Ibiza Clubs: Then and Now – Guest Blog by Danny Whittle

Danny Whittle: Then and Now

Before I get into detail let me say a few things; yes my grammar is s**t, yes my spelling is s**t and yes I don’t pretend to know it all, so anyone who wants to post about any of those things you have been pre-empted so you don’t need to waste your time, I know all these things already. So last week I decided to respond to a post about the Ibiza clubs closing times, the feedback was pretty amazing but at the same time I believe there are many people posting on social media without past knowledge of certain situations or at the very least a misunderstanding of the balance of this great little island.

I first arrived here to work (I had been on holiday before) in 1995, it could have been 96 but I’m not going to research it as that’s boring. Either way I was doing ‘Renaissance at Ku’ with Manumission. The year after we did Pacha every Wednesday.

The period of 1996 to 2000 is what many people claim to be the ‘Golden Years’. Let me add that in 1998 I moved to running Ministry of Sound at Pacha on Fridays and in 1999 I started the first 22 hour party at Space on Sundays with Darren Hughes, Home@ Space, I’m sure some of you remember it, it was a great party and just got stronger all summer. Pepe and Fritz gave me a beautiful watch as a thank you. I think it was these parties that convinced Space to move from being a daytime club to a night time club, I suspect that happened because as an after hours they were not making the kind of money they could make as a night time venue, this and being forced to put a roof on the famous terrace didn’t help either.

The following January I was offered a full time job at Pacha to run the content side of the club across the week.  I did this for 13 years and I don’t think I’m bragging when I say we did well and Pacha grew from a club that was only busy 2 nights a week to one that was busy for 7 nights a week. Anyway enough about me I just wanted to lay some history down.

So 18 years ago most of Ibiza’s clubs only had 1 or 2 nights that were doing great things.

Pacha had Ministry of Sound packing them in and also Renaissance that was probably the most underground thing in any of the big clubs doing ok but hanging on by their nails as there was not a big demand for it, believe it or not Ibiza was never that underground then.

Amnesia had Cream and maybe La Troya or Matinee were doing OK but other than that nothing to write home about. Ku/Privilege were doing Manumission and not much else in the big scheme of things but Manumission was as big as two nights in any other club.

Space had the amazing ‘Space on Sundays’ and the Manumission ‘Carry On’ which, lets be honest, was never about making money but was an incredible party.  Eden had Judge Jules and maybe another good thing but I can’t remember.  Es Paradis had the powerful ‘Clockwork Orange’ and again maybe another thing.

 DC10 at that point didn’t exist, so how lucky are we now that it does.  Sankeys also didn’t exist and yet now they have a good crowd most nights.

But essentially all the clubs had 2 good nights and the rest of the nights were mostly pretty average. Please excuse me if I can’t remember your night especially if it was good but I am trying to give a general overview of the way things were.

For after parties we had the amazing Zenith parties that Roberto and Ernesto did near the airport, they were soon stopped but it’s amazing that 20 years later the same boys are now running what is arguably the biggest night on the island with ‘Music On’, well deserved too.  We also had Escollera, which was amazing and Bora bora that was also flying.

We also had Space open every morning but was not that busy as there was not much demand except on the aforementioned 2 days when it was life changing for the people there.

Most of the other after parties were people putting on villa parties with wigs and fancy dress and nobody was blaming the clubs for closing too early. They just made their own entertainment and it was almost always amazing.

Also there were at that time some great bars like the Rock Bar and Base Bar and many others that worked perfectly and co-existed with the clubs and yet the opening and closing times were pretty much the same as they are now.

What really destroyed the Ibiza Town bars over the last 10 years was the lack of parking and that ugly glass wall, that they have at last put right, and I have to say its now once again a beautiful place to be. I believe the bars along the port should all throw 200 euros each into a pot and do a great marketing campaign through the right magazines and online to promote just how great the bars are in the port.  Now lets move 18 years into the future.

Amnesia works pretty much 7 nights a week, some busier than others and their weekly programming is kind of genre busting, going from Paris Hilton to Marco Carola, Cream to Cocoon and everything in between. That’s how you make a club work 7 nights a week, brilliant programming.

