Born and raised in London, international DJ turned venue strategist Clive Morley would regularly make the trip around the globe to Australia for a sunny holiday. One ‘summer’ day, London’s trademark gloomy skies convinced Morley he should turn his holiday destination into something more permanent. So, recently he moved to Australia with a view to using his marketing company, Deconstructed, and considerable dance music experience to help a few venues get a leg up on the competition. venue delves deep into his past and finds out why venues are asking more of Morley.
GETTING THE BOOT — EEEK!
The story begins with Morley sitting pretty as a resident DJ at renowned underground club Fabric in London. At the time, he was also running his own Platform 12 night on the side. It was picking up lots of credible dance music press and turning into a successful underground event in its own right. For a DJ with not a musical bone in his body he’d reached the pinnacle of where his talents could take him. This level of notoriety and success was all Morley could have expected and all he’d ever wanted. But when Fabric wanted to expand, they wanted Morley to expand with them, which took more than a little convincing.
Clive Morley: One of the founders of Fabric wanted to start a chain of boutique pubs, and the head of promotions at Fabric, the guy that used to book me, wanted me to be the Marketing Manager for their first club. It was called The Old Queen’s Head, a horrendous, pokey, old man’s pub on a North London back street that had absolutely no chance. They didn’t really have a vision, and I declined. So he bribed me [some might call it blackmail! — Ed.]. He said, “I’m going to do you a favour Clive, you don’t really have much of a career, but I think you’d be really good at this. So if you don’t take this on, then I’m never going to book you at Fabric again.” I was mortified; it was my absolute dream to be a Fabric resident. But he obviously had the foresight. Fast forward a year and I loved my hands-on role in running the venue; seeing how people would react to different areas, what people would like about the toilets, and dead areas that we could look at and try and improve.
I eventually became the Columbo Group Marketing Manager to a group of boutique pubs that had quite a high profile with big-name DJs. Which was quite a good ‘in’ for me in the industry. In my final years before I came out to Australia I left the Columbo Group, and became the in-house Marketing Manager for The White House, a proper 700-capacity club, at the start of their refurbishment and redevelopment strategy.
THE MORLEY DIFFERENCE
Morley has already been hard at work on a few venues around Australia, including the Shelbourne Hotel in Sydney, so venue cut to the chase and asked him exactly what he has to offer, and why venues need someone like him.
CM: Most people have a fair idea of what they want to achieve but not necessarily the tools or the knowledge to make that happen. We named our company Deconstructed because we tend to work backwards, identifying what venues want to achieve with their target market and demographic and going from there.
The pubs that the Columbo Group took over were basically holes, doing 1000 pounds a week in revenue, which is why we managed to take them off the brewery. After our improvements it’d go from 1000 pounds a week to 30,000 pounds a week, for a venue that’s got a capacity of 200. The White House achieved around a 25 percent increase year on year. And with the Shelbourne, there are areas that have improved and areas that haven’t; certainly the areas that we’ve been mostly working on are corporate trade and event bookings, which are 25 percent up on last year.
venue: How does a pub dig itself into such a financial hole?
CM: A lot of the time a venue has operated a certain way for a number of years, and employees there have done the same job year in, year out and seem a bit flat. And people don’t react quickly enough to industry trends. When the Shelbourne opened seven or eight years ago it was a phenomenal business in a really great position. Though with the resurgence of the Darling Harbour area and Ivy opening just down the road, there’s greater competition that the Shelbourne hasn’t reacted to. Being objective about a business, you can look into things that need a bit of freshening up; staff, music program… I’ve been able to put my stamp on venues in the past because I come from a strong dance music background. I’ve usually had some fairly good contacts and am able to pull in favours from bigger agents and brands because that history is there.
venue: So what’s the process; how does Deconstructed work?
CM: It’s very different for every venue, and the Shelbourne is a venue that not only requires marketing, but new systems and staff training, musical programming, brand development, the whole thing.
venue: It sounds like you’re altering a fair chunk of a venue’s operational side, how does the owner and/or operator fit into the picture?
CM: It’s a partnership with a certain amount of crossover. At the Shelbourne the owners are a bit hands off, but the General Manager is quite hands on. So the owners and I have weekly meetings to devise some strategies and then hand them down to the GM to implement.
venue: Do you help with the implementation of those strategies?
CM: Absolutely, it’s not ideal to be honest, I don’t really want to get involved too much with the daily grind; you become 100 percent reactive then. But in some cases it’s necessary, especially if there’s a sufficient body of work to get through.
BRING THE NET WORK TO YOU
When Morley came to Australia he brought with him an impressive list of dance music contacts, but wasn’t well connected in the corporate events world. So he got to work building his own relationships at network event functions, making a point of meeting the right people. Morley stands by the saying ‘you have to be in it to win it’. He even went so far as to host his own high-profile industry networking events at the Shelbourne to bring contacts to him.
venue: Do venues need to be multi-faceted nowadays to attract not only people, but entertainment?
CM: I think the days of the superclub are gone. Like anything, tastes evolve and people don’t want to go out and dance all night in a warehouse-style venue. I think people appreciate different spaces and certainly social trends indicate bars, and smaller venues are on the rise, and bigger clubs less so. Also with multi-faceted venues there are multiple sources of revenue, so if maybe one area is not performing perhaps another is improving. If it was just a nightclub and that wasn’t performing, then you’ve got an unsuccessful business. It also means you’ve got to make more connections in different areas, and do more research. But a multi-faceted venue is a safer option and gives you greater scope for creativity. — Mark Davie