This week we investigate what it takes to programme a summer on the island.
Booking a season
Booking parties in Ibiza is unlike anywhere else in the world. For one, parties announce entire seasons at once, in an attempt to lure holidaymakers to the island. And then there's the fierce competition. Working out a way to secure your artists, while not stepping on anyone else's toes, is half the craft. We sat down with bookers from The Zoo Project, Tribal Sessions and Paradise to learn a bit more about the process.
Graeme Stewart, The Zoo Project
The Zoo Project has been running for several years now. Is there a specific step-by-step process you follow?
Yes and no. There's no set way of doing things, but then we go through the same motions every year. It's not thought out. There's a core pool of artists that we have back year-on-year, like Margaret Dygas, Terry Francis, Giles and James from Secretsundaze. I try and get their dates in first and then bridge everything else around them.
And when would that start?
Because of the [Zoo Project] festival and because we're growing and looking at busier artists, we start earlier every year. Around November time, with the aim of getting everything wrapped up by February. Come March, it's looking pretty much finished.
Is it just you?
My assistant and I. I'll do the core of it and then hand over to him. And then there are two girls in accounts who look after the other end of it. Without those three I'd be completely paralysed.
I imagine you'll start with a big pool of acts.
Yeah kind of. Recently in Ibiza I've noticed that a lot of the parties are booking the same artists, so what I try and do is actually cross them off the list first. It doesn't make sense to me to book someone who's playing all over the island. Sometimes it can be a little disappointing , but there's such a wide pool of acts available that there's always someone who'd work equally well. And then we'll add in the core artists and keep adding to it bit by bit. It's nice to always include a few new breakthroughs; a few old favourites. Last year we brought back Virgo Four, this year we're bringing back Ron Trent. That kind of thing.
Where do you get your ideas from? Is it just personal taste?
Yeah, pretty much. Obviously a lot of parties cater to their crowd, but at The Zoo Project we're in the pretty unique position of running a party that is popular for several reasons, not just the music. Essentially, we don't need to rely on the bookings to get people through the door. The fun, the concept, the outdoors—that's what gets people to the party and then we try and...I don't want to say educate...maybe expose is a better word. We want to expose our crowd to music that perhaps they've never heard before. Some people see it as a bit of a downside of what we do, but I think if we can get a crowd that might otherwise be at Avicii or David Guetta dancing to Panorama Bar residents, or Terry Francis, that can only be a good thing.
It's an almost impossible thing to achieve in Ibiza, managing to run a successful party while playing the deeper shades.
Yeah it's tough. The thing is most holidaymakers aren't that music-savvy. There are plenty of people that live here that are, but your average punter isn't. As there's not actually enough of a crowd for good music, you've got to find other ways of getting people through the door.
In terms of the rest of the island, you've got quite a niche sound. Does it make the booking process easier not having to deal with the party politics?
I would say so. Things still crop up from time to time, but its more to do with exclusivity than other parties directly blocking us. Quite a few artists we've debuted over the years have gone on to do big things in Ibiza, and now they're locked down. But that's fair enough, it's the way the ladder works. On the whole, we really don't get involved in it. It goes back to what I was saying earlier about trying to keep our bookings as unique as possible, and staying away from those artists that everyone wants. It's also nice not being constrained to a certain group of acts, like say if a record label sets up a party.
When you're approaching acts that have never played The Zoo Project, do you tell them what to expect?
[Laughs] We tend to book people who have at least some connection to the party, be it through a friend or something. So people usually have a preconception of what to expect. Even then, though, the sensory overload can take them by surprise. A lot of the older American guys find it particularly mad, like “what the fuck is this?”. But they all love it and always want to come back. Roy Davis Jr. was here a couple of weeks ago and he was gutted not to be able to stick around. He had to jump in a car straight after his set to get to fabric in London, but he didn't want to leave! [Laughs].
Looking at acts like Roy Davis Jr, Ron Trent, Virgo Four, is having two or three really eye-catching headliners intentional?
Not really. It always ends up happening but we don't plan for it. We might have seen them play well over the course of the winter, or have had some good new music from them. To be honest, we really like to work with our friends. Of course, integrity is key but if you can book your friend to come over and play, the party is going to have that much more of a buzz about it. It's more enjoyable for them, and for you, and that translates through to the rest of the event.
For the bigger events, do you notice a spike in attendance?
No, not necessarily. We notice spikes more by dates than by artists. We see a similar curve every year. What you might notice is that on a particular day more of the island's music-heads are in attendance. Like for the 20 years of 2020 Vision party we're doing, I'll expect to see a lot of old Leeds heads and Back To Basics guys down there. But no, it's not like other parties, where the big dates coincide with the big DJs.
