How Space Yacht Takes the Pain Out of Signing Records
Multi-platform event and culture brand Space Yacht started six years ago with the simple intention of throwing a dope party. They quickly amassed a cult following of industry heads and dance music fans. Crowded into a tiny Hollywood club each Tuesday, Space Yacht established a reputation for taste making secret lineups, mid-week debauchery, and 1 am pizza.
In many ways, they carried the torch that Steve Aoki lit in the mid-aughts with Dim Mak Tuesday’s. Yet they did it with their own brilliantly conceived aesthetic that has led its founders, Henry “Hidden Hen” Lu and Rami “Londonbridge,” Perlman, to become a unique pair of personalities in dance music.
Their weekly LA events, nationwide club takeovers, and curated festival stages were an engine for massive pre-COVID growth. However, when the industry stopped in its tracks in March of 2020, they had to pull a hard left. And though their shenanigans were confined to the small screen, they entered a period of creative growth.
They fully embraced technology and became thought leaders in the budding NFT space. They also remarkably flipped the script on the process of running a label. They’ve spent nearly a year broadcasting their A&R sessions to the world via their Twitch show, Tune Reactor which airs Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4 PM PT.
“I don't know if it's the future of A&R, but it's our signature way of doing A&R,” Perlman says about their two-hour listening sessions.
Tune Reactor is an interactive listening party the duo established at the height of the pandemic. For a small donation producers get live feedback from the boys. It’s invaluable for producers who never know if their demo submissions to other labels ever get heard.
Perlman explains that “It's enabled people to actually reach the label and know that the label is listening.” The process of shopping music as an up-and-coming producer is daunting. Without contacts in the industry, young artists grow accustomed to being outright ignored by most labels.
Lu adds, “So that that all of a sudden solves that issue that all artists have, because you know where to find us. That's when you get the most focus. That is actually when I'm going to listen and give you real feedback, because that's the give and take of the show.”
Lu goes on to explain that the show wasn’t designed as an A&R platform, it just ended up that way. The pandemic put the founders in an unhealthy place mentally. And the online community that they’d begun to create with their live streams was helping them stay sane and relevant.
“We wanted to build our stature as entertainers. because in the absence of nightclubs, we were like, we don't have that, but we have ourselves. So let's try to make ourselves be more of a music influencer using this downtime. And, you know, number one, it worked. But number two, the byproduct of that was like, whoa, this is like A&R plus!”
They wanted to merge a music review show with a reaction video, hence the name Tune Reactor. They’ve always been champions of new music, and Space Yacht parties have a reputation for breaking talent. So, Tune Reactor was a natural step toward creating a record label.
The model they’ve created has been a success story. The label has released nearly 100 records including the recent Tech My House Vol. 2 compilation. The cross-pollination of new and established acts makes the story that much more compelling. Remarkably 90% of the songs on the new compilation came from Tune Reactor.
They insist that this hasn’t replaced traditional A&R. They still have a demo inbox. However, the community they’ve created around Tune Reactor has only served to make their brand stronger.
Tune Reactor is a donation-based show. An idea they both struggled with early on. Lu says they were both worried about taking money from creators, especially in such a crucial time for the industry.
It’s important to consider the serious value prop for the price of a cup of coffee Lu says. “You're getting rich, on demand feedback.” He explains. “Our thesis is supposed to be that we want to get you in a place where people can pay you vast amounts of money to play gigs, or to sign you, or decide to manage you.”
Their prime example is Ranger Trucco an artist discovered on Tune Reactor. When they heard his song “Tiffany” they were immediately struck by his tongue-in-cheek lyrics and bubbling tech-house beats. Space Yacht didn’t just sign him to the label, they picked him up for a management deal.
Tune Reactor has served several purposes through the pandemic. It was a platform for Perlman and Lu to keep Space Yacht’s name on the industry’s lips. It’s a community-building project, label feeder, and it’s also reinvigorated a long-lost feeling in its hosts.
“It's really, for me recreated that teenage feeling of chills down my spine,” Lu begins. “Like arm hair standing up. That feeling and having that record, making that part of my job has really given me brand new energy. This kind of immediacy, and the ability to kind of have it on the record and the stakes are real.”
You can tell that the label is truly excited about the music because the reactions are raw and unfiltered. No formula or algorithm decides if they should release something. All that matters is how it makes them feel. It's validating for young producers to see the discovery process happen in real-time. It's also undeniably important to dance music culture.
Lu continues, “There's nothing in the Space [Yacht] ecosystem that's not accessible to someone who we think we can be a…I like to call it a torchbearer for. That that has been the core cause for excitement to me is when those records do pop up. And we kind of can tell, we can read each other's body language even through the camera. It's like, 'oh, shit, it's unanimous consent. The whole team is gonna be behind this.”
Tune Reactor Airs Monday's , Wednesday's, and Friday's at 4pm PT.