Venue Insight Catch Up With Alex Donald at ‘Free From Sleep’ Who Have Announced Huge Line-Ups Across
Free From Sleep are unique in that they link with the best labels and brands in electronic music to put on complete clubbing experiences. Rather than focusing on one sound, they deal with the cutting edge DJs and live acts from the worlds of drum & bass, house, techno, disco and jungle and roam around the finest venues in the country from Bristol to Brighton, Dublin to London.
Q. How did you get into promoting parties?
A. Well, as all great ideas start, it began in a pub in New Cross with one of my best friends. We decided to build a website to talk all things Bass and agreed that we needed to have a launch party with it. Next thing you know we are talking to agents, designing flyers and looking for a venue, whilst he sold his clarinet to part-fund the event.
Q. What was the first one you did, how did it go?
A. We booked a great line up at the time with Camo & Krooked, Brookes Brothers and Modestep and hosted it on a Thursday night at Goldsmiths Student Union. It did alright with 250 people but we lost a fair amount of money, learnt a lot of lessons and made some good friends in the process. I can't complain, though, it put me on the path to where I am now.
Q. What have you learnt in that time?
A. Believe in yourself, if you think that a booking/concept is going to work and it will sell, then 9/10 times it will. You just need to learn how to bounce back from the 1/10 that doesn't work. It's sometimes really hard, especially as a young and naiive promoter but in time, you learn how to bounce back. There are numerous more lessons learnt at this time but this is the most important one.
Q. What made you have the idea for Free From Sleep, the multi-venue idea?
A. If you look at the current London market, numerous venues are open but the top promoters all mix their shows in various venues rather than just one space. You may have an Artist/brand that you work with that can sell out a 1000 cap space but later on decides they would like to do a more intimate space, so you have to be able to offer the flexibility to do so. So I guess it was a decision that was made for us, rather than us actually deciding to do this.
Q. And who is involved, how many people, how much work goes in?
A. There is myself, Jack and Jules who are the partners in Free From Sleep, then we have a team of 5 supporting us, from logistics to marketing to finances. We work 10 - 6 every day and then a lot of weekend hours as well. It's worthwhile as we are forever growing and currently looking for even more staff to employ.
Q. Why do that, is it not easier to get a crowd and name for yourself with one sound in one venue?
A. This would be great but owning a venue in London is a risky business, you don't know when it may get shut down. Being the booker at Cable (RIP) and getting that phone call that network rail are tearing the place down...this will always be in the back of my mind. As for our sound, we don't have a particular sound. Even though we do a lot of Bass led events, we do some underground Techno to House to Hip Hop events. We would rather not get pigeon-holed into one venue and go into other spaces that worked best for the brands we work with. It's also a lot of fun, going into a space and doing something unique that no other brand has done in there.
Q. Who decides on bookings and what informs that? The crowd, your own taste, ticket sellers etc?
A. It depends on the brand/label we are working with. They usually decide on it and we can advise on what would help and who has done well in the past. As an office we have a wide range of tastes so this dictates the brands/labels we work with and the events we curate. With our own Free From Sleep events that we have done/doing they are more Techno focused as it doesn't clash with our Bass brands and Niamh, my assistant, leads the bookings and generally puts me to shame!
Q. What parties are you most proud of so far?
A. Well we have only been going for under 1 year so it's pretty tough as so many have been a blast. One that will always stick in my mind is 20 Years of Virus Part 2 at Steel Yard. So many people have said that is their best night of the year/event in ages. It's always worthwhile reading the comments and seeing the videos the day after when you're feeling shattered.
Q. What parties are you most looking forward to in this season?
A. 25 Years of Metalheadz at Printworks, it's our biggest show to date with a line up that is worthy of such an occasion. Also Hybrid Minds biggest ever Outline Show at Brixton, we have done so many shows with the guys and it's nice to see them get the recognition they deserve. But then to be honest, all of them for their different reasons, there are so many. But those two are definitely worthy mentions.
Q. What's it like having booked Goldie - is it hard to get given how famous he is, even outside music?
A. At the end of the day, he is a normal person and needs to be respected as that. Yes he's in the public eye a lot more than most DJ's but they are exactly the same as us, at the shows you let them hang with their friends and be comfortable in the surroundings. Goldie is a wicked person and we've definitely had a lot of fun working with him these past few years - looking forward to continuing that.
Free From Sleep
01.11 — Grum + Guests @ The Steel Yard — Grum & More
08.11 — Channel One meets King Shiloh @ The Steel Yard
15.11 — Eatbrain @ The Steel Yard — DC Breaks, Jade, Lights Out & More
15.11 — Hot Wuk @ Village Underground — The Heatwave & More
16.11 — MOTZ Birthday Party @ The Cause — Special Guest, Stranger, Jasmine Azarian & More
22.11 — Spearhead Records @ Village Underground — Special Guests TBA