As an increasing number of people achieve billionaire status, they are finding it harder to unearth new ways to entertain friends and family. Which is why business is booming for Justin King’s Blue International Talent.
Blue sets out to supply an inconspicuous route to conspicuous consumption by booking stars to provide entertainment on luxury yachts moored out at sea. It’s not a cheap exercise for clients, who can expect to pay a total of $5 million to charter a yacht and get a superstar to perform on it.
And there is a golden rule: you don’t mess with the boat
But King says: “The demand for our shows is increasing, and it held steady during the financial crisis. We are currently staging a hundred events a year.”
The stars are happy to co-operate to top up their spending money, now that receipts from recorded music have dropped away. David Guetta once performed his DJ set in front of 100,000 people until midnight and he was happy to be flown across the Adriatic to perform for a wealthy family at three in the morning.
Yachts which are 30 to 40 metres in length can accommodate an intimate performance for a base price of $100,000. Larger shows would require 80 to 100 metres which would cost $1 million a week. “A helipad is a good performance space,” says King. One of the largest boats available is the Flying Fox, whose 136 metres costs $2.5 million a week.
King stresses that Blue does not charter yachts, although he can put families in touch with the right people. It comes into its own in booking acts and producing their shows.
Prices for acts vary. Beyoncé, Drake, Coldplay and Rolling Stones could each cost $4 million. Rod Stewart, Elton John and Neil Diamond could cost $2 million. If an act is required at short notice, prices could double.
If a convenient gap appeared in a schedule, a cheaper deal would be possible. A support act could cost a further $100,000 and stars might expect a few of their own friends to be flown in, as well.
Putting together shows can be complicated, not least because you only get four hours to move a set on board: “If a rock guitarist decides not to travel with his 1960s amp, you have to find him one. If the boat doesn’t supply enough power you have to add more.” Stars need to be happy they can put together a show.
And there is a golden rule: you don’t mess with the boat.
King has built the business on the back of his contacts forged since his days as a record producer to some of the world’s 1990s Big Beat electronic rave acts, such as the Crystal Method, Prodigy and Chemical Brothers. His co-founder Dan Pamment used to be an international marketing manager at Sir Richard Branson’s V2 record label.
They have found that stars have become increasingly interested in taking part as a result of the plunge in record sales, following by music’s move online, although King points out returns as rising again, as streaming catches on. He sees less prospect for a revival of guitar-based rock: “The kids don’t want to learn it.”
More often than not, stars are happy to mix with wealthy people attending a show, or even talk business with them. Blue and its sister company Maven Odyssey, an organiser of events on land, keep close track of the movement of their acts. This helps with bookings, or last-minute substitutions, which are quite rare.
King says: “The stars know the game: they also have a reputation to protect.”