State Of Play: Ibiza with Dave Browning

Words by: I Voice
Posted: 20/11/17 17:41

Carl Cox and Dave Browning.

What’s really going on in Ibiza, as opined by one of the island’s veteran promoters.

In our new regular feature 'State of Play', we take a closer look at the club scenes in a series of cities, from more well known dance music hotspots to emerging locations, by speaking to some of the most influential and informed participants on the ground in each place.

With the summer season 2017 just at an end, we begin by putting Ibiza under the microscope. Seasoned promoter, 
Dave Browning, has been involved in music his whole adult life, promoting events and selling records since the age of 17.

He’s been throwing parties in Ibiza since 1996 and living on the island for nearly twenty years. Along the way he worked with Carl Cox on his events at Space for 15 years and in 2017, he put on the Pure Carl Cox and Game Over shows at Benimussa Park.  

He also had a hand in IMS, Wildlife at DC10 and Resistance at Privilege, and as one of the island’s long standing British residents, he provides an honest and refreshing take on the positives from this year’s Ibiza season and the problems faced by the island.


Ibiza Voice: Where do you think the island is going to be in five or ten year’s time?  

This is a very tricky one to predict. At the moment, Ibiza the ‘brand,’ its beauty and the 'magic' is being speculated on by corporations and speculators. They are bringing in large amounts of money from all around the globe. They are not coming here to maintain the status quo, as can been seen by the new Las Vegas [style] strip that is fast replacing the offbeat beauty that used to be Playa d’en Bossa.

The assumption: that expert research, profit and loss reports and a ten-year plan will have been done and that these experts know what they are doing, remains to be seen.

The issue with Ibiza is that one of the main reasons we came here is something that cannot be bought, sold or replicated. That undefinable magic that gives you a little shudder on the steps of the plane [when you arrive]. If that is destroyed by greed and the pursuit of money, this beautiful Island will end up with roads full of over-sized cars, over-priced hotels and beaches controlled by the sunbed cartel. I think the time for the citizens and politicians of Ibiza to unite in the protection of the Island may already have passed.

Outside of your own events, what other Ibiza parties inspired you this year? 

To be honest not much. We tried to buck the trend with a stripped back production and a big sound system, trying to focus on delivering the right music in the right way.  Despite the huge changes in the club landscape, the number of new events really doing it this year was limited.  

That said, Afterlife were solid all summer and went out with a massive closing that was packed until midday. Many of the first timers won’t be back for another summer and we will have seen the last of some of the established nights. Rumour has it that Hyte, Mosaic and Taste the Punch are some of the many who will be missing next year.

How important is the 'rebel' side of Ibiza to the island's scene?

Last night, I had an interesting conversation with one of the originators of the free party scene in Ibiza. He had been all but shut down by the “Club Cartel” in 2001.

The alternative side of the Island needs to flourish and allow the corporations to control the mainstream. Without the “underground/alternative scene” the Island is in danger of becoming another “commodity” that big business manipulates to maximise profits. It is vital that we support the real “underground” scene in Ibiza, or in my opinion, this bubble is going to burst much quicker than many people expect.

Game Over at Benimussa Park.

Ibiza is in a state of transition and uncertainty, how can you sum up the position the island is in currently? The challenges are obvious (vip culture vs clubbers, affordable housing for workers), but what are the solutions?

The solution is simple: the politicians need to consult with a broad spectrum of business owners and lay out what the long term aim is. This needs to be a plan for the next ten to 15 years, not the next 12 months.

From one year to the next, I have no idea what the endgame is. A few years ago, they closed the daytime parties, what was the real reason? I am not sure that has ever been made clear. I think it’s very short sighted to put all the Island’s eggs in the VIP basket.

Clubbers and holidaymakers have been coming to Ibiza for years, and will continue to come, if the prices are reasonable. I suspect that when the VIPs decide to go, they will all leave. What happens to the five star hotels then? There are many reasons for the issue with prices. Airbnb being a major cause of the lack of workers’ apartments. The authorities are on top of this now, but a lot of workers who gave Ibiza its character will not be back.

