Yacht rock sets sail for the port of 'the next big thing'

If you are looking for the next big thing of 2020, look back to 1970.

That’s right. A five-decade trip back in time may be the hot breakout in music in the near year. It is called yacht rock.

Subscribers to Sirius/XM have been cruising the yacht rock wave for almost five years. It started as a summer channel in 2015 featuring the “light” hits of the '70s with the likes of The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Hall & Oates and Toto. It proved so popular some fans took to Twitter to ask President Obama to issue an executive order to keep it on the satellite radio service.

It is now a full-time service (without Obama’s executive order) and has become a full-fledged movement. Plus the satellite service is not alone in its presentation. Spotify, Amazon Music and Pandora now list yacht rock as a searchable genre.

The ambassadors of this new genre is the Yacht Rock Revue, which has been pedaling the soft rock sound since 2007 in Atlanta but is now about to take it nationwide. The band will embark on its “Hot Dads in Jeans Tour” starting Jan. 9, 2020, with stops in New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Chicago, Nashville and Boston in support of its first album – which will also feature original tunes.

"Step" is the new single from the new album, "Hot Dads in Jeans," from the Yacht Rock Revue

If some of its 2019 dates are any indication, this could be a profitable venture for the retro group. Previously playing in venues with 1,000 to 1,500 seats, YRR has proven a hot ticket. In October, according to Pollstar – which tracks the concert business -- at Boston’s House of Blues the band sold 2,425 tickets for a $61,479 gross. On New York’s Long Island at Huntington’s Paramount Theater, YRR sold out 1,573 tickets for $33,979.

Live Nation and Sirius/XM are backing the new tour. "After seeing the band build in our venues in the early stages, their upward trajectory as a touring artist became especially evident and that led us to pursue the partnership,” Live Nation Director of Touring Andy Messersmith explained to Pollstar in why the big concert company boarded the Yacht Rock Revue ship.


So what’s its appeal? Is this just a nostalgia ride?

“Yacht rock is more of a vibe and an energy than necessarily soft rock music made in Los Angeles between 1976 and 1984,” YRR’s Nick Niespodziani recently told Entertainment Weekly, “It’s more about when the song comes on, does it put a smile on your face in the first 10 seconds? If you use that as your first barrier to entry, then what can be considered yacht rock becomes a lot more wide. If you’re out cruising on your boat on Saturday afternoon, what’s going to feel good?”

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Indeed the idea did not come from an aging baby boomer, but rather from under-35 programming executive at Sirius/XM Jessica Besack. Part of the appeal is the '70s look and feel that YRR projects, but Besack said the popularity goes beyond the kitsch. “When a real music fan starts to get to know Yacht Rock it becomes readily apparent how talented the musicians were,” she told the Wall Street Journal.


Although Sirius/XM may have helped make yacht rock a phenomenon, according to The Week, the moniker debuted in 2005 by the creators of the web series “Yacht Rock,” which ran as part of Channel 101 for 12 episodes. The “mockumentary” tracked the careers of real-life musicians of the era but played by actors and comics.

From those humble comedic beginnings, yacht rock may become 2020’s hot “next thing” with the Yacht Rock Revue leading the way.

Yacht Rock Revue - The Hot Dads In Tight Jeans tour:

01/09/20 - Lexington, KY - Manchester Music Hall

01/10/20 - Indianapolis, IN - Egyptian Room at Old National Centre

01/11/20 - Indianapolis, IN - Egyptian Room at Old National Centre

The concert poster for the Yacht Rock Revue's 2020 tour 

01/16/20 - Athens, GA - Georgia Theatre

02/06/20 - St. Petersburg, FL - Jannus Live

02/07/20 - Fort Lauderdale, FL - Revolution Live

02/08/20 - Lake Buena Vista, FL - House Of Blues - Orlando

02/21/20 - Denver, CO - Mission Ballroom

02/22/20 - Breckenridge, CO - The Riverwalk Center

02/27/20 - Portland, OR - Revolution Hall

02/29/20 - Seattle, WA - The Neptune Theatre

03/05/20 - Los Angeles, CA - The Wiltern

03/06/20 - San Diego, CA - The Observatory North Park

03/07/20 - Phoenix, AZ - The Van Buren

03/08/20 - Tucson, AZ - The Rialto Theatre

03/11/20 - Napa, CA - JaM Cellars Ballroom

03/12/20 - Sacramento, CA - Ace of Spades

03/13/20 - San Francisco, CA - August Hall

03/19/20 - Philadelphia, PA - The Fillmore - Philadelphia

03/20/20 - New York, NY - Webster Hall

03/21/20 - New York, NY - Webster Hall

03/22/20 - Lancaster, PA - Chameleon Club

03/25/20 - Clifton Park, NY - Upstate Concert Hall

03/26/20 - Norwalk, CT - Wall Street Theater

03/27/20 - Boston, MA - House of Blues - Boston

03/28/20 - Boston, MA - House of Blues - Boston

04/17/20 - Charlotte, NC - The Fillmore - Charlotte

04/18/20 - Raleigh, NC - The Ritz - Raleigh

04/19/20 - Asheville, NC - The Orange Peel

04/24/20 - Nashville, TN - Marathon Music Works

05/01/20 - Chicago, IL - House Of Blues - Chicago

05/02/20 - Chicago, IL - House Of Blues - Chicago

05/07/20 - New Orleans, LA - House of Blues - New Orleans

05/08/20 - Houston, TX - The Ballroom at Warehouse Live

05/09/20 - Austin, TX - Emo's Austin

05/15/20 - Chattanooga, TN - The Signal

05/30/20 - Vienna, VA - Filene Center - Wolf Trap Amphitheater

08/22/20 - Atlanta, GA - Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park