We talk to Mark Netto of Pacha, review Frankie Knuckles turn at Renaissance and more.
A chat with Mark Netto
Pacha Ibiza's Mark Netto has been with the club since first stringing decorations for Renaissance in 1997. He's seen trends come and go, the steady rise in popularity of Ibiza and—as someone who works with both the industry and guests—his daily routine has him control more chaos with DJs, equipment and VIPs than almost anyone else on the island. We caught up with him on the downstairs terrace of Pacha on Thursday to see how things have been this season.
Can you tell me what you do for Pacha?
I primarily book the DJs. Being DJ-based nights, we don't really work with promoters. It entails all facets of booking the DJs—their promotion, their technical setups, getting them in and out—so it's pretty much a full-on promoter job. Most of our promotion is done in-house, so we oversee our PR teams, we oversee our PR spend, our billboards. Obviously some of the nights the promoters design themselves, others we design, some may run their own ad campaign in London, but locally we do everything for them based on their instructions. Some, we'll book all the guest DJs—David Guetta, we'll book his guests on his behalf, whereas Erick Morillo has a record label, so he'll book the talent based on the people he has on his label.
Why do you keep all the promotion in house?
I think it's more efficient. And Ibiza, on a promotional level, is completely different to anywhere else you might do events. It has a different set of rules, a different set of promotional norms, and we have been doing it long enough to know how to get the maximum impact based on where we are. Obviously we do like each night to have its own identity as well, so we give each night their own team or their own beach parade, but it's also a health and safety issue. We're working in a nightclub, people need to be insured, they need to be protected, so it's better for us to contract everyone and then use our respective DJs and their teams to add their personality to what we do here.
What does a typical day for you entail?
In the summer, my day starts at about 2 PM. When my kids have lunch, I'll have breakfast with them. I'm usually in the office at about 4, pretty much preparing what I can't do at night—my telephone calling, my paying the people, my technical setups and coordinating with my PR teams—the normal clerical and administrative stuff that you need to do on the telephone or in person. By 8 I've finished here, so I'll head home and have dinner, then back to the club by midnight, and I'm here until we close. Lawyers do their business on the golf course, we do ours here on the terrace. And then it's just constantly seeing in the guests, getting the DJs in, putting out fires when they come up.
Can you tell me about some of these fires that pop up?
All sorts of fires—from an uneven amount of grapes in a platter to the sound packing up in the middle of the night. Because we act as the bridge between the house and the industry, it can be from a simple argument at the door to a problem with a VIP table to a DJ rocking up in shorts and not being able to get into the VIP.
How has the season gone?
The season has gone well. It's been a different season in the respect that for years gone past there's always been a consistent order. If you're looking at it on a graph, you know where you're going to have your busiest time and when you're going to have your crisis time. But I think with the advent of low cost flights, the ease of booking hotels and getting to and from the island quicker, people are booking their holidays and trips to Ibiza based on when they're off or who's performing, so it's consistent and it's good. But it's not like before when June was quiet, then July then August (got busier). Now you can have a huge week in the beginning of July that compares to the middle of August. I think it's good that it's not all condensed in a three-week space in the middle of August.
How have you seen Pacha change over the years?
It's a constant change, a constant evolution. Pacha is probably one of the oldest of any clubs in Ibiza, and with it, the ethos or the philosophy on filling the club has changed. 30 years ago it was about the people that were here, the personality of the club. Now in the current market it's about what you've got on and who you want to appeal to, so we've had to evolve. I can remember when the DJ booth used to face the wall, and it didn't seem relevant then because they used to have reel-to-reel back in the day, so the DJs had to face the wall so they could switch the reels.