Pacha, again working almost 7 nights a week going from Steve Aoki to Solomun. Again great programming,

Space has some amazing parties with Carl and Richie, El Row and Luciano, although it’s a shame ‘We Love’ didn’t host Sundays alongside Luciano, but that’s just my opinion.

DC10 is amazing, a game changer for Ibiza but at the same time only open 2 nights a week (3 in August) which just goes to show that if you’re not prepared to host different genres its difficult to operate 7 nights a week and we all know DC10 will never compromise on cool and that’s cool too.

Sankeys, opened 4 years ago and managed to pull off what most people would never even try. It’s hard enough to make one night a week work in Ibiza for outside promoters, but to make a nightclub work all week even if some nights are quiet will only have admiration from me.

Zoo project, amazing venue that do great parties. Privilege have SuperMartxe, which by all accounts is really big, I think there are a couple of other nights that are good also however this is the most disappointing venue for me, their potential is incredible and I have my ideas of how this can work but I’m not going to voice them here. After all I have a job.

Eden & Es Paradis, well this is more complicated. I just feel having 2 nightclubs directly across the road from each other was only going to lead to disaster. It’s all about critical mass and once the clubs compete so much that both clubs stop working to a certain level then the clients go elsewhere – Amnesia, Pacha, Ushuaia whatever but basically those 2 clubs cancelled each other out, at that point it also effects San Antonio town. The 2 clubs can’t compete so the punters go to where the content is.

Ocean Beach and Ibiza Rocks, which we also didn’t have 20 years ago, and bars like Mambo and Plastik show that business done properly in San An can work. So in my opinion the owners of Eden and Es Paradis should come together, knock down one of the clubs and build a really cool hotel and a really cool club and split the business (and if they cant afford it get an investor). 33 % of something great will always be better than 100 % of something not working.

Also as we are talking about San An, I have always been a fan, it’s the gateway to Ibiza for young kids and they fall in love with San An and then move on around the island. We have an incredible return of service in Ibiza. I had a young lady working for me in 1998 as a flyerer in San An, she still comes here all these years later and she’s now a Professor of skin cancer at Kings College or somewhere yet still her love affair with Ibiza remains, that’s the power of San An and the power of Ibiza’s attraction.

So I think all the big clubs should support San An and allow, if not insist, that each of their big name DJ’s should do one show a summer in San Antonio, not just a pre-party to help fill their own clubs, but a proper gig in a proper club. That’s about 20 big dates in San An for the right club, we just need the right club, but that will take creativity, which is what Ibiza runs on. Why would the other clubs do that I hear you ask, well because they know ultimately all those people will end up coming to them at a later date anyway, even if it was a year later. It’s all about keeping that youthful gateway open for the island.  Ushuaia is the best thing that has happened to Ibiza in the last ten years. Amazing parties and amazing marketing not only for themselves but also for Ibiza. Even if you don’t like it you can’t deny the strength it brings to the island. Creative and smart. Don’t talk to me about it being only commercial, go to Ants on Saturday or a La Familia party with Nick and Joris, it reminds me of the Space terrace 18 years ago!

Beach Bars, lets talk about them, never really had them 18 years ago, Blue Marlin, amazing, I remember partying with Yela (the owner of Blue Marlin) many years ago at Escollera, that guy has lived it and grafted it, he deserves his success, Jonathan and Olivia with Chiringuito at Es Cavallet and Beachouse in Bossa again deserve their success, Dave Piccioni with Amante, and so many more that we never had before are all doing great things on the island.

The boat parties is a a relatively new concept but people love them and they should exist, they need to be safe and legal but at the same time they are a great addition to Ibiza options.

VIPS, I hate the name. I don’t think they are VIPs they are just a different type of client and to be honest a lot of them are the people who came here during the so called ‘Golden Years’ it’s just now they are not 20 years old anymore they are 38 years old and prefer to have a table. Just because someone has a credit card doesn’t mean they can’t like music and clubbing and its clear that some of the biggest underground nights also have the biggest table clients. In the end the tables are empty unless the dancefloor is full so it’s still all about the dancefloor.

