Four Over Four spoke with Matthew Whitlock, the Director of Entertainment and Marketing at Ruby Skye, on the state of San Francisco nightlife and how he stays ahead of the game.
What was your first memorable show experience?
My first memorable show experience was an underground warehouse party I went to while attending Chico State called ‘Tion’ (pronounced ‘shun’). Some new friends I met while living in the same building introduced me to the party, and I soon became a regular. I had always loved electronic music while growing up, but had never really gone to many events before this.
‘Tion’ was an off radar, bi-monthly gathering of about 50-100 people, but it became the catalyst for my introduction to new music and the music scene, mostly a mixture of old school dubstep and glitch-hop.
From then on, I become enthralled with the culture, attending Burning Man 2009 shortly after, and many small and large scale electronic music shows and festivals.
Was this the reason why you decided to pursue a career in music?
It was certainly the beginning of my journey into a career in the music industry. I became a DJ shortly after and from there started to throw my own shows in Chico with my newly founded company EPIC. My goal was to bring great music to Chico and showcase the talent of my friends and DJs I admired.
These shows ended up out-growing the underground Chinese restaurant we threw them at, so we moved to the only large capacity theatre in town, The Senator Theatre. Five years later and we still do multiple shows there a semester!
What are some of the Bay Area’s unique nightlife characteristics?
One of my favorite characteristics of the Bay Area’s unique nightlight scene is the musical diversity. No matter what genre you are into, you will find a club or event that has that sound.
On any given night, you can find techno undergrounds, main room EDM club events, house after hours, trance nights, hip-hop/trap events, etc. We are very lucky to have so many awesome venues in the area, and a very hard-working group of individuals dedicating their lives and professions to bringing this music to the Bay Area.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve experienced or seen while working in music?
That will be published in my future tell-all book about the music industry, after a few names are changed to protect their identities (haha, but seriously)!
But one of my favorite experiences recently was attending the Eric Prydz 4.0 EPIC tour in San Francisco back to back nights, and then on the second night, hosting the Cirez D after-party at Ruby Skye. I have always been a big fan of him, so everything came full circle to me that weekend and I was able to be both a fan and event producer.
You’re an integral part of Ruby Skye, tell us a bit about your role?
I’ve been working at Ruby Skye for over 5 years now. I started passing out flyers for our TORQ Thursday night weekly, and quickly grew up in the ranks from there. Now I am the entertainment director & talent buyer for the club.
I book all public events, and am in charge of all marketing for the club. It’s a very rewarding job, but also very time time consuming and detailed oriented. Many times I will be working on an important e-mail, and need to shift gears very quickly away from it to handle something else.
Staying organized is a must for this position, as well as having a very strong team around me to support. The industry is very competitive right now, so it’s very important to keep up on the new trends and music and try to book those acts right before they blow up big.
What do you enjoy most?
The most rewarding aspect of my job is booking these acts I have grown up all my life listening to. I would have never imagined that I would be booking people like Eric Prydz, Benny Benassi, Laidback Luke, etc.
I love working hand-in-hand with their management to create the best show atmosphere/environment possible for the event. It’s even more rewarding when an event sells out, and I’m at the event as a ‘fly on the wall’ watching everybody having a good time.
What really makes my day is when an artist comes up to me to personally thank me for booking them, I always feel really humble after an experience like that.
What is one of the biggest challenges?
One of the biggest challenges of the job is to not take things so personally. Sometimes you will loose out on a show to another venue, and that’s just part of the job.
Money is a driving factor for a lot of these acts/agents, but also knowing when to stand down and just say no is very important. Just because an agent thinks their act is worth X amount, doesn’t mean it will bring in that amount of ticket sales. I’m very careful for every show I book as to not over-pay.
Being a DJ and avid fan of the genre gives me an upper hand over most talent buyers. I always have my ear to the ground for those new acts that are trending or about to, and always look at the crowd response when I play those tracks.
Another challenge of the job is keeping a healthy work/personal life balance. The job is 24/7, and making time for yourself is very important. Sometimes I turn off my phone and throw an away message on e-mail to keep myself sane, and remember there is a life outside of the job.
Aside from your work at Ruby Skye, you also run your own company EPIC as well as Northern Nights Festival. How do you balance the work between one job to another?
Great question, I ask myself that every day (kidding)!
Working from home gives me more time to focus on my job and companies. I don’t have to sit in traffic or commute, I get up and walk straight into my home office and start grinding right away. Keeping a balance between all my jobs is difficult at times when there is so much going on, but I’ve never found it to be unmanageable.
I’m a very driven person, and I’m always looking to do the absolute best in whatever task I have at hand. My teams at each company are also very important to a successful work balance.
Something I learned very early on is to delegate tasks when possible, and to not take every task on yourself. I have a pretty great workflow down between these jobs, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
Any advice for someone trying to break into the industry?
- Find a mentor to help you early on. I had one (and still do) when I started and it made a world of difference.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Every time I’ve failed, I learned a valuable lesson from it and have never made that mistake again.
- Support yourself with a great team. You are only as strong as the team around you.
- Don’t get into the industry for the wrong reasons. Money is great, but it does not come fast, easy, or without hard work.
- If you’re not willing to go the extra mile, there is somebody else out there who will. The industry is very competitive and you need to make sure you put your best foot forward with every text, e-mail, phone call, or conversation
- Don’t get drunk at your own events. Nothing good will come out of it and you will only embarrass yourself to your peers and colleagues.
- Don’t start drama. There is already enough in this industry. Rise above the drama and let your work speak for itself.
Lastly, what is the one song that is on repeat for you at the moment?
Sailor & I – Black Swan (Maceo Plex Remix)