Few experiences can be as special as having a true A-lister artist or DJ perform on your yacht, but for one key agency the idea of talent and superyachts goes beyond just entertainment.
Emmanuel Akintunde knows a thing or two about talent. Nigeria-born, London-raised, and New York-trained as an actor, he has worked across stage, TV and film, is an accomplished musician and an avid, serial entrepreneur. “I worked as an actor for six years,” he begins, “but I’ve always been in the business.” What he didn’t know, however, was the opportunity that superyachting offered, nor even the much about superyachts themselves or the sea in general.
London-based Akintunde is Founder and Managing Director of GF Entertainment – his fourth business, having set up his first aged just 19 – which serves as a conduit for private clients to access A-list music and DJ talent for private parties, as well as working across planning and coordination for events and celebrity galas. His business centres on securing live acts for those who are looking to give their superyacht guests or event attendees the most unforgettable experiences. However, while superyachts now account for some 60 percent of his business, it didn’t quite start out that way.
“I set up GF Entertainment in 2014 and for the first three years the focus was on providing entertainment such as DJs, string quartets, magicians and the like for event planners in the UK,” he explains. “Then in 2017 I was presented with an opportunity after a conversation with the team at Port Vauban in Antibes, France. Six months later I did my first event there, which was the Cogs for Cancer charity race where a bunch of superyacht captains rode from Cancer Research HQ in London all the way to Antibes to raise money for the charity. We did the after party in nearby Juan Les Pins.”
That led to working with the Monaco Yacht Show and MYBA (Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association) shows, and that led to recognition within the superyacht industry and to contact with captains and owners. Six years later, GF Entertainment has secured some of the world’s best musical talent for private superyacht parties, dinners and performances on yachts up to 100 metres – and, soon, potentially above that. Most recently, their offering has expanded to include an immersive, experiential evening of music and film, with a world-renowned pianist performing the film’s soundtrack live as the film plays. “Imagine being sat on the deck of your yacht under the stars watching your favourite film and having a pianist accompany it,” Akintunde enthuses. “It’s just epic; it’s an amazing experience for guests.”
Whether people get unknown or big-name acts on their yachts, the motivation for owners and charterers is the same, says Akintunde – it isn’t about status, it’s all about kinship. “Typically it’s a special occasion such as an anniversary or a landmark birthday,” Akintunde says, “and sometimes it’s that a charterer asks for a roving band to come aboard and because they just want to have some fun with their closest family and friends. And sometimes they just want the A-listers to come have dinner with them – that happens as well.”
St. Barth's Yacht Hop
St. Barth's Yacht Hop
For Akintunde, there’s another side to the yachting industry however – and once again, the idea of talent plays a central role. After becoming friends with Margarita Amam when he first entered the yacht industry, talk turned to how to encourage more talent from non-traditional places to consider yachting, and how yachting could in turn embrace that talent and give it a helping hand to get started. In many ways, it reflected his own experiences as a successful entrepreneur but a yachting industry newbie.
“I wasn’t brought up around yachting whatsoever, and when I first came into the industry I learnt the terminology through Below Deck!” he admits. “I get that the series is more entertainment than reality, but for me it was a great way to learn more about the industry, because when you get into the industry people aren’t necessarily going to teach you what they think you should already know.”
Amam’s Grit Unlocked initiative struck a real chord with Akintunde. “We had several conversations about seeing more diversity within the superyacht industry,” he says, “and she’s very much an advocate for that. What she has done is basically put everything in play to bring in the diverse talent from non-traditional recruiting grounds, and that’s why I’m supporting it because it’s a great initiative. I’ve agreed to be a mentor for candidates who will hopefully be recruited by brokerage firms and by the industry at large.”
It’s the type of initiative that Akintunde says he has seen elsewhere in the industry, and that inspires him further to the opportunities that yachting offers. “The UKSA down in Cowes, with Edmiston, offer opportunities for kids in less privileged communities to get onto the water,” he enthuses, “because these kids have never seen the ocean and that means they’re not open to the notion of sailing as a career choice. It’s about opening the door for these kids to see beyond the usual.
“There is so much warmth in the industry and I received so much welcome when I first started in it in 2017,” he concludes. “I was supported by people who didn’t know me, who said actually you seem like a good guy, I like what you’re doing and I’m going to support you. It’s an industry I have grown to fall in love with.”