Diplo and Mad Decent to Launch 'Boat Party' Cruise Fest This Fall (Exclusive)

Combining the success of the Mad Decent Block Party franchise with recent EDM cruise ship festivals, the label seeks to expand its brand.

After eight years of success on land, Mad Decent is taking its popular Block Party concept on a cruise ship. Departing from Miami on November 12, the Norwegian Cruise Line ship will carry 2,600 EDM fans to Nassau, Bahamas and private island Great Sitrrup Cay before returning to Florida on November 16. Like other popular music cruise vacations, the Mad Decent Boat Party seeks to provide fans with an all-access experience, where they can bond with their favorite artists in between DJ sets, in a less formal context than usual.

“After the success of the Mad Decent Block Parties it’s only natural to take the party to the high seas where our sound belongs,” label founder Diplo tells Billboard.

The label partnered with regular collaborators Embrace Presents and TMWRK management as well as Sixthman, the company behind Goldenvoice’s S.S. Coachella. Like the Block Parties, the Boat Party feeds into the label’s ongoing strategy to promote and develop its artists through attention-getting live events.

The Mad Decent Block Party began with a street festival in Philadelphia in 2008 as a label showcase and has evolved into a 14-city series of events that draws over 125,000 people each summer. Like the Block Party, the Boat Party will feature Mad Decent artists such as Diplo’s Major Lazer and Zeds Dead along with friends like Katy B and Wolfgang Gartner.

“The Block Parties have always been a great way to provide a platform for our artists to get heard and to expose people to their music,” Mad Decent label manager Jasper Goggins explains. “Half of the lineup are smaller acts, so for us a huge part of this is just being able to gain exposure for these guys who wouldn’t otherwise get it. It’s another asset for what the label does for them.”

In addition to new music discovery and artist development, the team behind the Boat Party sees it as an opportunity to inculcate devotion amongst its fans. The rapidly expanding EDM festival market has forced promoters like Goldenvoice and Live Nation-owned HARD to think divergently about how to remain competitive in the space. HARD’s Holy Ship! cruise ship party has become so popular it recently announced it would add an additional cruise in 2015. TMWRK’s Andrew McInnes says the plan for the Boat Party’s growth focuses on retaining fans year over year with the possibility of growing the size of the vessel for future events.

With packages for the Boat Party starting at around $800, the cost to consumers is much higher a typical festival ticket, a commitment the event’s promoters recognize.

“People are taking their vacation time to spend it with you so we want to make sure we’re providing an experience that’s worthwhile,” says McInnes. “Our Block Parties have games and participatory activations where there’s a photo booth or a dunk tank where you can go hang out and have fun with your friends. The boat is an excellent extension of that. It’s a way to do something off-the-grid for people who are willing to go down the rabbit hole with us.”

While cruise ships are typically the preferred getaway for senior citizens and families with young children, Sixthman and other cruise-travel event companies have become a “gateway” to more cruise travel.

“We tend to skewer younger in terms of average demographic versus a typical cruise, so we’re turning on a whole new generation to the idea that there is more to vacation than just hopping a flight to a resort,” Sixthman’s Ben Ferguson says, suggesting that events like these not only alter the perception of a concert experience but of leisure travel as well. “We’re in the business of creating an immersive event that sets the stage for the walls between artists and their fans to be torn down.”

McInnes agrees, adding, “it’s just as much about being able to play basketball with Dillon Francis and your buddies as it is about going to the actual show.”

For his part, Diplo, who played Holy Ship! earlier this year, compares his new career path to that of Gilligan. “I wanted to just go on a three hour tour, but instead I'm shipwrecked raving for life.”

Pre-sale sign-ups for the Mad Decent Boat Party start February 20th.

Mad Decent Boat Party Lineup:
Big Gigantic, Bixel Boys, Borgore, Brazzabelle, Bro Safari, Cashmere Cat, Deorro, Dillon Francis, Diplo, Dirty South Joe, Djemba Djemba, DJ Sega, DJ Snake, ETC!ETC!, Flosstradamus, Gent & Jawns, GrandTheft, GTA, Jubilee, Katy B, Kill the Noise, Liz, Lunice, Major Lazer, Nadastrom, Netsky, Paper Diamond, Paul Devro, Riff Raff, Swizzy Mack, Travi$ Scott, Trippy Turtle, Wave Racer, Wolfgang Gartner, Zeds Dead