Tugs, Tugs, Tugs!
Partying in Metro Manila. You know the drill. Getting the invite from your rowdy friends. Worrying about getting in a guest list. Fussing over what “dress to impress” means. Wondering how much you’re willing to spend on drinks, or if you’re a girl, wondering if you’ll get offered free drinks. Researching what the vibe and crowd of the club is going to be. Pondering on whether or not you’ll enjoy the type of music they play there. Dreading coming home wasted as f*ck. Regretting every bad decision come morning. And then… happily recalling every awesome memory a few days after. It’s a circus of emotions. It’s a blur of drunken madness. It’s crazy. It’s fun. It’s partying!
A couple of years ago, I remember being slightly drunk in Republiq, bugging the people working there. I chatted with the restroom personnel, the bartenders, the bouncer. I asked them what it was like to work in such a chaotic environment where frenetic revellers bounce, jump, and party every single night. Although they did admit that it can sometimes be a headache, they had a mission to do and they were indeed very professional about it. They were sober. They were on point. They were working.
Fast forward to 2015 and now, although I do admit that my partying days are starting to die down, I’m still fascinated by the entire production. Clubs, music festivals, underground raves, superstar DJs, EDM… the party scene is alive and kicking within Metro Manila and the entire country as well.
Thanks to the recently concluded EMEX (Electronic Music Convention and Expo), I was able to take a sneak peek at what happens behind the scenes of Manila’s fascinating party culture. Beyond the crazy drunken nights, there’s a legitimate business process that is undertaken by every participant on-stage and behind it. There’s a lot more to clubbing and partying than just dancing and getting wasted. People work hard in this business and the industry deserves a lot of respect. Here are some of the things I learned during the June 20 forums.
**This will contain only snippets of each forum**
EMEX Forum Topic: Men of Steel
The Panel: Callum David, Aaron Cisneros (Vega), Marc Naval, Nic Pernia and Tom Taus.
During the Q&A, the issue of looks came up. Since here in the Philippines, we have a very showbiz-oriented culture, the all-male panel was asked to weigh in on the importance of having good looks in order to make it big in the industry. According to the panel, in the end, it will always boil down to talent. Looks can only get you so far. It’s all about the music. Callum David replied, “In Australia, we don’t put so much weight on [a DJ’s] looks, it’s more of skill.”
When asked about what they can advise to budding DJ’s they replied, “Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice!!!” Go out and see live DJ’s as they perform. Introduce yourselves. Go out and meet veteran DJ’s. Befriend promoters. Show them your stuff. Network.
EMEX Forum Topic: Nightclub Marketing 101
The Panel: Alexandra Habaluyas (71 Grammercy, The Palace), John Herrera (Raven), Angelo Mendez (Black Market)
Q: What’s the job of a promoter?
Alexandra: It is our job to throw the best parties, give them the best time.
John: We want to give them the feeling like their souls have been touched.
Alexandra: It is our job to know what they are gonna want tomorrow, what they’re gonna want next year. We are in the business of creating a fun and unique experience every time.
John: There are cycles for everything. Just like EDM is just a cycle. There will always be a cycle and there will always be a new game.
Angelo: We want to give them a unique and lasting experience. We want to give them reasons to brag- give them something to Snapchat or Instagram about.
Q: Is Social Media important in your promoting?
Alex: Yes. There are different posts for each phase of the production: pre-event, post-event, after-movies etc.
John: The promoter today has an outlet to share information, but the person with the most friends still wins.
Alex: Yes, you need to get people with social powers.
Q: Are you pushing the DJ or the scene of the club?
ALL: It’s a mix of all those factors. We try to cater to specific niches. Everyone who loves music. Who loves to party.
Q: Do you need an outside marketing company to do the marketing for you?
John: We never hired a marketing company. We look at other clubs in New York, Miami, and see how they do it. If you can’t do your own marketing, don’t outsource it. Back then, promoters had to do everything themselves: get people, book DJ’s, bring the girls, man the door, and so on.
Angelo: At Black Market, we are underground. We are broke so we do our own marketing.
Q: Other things to consider?
Alexandra: There are people who just want to hang out. There are people who want hardcore partying. Some want more intimate areas for older crowds.
John: It’s also about the image and reputation. There’s also bottle service, fireworks, robots, the whole shebang!
EMEX Forum Topic: Festival Titans: The Future of Dance Music in the Philippine Market
The Panel: Ken Onozawa (Spectrum, Invasion Tour, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo), Kat Dalisay (Carte Blanche, Davao), Matt Caspers (Neverland Manila), Ryan Saez (Love Dance, Bacolod)
Q: How would you describe the rave or festival scene in the Philippines? How does it differ from abroad?
- It’s pretty good now. A lot has happened in the last 2-3 years. We still have a long way to go but the standards are stepping up.
- Not every event is good, but the quality is definitely going up.
- We’re just a few steps back but we’re gonna get there soon. It won’t take long.
Q; What makes you create these festivals? Why do you do it?
Ryan: It started in my hometown of Bacolod. I wanted to have something of our own. I quit everything to do this. Passion!
Matt: I used to go to Burning Man and I love it. I want to recreate that fun experience.
Q: What about mixing genres (rock bands, indie, DJ’s, etc.), can we do it here like in other festivals abroad?
Matt: We’re not ready for it yet. Right now, it’s still mostly EDM.
Kat: In Davao, yes we do that. We mix indie acts with DJ’s. We get local acts and promote local talent.
Q: Tell us about DJ selection and line-up. What is it based on?
- It depends on the DJ’s musical taste, what’s good for the people, what’s good for the DJ.
- Not everyone can headline. You have to set the mood first. A bit of House first, then EDM, then for people to survive your festival, play Trance in the end.
Q: What makes your festival different from other festivals?
Matt: For Neverland, we focus on the line-up and experience. There is no class difference. No barriers for the different levels. Just one big open ground.
Kat: Aside from good music, we make sure that there are hiphop dancers, aerial talents, and other local acts.
Ken: The whole experience. Whatever we put on stage, people will enjoy it. There’s attention to detail and deliberate programming, from the DJ, the music, to the lighting.
Ryan: We’re all the same, but we’re all different.
Q: What are your biggest setbacks or concerns?
- Logistics. Building the stage, then bringing it around.
- Scammers and fake tickets. Fake wristbands.
- Time. A lot of things don’t happen on time. People come in late.
- Sales. As producers we NEED to sell before the big day.
The Business of Partying
I left the forum bearing a newfound respect for the people working amidst Metro Manila’s parties. At the end of the day, or in this case, at the start of the day (in the mornings), there is an entire business ecosystem that revolves around partying. From the club promoters to the festival producers, the DJ’s and the MC’s, the bartenders to the security personnel, they are all just doing their job. Despite the chaos and the mayhem that happens inside clubs and festivals, behind it is a lot of planning and coordination. For every fist pump is a business plan conducted by dedicated (sober) professionals who are passionate about creating one heck of a good time for thrill-seekers like you and me.
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