Club Promoting on Ibiza - Interview with Charlie Chester, Promoter and Entrepreneur
In this interview on The Logros Show – in association with The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce – Lee Dinsdale talks to the legendary club promoter Charlie Chester about club promoting and his online business as part of our Making Ibiza series.
Interview with Charlie Chester – Ibiza Club Promoter and Online Entrepreneur – The Real Sound of the City.
Lee: This is the Logros Show in association with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. We are broadcasting live from Ibiza from a place called Wow. This is part of the Making Ibiza series which is a series of live radio shows of people who live in Ibiza in the world of business, culture and wellbeing. Today we have Charlie Chester who is a legend here in Ibiza. He is a true pioneer in the world of club promoting and he also owns an online platform. How’s it going Charlie?
Charlie: Not bad at all, pretty good. Recovering from a bit of a long spectacular weekend.
Lee: You were doing some filming on a boat weren’t you?
Charlie: Yes, my friend from Manchester was doing something with one of our partners Smart Charter as a promo concept for him and them for next year. Something that they do at the beginning of summer is what they call Smart Charter Regatta, this was a smaller one and we’ve had an amazing day. There’s quite a lot of drink, a lot of fun and it takes a bit of getting over at my age.
Getting into being a club promoter
Lee: You have been here for twenty years. You are going to be telling us the stories of DC10; also what life is like in Ibiza and the changes. Also we are going to be hearing about your new platform as well. When did you first come over to Ibiza?
Charlie: In 1984. I hadn’t been on a plane. My summer holidays were spent in Southport actually in the North West, Norfolk broads and Brighton. That’s what my family could afford so the first time I got the chance of going away, it was two weeks in San Antonio. That was my first experience of Ibiza.
Lee: How did you get to club promoter in London? Tell us what you were doing.
Charlie: I am a trained hairdresser and hairdressers in the ‘80s seemed to end up doing parties. Along came Acid House and I knew quite a few DJ’s and it just happened really. We put on a party funnily enough on a Monday night, 28th January ’88 I think, and it just exploded. We had to close the doors by eleven o’clock. We opened early and it was just packed and that was called Flying. Then Flying ran into Flying Records and the shop and that just got the ball rolling really.
Lee: Tell us about 1990.
Charlie: Off the back of that and doing a lot of networking through starting the club Flying in London we brought DJ’s down from Nottingham and Manchester. We were connected to people in Leeds and Glasgow. We realised we had built this network up. This opportunity came to do what was Ibiza 90. That was bringing over 500 people in the last week of May which was early. I think it was twenty three DJ’s, 808 State from Manchester, The Farm from Liverpool who are still friends and A Man Called Adam. Then we got contacted by a journalist called Kevin Sampson, another scouser that looked after The Farm and said I want to make a television programme. We were having none of it at first because we didn’t want Channel 4 or anybody coming to see what we were doing because they normally always got it wrong and still do. Always portraying Ibiza in the wrong way. Only a few people have done it right. After a couple of nights out with Kevin Sampson we realised he was very talented and one of us and we didn’t think he would get it wrong. We agreed for them to come.
Ibiza in 2020
Lee: Tell us about Ibiza as it is today, what’s happened over the summer.
Charlie: Well it’s extraordinary times isn’t it? Extraordinary times for the world. It was always going to be a challenge and I thought Ibiza rose to it. Its patrons if you like- the holidaymakers have been amazing and then we got the rug pulled from under us. Going into May, everybody was talking about first of July; the Spanish government said we will be open from first of July. Everything has been unsure hasn’t it? I don’t think everybody believed it would kick off straight away. I thought people would have to get their heads round it. I know that a lot of my friends who own villas and boat charter said that their bookings early in the season weren’t even cancelled. People were moving them as far back as possible to September and October, that’s what I was hearing. Three star hotels didn’t risk opening. There was a high end or a nice end I should call it of clientele coming and it went busy straight away. They put the date forward a week to the 21st where international flights started landing and it was busy. This is brand new they didn’t open until July. St. Gertrudis which has thirty restaurants where I live has never been busier; it was incredible. People were queuing outside restaurants. So obviously the demographics of the island became smaller. The beach clubs were open, the clubs weren’t open. Boat charter was spectacular, all the boats were busy. The nice people went to the nice places. But first the English, our lot announced at the end of July and said that’s it and wouldn’t create corridors. Two weeks after that the Germans and the Dutch did it. So that killed off what everybody thought would be spectacular in September. Everybody thought October would go on and on.