But today, booking this kind of talent, you can't have them with their back to the crowd. We used to do hip-hop, but now, when you've got people like Luciano or David Guetta or Tiesto play, it's about enabling the space so as many people come that want to see him. It's not just about attending, they want to see it, they want to hear it, they want to be a part of the main floor experience, so we've had to be able to adapt based on the audience. There's no way we can be busy seven nights a week with the same thing, with the same audience, so we have to adapt what we program, and adapt how the room is laid out according to who we have here, so it's changed immensely, and I think it will continue to change.
Earlier you mentioned the ethos of Pacha, can you describe what that is?
It's evolved, but I think one of the primary things we've had here, and that we strive to maintain, is that balance we have between clubbers and VIPs and internationals. It's a real melting pot. It's one of the only clubs where you could bring your parents and they wouldn't feel out of place. It's a bit hedonistic, a bit glamorous, but it's all-encompassing. If you're a bricklayer from Blackpool or a Saudi Arabian prince, you can have a good time in Pacha, and hopefully find likeminded people as well. I think that is the uniqueness and that is the ethos that we try to maintain.
Obviously we need to maintain a different identity for each night. But even when you have Tiesto, it's still good to have his clubbers mix in with his VIPs, or Pete Tong has a weekend VIP crowd with a more English-based dance floor. But it's a constant consideration—is the dance floor credible and good? Is the VIP credible and good and is the content credible and good?
What trends have you noticed this season?
From what I've seen, minimal and dirty is becoming funky and deep, which is great. Especially in our space, in our club, it's good to have something that has a groove, or something that has that little bit of soul or disco vibe, or something that is more than just a broken down set of sounds. I think it's a trend that's quite infectious, and it's working well. I think it's opening the doors, and crossing genres as well. Five years ago you could easily say, "this DJ plays this and this DJ plays that," but those lines are becoming more and more intermixed, and it's only good for the scene as a whole. Granted, some are going to be deemed "commercial" and some deemed "underground," but just listening to the records that are getting played day in and day out, it's got more feeling. No matter what genre or sub-genre of house it is, there seems to be more feeling and more of a memorable factor.
How busy is it this season compared to other seasons?
I think it's as busy as any season before. I mean, we've seen constant growth here for almost the last decade, and considering the rest of Spain is in crisis and times are tough for people, I think it's been a resounding summer. If we look at it in retrospect at the end of the season, there may have been some days that have been good or quieter than others, but then the following week it's twice as busy compared to the last, so I think we're probably onto another one of our best years at Pacha, and what's nice is it seems to be more spread out across the months and the days of the week, so it's been consistently solid, which you can't knock at all.
If you look at a Monday night or a Thursday night, the amount of people that are actually out in discos and after parties, spending money to party, it's phenomenal. I don't think you could get many major cities that have this volume of people going out and spending money, having a good time, and walking out having had a good time feeling like they got value for their money. Ibiza's not a cheap place to come and have a holiday. It's not a cheap to come and go out, and yet people keep coming back, spending the money because they do feel they're having value for their money and they're having a good time.
What challenges does Pacha face in Ibiza that are unique to Pacha?
The most obvious challenge we have is our size, our capacity. We're surrounded by apartment buildings in the middle of a popular port area, so we are constrained with the type of talent we'd like to get in and maintain with our capacity. It's not something we can solve; we cannot grow anymore. It's about trying to work the deals, work the capacity, work the floor space and the area that we have so that we can have some of the biggest DJs on the planet feeling comfortable, still being able to play to their fans and the fans still having a good time. I think that's the biggest challenge we find.
Also, maintaining the momentum and the image and the content that we have over here in our franchises and our tours all over the world. It is a challenge to maintain that same level of content and same ethos with a club that's in another hemisphere.
How do you go about doing that?
Primarily it's about positive communication. We cannot insist that a club in Morocco has to decorate or program their venue the same way we do. Pacha New York is a different city, a different layout, and obviously they have different content. We have to have the faith in our partners that they know their local territory where they're based. But we have to also offer them the support. We work with the big agencies, the big artists—most of them come through here at some stage—so yeah, we can use our influence, our contacts and our reputation to assist some of our franchises or our partners where we do shows in booking some of the talent or maintaining some of the correlation to what we have going on over here.
