HARD and Gary Richards: What’s Next?

This summer marked the tenth anniversary of one of SoCal’s most notorious festivals: HARD Summer. Regrettably, a captivating piece of news overshadowed HARD Summer’s tenth birthday. Gary Richards, a.k.a. Destructo, who founded HARD left the company after this year’s HARD Summer. That means he will no longer have a hand in curating Holy Ship! or any other HARD events from now on.

I’m sure plenty of people are wondering how this is even possible. HARD is his company. How could he leave while Holy Ship! continues? Well the answer is simple, and a little bit tragic to be honest.

Like many blooming independent promoters, Richards sold HARD to a large entertainment conglomerate in the interest of expanding his brand. In this case the large promoter was Live Nation which acquired HARD Events in 2012. Richards still maintained his position as the creative force behind the company, but he was on a contract. Specifically a five-year contract, and five years have passed since the sale. In harmonious situations, Richards would have renewed his contract with Live Nation and continued producing HARD Events. Unfortunately, the situation surrounding the company has been anything but harmonious.

In the last five years HARD Summer’s venue changed five times including this year’s last minute switch from the Fontana Speedway to the San Manuel Amphitheater. There have been several drug related deaths at HARD events, and many of those events were nearly crippled by logistical issues.

Clearly these circumstances put a strain of Richard’s relationship with Live Nation. Now he’s out and Live Nation still owns HARD.

In light of these facts there are two questions burning in the minds of the fans:

1. What’s next for HARD?

2. What’s next for Gary Richards?

The answers to those questions were one and the same not long ago. Now they couldn’t be more different.

On the topic of HARD, the future is quite hazy. Yes, Live Nation is legally allowed to produce HARD events. But should they? Or will they?

As stated prior, HARD isn’t without its problems. Whether or not Live Nation will continue is a business decision, one that involves many variables. As of now both weekends of Holy Ship! seem to be continuing, but Shipfam aren’t ambivalent towards the departure of Richards.

Soon after Richards confirmed he wouldn’t be involved in Holy Ship!, a previous attendee of the cruise ship festival named David Gi created a petition. The purpose of the petition was to get Live Nation to reconsider its decision in regard to Richards departure, and over 2,000 people already signed it. The petition also details what will happen if Live Nation’s decision stands:

“At the end of the day, if you choose to give Gary the boot, or otherwise force him from Holyship, we pledge to make this hurt, and not physically, but financially.” Specifically, the author says many members of Shipfam either won’t attend or will curtail their spending on the ship.

The fans aren’t the only ones who feel this strongly either. Artists have also been vocal about the change at the helm.

Frequent HARD act Boys Noize reposted the petition throughout social media along with the hashtag “#NoGaryNoShip.” Dirtybird officially announced that none of their artists would perform on Holy Ship!. Skrillex made no mention of whether he would perform this year, but he said in a tweet that he would never have played Holy Ship! if not for Gary.

With all this in mind, it’s clear that Richards was the soul of these events. The fans trusted him. The artists trusted him.

If Live Nation chooses to continue using the HARD name without Richards, the events will just be another corporate offering. Live Nation doesn’t have the same investment in HARD Events. To them it’s just another acquisition that needs to turn a profit. With Live Nation’s deep pockets, it’s possible that they can produce great HARD events, but they won’t produce them with the same love. Richards dedicated over a decade of his life to HARD. No one at Live Nation can say that.

In regard to Richards, he isn’t involved with HARD anymore, but he isn’t leaving his business behind. In his statement about his departure he mentioned an “incredible new opportunity.” As of now the specifics are unclear, but it’s been confirmed that Richards will join LiveStyle in the coming months.

LiveStyle is the rebranded version of SFX, which was recently brought out of bankruptcy under new ownership. Neither Richards nor LiveStyle gave any hints as to what his position will be, but it’s likely he will get back to planning events.

Taking on the position at the head of a recently bankrupt company may not be as unwise at is seems either. Clearly the new owners of LiveStyle are willing to take risks to revive the brand. As such, it’s possible that Richards will have more freedom to produce events the way he wants. SFX had worldwide influence prior to its financial troubles, a quality LiveStyle will share. That puts Richards at the head of a worldwide entity. There could be a Holy Ship! in Europe or South America.

What could be even more enticing to Richards than international reach is the ability to throw events in the city of Los Angeles once again. It’s unlikely they could be the size of HARD Summer, but exciting events are popping up all over the city.

Paid Dues will take place in Pershing Square this coming September. Spaceland Block Party, a brand new music festival with artists as big as Joey Bada$$ booked, will take place at Row DTLA that same weekend. Not to mention festivals like FYF and Odd Future Carnival that have called Exposition Park their home for years.

It’s likely Richards didn’t use these venues before because his lineups are stilly largely electronic. Unfortunately, there is still a ban on outdoor electronic music festivals on LA County property. But now he represents a new company, and he could possibly work outside of those strictures.

After all, what Richards is known for, and what separated HARD from other promoters, is his ability to curate a lineup. Unlike the leaders of other promoters, Richards is an artist himself. That means he understands music as a creator as well as an appreciator. He probably met so many of these artists he books before he was throwing events because he was gigging himself (and he still is).

In recent years, many festival-goers denounced HARD because of it’s struggles, but a HARD lineup is always something to marvel. While most people only see Zedd or Calvin Harris, the heads are looking at Tuskegee, Chemical Brothers, and Luciano. With a new brand behind him, Destructo could easily bring these artists back to the city. That’s something the fans want for sure.

Photo Credit: Rukes

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