A short feature for triple j mag’s 50th issue. Click the below image for a closer look, or read the article text underneath.
How to: Throw a warehouse party
Think it’s just a matter of finding a space and asking some bands? Here’s how two different operators went about it
Phil Laidlaw is a co-founder of the Brisbane independent venue Lofly Hangar, which opened in 2007 in the residential suburb of Red Hill and held 100 events before closing in late 2010. Built on the warehouse model of booking cool bands and inviting friends to come party (BYO alcohol), the Hangar attracted more than 300 paying guests a month at its peak.
The venue was rented as a recording and rehearsal space, and we had public liability coverage for those two elements of the business. We did look at getting public liability for events, but it was prohibitively expensive. There were a lot of requirements, like having security present at every event. So from the beginning we were operating as a private party at a residence, and we never had any problems.
What worked for Hangar?
Our sound gear. People will come if it’s an awesome warehouse, but they won’t keep coming back if it sounds shit. Having said that, you don’t have to start with the most awesome gear. You can build it up over time. It’s also important to keep some control over who you invite at the start, and try and establish a culture in the space that’s made up of your friends and associates before it gets too big.
What did you learn?
The earliest wake-up call was how loud it was for the neighbourhood. After a few shows, we realised we needed to do quite a bit more soundproofing.
Hangar’s door fee was always $10. Why?
You’ve got to decide if you want to be in it for the glory or the money. [laughs] It’s not a great way to make a stack of cash, but it’s a great way to have a really good time. It’s a good aim to keep it sustainable.
Advice for aspiring warehouse party starters?
Collect a group of friends that you can rely on to help you out, because you won’t be able to do it by yourself. It’s best done by a group of like-minded people. You’ll always need someone to run the door, or help clean up.
Another Brisbane-based crew, Sceneless, threw two warehouse parties on consecutive nights in October 2010. Whitelight was warmly lit and headlined by The Jezabels, while Dappled Cities headlined the UV-lit Blacklight. The events were hosted at a converted warehouse-for-hire and attracted a combined total of 800 people. Although attendees couldn’t BYO alcohol like they could at the Hangar, an arrangement with the nearby X&Y Bar allowed Sceneless to obtain a limited licence for the two nights.
Did you consider anything like public liability, or were the events considered private parties?
Yes, the venue owner had public liability insurance. It was included in the venue rental.
The concept – an exclusive boutique, two genre, mini-music festival run over two nights, in an exclusive venue, subtly tailored to each night. We had two respected interstate headliners supported by mainly local acts, from newcomers to breakthrough acts.
What didn’t work?
We had more security than was required… We understood that this was the first official warehouse party in Queensland, and so being an unknown quantity it required some kind of official surveillance. We hope that now a precedent has been set and since the crowd were well behaved, we can continue to put on events without as much of a heavy ‘Big Brother’ presence.
Boring but essential stuff to think about
- Security. Just how big could this party get? And what are you going to do if it gets Corey-style out of hand?
- Talk to the authorities. If you’d rather your first meeting with the police and fire brigade didn’t come when they were shutting you down, think about letting them know what you’re planning. It’s only manners, and they may well have some good advice.
- Limited liability insurance. Do you have it? Does the venue have it? Who’s gonna be responsible if someone falls down those lethal-looking stairs?
- ‘Donations’? OK, so this is just a ‘regular’ party, but you’d like your ‘guests’ to kick in a ‘donation’ to cover expenses. Remember, there’s a big difference legally between a donation and a cover charge.
- Locatio.n So, you’ve found the perfect venue. Except that it’s in a residential area, isn’t adequately soundproofed and is marked for demolition. Hmmm. Think again. Make sure the venue meets all the relevant codes and is well away from angry neighbours. And that you have actually have permission to be there.
- Local council planning laws. Some of these might apply to your shindig, so do your homework.
- Drinks. BYO alcohol? A liquor licence? Again, do your research.