As he broadly hinted in an interview with Variety earlier this year, Hard Events and Holy Ship! founder Gary Richards announced on Wednesday that he is leaving Live Nation after this weekend’s Hard Summer festival.
A rep for Live Nation had no comment when contacted by Variety but confirmed the news.
“To all the HARDfam & Shipfam,” his post on social media reads. “I am leaving Live Nation after this week’s Hard event to pursue an incredible new opportunity that I will share with everyone in the weeks to come. Accordingly, I will not be attending or curating the next Holy Ship cruise event in 2018.
“I have the utmost respect for Michael Rapino and Live Nation,” the post continues. “Let’s make this week’s 10th anniversary show the best HARD event ever!”
Asked by Variety in April about his relationship with Live Nation, which he joined five years ago, Richards unexpectedly said, “This is coming up on the renewal of my deal, so we’re at the end.” Asked whether he was going to stay with the company he said, “I dunno. That’s a good question. We shall see. We shall see. There’s been positive and negative to it. I think that Hard has grown by leaps and bounds and Live Nation has given me a platform to expand monetarily in things I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was funding everything. But then again, there are other forces at play here that are running the electronic scene in different directions than me, and they kind of battle with me and that part of it’s not fun — and it’s unnecessary.”
He declined to elaborate further, and rumors began circulating when the next Holy Ship was booked and Richards, who deejays and tours regularly as Destructo, was not on the bill.
Richards’ influence on the contemporary dance-music scene has been vast — Hard is of one of the genre’s biggest promotion companies and he’s a veteran of several record labels as well as a longtime and respected DJ. After launching the original Electric Daisy Carnival in 1991, he handed off the brand to fellow dance maven and (sometimes) friendly rival Pasquale Rotella to take a job as Rick Rubin’s dance-music A&R at Def American Records. (Rotella has since developed Electric Daisy into North America’s biggest dance-music festival.) After several years at labels and a period of working with his brother Steven (who managed Slipknot and died of a brain tumor in 2004), Richards launched the first Hard show on New Year’s Eve, 2007. Over the ensuing years, the company’s rocket-like growth matched that of dance music, and it was purchased by Live Nation in 2012 for an undisclosed price; Rotella’s Insomniac Events came under the same roof the following year. Hard Summer drew 150,000 people over two days last year.
Yet for all the success, the past couple of years have also been, well, hard. Two concertgoers died of drug overdoses at 2015’s Hard Summer and three died last year; MDMA (aka ecstasy) toxicity, the main culprit, was exacerbated by heat of the Southern California summer sun. And his tenure at Live Nation has been rocky. Sources say this is due in no small measure to his ferocious rivalry with Rotella — the two are like the yin and yang of dance music, Richards’ musical purism eternally clashing with Rotella’s Vegas instincts — which has flared into the open many times over the years. It happened again earlier this year, when Richards denied accusations that he’d refused to book acts who played Insomniac events.