Well it’s extraordinary times isn’t it? Extraordinary times for the world. It was always going to be a challenge and I thought Ibiza rose to it. Its patrons if you like- the holidaymakers have been amazing and then we got the rug pulled from under us.
Lee: I’ve been here since July and I’ve certainly noticed there’s been a tail off of people coming over to the island. It was certainly busy in those times July and In August the restaurants were full. So even though the clubs weren’t open people still wanted to come for a good time here.
Charlie: Yes it’s awful. I just saw a friend who is a really brilliant restaurateur he said yes it was absolutely massive until a week ago. It’s dropped off now.
Moving Out to Ibiza
Lee: Obviously you’ve been here a long period of time, can you describe what was the trigger for you deciding to up sticks and leave the UK?
Charlie: I didn’t really plan it. It was just year by year really. I spent a lot of the nineties coming back and forward doing a couple of parties and coming two or three times during the summer. I don’t think we just said we are going to go there. Basically a club that I was running took over a bar here called the Mezzanine Bar. We came over for that year and that led us into bumping into a load of Italian friends of mine from Rimini where I did a second Ibiza trip. I bumped into a close friend Trujillo, a DJ and he brought us into DC10 and that’s how that happened; that was a mistake that was an accident! I think that’s how most of Ibiza is, you try and plan something and it doesn’t always work. You don’t try and plan something and Ibiza plans it for you.
Lee: What was the island like twenty years ago compared to what it is today? There are still people coming to the island for the first time.
Charlie: I get sick and tired of hearing back in the day; it’s not as good as it used to be and all of that. As you say if we thought the dawn of DC10, which I think put Ibiza into another phase for me certainly, at that time there was a crowd of people saying when we first came in the nineties, and people were talking about the seventies. It’s just evolvement. I think it’s as good as it’s ever been, there are more options and it’s a better infrastructure. We all talk about restaurants having dreadful service compared to the rest of the world. I spend a lot of time in Singapore and you can’t compare it.
The Iconic DC10 Club
Lee: How did you get involved with DC 10, what were some of the highlights and also what was the magic about DC10 in the early days and even today?
Charlie: For me the magic was the right time, the right place, it just happened. It wasn’t my club. Jo was invited to be a resident. Andrea and Antonio who still promote it, asked me to get involved with Jo and help promotion. They were not very good at the time at getting the press; I was very good at it. I could never have done that from the start. It was their club. It’s the way it gelled in with what Jo was doing at the time and myself. I think for me it hadn’t got particularly busy in June in those years. For me it just exploded, I was just running round; I’ve never been anywhere like it. When I first was invited to go party, the excitement came out of me into everybody I bumped into. It was a real change in the sound and the environment to have a proper after party, a proper club that could go on. People talked about Space but a lot of people didn’t even go to Space; they waited to go to DC10. So it was the right time, right place, right sound and the right mixture of people.
Lee: Thinking back to those times who are the most interesting people you have met at DC10 that you can tell and the stories you can tell us about?
Charlie: I can’t tell you any of the real stories! It was just a melting pot of locals, international crowd, bundles of lunatic Italians and us just being able to attract DJ’s that wanted to come and play. Danny Tenaglia who is an old mate of mine kept me on. Eric Morillo, god bless his soul standing there saying, I’ve got to play, I’ve got to play. Sasha, everybody wanted to play. It was people asking us, Carl Cox. It was just a proper melting pot really.
Eric Morillo, god bless his soul standing there saying, I’ve got to play, I’ve got to play. Sasha, everybody wanted to play. It was people asking us, Carl Cox. It was just a proper melting pot really.
Lee: Which DJ’s do you think really launched their career at DC10? Actually I have got a question from my mate Mike in Manchester asking which was the best DJ that you thought was all right until you saw them live and then they were absolutely amazing.
Charlie: Maybe Loco Dice. I knew about Loco Dice but until he was up there playing, I was like, gees what’s gone on here? I already knew Timo Maas and Timo always excelled. I knew what he did and what he played but I didn’t with Loco Dice so, I would say it would be Loco Dice that took my head off. At the time I didn’t know too much about him and there was no excitement from my end but when I saw him he was pretty exceptional.
