Tell us a bit about your background in showbiz. What was pre-White Rabbit Brandon doing?
Man, depends how far you want to go back. When I was born in Hollywood Hospital they gave me a shirt that said ‘A Star Is Born’ lol. My Mom was an actress so I got used to show business pretty early. I discovered clubs when I was 16 and was in them every weekend ever since. I started my first club with Josh Billings, a co-worker from the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland (now best buddy) , and that club was Focus Tuesday which is still running today, even though I left after about a year. Took me about 5 years after leaving that club to start one of my own. In between there I’ve had every Joe Job in the world. I worked as a secretary, at Islands, at CPK, at Guess, at The Gap, at Games Workshop (shout out to all my nerd peeps!), Disneyland, and a ton of other places. I’ve also owned 3 other businesses, and even sold one of em.
How did you bring White Rabbit to become the dominant force in Orange County? What were some early pitfalls you overcame?
Are we a dominant force now? That’s pretty f*ckin cool to hear! I mean, in nightlife there are a ton of pitfalls, shady club owners, bad ideas, chasing something that’s too niche or too broad, timing and of course sex, drugs, and EDM. I think the biggest thing to overcome is always yourself and failure and how the two get along. Failure and I are more than well acquainted, but you have to watch out for blaming external things when things don’t go your way. That’s a slippery slope. “Aw it rained” or “I got charged too much” or “There was too much competition”. You can’t really control that stuff, you CAN control what you learn, what you’ll change, how you change yourself. It’s a lot harder on the ego but you come out stronger, casting blame saves your idea of how awesome you are but it doesn’t make you any better than you were yesterday. Watch out for the ego (you are not as cool as this business can make you think you are), and make sure you run your business like a business and not an extension of your party life.
And don’t ever book a show on Mother’s Day.
Who are some of your favorite acts you’ve booked?
This isn’t fair. Which of my children do I love the most? Which Nervo twin is hotter? Whats better, Empire or Return of The Jedi? (jk I dont have children). Honestly though it’s the guys that I came up with, I love seeing the crowd get bigger and more excited for the peeps who I saw start their career. Guys that started playing shows with us when they were just getting started like Slander, Jauz or Ghastly. These guys went from spinning the second room, to opening main stage, to Direct Support to Headlining and now I need to start throwing bigger events to have a stage big enough to hold their fans! It’s awesome to watch your boys come up and know you had a small role in it.
Why have audiences clicked so much with the White Rabbit and the Yost Theater? How does branding come into play with your events?
I think because a lot of people in Orange County (including me) were in need of what we do. The secret meaning behind the name Havoc is that we ‘Have OC”. Truth be told I used to run charter busses up to Control at Avalon every Friday for nearly a year. At one point we were running 3 a week with nearly 150 kids! I loved that party, and at the time I was doing a few 18+ events here in OC on Thursdays. Then I got a call from the owner of the Yost before it opened who I used to work for passing out flyers for his other clubs. He said he wanted me to check out this new spot he was opening and that he wanted me to throw an event there. Little did he know he’d never get rid of me (sorry Dave! Love you man!). I always knew you had to brand strong to have staying power, I learned that from working with clubs like Focus, Control and Glam. I wanted OC to have it’s own party. I wanted to be a spot on the map and I knew that there was a market for it. I think people vibe with us because we listen to what they want. Because we aren’t afraid to take risks with new genres and sounds, that we like to give them some surprises. Orange County has been good to us for all the risks we’ve taken.
What is the process you go by to develop a solid White Rabbit team? Who do you look for when hiring new team members?
I let everyone know that every week is a new game, and you have to make the cut to stay on the team. No one gets to be on the team just because. Everyone works hard every week, and as the company grows it’s everyone’s job (especially mine) to rise to the challenges at whatever the next level may be. We try to nurture the talent that comes in, we have a training and orientation process for all of our staff. All the top members of my company were once promoters for us, but they seized opportunities that have arisen and some of them have full time jobs.