So to finish I just want to say that Ibiza is stronger than ever, with much more on offer. To me the ‘Golden Years’ were more about me being 20 years younger. I see just as many smiles on faces now as I did back then. With regards to the competition between clubs, bars, beach bars, boat parties, hotel venues and so on, well the reality is no matter what your business is if you run it well with good content, good marketing, good customer service you will do well. Nobody should blame other businesses if theirs isn’t working correctly. Also Ibiza summer now starts the end of May and finishes beginning of October, so about a month longer than 18 years ago.

So for me Ibiza even with its faults is better than ever and all the changes, well that’s what Ibiza should be about, it has to be fluid, it has to reinvent every now and again to keep it fresh.

Danny Whittle lives and works in Ibiza. He is a Director at IBZ Entertainment, one of the largest programmers and bookers of artists for nightclubs, events and festivals both in Ibiza and worldwide. He is also one of the founding partners/organisers of the annual ‘International Music Summit (IMS)’ in Ibiza, Los Angeles, Singapore and Shanghai.

Ibiza Authorities Agree on Club Closing Times

Ibiza Town Mayor Rafa Ruiz (PSOE) and President of the Consell Vicent Torres (pic:Nou Diari)

Vicent Torres, President of ibiza’s Island Council, and the 5 mayors of the different municipalities  have come together to put in place an agreement on the closing times for clubs and music bars across the island that will come into force before next summer. 

Big Clubs such as Amnesia, Privilege, Pacha, DC10, Space and Sankeys will now have to be closed by 6.30am whilst music bars (known locally as cafe concierto’s) must be closed by 5am. 

The new local laws will have wide ranging effects not least in Ibiza Town where music bars have historically stayed open until 6.30am. There will be no real change in San Antonio which has  already operated under a 5am licence for music bars (AND cafe concierto’s) over the last 2 summers.

It was also announced that if any establishments willingly break the law then the authorities “will impose sanctions that are commensurate with the offence committed, especially repeat offenders”. This last comment  from Torres was aimed squarely at Amnesia which closed late over the past summer on no fewer than 15 occasions including a massive 7 hours late for their closing party. Torres went on to say that closure orders could be imposed. 

This agreement will not be received too well by the nocturnal business people of the island who feel they have been squeezed over the last few years plus it will be a blow to Ibiza’s reputation as a party island especially with other destinations knocking on the door.  However some residents and other pressure groups will be relieved that there has been stricter rules bought in to minimise noise and traffic. 

Only time will tell whether these new laws will be strongly enforced but in the meantime the mud slinging still hasn’t stopped with clubs and beach clubs consistently accusing each other of illegalities. As always it’s never dull on the white isle. 

Source: Diario de Ibiza, Nou Diari, El Periodico

Ibiza Clubbing: Why June ain’t wot it used to be  – Guest Blog by Kirk Field

  Following on from my post about the Challenge of June for Ibiza Business, here is Kirk Field (writing exclusively for my blog) with his unique take on Ibiza Clubbing in June and the emerging festivals and destinations who are snatching ‘our’ talent (!). 

Kirk: From visiting Ibiza since 1990 as a journalist for Mixmag, I realised that June was the perfect time in the calendar to run large group events. The weather was fantastic, flights abundant and cheap, hotel owners welcoming with hotel beds at decent prices and more importantly, the superclubs weren’t road-blocked, meaning they’d do business; give my promoters slots and deliver fair group ticket deals.

For the first ten years all was good. Numbers growing year on year at my opening parties week package ‘Ibizan Heat’ (many years ago, a respected promoter at Space once emailed me as he did his listings, “My spell check says there’s no such word as Ibizan”. Well I’m not changing it to ‘Ibicenco Heat’, I replied. Years later on noticing ‘The Ibiza Sun’ had re-launched as ‘The Ibizan’, I sent him a copy!)