Highlights of Promoting at DC10
Lee: What was your highlight over the time at DC10?
Charlie: One of the biggest rainstorms we had to endure when it never had a roof and got flooded while we were trying to have a party. The roofing wasn’t quite set up properly and the walls were pulled over while we were in there. There were DJ’s in the box at the time. It was chaos, you couldn’t make it up!
Lee: What kind of activity were you doing to drive people into DC 10 and throughout the time that you have been here?
Charlie: I often think about that because the tools that you have got now weren’t available. I was involved from nearly the beginning, 2000 – 2006 and what did you have? You had the posters that you put out there and you had a lot of press once we got it moving. We had exceptional press but you had no social media, no WhatsApp groups. It was very much word of mouth that kicked it off. Everybody that went there was, wow this is amazing and they just went home and did it for us. Probably there were a lot of Island people there so they were our promotion. People were talking to all of their friends. That’s where it came from – word of mouth.
Lee: After DC10 which other clubs have you been involved in throughout your time here?
Charlie: That was about it really for me. Jo was still DJ’ing which we concentrated on. We concentrated on her international travel; well it’s not quite true. I was half living in Singapore after that 2007 – 2009. I was there in the winter. I was running a club called Attica. Still back here in the summer with Jo DJ’ing and over there in the winter. I was using Singapore as a hub so I would fly down to Australia, Bali, etc. that’s what we did more or less for the last part of 2007 -2009.
Lee: Jo is your wife, Jo Mills who is, was number one female techno DJ in the world?
Charlie: I wouldn’t call her techno. Dirty House, that’s what I call her sound. Off the back of DC10 she was probably in the top five at the time.
Essential Ibiza – Running An Online Business
Lee: What was the inspiration for setting up Essential Ibiza after you moved on from DC 10?
Charlie: We started a small company first of all called Icon Ibiza, just me and Jo. I was always getting pestered about how to book a boat, VIP table even though they weren’t so big at the end of 2000. We always had people looking for advice and concierge, boat charter etc. I bumped into someone at Blue Marlin one day who had his own travel company, a big travel company. We just got into the conversation where other than Ibiza Spotlight we didn’t see a platform (well there was also White Ibiza that was a lot more high end) that sold tickets or sold VIP and generated and created a lot of really good content. With his marketing skills and his build skills – he built a website – we collaborated and brought in a journalist that we’ve known for many years and we put Essential Ibiza together.
Lee: You must be one of the first to be running an online business as well. What things did you have to take account of straight away?
Charlie: The strong thing is the SEO. You can do a beautiful site but you need the content. If you haven’t got the SEO and not driving traffic and I didn’t know hardly anything about it but, as soon as we launched, because of Phil’s talents we were really high up. Content is king as well obviously and that’s what you do. You need the content and the skills to generate traffic. We did that straight away and we hit a million visitors by the second year I think.
Content is king as well obviously and that’s what you do. You need the content and the skills to generate traffic. We did that straight away and we hit a million visitors by the second year I think.
Lee: Wow, so did you hire someone in to do SEO?
Charlie: No that was my partner, that’s where his skills lie. Even in the second year, if you google VIP Pacha table we were one, we were above them. We were generating a lot of bookings and a lot of traffic. Also what we call quality content we shared with our partners and at that point when you shared something on Facebook, it didn’t have the restrictions of now. That was 2011 if you shared something it went a long, long way. The reach was really high, so doing a story for DC10, I remember publishing a story for them and we tried to post stories as quick as possible. DC10 used to close on a Monday morning at six or seven o’clock and we would publish a story by lunch time. I remember getting eight thousand likes, it’s incredible you see people viewing and watching it. That doesn’t happen now because Facebook is so restrictive. We can publish a story on a hundred and fourteen thousand fans, two thousand people get to see it; it’s so restrictive now.
Lee: What are your plans now for Essential? Have you hit a crossroads?