The Zoo Project has a reputation for showcasing up-and-coming talent. Where do you source these guys from?
Some are island-based, some come from further afield. If someone feels right, or we think they're gonna have a good year we'll pull them in. And there's a lot of kids in San An who are throwing parties. Sure, nine times out of ten the music isn't quite right, but every now and then someone is doing something interesting. I mean Jamie Jones was a worker here, Hector was a worker here. So we've had people come through that way. It might only be the opening set at our third stage, but for them its a foot on the ladder and a confidence boost.
David Vincent, Tribal Sessions
So with Tribal Sessions, is it just you doing the bookings?
Yes I did most of them, with help from my head of music, Darius Syrossian. I put in more of the classic Tribal Sessions thing, your legends like Todd Terry, DJ Sneak, Danny Tenaglia, Victor Calderone. All the original guys. And then also some newer, quirkier things like Gorgon City. And Darius brought in his thing, which includes Hector Couto, Sidney Charles. All the newer producers that he's really into. He came to me with a bunch of suggestions, but I always had the final say. Maybe he brought 35 percent of the content, and myself the rest. Having the partnership is crucial though, it's a symbiotic relationship.
And when exactly did the process start?
Well first I had to decide to bring Tribal Sessions back. I shut it down three years ago, because Greg Vickers went to Brazil and he was my head of music. But then Darius, who was an original Tribal Sessions resident, started doing his thing in Ibiza and making a name for himself and I thought it might be the right time to bring it to the island. I'd always thought about hosting Tribal Sessions somewhere else, before Sankeys Ibiza existed, but it didn't feel right. We are such control freaks, we need to be able to control every element. Otherwise we just don't do it. These past few years in Ibiza I've just felt like a club owner, like I was missing something. Now that we're doing Tribal Sessions, which is kind of an extension of my personality, I feel I'm alive again. I'm a promoter at heart.
When did you start booking the artists?
In October. The process in its entirety lasts right through to April. We had most things confirmed by January.
What was your approach to the process? Did you sit down with Darius and plot out week-by-week lineups?
No, it was very organic. The first thing you do is you say: "Who is the heart of your party?" So you pick six or seven names. There is obviously Darius, Sidney Charles, Hector Couto, Jozef K, Shlomi Aber... The residents. Then we locked down Greg Vickers, which was a really nice touch. He's come out of retirement for us. And then you think: "Okay, so who are the legends of Tribal?" Tenaglia of course! Jeff Mills, Derrick May, Francois K. You know we were trying to book acts that have real legacy. Todd Terry, Sneak, people that have got real legacy. And then you book a few acts that represent the music of today and tomorrow. You're left with your family, your legends and the future. Maybe you have 100 names there, you start contacting agents and some people will turn you down. You sift them out and eventually you're left with your core group. Then you go through people's diaries, start programming the nights so they make sense musically, and eventually it becomes what you see on the posters.
I was really interested to see that you booked quite a lot of heavy, dark underground techno names: Rødhåd, Marcel Fengler, Len Faki. Names I really wouldn't associate with Ibiza. What makes you think these guys will work?
For me, Ibiza has this techno scene but it isn't real techno. I call it EDM techno, that's my definition. EDM techno is big stage techno that hasn't got any soul. It's just like it's there and it's this big event, but it's not proper techno. Proper techno is like okay, thousand people, dark room, hands in the air, bit of a sweat. That's techno to me. And Len Faki can do that; Dave Clarke can do that; a Fengler can do that; a Jeff Mills can do that; Derrick May, you know. You have to remember the heritage of Tribal Sessions is born out of Tribal Gathering. Tribal Gathering was one of the original festivals, all those guys—Sven Väth, [Laurent] Garnier, Carl Cox—they all came from Tribal Gathering. So we've got this techno history that we kind of have to represent.
Nick Yates, Paradise
How many people are involved in the process?
It's myself, Richy Ahmed and Jamie [Jones]. After I finish the season in October I go to ADE, and then I have two weeks off, and then we all get together and start thinking about next summer. We'll sit down over the course of a couple of days and compile a huge list of headliners, maybes, definites, residents... This year was more of a challenge because we've expanded the residency to include five terrace dates, where both rooms will be open. You have to make it look it good on paper, while making sure you're gonna get 4000 people through the door.
So Jamie Jones is involved every step of the way?