Success always breeds imitation, and often that imitation is pale. The clubbing travel market is no exception. In this case it means selling a package which is centered around one hotel (effectively ‘all-inclusive’), meaning the 400 students rarely leave the hotel, as it caters for their every need; daily pool parties, concerts at night…even their own boat party. Whilst this is a smart move on the part of the hotel, it doesn’t help a myriad of small businesses or venues who would normally benefit from their presence.

Coupled with the pre-determined itinerary clubbing packages include, it means that recent years have witnessed a noticeable absence from ‘walk up’ customers at superclubs in June.

However that in itself doesn’t explain why some superclubs have been quieter than expected in recent early seasons. The answer lies across the pond…

The rise of EDM in America has led to Ibiza being displaced as the preferred booking for DJ’s. There’s a saying that goes, ‘every cloud may have a silver lining, but every star has an agent’. And agents will go where the money is. And for the last few years, that money has been not Euro’s but Dollars…and lots of them.

Despite an anticipated increase of Americans (prepare for loud voices complaining about the service in beachside restaurants), the U.S’s belated discovery of dance music has not all been good news for Ibiza…

In the next seven days, at least 4 major festivals –  FireflyElectric DaisySummerfest and Paradiso – all take place in the States. Each one bursting at the seams with a stellar line ups. Take a look at the party calendar on Ibiza Spotlight for next week; no Steve Aoki or Ferry Corsten…at their own parties. A similar thing happened at times last year with Carl Cox and David Guetta. Meanwhile over at mighty Ushuaia, flagship Swedish residency ‘Departures’ is absent from its traditional opening shindig on the last Wednesday in June…coincidence or proof that la Isla Blanca isn’t Numero Uno any longer in the DJ’s schedules?

It’s not just the weakened line-ups which are affecting informed clubbers from booking in June. The resulting delay in announcing line ups is, I believe, a major factor in June’s reduced appeal for discerning clubbers. Each year the line up confirmations get later and later, now nothing is signed until after WMC in late March at the very earliest. At the same time flight prices rise and rise…as they become fewer; snapped up by musically less discerning visitors; typically hen and stag parties many of whom have never heard of Darius Syrossian or Seth Troxler.

At time of writing, one of the club nights for my group next week has still not announced its line up…less than 6 days away, while another one major night was only confirmed in the last ten days. This isn’t because the promoters in question are lazy or incompetent; on the contrary, both work to a high standard and have been bending over backwards to get the talent confirmed, but I understand have struggled because of Ibiza falling down the pecking order in the big scheme of things.

Together @ Amnesia announced headliners last Autumn and published (strong) weekly line ups in place by Valentines Day – so it can be done!  By comparison, other promoters and venues appear to act like its 1995 and only start work on 1st April!

For folk to book a clubbing-orientated holiday with specified line ups, in June, the balance needs to be paid 6 weeks prior to departure, which is early April. So you can appreciate it puts operators like myself in an awkward position; asking for balances for an event at which the content is not clear – would you book that holiday?

This delay in clarifying which parties are happening on which nights, and what line ups people can expect has led to me deciding, after fifteen years, not to work in June anymore. OK, so it’s only 4-500 people, and Ushuaia won’t be requesting a overdraft upon hearing this, but my groups are indicative of the type of visitor the superclubs need in June; music-savvy, cool 20-35 year old’s, who book more than three nights, and who typically visit a major venue most nights, spending a considerable amount of money in the process. What’s more, these are the type of guest who stay all night, rather than ‘swing door’ it after taking a selfie at the back of the dancefloor and are in bed for 2am ready for another day’s posing at Blue Marlin.

I think this is a pattern which has already happened; September is the new June; line up’s have been announced, people know what (and who) they’re going to get to see play…and they can still go to Glastonbury or Euro ’16.

Their seats on the plane’s will doubtlessly be replaced by eager Hen and Stags, so visitor numbers won’t reflect the change, but don’t be surprised if more and more of the big players don’t open their doors until July next year. KF

Kirk Field has championed Ibiza since discovering it in 1990. For the next decade he covered the island positively for Mixmag, Time Out and various National newspapers and magazines. In 1999 he set up Radical Escapes – the UK’s first independent clubbing travel company who have been instigating international insomnia (in Ibiza specifically), ever since.