From the new people I look for passion and drive. Promoting can be a rough game. If a ‘no’ stops you in your tracks then you probably won’t last. I look for the people who have already made it a lifestyle without ever getting paid. One of my interview questions is “what did you do last weekend” if the answer isn’t “at this event, this party and that party” I probably won’t invite you to join us.
In your experience, how have audiences musical tastes developed over the years?
In music, change is the one thing that doesn’t. I think the biggest change is the way of reading the trends. Because of soundcloud and things like it music is more of a democracy than ever. People vote on what they like and it rises to the top more so than in the “whatevers on the radio days”. Everything evolves but I noticed as far as predicting the change in taste, people will flip flop, they’ll reverse but in a way that they didn’t before. Like when everything was sounding over produced and clean people wanted to hear a more earthy sound so we saw bands like Lumineers, Band of Horses and Of Monsters and Men. Right now in EDM I think that something similar happened, it was crazy trumpet filled big room and melbourne and after awhile people wanted to hear something mellow that didn’t feel like they just crushed 3 cans of Monster in the club, so that’s where we got an upswing of melodic stuff like Branchez, Louis the Child and Odesza. That’s how it goes, it just sways back and forth.
Where do you see dance music going next?
I think psytrance is gonna make a big come back. Just kidding. That would be awful. Ok maybe not awful, just not my thing. I see technology playing a larger role. I see more integration of other things like live elements. I see a lot of collaborations with other genres like pop, hip hop and everything else out there. I actually don’t even see EDM as a genre any more than I see “guitar music” as a genre. Its too broad, it’s capable of too many things. I see it as a brand new way creating music. To categorize Flume in the same broad stroke description as say Carnage or Excision is kinda crazy to me. I think the possibilities are endless. I do know however there will be more Bieber, which I have mixed feelings about. He’s like the McDonalds of EDM.
What are your future plans for White Rabbit?
Total World Domination, but investors don’t really like reading that on business plans so I guess its continuing our brands but developing some larger ideas like our B!G Block Party and some other Top Secret stuff that I’d have to kill you if I talked about. One thing I can say is we have barely scratched the surface of our creativity and I want to have events that tell a story in a way. Whether it’s a story of a city, or of art, or of an emotion. That’s always been a goal. Also the larger we grow the more opportunities open up for venues, artists, I’d like to get to the point where I can sit down with some incredible musicians and say “what can we do that’s never been done?” and see what comes out of it. I get inspired a lot, I’d love to take over a parking structure and do a multi-level party, or do a show in cool destinations, involve practical effects, all kinds of stuff.
What kind of advice would you give aspiring artists and musical entrepreneurs?
Number one is be in it for the right reasons. If you just want to be cool or famous or whatever then please remove yourself. If you are going to be an artist, be an artist. Have a passion for it because it’s not often an easy road, and something has to drive you, and it could be a long time before the money comes.
To the DJ’s out there I would say that in this climate, learn your branding, or work with people that do know how to do that. Also know that a lot of event producers don’t buy artists, they buy audiences (is that evil to say? or honest? both?) You have to build your audience, which you can now do from home instead of passing out cd’s, so learn your socials. DO NOT send whack unsolicited fb dms to promoters asking for gigs. Go to the event, PAY TO GET IN, ask who the promoter is. Support the places that you want to support you. Meet people face to face. DON’T ask for a gig off the bat. Think if it like trying to hook up, you don’t just message and say “I’d like some sex please”. You meet the person, pay a few genuine compliments, go on a few dates (go to the events) and you then express how you may be interested in hooking up… i mean DJing.
For promoters out there… hang in there, find a business mentor, offer your own twist on things, make sure you love it, failure teaches more than success, drop your ego and also, White Rabbit is hiring.
Any last words?
Yeah… You can do whatever you want in life. Anyone who says different is either afraid for you and trying to keep you safe or doesn’t want to know someone that shows them they should have gone for it too. You are a member of the smartest species in the universe that we know of and are capable of all kinds of amazing things. Be brave, start now, learn, fail, be unafraid of the unknown. I promise you it’s worth it.