Groove Cruise's Founder Is Riding the EDM Wave

Miguel Lizaragga
Groove Cruise founder Jason Beukema on how his 10-year-old company, Whet Travel, is cashing in on the EDM wave.

Jason Beukema on his 10-year-old company, Whet Travel.

When the sold-out Groove Cruise sets sail from Los Angeles to Mexico Oct. 23 to 26, it will mark Whet Travel founder Jason Beukema's 11th dance-music-themed excursion. It also is his biggest yet, accommodating nearly 3,000 fans, each of whom paid a minimum of $1,000 and as much as $25,000 for four days of nonstop beats (by such artists as Paul Oakenfold, Cazzette and Dirty South) on the wide open sea. The upshot? Everyone feels like a VIP, says Beukema, 39, who in 2004 began carving out a sector that now includes competitors like Diplo's Mad Decent Boat Party and HARD Events' Holy Ship.

The Groove Cruise sets sail from L.A. and Miami. Do these festivals-by-sea break even?

We have seven cruises; some make money and some lose money. A cruise ship can cost upward of a $1 million just to rent the ship. Then we've got talent -- some can cost over six figures -- and production costs. There are only a handful of companies that do what we do because the margins just aren't there and you need a high level of credit. But generally, our breakeven point is what determines our pricing. 

For a music fan, what is the enticement, ultimately, to choose sea over land?

These are the ultra-ultra fans. They don't want to see their favorite artists with 40,000 people at a main-stage festival. They want to be up close. Also, when they get on that ship, the family atmosphere and relationships that are forged -- you can't create that strong a bond over two or three days at a land festival or a concert.

What's the demographic breakdown on the Groove Cruises?

We’ve got a 50/50 gender ratio and the average age is 31. And we’ve got some of the most beautiful women that you’ll ever see.

Branding partnerships bring in additional revenue. With whom have you aligned, and what, beyond a visual presence, do they get out of such sponsorships?

[Among] all of our cruises, we have a three-year deal with Anheuser-Busch as well as deals with Red Bull and Monster. For the [2015] Groove Cruise, we have our highest-ever level of sponsorship dollars. These companies want to be involved -- to be a part of that once-in-a-lifetime experience.

EDM has taken over by land and by sea. What's next: flight?

Private-island festivals. We're kind of already doing that: We've stopped at private islands on the East Coast Groove Cruise [which departs from Miami and runs Jan. 22-26]. But for us as a company, international expansion is definitely the next frontier.

This article was originally published in the Oct. 31 issue of Billboard.