He is, but Jamie is also a very busy man. He'll be there at the initial meeting, alongside his agent Will Nustedt from NGE, where we'll all be bouncing ideas around. Then myself, Richy and Will will sit down and boil it down to a core group of artists. Once that's in place, we'll start firing names at Jamie and he'll come back with either a yes or a no. Then I'll start looking at the artists' availability and begin slotting them into specific dates, making sure it works from a musical point of view. With the bigger parties we don't want two rooms sounding the same.
Last year's big talking point was welcoming Dice back to DC-10, this year you've got Carola. How much effort went into that booking?
To be honest it worked pretty naturally. I'm very close with the Music On family, especially the booker Sivan Pitchon, which started the whole relationship between the two parties. Then Jamie played for them twice last year, once at Music On and then on NYE. And Carola came down to Paradise a couple of times, he likes the party. This year Jamie is playing for them twice and then him and Carola will be taking over the Terrace at DC-10 for seven hours on July 30th. Plus Richy Ahmed is playing at Amnesia once and we're hosting three of their residents, Joseph Capriati, Nathan Barato and Leon. Having Music On involved helps with attracting a more European crowd, which is what we're trying to do.
So you take the crowd into consideration when you're booking the artists.
Yeah massively. We started off as a very English party but now it's pretty much 60/40. If you look at the bookings we've got people like Move D, Âme, Dixon, KINK and Michael Mayer playing this year, who tailor to a more European crowd.
This is your third season. Is it easier being able to work from the previous year's template?
No. The politics of the island makes every year a fresh challenge. And the expansion has made it harder to lock down certain DJs, which isn't personal, it's just business. Though certain friendships between DJs do become strained as result. When we expand next year to include ten Terrace shows, it'll be even more challenging. As the party's grown, we've had more and more artists asking to be more involved, which I'm sure will happen on an even larger scale once this summer's done. In fact, we're already in the process of confirming artists for longer residencies. Nothing exclusive, just more shows. We'd never tell an artist he couldn't play for anyone else because I don't think that's fair.
Do you pay much attention to the other parties?
Not so much any more. Last year I was. For example, I thought Guy Gerber's party at Pacha had some really tasty lineups, just in the wrong venue. This year though we're just focusing on making Paradise as good as possible. If we get the figures we want this year and the next, in 2016 we'll be looking to do a full season of full-club takeovers at DC-10.
Luciano remains one of Ibiza's most loyal servants. Rising through the ranks at Circoloco and Cocoon, the DJ grew to become one of the biggest DJs in the world. Today, while he's still considered a top-tier act, the Cadenza boss is in the midst of a transitional phase. We caught up with Luciano recently to discuss his latest ventures, and just why he's taking a step back in order to move forward.
With the launch of Baseac and Origins, there's a strong sense of Luciano going back to basics. What was it that brought on this desire to reconnect with your roots?
Well, first of all I've had the Basaec tracks lingering around with me for a long time. Actually, since my late teens. They're among the very first I ever produced. I always felt very connected to all of them, and they have a very special meaning to me, they fit perfectly with where I am now and with my Origins Ibiza project. And yes I wanted to go back to the original spirit that was there when I first began playing on the Island: there was a big sense of unity, a sense of freedom that you could just lose yourself to. Ibiza has always been about this to me: being free from materialistic things, being free to explore yourself, getting to know people, surrounded by some of the most amazing music ever. In a word, love. Today all this feels a little gone: too many parties, too much competition. We want to just bring back the real spirit of the island, looking at the future and with our roots firmly with us. I believe these tracks are the soundtrack to this summer for me.
How will this reconnection manifest itself in your DJ sets? Are you, for example, playing a lot of older music?
I am really mixing a lot of different ideas. I play, of course, soon to be released tracks from Cadenza, Cadenza Lab and Basaec, but also a bit of the minimal stuff that was rocking seven or eight years ago. And yes, some old classics. I am able to do so thanks to today's technology: blending music has never been so easy, and I can really take things to the next level. It's like revisiting where I come from with today's influence and new visions. I have always been very close to my origins: they are what inspired me in the first place. My music is a reflection of my life: my passions are there in every gig I play. More so than before, these days I am living life in the moment. It's one of the best times for me, and I can celebrate this beautiful thing looking back to almost 20 years of music I made along this unique journey.
Tell us a little bit about how Origins at Cocoon came to be. Who started the conversation?
I've always been close to the Cocoon people. They’re the pioneers of the techno sound on the island, and that's where I started to get exposed with my gigs at Amnesia. This is a great opportunity for both of us. It's not just a matter of who started which conversation. It felt natural: we both wanted to join forces and to create something new. We clicked immediately, and we just went with the flow with this adventure.
