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The Hype and The Truth . . .


2Klub's promoter

I've never liked hype.
On the other hand, sometimes people don't find truth too attractive either.

I've put down these thoughts mainly for those people who are interested in some aspect of clubing as a "business", (that includes wanting to be a DJ), as well as for those who are just curious about the origins of 2Klub

The Truth . . .

Why did you get into club promotion?

What about making money?

Do you wanna be a DJ?

Why "2Klub"?

Why did you get into club promotion?

(This is a long story, so you might want to skip it if you've not got time to hang around).

There were various points throughout most days when I asked myself the same question!

I've been going to clubs since I was sixteen or seventeen. I've got a terrible memory, so I'm not too sure.  I do remember going to a straight club in Sheffield, where I grew up, and thought it was awful.  The club scene then was solely ritzy - beer boys and fighting, and anyway I knew I was gay, so I went off exploring the gay scene.  Those days, in Sheffield, that meant going out of town really.

My first clubs ("discos" back then), were gay clubs in Manchester; Napoleon's when it opened took things to a whole new level.  Until then the gay dance scene was served by a small basement club where music was provided by a juke box - if the money ran out the place went silent - and Napoleon's had a resident DJ who played continuously - well, almost continuously.  Manchester had a restrictive police chief, and I well recall the DJ interrupting the music to tell two blokes not to dance so close together.  According to the police two guys touching on the dancefloor was "lewd and lascivious conduct" and simply wasn't going to be allowed.

Over the years other gay clubs opened, both in Manchester and elsewhere, as social attitudes began to change and society became more tolerant, and La Chic in Nottingham became one of my haunts for a while.  I remember sitting in the snack bar at the end of the night and the owner would come round to bid us farewell shouting: "Right, we've had your money; now you can f*ck off home".

My other favourite was Heroes, in Manchester run by the seemingly ageless Phil Clegg, who had managed Napoleon's.  That was probably the most popular gay club in Manchester for quite a while and I've even got a tape from one of the DJs there, made for me shortly before I left to live in Canada for ten years.  That was in 1983, just as AIDS was starting to be recognised - the press still called it "The Gay Plague" then, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus hadn't been discovered and people were wondering what was causing so many gay guys to get ill, and die.

My stint in Canada meant that I was out of the country for the whole Summer of Love and Rave Culture thing.  People who see me bouncing around on the dancefloor madly waving my glowsticks think I went through all that but, frankly, I didn't - I was in Toronto, still doing the gay scene, still thinking that all straight clubs were like that ritzy place I first went to - obviously I was an impressionable child, - and I didn't do my first "mixed/straight" club in this country, until a few years ago.  Luckily for me it was, Sundissential, at Pulse, in Birmingham - frankly the best non-scene club any gay guy could go to then, and going there had a lot to do with me getting into promoting a club myself.  More on that in a moment.

All this is a lead up to saying that, though I had been to lots of different clubs in quite a few countries over the years, in the main they were gay.  For many years, gay clubs were the best - they had the newest tunes, the newest fashions, and they were for a long time the incubators of lots of innovations in clubland.  Lots of people don't understand the way in which much of modern clubculture has evolved from the gay scene, nor how many of the current influences today are gay.  For instance, most don't know that both "House" and "Garage" derived their names from two U.S. gay clubs, the Warehouse and Paradise Garage, nor how many of their DJ icons are gay.  When I ask aspiring DJs who say they're into Hard House whether they've been to Trade, the answer invariably is "No".  I think we should put a section somewhere on this site about all this - something in the style of Monty Python's The Life of Brian "What have the Romans done for us?" sketch, where, by the end the questioner is saying, "Yeah, well, so the gays gave us Disco and House and Garage, and Tony deVit, and Ian M, and Andy Farley, and Steve Thomas, and Malcolm Duffy and Alan Thompson, and Trade, and Heaven, and lots of innovations in DJ techniques and mixing and lots more besides…. But what have the gays done for us?" 

I say this about these DJs because many of them, though widely popular now, started out on the gay scene, many, in particular, in the Midlands.  Both Andy Farley and Tony deVit played at gay clubs in Birmingham, (including Subway City), and Ian M at a gay club in Leicester.  Without the thriving gay scene of a few years ago, the Hard House and Nu-NRG scene of today would not be the same. That's by way of background.  Let me come back to Sundissential, and also Trade, as they both had a significant role to play for me.

After I came back to England, in the early nineties, I had a boyfriend, but we broke up after a few years.  Part of the reason for that was that I started to suffer from depression, and after the split, I seemed to sink even lower.  I stopped going out for a while, and after I started to recover I decided to try going to other places, off the gay scene, which had come to me to seem too much like a meat market. I went for the first time to a club I'd heard a lot about from gay friends, called Sundissential.  Quite simply, it blew me away.  For the people there my sexuality, my age, and my mad style of dancing just weren't issues.  What was important was having the right attitude, and so many people accepted me and took me to their hearts.  As you might imagine, coming from the mental state I had been in, that was just the most fantastic tonic I could have had.  That was my introduction - somewhat late - to proper Clubbing, and proper Clubbers.

Trade, at Turnmills in London, on the other hand blew me away in another way, because though by the time I first went there I had had some good nights musically at quite a few clubs, it was at Trade that I heard hard music taken to another level.  Musically, it's in another league from every other Hard House club in the country.  The fact that it's been running for over ten years is a testament to that. Those two things, the tolerance and acceptance of true clubbers, and the music, were my inspiration to try to develop a club of my own combining the friendliness of Sundissential and the musical quality of Trade.

