Sitting on a wooden red stool at a coffee shop named Koffi in Palm Springs — so hip, I know — I sipped on my iced green tea as I waited for an old high school friend. In walked Tyler McLean, co-founder and producer of one of the most up and coming summer festivals: Splash House. He ordered a drink and sat down across from me as we caught up on life. After a few minutes of reminiscing on our days in high school, we got to talking about the good stuff.
If you could describe Splash House in one sentence, what would it be? You can make this a complex sentence with a semi-colon and everything.
Splash House is Coachella meets Encore Beach Club. It’s a multi-venue music festival that takes over three pools and hosts stages of 40 artists each time.
Okay well that wasn’t one sentence… but I forgive you because that was very informative and succinct.
Haha thanks, it’s not easy. I think I left some things out…
You’re welcome and it’s okay. You’ll have time to talk about it later. Let’s talk about the beginnings! When did it start?
Back in 2013, I was in college still and just had this concept of bringing people to Palm Springs and I wanted to do it in a cool way — something big I guess. We came up with this concept of utilizing what I thought was the best asset of Palm Springs, which were the pools, and doing it in a way that would be bigger than just a pool party. So that was the concept of doing a multi-venue festival and connecting them together with shuttles and making it just one umbrella event hosted at three different unique resorts.
Eventually it turned into a business plan, so we pitched it to this investment group out here and they told me, “Thanks but no thanks.” I think in that rejection was this sort of inspiration to say, “Screw the haters, I’m going to do it.” I was lucky enough to have a family that was super into supporting their kids and as wild and as big as the idea was, we chose to do it and we hit a lot of obstacles along the way… but we somehow did it.
Well that’s really f*cking cool. And this was in your first year, right?
Right, this was in the first year in 2013. We took over the Saguaro Hotel in Palm Springs, the Caliente Tropics, and the Curve Hotel — we bought out the Saguaro Hotel, which was a huge commitment for us.
I reached out to a bunch of different promoters that I knew in southern California and gave them each a stage to promote. I said to them, “Hey I’m going to give you a budget — I’m giving you free money to spend and book the best talent and bring them to Palm Springs.” We had about 800 people that first year and it was a really fun party. After that, Goldenvoice called me and said, “Hey, who are you? What are you doing? What’s your plan? What is this event?” After I answered all of that, they asked, “How can we partner up?”
That’s awesome. I would really enjoy for Goldenvoice to call me and ask to partner up… sigh. Okay so 2013 was your first event, and then in 2014 you had two events, right?
I think at that time, we were like, “Oh this thing is going to take off.” We had such good momentum and the only way we can make this grow is by doing it multiple times; we never are going to become a major music festival or have 30,000+ people — that’s never the goal. We want to stay this niche boutique festival. We knew we weren’t ever going to have 30,000 people but we can do 10 or 15,000 people multiple times.
We decided to do June and August because they’re both super slow summer months in the desert and we wanted to see if we could do it… and each time, it’s grown. June was bigger than 2013, and August was double the audience of June.
The lineup was UNREAL, and it was a really good selection in artists. Chromeo, A-Trak… and like Flume’s career has skyrocketed just this year after Splash House.
I think we can attribute to our event that the artist selection has always been ahead of the curve. In June, we had Kygo and Kaytranada and Tycho and Purity Ring, and even then, they were relatively unknown. As a smaller event, you only have so much budget you can spend on talent so you have to do a really good job booking talent, and last year I think we killed it. I think that’s the same goal this year as well as in the future — booking artists that are about to blossom.
Hell yeah. Looking at all the talent that you’ve booked and where they’re at right now… it’s like their careers are on steroids. But that was last year. What’s new and different about this year’s Splash House?
We have a new venue; last year we were at the Hard Rock, the Saguaro, and the Hacienda and we jumped over to the Hilton this year and took out the Hard Rock. It’s a bigger venue and it’ll give us more flexibility with the event and the talent. Another thing in terms of the structure of the festival is that we’re buying out hotels. This year, we’ve bought out the entire Hilton and the entire Saguaro. That experience of having these hotels give off the vibe of everyone being there for the exact same party is going to be awesome.
