There are many people behind the scenes in the dance music world who make things happen week to week. It’s not just DJs hopping up on decks – it’s tour managers advancing flights, managers coordinating with agents, agents coordinating with talent buyers, and club owners who have the vision to create something new in a scene that has lately become wildly oversatured.
For this latest industry spotlight, we sat down with global nightlife business developer, Pat Maher. After spending years developing his career in the nightlife industry in various music capitals around the world, he has found his place at Foundation Nightclub, Seattle’s iconic EDM nightclub destination. Along with being voted #71 best nightclub in the world, Foundation has been home to over 150 top tier dance music acts annually, including the likes of Kaskade, Excision, Above & Beyond, Zomboy, Dada Life, and many more. In this exclusive interview, Maher delves into what it’s like to work in the club life of Seattle, he discusses his extensive international experiences and sheds some light on what it’s like to be a part of his world.
What was your initial introduction to the nightlife/dance music industry?
The nightlife industry started for me when I was in school. In my final year I ran for student council for the entertainment officer position – I basically organized parties in local nightclubs for the students, wasn’t exactly the best standard of events but it introduced me to the world of entertainment and I loved it.
I left school and went to University in Birmingham England, I became heavily involved with the Student Union there and was voted into the student union as the VP of Entertainment (Basically organizing parties/events/fundraisers). Qualifying as a teacher only became a second thought, organizing the party was my real vocation.
In what countries/cities have you worked as a nightlife developer?
Many! England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Spain, Ibiza, Greece, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and of course America. I have also been involved with different projects that have been based in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Australia.
I have gained something very special from each place I have worked, this has enabled me to offer a unique open mindset into every business. Experience and knowledge within business is key to that businesses success – I am not perfect and have made many mistakes over the last 22 years, but I have learned from these mistakes, this learning has made me a better professional in my field of expertise.
What have been your most notable / or favorite projects and/or achievements?
Every business I have been involved with has a special place in my heart, possibly the biggest turning point in my career was relocating to the Middle East. I thought I had seen and experienced pretty much everything until I seen what Dubai had to offer, I was like a kid in a sweet shop. Dubai also led me to my next destination and favorite destination – Seattle! Seattle really is my dream job, managing a top 100 nightclub, a venue that prides itself on major international talent ( nightly ) some of the best production I have ever seen and the chance to work with USC Events.
Things really has only got started at Foundation – there is a lot more to follow.
We know you’re a jack of all trades – how would you describe your occupation?
Have you seen the movie ‘Van Welder – Party Liaison’?
My job is a grown up version of that…
All joking aside, as I say to the many talented staff I have the pleasure to work with – Think of the business as an engine, everyone plays an intricate part to make that engine work, if a part isn’t working properly then the engine will stop, it’s my job to fix that part and make sure the engine starts again – everyone is as important as each other, in order to get the best performance out the engine we need to work well together and have the best parts to fall back on.
What has it been like working at Foundation Nightclub?
Every single night is different, possibly the best team of people I have ever worked with within the nightclub industry. If people knew what happened behind the scenes in order to put on a night they would be shocked, this in itself needs a group of talented individuals including a Marketing manager, social media assistant, lead promoters, poster and flyers distribution teams, talent buyer, artist lesion team, production crew, bar manager, security manager, VIP manager, promoters and then you need to add the bartenders, servers, bar backs, bussers, ticket attendants, hosts, security, restroom attendants, cleaners and maintenance crew that make the night work – it is a lot to juggle! I wouldn’t want to do anything else.
How has your international experience influenced your work in Seattle?
The fact that I have experienced many different cultures and different standards of venues has helped me quickly understand what was needed to bring Foundation to the next level. I have learned over the years that every venue needs a different management approach as all venues aren’t similar – you have a very small window to figure out what approach is needed for the venue.
I also understand all aspects of the industry, and I am able to openly advise on many different areas of the club including sound and production, VIP service and décor.
One of my main positions over the last number of years was consulting and problem solving for organizations and venues associated with nightlife, I have taken this mindset with me into Foundation and constantly trying to improve the experience for the customers and staff.
What do you see in your future as your career here progresses?
I would like to develop and grow Foundation as a brand, it’s no secret that we all collectively want to open new venues in different cities – I would hope to be part of this.
Possibly getting more involved with USC Events and festival development would also excite and challenge me, I believe constantly challenging yourself as a manager helps grow and develop you as a person, keeps you on your toes and pushes you to be the best you possibly can.
Where do you see the nightlife industry in the US going in the next few years?
The next couple of years are going to be interesting, there is an obvious shift happening within the nightlife industry. The gap between top tier and middle tier DJs is becoming bigger and bigger, nightclubs just cannot physically and financially afford to pay for the top tier DJs so they are focusing more on individual concert plays at huge venues. Because of the relationship we have with the top tier DJ’s through USC means we do get more of an opportunity to book them but it is becoming increasingly difficult.
Established professionally run nightlife venues will continue to succeed and grow, venues that have seen quick growth but haven’t reinvested into their business will struggle and eventually close.
The majority of venues that will succeed will become more ‘open format’ leaving a select few that will solely specialize exclusively with genre specific music – for example Hip Hop, Retro Old School, Rock and of course EDM.
What’s your favorite style of dance music and why?
I would have to say progressive electro; all the big room bangers still send shivers down my spine. But I am fairly open to all the genres of EDM.
We hear you’re also a DJ…tell us a bit more about this!
I actually bought my first pair of direct drive turntables and mixer with my first year student loan check! It was supposed to help pay for my accommodation but I felt this was more important than a roof over my head.
I did graduate to technics 1200’s after a year or so, and then possibly was the last DJ on the circuit to eventually change to CDJs around 2007.
Music has always been a big part of my life, I actually play a number of traditional Irish instruments (to this day) so I have a ear for it, I also like to entertain so It was a natural job for me during my university days. I promoted and hosted many parties and always tried to stay on top of current trends, I actually really like throwing a few tunes on and I’m secretly waiting for a main stage Paradiso call next year – For now I will continue to practice 9pm – 10pm every Saturday night and completely annoy all the staff who are trying to set the club up.
What do you love about working in the nightlife/dance music industry?
I have always loved and been involved with dance music, from the tender age of 14 I went to my first acid house warehouse party. Dance music has always been a part of my life, everything about the music and industry excites me – even to this day.
The satisfaction I feel when I see people enjoying themselves at a night I have been part of organizing is unreal, the joy on people’s faces when the beat drops is a picture I memorize and this is the driving force behind what I do!
I think I have the best job on the planet and I would never want a change.