Welcome to the strange world of the London club promoter
Henry Moller is the founder and managing director of the year-old, London based outfit, Audio Doughnuts, who have already been crowned as one of the ‘Best Club Nights of 2011’. Errol Anderson caught up with Moller and found out about the world of the London club promoter.
There’s always that moment in a club night. You know, the point where your brain sways in the volumes of alcohol-initiated confusion with as much finesse as an elephant on speed and urges you outside for a breather. I may not be drunk this time around, but the smell of the not-so-fresh air is still a welcome one and as I await my interviewee, I can’t help but chuckle at the smoking area’s population. If only they knew what they looked like from my own sober perspective. On this occasion I’m actually looking out for someone, supposedly the guy that’s put this whole show together: the illusive club promoter.
They’re a misunderstood bunch, event organisers, and as I meander through the crowds of oblivious ravers and into the backstage abyss with Henry Moller – who is running this particular joint – one of the first things he explains is this common delusion.
“It’s not glamorous whatsoever. I mean I’m not broke or anything but people approach you as if you’re made of gold sometimes,” he claims whilst personifying relief in this newfound peace and quiet.
“But, no doubt, it’s probably one of the most difficult jobs out there in short.”
Moller is the founder and managing director of the year-old, London based outfit, Audio Doughnuts, who have already been crowned as one of the ‘Best Club Nights of 2011’ by Mixmag, no less. It isn’t his first venture into events and his roots in the game are as tangled as most music industry heads yet his overall vision for this latest project was always clear. At the time there wasn’t a platform for the music he liked so he built one.
“The whole reason I do it is because when you actually get to the night and it gets to around 11 or 12, you see everything you’ve led up to over the last few months and people coming through the door for that one reason. That’s what keeps me going and that’s why I love what I do,” he exclaims, eyes alight.
It always helps when the crowd is so responsive that they pretty much obey anyone with stage access. Once at London’s Cable, Moller summoned the whole nightclub into raising their lighters whilst the technician turned off all the bulbs inside. The result was 1,000 mini glimmers staring back with impervious appreciation. Just as in any profitable business, if the product’s good people will continue to flock back. During our interview Moller mentioned an anonymous person that kept turning up early and being the last to leave. I took it upon myself to find this man with just a vague description and a Facebook account to hand. He was a gentleman of few words but in reply to a message he stated: “If you love the music, why not keep going back? I was offered free entry too but I refused”.
Yet behind the curtains of brand disciples and memorable evenings lies the nitty-gritty. The planning process is both long-winded and extremely time consuming. Finding and booking venues, promotion and practices on the night, which include everything from set times to co-ordinating security, are all necessary to even dream of anything near successful. Searching for artists can prove tricky too, especially around the festival-drenched summer months.
“Places like Bloc Festival have a six-week exclusivity either side, so you can’t book anyone playing at Bloc either side of them playing at the festival. For London promoters it makes life a lot more difficult.”
Then there’s the fact that like everything else in life it doesn’t always go to plan. With evident nostalgia, Moller dives into another story about the mastery of the last-minute man. “The last event I did, I left Cable club at 9:30 because I needed to use their printers. We opened at 10 so you can imagine how much I was running around.”
“You need to be able to accept the deepest losses. You might have a party and get one person through the door and lose £4,000, but be able to get up and throw another party. Sometimes promoters are a bit too scared to think outside the box.”
Dubstep pioneer Hatcha is also quick to champion those that deviate from the bog standard. “A good promoter is one that’s dedicated to their club life and that puts time into making a sick line-up without always going for the norm,” he belts down the phone line. “I’ve got some good relationships with quite a few of the promoters that I work with. Guys at Fabric, Sub Dub in Leeds and all the Vagabondz boys. These are all people that I talk to as friends.”
But back in 2008 the withering hand of the recession didn’t ignore the event organising industry. “It massively affected things. But it took people a little while to work out the ramifications”, explains Ajay Jayaram, former head of programming at Bloomsbury’s The End. “It’s like a domino effect because each single thing affects another.”
True to this, there was a considerable amount of people choosing to stay at home during those dire times. According to Mintel, the last recession of the early 1990s resulted in an averaged 14% loss of revenue for the clubbing industry. A figure which may seem tiny but when compared to the sector today would be deemed significant. Imagine the changes that partygoers’ lack of disposable incomes would have had on entrance and artist fees. Add to that the effect of the VAT increase and the imagery of tumbling dominoes began to gain lucidity.
But that’s the past. The future of clubbing is as promising as the rich vein with which dance music continues to raid the mainstream charts. The industry remains a convoluted one but a role that will always stay clear is that of the promoter. And funnily enough you’ll still probably ignore them as you purchase your drink at their night.