What were the most exciting observations you made about Ibiza this season?

The signs of a small but active “underground’ music and party scene amongst the youth of Ibiza, in particular; the ZONE sound system who play and produce great music to people who really get it. House Music with Vocals: we may even hear a few real songs on the dancefloor. More Electric Cars and Mopeds. let’s make it law here ASAP. More Vinyl in the DJ booth.Now let’s see who is really a DJ

...and what caused you to worry most?

The monopolistic attitude of the owner of most of Ibiza. They need to remember everyone has to eat. Ibiza is in danger of becoming a fiefdom.

Landlords/Agents are forcing the price to rent out of reach of many people. And then asking for a 12 month cash advance [as a deposit]. At the moment, demand is outstripping supply and property owners are taking unfair advantage. The price of rents are totally out of proportion to average wages.

Dave takes a shot of his partner Eoin Smith (left) on their last day at Space.

Ibiza has always had a very dog eat dog scene with all sorts of dirty tricks used down the years by promoters to one-up each other. What kind of challenges have you faced as a promoter from your rivals?

The newest player in town was by far the most aggressive and did everything in their power to damage our events. They bullied ticket sellers into taking down our banners and posters with the threat of taking out all their tickets unless [the ticket sellers] stopped selling tickets for our events.

We have such a solid base of support on the Island that we still managed two sell-out Game Over shows and received the DJ Award for best Ibiza Event. On top of that, all the standard battles with press, on-line and physical battles over posters, etc.  The final insult was the arrival of the police, the first time to the club in ten years following complaints about noise. We have our suspicions where that came from.   

Ibiza has always been a microcosm of the rest of the dance music scene. Is that still the case, or has the focus on celebrity/vip culture distorted it into something different?

VIPs have been coming to Ibiza since the 60s so that is nothing new. The difference now is that we have confused what being a celebrity is and how that impacts on their and our behaviour.

Everyone hears and feels music in the same way, so it should make no [difference] who you are or where you are from. Everyone is equal when the lights go out.  I remember the days where the position of the DJ was far less important. You arrived, got your spot with your crew, and if the sound was right, that was you sorted.

Now it appears that the music has taken a backseat to the show. I’m not talking Elrow here, but the need to put a huge LED screen with the DJ’s face on it and billboards all over the place full of DJs’ faces. Next up DJs’ image rights, to bolster up their fees. Should DJs be celebrities, that’s the question? Most of them play music that other people have produced. The real question should be: is the “art” of DJing being replace by “performing.”

The powers that be in Ibiza form a murky crossover between government and clubs. For anyone outside of that, it must be incredibly difficult to do anything on the island. Is that a correct assessment?

Ibiza is no different to any city in the world where you want to do business that generates cash. The difference here is that the old power balance held by the “gentlemen” club owners such as Pepe [Rosello] and Ricardo [Urgell] has been taken over by a corporate style that makes no bones about their desire to squeeze as much money out of the island and the people that come here.

In the past, the club “cartel” was much more subtle and less aggressive. They took your money by sleight of hand with a smile on their faces. Now it feels as though a masked raider with a baseball bat just jumps in his Ferrari and screams off laughing.

Pure Carl Cox at Privilege, 2017.

There is very little place for the smaller club scene in Ibiza outside of places like Underground. Is this a problem for you and would you agree that in turn affects the adventurism of Ibiza bookings? 

Totally agree with this, but in many cases the issue with bookings is that talent is not allowed to naturally grow over time. As soon as there is a hint that they may have a following, they are snapped up by one of the heavy hitters. I think agents and managers have to take some of the responsibility for this. It should never be just about the money,

What does Ibiza need more of?

A more open minded attitude. The Island was famous for its open and broadminded mindset. That is being replaced by closed minds and repressive laws.

Water. It seems crazy to me that you can pay 1000 euros a night to stay in a hotel but can’t drink the tap water. First world economy, third world infrastructure.

...And what does Ibiza need less of?

Cars. The number of cars is now out of control. More and more rental companies renting more and more cars.

Five star hotels. We have gone from one to ten or more in a few years.

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