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Club Culture : The Truth Behind Bali Nightlife

The real life of nightlife operator in Bali.

You might come to the island of Gods, and ready to pick which party you would like to go to tonight. What I am about to tell you today is about the process and the people behind it all. The one that makes it happen, and the one who is swallowed by the industry.

For over three years, GEM has been involved in Bali's nightlife industry. We have seen many venues open and closed. Some couldn't even make it a year before millions of dollars of investment can't be salvaged. We have seen so much money, hundreds and thousands of dollars vanished in less than eight hours of events. And when things like this happen, the blame is often goes to the "management" and many people left unpaid for their work. And some people, let's say the "booking manager" and "Djs" are the one leaving with big fat wallet, and thousands of tourists spending their savings for overpaid cocktails and leaving bad reviews online the day after once they checked on their remaining balance.

There's a set of challenge that club owner, organiser, promoters, and artists have to considered before hosting a party.

1. Finding the right location

In Bali, there are a few spot for tourists to enjoy Bali's nightlife. Seminyak, Canggu, and now.. Uluwatu. Each areas have different demographic and willingness to spend. Therefore, it is important to know your area, your pricing, and the regulations within the area. Each area is govern by different "Banjar". The Banjar has to approved your activity, until what time, how loud, how many people, and how much you have to pay for the permit.

2.The Sound System

You might not believe this, but most venue in Bali does not equipped themselves with proper sound system nor sound man. I have seen many venues using used /broken sound system and throw parties with maximum blast and the next day the guests will have some ear infections. It's that bad. So most of the time, venues or organiser have to rent the sound system from vendors, and they charge a fortune. - which adding the cost of events.

It's a great advantage if one is able to do the soundcheck by one self.

3. Artists Booking

Out of all the fun and obstacle in nightlife industry, my least favourite activity is "booking the talent" part. Some artists just charge you with unbelievable fee and cruel rider list, making it harder and harder to get to breakeven point. As promoter and organiser, this cost of event will be burden to the team to make sure the revenue will hit the target. Which often caused panicked within the management, and they will start to overcharging everything.. from tickets, to drinks, to VIP seats in ridiculous price - which leads to... DECLINE OF INTEREST from potential attendees, which are mostly young traveller who are on budget, but would like to party.

4. The Music

if I mention that artists booking is my least favourite part, well deciding what music will be is the part that I hate the most. Because when you go deep into the nightlife, the music topic is like "who comes first? egg or chicken?" conversation. Techno, House, D n B, Progressive, Trance, Psy Trance, Disco, ...... this is just one hell of disaster. This part required actual passion, knowledge, and great musical direction. This part, is crucial. You can't fake it to make it. You can't mix them all, There's so many hardcore fanatics of some genre that if you can't decide your niche, they will all go away.

5. The Crowd

To build a strong crowd, you have to build a community. Staying true to your vision ( you must have a vision ) and understand what they want, and how you will deliver it beyond their expectation. Each and every time. ( Did I tell you it's a soul draining job? ) Booking a big name from time to time is a great treat for your audience, to keep them coming around despite how great your residents are. And don't forget to pay attention to your environment settings. keep the ambiance as great as your music choice.


If you think Instagram is enough to promote your events. Think Again.

Physical promotion as flyer, poster, word of mouth, and other old marketing strategy is not dead yet. A great promotional team will keep a good balance of online and offline marketing. Organic growth is too valuable for promoters to just rely on the strategic paid promotion in social media. Make sure your event is listed in as many platform as possible.

7. The actual job

After gathering all your thoughts, make a proposal, budget counting, fund raising, promoting, and promoting, and promoting... The job is yet to be done. Setting up production team, making sure your artists is in a good mood to perform, and accommodating everyone needs, you might have not been sleeping for maybe three days. But show must go on, and there you are waiting for everyone to come, the door open, people slowly coming, you start checking the bar.. hoping the investor get their money back, otherwise there will be disaster after it's over, and while you are doing it all.. you have the next one coming up in a few days or weeks. And soul draining circle continue.....

8. Drugs, Hookers, Police, and Immigration

As some of you might know, Indonesia is very strict about their war on drugs. And being inside the nightlife industry, you are never far from it all. The risks of being imprison for life for a small amount of herbs is there. The needs to stay awake after three days of lack of sleep, peer pressure, and club culture is another internal struggle most of nightlife people of Bali have to deal with. We have seen friends getting busted, venues being closed down, and some just fall into addictions or depression. Beside that we also have to keep in mind the high risks of sexual transmitted diseases, employing illegal workers and not have them being deported, and amount of bribery for many institute to keep the everyone involved in a perfect balance.

Some of this events might turn out so good that everyone had a great experience, and the business makes profit. Some might suffer big loss, but there's no time to stop and evaluate. You have to immediately searching for the "new thing" and inspire despite the setbacks and losses from each failures and success.

Thinking outside the box is main requirement for the job.

And it is mandatory to never lose the fun while managing your budget.

Sounds like the worst job ever?

No, it has its perks :)

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