Renaissance at Pacha
This week, the Godfather of House Frankie Knuckles came to Renaissance, a somewhat strange move for the 20 year old brand, mostly known for catering to progressive house fans, though the audience seemed happy with the classic house vibes that kept things bouncing. Not as packed as, say, Vagabundos, where it can sometimes take you half an hour to get across the club, but by 3 AM things were pumping along nicely, as Knuckles weaved his way through energetic, disco-infused house, with tracks like Alex Kenji's remix of Joey Negro's "Feel It."
Pacha kept things old school, moving the DJ booth back to its original spot, where the 57 year old relaxed in a stool while he mixed. When it counted, though, he was standing and urging the crowd on, much to their delight. Upstairs in the Pioneer Lounge, Steven Bandouvakis of The Other Guys kept things cool and relaxed, with chilled out grooves like the Pachanga Boys' "Time," an epic 15-minute odyssey of spaced out, hypnotic beats, and in the Funky Room, Willie Graff played relaxed tunes like his and Tuccillo's remix of Charles Webster's "Give Me More" and Dez Andres' "Seasons So Long."
Behind the scenes...
We spend plenty of time talking about the superstar DJs on the island, but what about the heroes that make sure everything is running smoothly? In this irregular feature in RA Ibiza Weekly, we'll take a look at some of these integral cogs in the White Isle machine. This week we speak with Domenico, promotion manager for Privilege.
Can you tell me what your day-to-day responsibilities are at Privilege?
Everything that is publicity on the street—from the busses to the parades on the beaches or San Antonio, all the PR teams—I take care that everything runs smoothly. I try to help the director with the price strategy, and I take care also the relations with the bar and ticket points. It's a lot of responsibility, but it's nice, especially now that it's September!
How does promotion in Ibiza differ from promotion in other places, say London or Berlin?
I have to say that it's completely different, completely another world. The system that we use here in Ibiza, I think it's not applicable to any other part of the world, because here the people come for 10 days maximum, so the island is all about the tourists. I don't know where there exists another scene like Ibiza where there are so many promoters, so many parties, where the industry is so rich. I mean it's a million euros they are passing out to people.
For example, when I speak about my job to my friend in Italy, it's difficult to make them understand because this industry is really professional here. In other parts of the world it's not so serious. Here, the business is huge. There are really high profile professionals that take care about the events, the music, the label, the promotion. But when they come here, they understand.
How has Privilege been this year?
I honestly think that it's the best season ever. I've been here for seven years, and I've never seen such a successful season. We have three really strong nights and the others are very good. We have a new sound system in both rooms; we have a brand new room, The Vista Club. We have also the restaurant, The Blue Box, and the lights in the main room are completely new. We have a new screen of 140 square meters, and we have a company that takes care of just the FX this year…we are much stronger. I have to say that I am proud of Privilege. It was a huge investment this winter, but now we see the fruit. It's not all gold, there is a lot of stress and complications, but that's the nightlife. It's good.
What's the craziest thing you've seen working for Privilege?
Once in 2007 I had to climb up to the roof of Privilege from the outside to speak with the owner of Privilege—it was really, really dangerous. He was all dirty trying to fix stuff! [laughs] A promoter was mad about money, and so the owner was there, all dirty trying to fix stuff, and took out five notes of €500 and said, "Tell Mauro Picotto I'm going to pay him!" There were just so many contradictions there. I just want the people to know it is really super to work here in Ibiza. I don't think there are many normal people, but that's the beauty!
The week in pictures
Paradise at DC-10
Craig Richards was among the special guests at Jamie Jones' night this week.
We Love… at Space
Four Tet and Caribou played back-to-back on Sunday.
Circoloco at DC-10
DJ Sneak inspired plenty of fervor at the Monday shindig.