Charlie: Yeah, we’ve hit a crossroads. We have been clobbered by covid definitely. We’ve parked it for want of a better word. It’s not even on. Its four hundred euros a month for a server to host it and all our marketing tickets. The only thing that might have worked for us was the boat charter which was amazing this year. We just haven’t generated any money. The crossroad is I don’t know if I should surrender and say I’m done and move on to other things or I keep thinking about next year. Quite a few people who I have had this conversation with say you can’t stop. So if anything the question is do we go again with a new design? The infrastructure is there in the background; it’s looking a bit old now because it hasn’t been updated for a while. Do we go again and be part of what might be Ibiza 2.0 let alone Essential Ibiza 2.0 because we are going into a new world next year. I think Ibiza will come out of this horrible year and explode which I think we saw in the end of June, July and August here. It was pheononimal how busy it was especially in the quality places because the three star hotels didn’t open. Even with the restrictions in August it was packed, even though loads of my friends couldn’t come because they had to go back to quarantine.
Tips for Setting up Online.
Lee: Looking at the online business, what are your top tips besides SEO? You’ve had a business for ten years online, what are your practical tips for people setting up online?
Charlie: Make sure you have someone in technology around you. You can be as creative as you like but if you are not out there with the technology then you’ll just be sitting with a dead duck! It’s so important, traffic.
Lee: We are here at a place called Wow – is this your first time here Charlie?
Charlie: Yes. I know the owner and one of the main guys that run it. It’s in the municipal, but every time we’ve drove past we’ve been doing something but meaning to come and I just haven’t.
Lee: What is it like living in Santa Gertrudis? You’ve been there for quite some time.
Charlie: Fifteen years, so a quarter of my life! It’s ridiculous, been in the same house. Certain magazines mention it as the Notting Hill of Ibiza because it’s quite cosmopolitan and I guess it is. There is a real tight community in the village. My son walks to school. She can go and have a drink, you don’t need a car, and you can wobble home! It’s the perfect place to live for me – I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else let alone on the island, let alone anywhere in the world. On the island, that’s just where we come from now.
My Essential – An Online Business Born Out of the Impact of Covid on Retail.
Lee: You’ve gone from Essential Ibiza and now have a new project called My Essential, how did that evolve out of essential Ibiza?
Charlie: Born in Manchester actually, in the Malmaison. It was originally intended as another part of Essential if possible, but it wasn’t possible especially with what’s just happened with covid . It was an initial approach by a company that had a print on demand business globally. So if someone is buying an Ibiza brand in Singapore it is being drop shipped from Asia. If someone is buying something from the UK one of the main hubs is in Liverpool. If you are buying a product that is say Jockey Club who were our first clients, they came on board and we built their platforms. All of their merchandise is built by us. Jockey Club have had a lot of clients from Germany and Holland. It’s come in locally, so my first meetings with the original company, which actually didn’t evolve, were all done on a long lunch in Malmaision in Manchester. Then a night out and another long lunch the next day. That’s where all that came from actually.
Lee: What are your plans moving forward?
Charlie: You know you have to say it has come out of covid . As Essential has hit a wall and needed investment, which has come from the island – it’s a stand-alone company. We had our ideas and the contacts here but we build collections for people but it won’t just be about Ibiza. We’ve got our first clients live; DJ’s that stream actually, called Lockdown Legends from New Zealand. They went live this week and started selling to their community. They’ve already sold some t-shirts but found it very hard to fulfil. They bought the t-shirts, printed the t-shirts and then realised they had to post them. All this is done automatically as such. We got in with a company with fifteen years’ experience in this business so we’ve got firms from South Africa, Singapore, Bali the UK bringing all my contacts together that are looking for a solution. They walked eight thousand people last year and everybody asked for a t-shirt, a raincoat with Ibiza on and something that sells and gets us out of seasonality. That was a problem for Essential Ibiza, selling Seasonality, selling tickets. When you start selling tickets in March and then nothing in October it is hard. Seasonality is very hard. We are already talking to our clients Ocean Beach about Christmas getting ready to push into that very busy time. Look at mail order; look at what is going on in the world at the moment. Shops are struggling and mail order is going through the ceiling.
Seasonality is very hard. We are already talking to our clients Ocean Beach about Christmas getting ready to push into that very busy time. Look at mail order; look at what is going on in the world at the moment. Shops are struggling and mail order is going through the ceiling.
Lee: Yes from what I hear the high street and the retail sector are suffering a lot and a lot of people are not returning to the high street. Mail order and online business appear to be the way forward.
