There was no tap water and the toilets were disgusting.” “No shade.” “The party just ended.” “None of the VIP promises were met; we didn’t see a whisper of cheese or wine.”These are just some of the (milder) comments posted on “The Gatecrasher SCAM” Facebook page that was set up by disgruntled patrons determined to air their grievances after their complaints were reportedly being deleted from the event page by the promoter.Gatecrasher featuring Paul van Dyk was shambolic. Where to begin? The crimes are splashed all over social media: a sound cut during PvD’s set, Media Player visuals on the main stage (snigger), a sham of a ‘VIP’ area; no exclusive toilets, camping or bar. And that was only the beginning. Those that made it to sunrise, resolutely sticking it out for the psy, well, were more livid than disappointed. The promoter provided no shade. A group of trancies made their own during Headroom’s set, pulling cloths, tents, whatever they could onto the dancefloor – these people make a plan! The party was over pretty quickly. Headroom was allegedly unplugged during his set, and other artists due to play after him were only cancelled on that Sunday morning.
The reason I’m dredging this sorry story up, isn’t because I’m a gleeful vulture, but because it illustrates a point: it can be the Wild West out there, and if we’re not careful can be overrun by glow-stick slinging cowboys. The scene is completely lawless – there ain’t no sheriff in town; no one to be accountable to, and organisers can get away with murder. Promoters are a mixed bag; some are super organised, pay on time and throw unforgettable parties, others can be dodgy cave-dwelling cretins that would trade their granny for a discount. Promoters, even the good ones however, are guilty of repeating a litany of crimes. Among them; paying late (or not at all), are scarce when you need them, putting their DJ friends in the main slots, stringing along a booking, cutting corners on things like décor, shade, water and so on. They can also be egotistical, hold petty grudges against artists and generally lord over the talent. And oh boy do some of them take chances.
A common felony is to release a ‘big name’ on a flyer – before they’ve even agreed to play. The promoter then capitalises on the crowd-pulling effect the artist has, and simply says, ‘whoops, my bad’ and blames a designer or a minion.Then there’s the whole ‘exclusivity’ thing. DJs, like other freelancers, aren’t paid a set salary; they have to play if they want to make money. ‘Exclusivity’, means the artist can’t play another gig close to the date of the agreed upon one. The rub here is that the promoter is hardly ever willing to pay for this right and expects it for the standard fee.“Obviously having a more unique line-up is a draw card for promoters,” a well-known music producer tells me. “But it is, in essence, a restraint of trade for a DJ, who is often forced to accept this or lose the booking.”If only all organisers could play by the rules. A prominent party promoter has this to say: “You can’t control everything: door, stage, medics, bar, and more if you don’t have a radio or cellphone on you. This is a typical dodgy promoter tactic – they can’t be found when you actually need them, especially for pay-outs.” This promoter also goes on to say that event licenses are essentially a step-by-step guide on how to host a party.
“Follow it to the letter and you’ll have a safe, organised event.” We need a solution. How about an independent regulatory body? I’m not talking about policing events, but instead monitoring them for the benefit of the good promoters, artists and punters alike. A system where DJs get paid 50% of their fee upfront, where dodgy promoters are blacklisted, where there are no quibbles over fees and exclusivity. Where people get the party they paid for. Or am I dreaming?