Should a VIP dictate music policy?

It feels as if every other week, a DJ somewhere in the world is removed off the decks by the VIP set, even seasoned professional Nick Warren was ask to step back from the decks at Club Vanguard, Seoul on Saturday 19th April 2013 due to his music not being fully appreciated by some of the club’s VIP guests.

Soon after the event Nick Warren took to his Facebook page to apologise to his fans with the following message: (Facebook post)

“Apologies to everyone on the full dance floor last night in Seoul. Someone who had booked a table had complained to the club that I was not playing commercial music so the club told me to stop after an hour, words can not explain how I feel about that to be honest”.

Unfortunately this is not the first time we have seen big name professional DJs being asked to stop playing their music to a crowd. Is this something that is going to become more of an issue or has the issue always been there but is now just more publicised?

If you cast your mind back to the August of 1995 when the Chemical Brothers were booked to play at an Oasis gig. Liam Gallagher asked the duo to step down from the decks, replacing them with someone from The Verve to take over the decks. Some may find this odd, as brother of Liam, Noel approached the Chemical Brothers some year later expressing his love for their debut album and even asking them if he could sing on one of their future tracks which saw the release of the Chemical Brothers and Noel Gallagher’s collaboration, “Setting Sun”. This wasn’t the first time the production duo has been asked to step away from the decks. If you remember back to 1993 the duo were ask to step away from the decks at Space by Darren Hughes for playing “inappropriate music”.

In February 2012 Dennis Ferrer was asked to step down from the decks at club Mansion in Miami for not playing material that was deemed commercial enough for the crowd. Mansion would also ask DJ Shadow to step down for the very same reason later that year in December. Shortly after DJ Shadow was asked to step away from the decks at Mansion the club released this apology; “We offer our most sincere apologies to DJ Shadow and his fans for his set being cut short at Mansion this past weekend. This error should not have happened and will not happen again, especially as we pride ourselves on creating an environment that cultivates and respects innovators such as DJ Shadow. We have learned a lot from this error and made changes within our organisation to ensure that Mansion’s vision, and the vision of our guests, will never be compromised again”. DJ Shadow later responded to the apology via Twitter. “I don’t care if I get kicked out of every rich kid club on the planet. I will never sacrifice my integrity as a DJ… ever #AllBassesCovered”. Below is a link to that set that got DJ Shadow kicked off the decks at Mansion in Miami:

Another well known DJ that felt a similar fate in 2012 was Mark Farina who was due to play after Miguel Migs at Marquee nightclub in Miami. Unfortunately Mark never even got a chance to play one track, as the promoters had received a number of complaints about the music Miguel Migs had played, so did not want to risk the music played by Mark. He later took to Twitter to inform his fans;

“Supposed to be going on now… but got the boot, apparently too much house for this Vegas crowd”.

DJ Pierre responded to Dennis Ferrer and Mark Farina being asked to step away from the decks;

“If a promoter or club books you then they made an agreement to have you for however long you are contracted for. When a DJ shows up he is honouring his part of the agreement. No one has the right to “kick” anybody off after they’ve entered into that agreement. The VIP and bottle tables who have large part to play certainly should have no say”. DJ Pierre also added

“There are times when a promoter will ask me to start early because they are not happy with what the other DJ is doing but I’ve always respectfully declined.  I respect my colleagues too much to take part in ushering another DJ off the decks”.

In June 2013, Erick Morillo was due to play at the Ocean Club, Boston but was quickly removed from the decks after only a few tracks due to what some sources say was due to substance abuse. Some people were even quoted as saying that he could barely even function being the decks. There is obviously some form of connection with Erick’s lifestyle as he was arrested in Scotland back in 2008 for trying to smuggle a class A drug through airport security. Later that year Erick entered rehab and upon his exit was quoted as saying “What an incredible personal journey the last four weeks have been… I’ve been in a spiritual rehab facility called Passages… Life is a gift and it’s one that in recent years I’ve taken for granted… My friends and fans alike have sent me love and well wishes and I was really touched by it all and I want to thank you as it meant a lot in a time when I was in a very dark place”.

In all of the above cases besides Erick Morillo the reason the DJs were asked to leave the decks due to music choice. Some people would say that such issues would fall into the laps of the club promoters who have clearly failed to research the artists and their music genres.

Jack McCord (Music Director at Mint Club, Bali) had this to say; “In essence everybody has the responsibility to fulfil their part of the deal.  DJs gotta rock, agents gotta book, promoters gotta fill the club. But if, as I suspect, we are talking about high profile, professional DJs being booked specifically and then taken off because some Bambi loser wants to hear ‘dance music’.. Then the promoter who dares to do so should be made to walk the plank for the cynical degradation of a culture which is at once liberating, unifying, beautiful and intelligent.  Woe be unto them”.

Maybe the promoters have been drawn by the “brand” of the DJ rather than the DJ themselves. However some of you may believe that a DJ should do a little research into the venue before agreeing to play at a venue. This is certainly something Neil Quigley (DJ/Producer and REfINE record label owner) believes a DJ can easily research. 

“It is vitally important for promoters etc to check but these days it doesn’t take 5 minutes for an artist to research a venue on Facebook etc before playing. Most of my bad experiences are related to people wanting me to play harder but I was usually able to win the crowd over. Although I got asked to leave the decks in Moscow once for not playing Commercial enough”.

Some may believe it is the fault of the agent for not researching the type of environment will be awaiting their artist. This is certainly an opinion held by Damian Gelle (T1000 Events );

“With the VIP table wank culture that many clubs have adopted the blame lies with the agent for not researching what kind of environment awaits their artist. There may be cases where the agent has been told a few porky pies by the promoter to secure the act – but most these clubs that measure the greatness of an artists’ set next to their bar spend should be easy to identify”.

Whoever is at fault I think we all agree that situations like this need to be avoided, not only for the DJs who have travelled, but for the fans that have also travelled and turned up to expected a night of music and dancing. Essentially don’t we all go to cubs to dance and listen to music? Therefore do clubs really need to have VIP tables? Should we enter into a club to purely sit down and sip champagne and vodka? Personally it is not something I ever partake in but it is nothing new.

Clubs in Ibiza have had VIP areas for many years, as well as clubs across America, and in the Far East. Exclusivity will always attract people and even as a clubber who likes to spend his hours on the dance floor I am sure we can all think of a time when we have not gained entry to a club because of the doorman who did not like our trainers or our new shirt we had bought that very weekend. There have been many clubs in the past and present that were infamous for their door policy such as Gatecrasher in its peak, Sankeys Soap in Manchester and of course Berghain in Berlin, Germany.

Whoever we choose to blame for situations involving DJs being asked to step down from the decks, it must come to an end for the DJs and fans that travel to such gigs. If there is a valid reason why a DJ is asked to step down from the decks people will generally agree but some of the examples above are beyond crazy and simply appear to be about money and egos.


About the Author

Director and DJ, Ian French (Naif) is passionate about every genre of music from Breakbeat, to Drum & Bass, to Techno and House. A man that lives in a world of beats and bass, and total confusion about life!