Initially however, someone I knew wanted to get a club night running in Manchester, which is when 2KLUB was set up, in mid-1999.  He went on to run his own club and I continued running 2KLUB with Ben, Nick, & Tom three students at Salford uni. and Chris a mate of theirs, - four guys who got involved to help save the club. Probably the climax of this phase of the club's life for me then was our float in the Love Parade in Leeds, in the summer of 2000, where we were belting out superb tunes to 400,000 people. However, we had difficulties with venues in Manchester closing down and it made more sense to hold our events in Birmingham, which also has a stronger Hard House heritage. So 2Klub presents SWEAT was born in March 2001.

I worked my guts out to get SWEAT known in Birmingham, but after a promising start, the numbers were all going the wrong way, (down), and I was losing too much money (again) to keep it going. We held our last event for 2001, in July that year.

I maintained my involvement with Subway City organising the DJs in the main room for STOMP in July 2002, out of a liking for that club, its owner, and some DJs I regarded as mates of mine.
I didn't have any financial involvement, which meant that unlike most other nights I didn't go home counting how much money I'd lost! However the numbers didn't build fast enough, and StOmP! was cancelled at the end of November 

The lesson in all of this is that I started out convinced that if I offered people better music they'd come flocking. Well I did offer them better music, but there's a lot more to successful clubs, (I now realise), than the music alone.

What about making money?

Want to know how to make a small fortune in club promoting?  Start with a large one.

I lost more money than I ever made on club promoting, but I'm not in it for the money.  That's such a cliché, I know, but clichés usually contain an element of truth.

A lot of people think club promotion is an easy way to make money.  Just get a few DJs; print some flyers, get your mates down and you're off.  Well, though that has actually worked for some people, there's a lot more people you don't hear much about who try it and fail.  I don't think this is an activity you can do for too long unless you really enjoy it, and I really do.  I love the fun of clubs, I like the attitude of the people on the scene and I like helping people.  So many people in clubland have been nice to me over the years, and one of the things I learnt big-time when I was in the slough of despond, is that I get a great kick out of helping other people. That said, you can't run a club for too long if it doesn't make a profit, but anyone thinking it's an easy road to riches is sadly deluded.

You need to keep a balanced view of the the intrinsic rewards of club promoting, (that warm glow you get when people say how much they like your club, your music or give you some other positive feeback), as there's always some one out there who really doen't undertsand what "club culture" is about. I've reproduced some
examples of the pros and cons by way of illustration. The con is there as a warning for anyone reading this and thinking about getting into club promtoing; beware, not everyone is a true clubber!

Wanna be a DJ?

My advice, for whatever it's worth.

First be honest with yourself and others.  I say that because honesty immediately stands out.  Clubland has come to accept over-hype as the norm with the result that there's an increasing degree of cynicism amongst people.  I hate over-hype, which used to be called "exaggeration" or simply "lies".  For instance, I get lots of tapes and CDs from DJs and I listen to every one of them.  Even though we make our music policy as clear as possible I still get people sending me tapes for other music styles which frankly is a waste of their time.  Of those who've got it right, almost all claim to be the best thing since sliced bread, yet their tapes are usually the same old tunes, often not mixed very well and sometimes not recorded well.  When people ask me for feedback I give it to them, but I often find people are unprepared for criticism, even when it's constructive. 

So my first advice would be to understand both your good and bad points, to listen to people when they give you feedback and to focus your efforts on the right people in the right way.

Second, don't underestimate the amount of work you have to do to promote yourself, and be prepared to stick at it.  People think that if they send out a few letters and tapes they'll get bookings or a job, but they have to realise that this is a very competitive business.  Think about it for a moment. How many DJ slots are there in all the clubs in the whole country in a week?  Probably hundreds, maybe a thousand or two, and of those most don't pay enough for someone to earn their living from it. Now think about how many people want to be DJs; probably tens of thousands?  When I go clubbing every second person I meet is either a DJ or has a good mate who is. 

In addition most people don't realise the cost.  While building up your mixing skills you still have to stay current, and that means investing in tunes every week, and preferably tunes which most other people don't have, which also means investing a hell of a lot of time in searching for them.  So don't underestimate the amount of time, effort and money you'll have to put into it.

Finally, you can't beat meeting people, listening to what's going on, looking out for new opportunities or having someone else say a good word about you.  None of that happens if you stay in your bedroom.  You'll realise that's true if you read about two of my discoveries, DJs, Eddie Halliwell and Chris G.

Why "2Klub"?

When the Manchester club was being planned over a hundred names were thought of, including "Eden", "Emotion", "Euphoria", "Krakatoa", "Bounce", etc. etc. etc.  but when I tried them out, clubbers thought they'd been done to death years before and sounded cheesy, or they just didn't like them.

So it was back to the drawing board and I tried "2Klub" out of respect for those tolerant people I call "proper clubbers", who go out "to club". 

I like playing with words so all the possibilities of Live2Klub, Love2Klub etc. came to mind, including the French version: Je club, 2Klub, Il club, Nous club!

Then there's the 2.  Normally, in clubland it's almost impossible for more than two people to have a conversation at once, but two people socialising, rather than one person posing, is what is important for most people about clubbing. "It's not about Me; it's about Us".

So why the "K"? When I was a kid in school, they called that letter of the alphabet the "Kicking K". Ks are harder than Cs. If our music's anything, it's hard and Kicking.

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