You'll be manning the Main Room at Amnesia on two occasions. Are you looking forward to indulging the darker side of your musical personality?
That's a good question. I will definitely play a more energetic set on these occasions, and some twisted tracks as well. Again, some old classic tunes will sound great in Amnesia’s Main Room: I'm sure my fans will not be disappointed. And yes, some of my music has a dark edge. I'll dive in my record collection and find some wicked music for the occasions.
And finally, Luciano & Friends opens at Cova Santa on Wednesday. What can we expect from you across the season?
Well, we're keeping most of the lineups under wraps for now, but I can confirm that Phil Weeks, Cesar Merveille and Dan Andrei will be joining me at the opening on July 2nd, alongside Paola Poletto, Francisco Allendes and Gianna Callipari.
This week on the island
Mass Bass opening at Privilege
Privilege, known the world over as the biggest club on the planet, is famously difficult to fill. Bar the large-scale debauchery of SuperMartxé, only trance behemoths Tiesto and Armin Van Buuren have recently succeeded in attracting 10,000-plus people to the venue. With both now plying their trade elsewhere, Privilege has had to bring in fresh blood in 2014. One of several new ventures is Mass Bass, whose MO, as the name suggests, is bass music from across the board. While the season is littered with commercial dubstep and electro acts, there are exceptions to the rule: Four Tet, for example, headlined last week's opening party.
It's probably best to get this out of the way early: numbers were very low last Thursday. Across the night, capacity can't have exceeded a couple of hundred, if that. As a result, Gesaffelstein's hard, hyperactive set made little sense. Four Tet played to even less people, though those that stuck around were treated to a mix of choppy house and bits of floaty techno, among them Floating Points' "ARP3." It's hard to fathom quite who could have envisaged this style of music working in a club the size of Privilege, especially when, within the same complex, Vista Club offers a more sensible, 2000-capacity alternative. Four Tet is back playing live on August 14th—let's hope more people make it this time.
Solomun +1 at Pacha
2013 was the year Solomun officially became one of Ibiza's top-tier DJs. Back for a second season of Sundays at Pacha, last week saw the Diynamic chief line up alongside another of the island's current favourites: Dixon. As expected, Solomun's most high-profile +1 to date brought his faithful with him, meaning the main room was noticeably busy early on. Making his Pacha debut, Dixon kept to his usual, fluid blend of melodic house, with the occasional dip into more upbeat waters. DJ Koze's remix of Moderat's "Bad Kingdom" and the Eastern warble of Damian Lazarus & Ancient Moons' "Lover's Eyes" brought about the biggest clamours.
Leading directly into Solomun's headline set, Dixon signed off with a slice of jagged electro. It made for a smooth transition, as Solomun took to testing the floor with a medley of tougher, driving tracks. It was a pace he'd keep to for most of the night, having clearly left behind the pop-inflected sound that dominated his output last year. As the night wore on, though, Solomun ventured a little more accessible, dropping Ben Klock's classic rework of Kerri Chandler's "Pong" and his own, uber-popular remix of Foals' "Late Night." As is custom, Dixon rejoined the action for a closing back-to-back set. By this time, the mood was light, with the German pair taking it in turns to delve into the softer regions of their USB crates.
Carl Cox opening at Space
Though the vast majority of parties are already well underway, Ibiza's clubbing calendar isn't complete without Carl Cox. The Space doyen is back for his 13th season on the island, and with 14 parties in the pipeline, it's set to be his longest run yet. Recalling his marathon excursions on the old Space Terrace, Cox kickstarted 2014 with a ten-hour set, playing all night long in his beloved Discoteca. In slightly anti-climactic fashion, the start was delayed by an hour. By midnight, though, the doors stood open, inviting streams of clubbers to find their spot on the dance floor.
Cox's first record was one of the best of the night, easing the room in with a cut of spacey, chugging house. He kept the pace slow for the next hour or so, giving every track ample time to breathe. In this period, Stefan Jurrack's "The Drum Of York" was among the tracks that stood out. Either side of him, large zig-zag screens displayed kaleidoscopic prisms, flashing every colour of the rainbow. As time wore on, it didn't take long for Cox to shift through the gears, moving through various power-hour periods of bleepy techno, Detroit-inspired house and club-ready tech house. Having Cox present all night lent the opening a certain distinctive quality—there's simply not a DJ on the island that commands the dance floor in quite the same way.
Luciano - Phrank.net
Music On - David Pareja
The Zoo Project - Igor Ribnik
We Love... - Nel G Photography
All others - Tasya Menaker
For more information on what's happening on the island in 2014, check out our comprehensive Ibiza guide below.