Zouk CEO Andrew Li Wants People Clubbing In The Cloud
What happens in Vegas, usually stays in Vegas. But when Andrew Li, CEO of nightclub group Zouk, met Min-Liang Tan, the co-founder and CEO of gaming company Razer, in Las Vegas in January, what went down in Sin City didn’t get left behind.
While in Vegas, the pair spoke about potential collaborations, such as fitting out Zouk clubs for e-gaming tournaments or incorporating Razer’s technology at Zouk’s Red Tail social bars. “[Tan] is a huge disruptor in his field and we have a lot in common in trying to push the boundaries,” says Li.
When Covid-19 hit, they saw it as an opportunity to put these plans into action.
Inspired by clubs in China, which live streamed performances at the peak of the country's lockdown in February, Li had already begun to float the idea of doing something similar in Singapore. In March, when the government announced the closure of entertainment venues, they decided to launch cloud clubbing.
Together with live streaming platform Bigo Live, which Razer has an existing partnership with, Zouk launched a series of closed‑door DJ sets in March that streamed exclusively on the Bigo Live app.
“We felt the combination of Razer’s technology and our expertise in music would encourage people to stay home, while still giving them a community experience of clubbing,” says Li. In the Razer channel of the app, users are able to interact with the DJs and each other via the live stream chat, as well as purchase and send virtual gifts, such as “beans” or “stickers”. A portion of the proceeds from virtual gifts are paid to the DJs to offset the production costs of closed-door acts.
The cloud clubbing idea proved to be a success—their first session reaching around 200,000 views over three hours. There are already plans to expand programming by streaming acts on Fridays and Saturdays, and to rotate the line‑up with different genres of music and types of artists.
“To be honest, there’s no nightlife now, so people who would normally go out are now interacting with each other in the virtual sphere,” says Li.
This situation has spurred us into moving into the online universe and I think it will be here to stay
The cloud clubbing initiative is also capturing business interest, with several alcohol partners already looking to participate, says Li. “When you have a certain amount of people coming online to watch you, you could take the partnership and sponsorship route,” says Li.
For now though, the immediate aim is to build an online community, with monetisation to be implemented later, says Li. The company is also giving back by donating a small portion of proceeds to fund the donation of food items to Singapore’s healthcare workers.
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We could have a Zouk clubbing channel for our clubs in Malaysia and Las Vegas, and on our cruise ships
— Andrew Li
While cloud clubbing is still in its nascent stages, it could be a permanent fixture after restrictions are eventually lifted. “This situation has spurred us into moving into the online universe, and I think it will be here to stay. We could have a Zouk clubbing channel for our clubs in Malaysia and Las Vegas, and on our cruise ships. So the next time we have a DJ like Armin van Buuren or Marshmello in one club, we can live stream the act to our communities around the world,” says Li.
Still, he admits to being “a bit old school” at heart and believes that streaming probably won’t permanently replace in-person clubbing. “You can’t beat the energy and human interaction of having people in a club and reacting to the music together," says Li. "Or when you are at ZoukOut [the annual outdoor dance festival in Singapore] with thousands of people, and standing at the beach at sunrise the morning after with the wind blowing in your face. You can’t get that online.”
See honourees from the Entertainment category of the Gen.T List 2019.