Charlie: Yes if our clients have a store in their beach club which most of them have, if they want physical products to sell we can do that for them. We can help them design. We can bring in designers. We’ve got one of the biggest DJ’s in the world that we are working with at the moment to change his design and relaunch the shop for him. We had this sort of crazy idea that maybe we could speak to big brands in England to launch and we are right now talking to two of the biggest brand agencies that are looking to sign brands from here via us with four of the biggest online and high street retailers. That’s exciting because it’s all for 2021. I think that’s an indication that these buyers for the said massive platforms are all their insight into next year. Ibiza is going to be massive. They want to take these brands from here and have them in the physical stores and we hope they turn a corner and they become busy but online they want to be providing their buyers with Ibiza brands.
Staying Motivated Through Covid
Lee: During lockdown and quarantine over this difficult period, you’ve shared that you have seen a lot of change and how businesses have come out of change. How have you stayed motivated during the summer when your own business is looking challenging and wondering what you were going to do?
Charlie: In the lockdown, obviously it was incredibly hard and it was a big lockdown here. England never had a lockdown! I’m sick of hearing it on breakfast TV and they are still talking about the lockdown now. You could go out, you could run, you could skateboard, and you could ride your bike. That’s not a lockdown. Here you couldn’t do anything. You could go to the shop and you could take your dog for a walk. Even that was never clear. Was it ten metres from your house or a hundred metres? I don’t know but I live right on the edge of the countryside and I was able to go and walk between three and four hours a day with my dog. I tell everybody that the trees were my friends because I just walked and thought and came up with a million ideas. Worrying times and then just out the back of the lockdown, boom by the end of May we had brought something together. Also because people didn’t know where they were going or had more time, normally getting people’s attention May and June for something new is quite hard but everybody has been really responsive to what we are doing. We’ve given them a new revenue stream and a new project so it’s actually been beneficial to us, massively.
Lee: Last week we were talking to a legal HR lawyer who was giving some advice to people who were maybe coming up to redundancy or losing their job and looking for change. You’ve experienced change and are working on a new business so what words of encouragement would you be giving to people who are concerned about the future but have a business idea and want to go for it?
Charlie: They have to go for it. Gemma who is based in Manchester told me that the statistics in Manchester are massive in new start- ups and new businesses. There is a lot of those Bounce Back Loans around so there definitely seems to be inspiration there. There are going to be new opportunities and with us it’s moved fifty percent. I didn’t think we’d be talking to massive brands about helping them bring Ibiza brands until way into next year. We are already talking to press who are saying, tell us your story.
Lee: As we wrap up the show what would you say for the past twenty years have been your key skills, attributes and advice that you can share with other young entrepreneurs who are coming through? What advice would you give them?
Charlie: Never give up. I’ve had things that haven’t worked. Maybe that’s the thing with Essential now. Maybe it’s to stop and move on. I’ve not made that decision because of what I think might happen here next year. If you get knocked over get back up, dust yourself off and crack on again. You need to have vision and try and pick things up and see things that might work. I think I’m quite lucky in that in having a little bit of vision to see. Have an idea and try and follow it through and see where it takes you.
Lee: When you look back over the last twenty years here on the Island what have been some of the things that you have been most proud of. What have been the highlights because it has been a long career here on the island?
Charlie: Definitely DC10 was one of the biggest things I’ve been involved with and had the pleasure of being involved with. Jo really taking her career to another level thanks to those guys and the crowd that supported her. I think Essential was a big success, whether I carry on or not. We brought something new to the Island online. I guess I’ve been proud and lucky enough to bring a lot of press here that gives the Island press. Through my introductions through the press in England I think I’ve supported the Island and I’m proud of that. I think I’ve got behind the Island.
What Makes Ibiza Unique?
Lee: That’s brilliant. The series that we have here is called Making Ibiza and we have asked different guests so far, what would you say in your opinion makes Ibiza?
Charlie: It’s unique isn’t it? Our sister island Menorca and Majorca, I love Majorca, but it hasn’t got the magic dust as they say that this has. I have a friend who has recently moved over there and what he loves about it is that it has a full on city in Palma. It’s a lot lot bigger but, it doesn’t have the magic dust that this place has. It’s hard to put your finger on what you are asking but it is the magic of the Island.
Lee: Thank you very much for joining us.
Article Transcription by Terry Capostagno