A couple of days ago, a photo of a flyer popped up in my Facebook feed that stopped me in my tracks. It was for a club night I’d been co-running for a couple of years and that we had just moved to a new venue in Manchester, England, as a monthly party. That club was called “Tangled”, and the flyer was from exactly 20 years ago.
The venue we’d moved to, called The Phoenix, was a small, dingy, dark sweatbox, but it had a great sound system and a sympathetic manager who believed in us and bent over backwards to help us make it work. I walked in and remember clearly saying to my co-promoter and DJ, Terry, “we’ve found our spiritual home”.
However, we were only in our 20s, “amateur” promoters (although I was determined to make the music industry my full-time career, and was DJing five nights a week in order to make that happen), and to be honest, none of us could have dreamed what that place and that club night would end up becoming not only for us, but for so many other people.
We quickly ended up going weekly, and I DJed with the boys there for the next decade. We became a Manchester institution, winning several “club of the year” awards. I got to DJ in U2’s nightclub, The Kitchen, in Dublin, as well as in Edinburgh (forget where now, place was huge!), many times in London, and at Privilege in Ibiza, to name just a few, all as a direct result of Tangled. I met and DJed with many of my heroes, due to being the promoter, meaning I could simply book them to play alongside me.
I learned not only how to DJ, but how to market a business, how to run a website and email list, how to build community, and also the value of consistency, hard work, vision… all things that laid the foundation for Digital DJ Tips.
But it was the people whose lives we touched who stand out the most. Not only the thousands of clubbers, but the DJs. For instance, Steve Thorpe, who posted the flyer, ended up compiling a book about the place. (Herbie, his co-conspirator in our “back room”, and he, DJed for us for over a decade.)
My partner-in-crime, Terry Pointon, and I ended up living what felt like a movie star-style youth as we flew from venue to venue, interview to interview, escapade to escapade. And last but not least, I met my wife there (she told me “your website is “sh*t, and I prefer the music in the other room, but you’re alright!”).
Now, I reiterate: We weren’t professional promoters, or DJs, come to that. Nobody told us how to do this. We learned on the job. We never, ever, thought for a second that 20 years later, people would still be celebrating what we were doing. We were literally living party to party, seeing where it took us. We were broke. We were, often, clueless. Things didn’t always go well. And looking back, well… let’s just say it was fun, but I wouldn’t want to do it again (it’d probably kill me!).
Here’s my message: We started something, not knowing what we were doing, not knowing where it’d take us, and with more than a dose of blind faith… maybe even a bit of madness. The biggest lesson I learned is that you have to get on the field of play… the rest will happen if you’re bold enough to step up. Doing makes you right.
So whatever it is you dream of – DJing your local venue, releasing your first tune, launching a mobile DJ business – get started. Dreamers dream, doers do. And maybe, just maybe, in 2037, you’ll be stopped dead in your tracks by something amazing from the past that pops up in your Facebook feed…
Have you ever taken a job, started a business, said yes to a gig, and not in the slightest realised what would come of it? Are you old enough (and still alive) that you even remember Tangled? Let us know in the comments below!