Last year, super last minute, we decided to announce a balcony-decorating contest for the Saguaro just for fun. People ended up going all out and decorating them with lights and trees and everything; I’m excited to do that again and step it up, especially at the Hilton, and use that as something unique that Splash House offers. Bonnaroo is known for their unique camp grounds and the village atmosphere, and I think it can be the same thing for Splash House. It’s like a “camping” experience… with a hotel room and air conditioning and a bathroom — it’s camping for LA people.
Yeah, I really like the “summer camp for LA people” vibe, haha. It’s like a community that you’re creating with all these Splash House attendees within the hotels.
I think that’s one of the things that make the festival unique. Very rarely do you go to an event that is entirely taking over a hotel. You don’t have that type of experience. Sure, at big events there might be a lot of people at the hotel that are going to the same event but there are also random other people there. The closest things to that would be HARD cruise ship and Mad Decent’s boat party, but those are expensive cruises and…on boats. Splash House is like the same concept that everyone is there for the same party…but it’s on land.
It’s like an adult summer camp meets LA meets EBC.
Oh gosh… this sounds like a good time with bad decisions just waiting to happen, haha. What about enhancements for the lineup this year?
It’s really fresh. We knew going into it that the entire experience is what would drive this event, so we wanted to book talent that would really mesh with the atmosphere and bring good vibes to the whole event. It’s all about the vibes, and in that, we booked a lot of young producers and a lot of stuff you won’t get to see at a major music festival. We have younger producers like Hippie Sabotage who are pushing out a lot of very big music but they haven’t had their chance to play at a big festival yet. I think Splash House is now becoming that stepping stone that acts as a festival that will pick up these early bookings before they go on to play at these major music festivals.
Wait okay you keep saying “we.” Who is this “we” that you’re talking about?
I’m lucky to be working with LED right now. I worked with them in 2013 for the first event but it was a different type of relationship; now LED in 2014 and beyond is a partner of Goldenvoice and a partner of the event. LED books the show with me; it’s sort of like all hands come to the table and we talk about what directions we’re all thinking and start to pull who is available and we work down our list and talk about it. It’s a “lineup by committee” booking process.
Okay, okay enough with the logistics — let’s talk about fun things. During Splash House, what will you be doing and will I find you throughout the weekend?
You can best describe my role during Splash House as a fire fighter; in those days, there are things that aren’t working, there are people who are unhappy, there are people complaining, shuttles aren’t working — there are things that just don’t go as smoothly as you want them to, as much as you try. A day in my life at the event is me basically putting out all these fires and trying my best to enjoy what we’ve worked so hard to create.
That’s true… every time I’ve tried to find you, it’s for about 12 seconds and then you disappear. You’re not secretly partying it up back stage are you?
Yeah absolutely not haha.
What about your family? Do they come out to the events?
Oh yeah, mom and dad party it up; they enjoy it. It’s always fun to hear their feedback. Kelly, my sister, basically co-produces it with me, so she’s there with me making sure everything runs smoothly.
Haha yes I’ve definitely seen your mom having a great time in the pool, that’s excellent. Well are there any memorable stories from Splash House?
In 2013, I was waiting for one of the artists to come and his flight was 30 minutes late and I was just sitting there at the airport while the party was going and I got a text saying, “Girl. Drowning. In the pool.” And I’m stuck at this airport like, “What is going on with my life right now…?”
That was… the start of it all, haha.
But my favorite moments at the events are when no one is calling me and I can just step back and take it all in; it’s kind of like a goosebumps type of moment. I get to see my creation in real life, and that’s the coolest.
Enjoying the silence, that’s so tranquil. Okay, so lastly, what would you say to any aspiring entrepreneur or event planner?
Don’t listen to people who say you can’t do it or say “no.” If you have an idea or a passion that is driving you to want to do something, don’t believe in people that doubt you. There are tons of people who told me this wouldn’t work, that this was a bad idea, that were actively rooting against me trying to make this party in 2013, and here we are, two years later, with one of the biggest parties in the summer time. Follow your passion.
So sentimental, right? Haha.
Tickets are on sale at splashhouse.com — hotel packages are almost sold out and tickets are on their way to selling out as well! The lineup is amazing, there are TWO events this summer so you can plan accordingly, and it’s in the beautiful Palm Springs. Do you have any more excuses not to go? Didn’t think so!