this is years before I even met him.
What cities/regions do you think electronic dance music is best thriving?
Henry Lu: It can be anywhere. I’m not one to look at trends and follow existing models. Our party happened to land on a Tuesday - who in the right mind would do that?
To start, we are planning to take our party to Phoenix, New Orleans, Dallas, and New York. There’s a bit of interest from Miami and Boston and we’ll take a shot when the time comes.
Wherever we do end up, we will keep it weird.
If you weren’t in the music business, what would you be doing?
Oliver Zhang: Henry and I are both lifelong entrepreneurs with a million different passion points - so if it weren’t Space Yacht, it’d be something else. I’m currently helping launch a new media platform that encapsulates a life mission of mine, and Henry runs a business completely unrelated to music.