Covid-19, destiny of small events and promoters: interview with Nathan Martin
Written by Katrina Merca on January 25, 2021
2020… A year that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons…
During tough times, music can be a great form of escapism and – don’t we all need that at the moment…! Whether you’re a DJ or a raver, music can transport to a better place where your troubles are forgotten and you are at peace with the world.
Whilst different genres of music mean different things to different people, there is no doubt that trance is more than just music. It’s a voyage of discovery and emotion that quite few other genres can match. Sadly, last year not many have been on that voyage… No “hands in the air” moments, no 140 BPM fist pumps and no moments, when a crowd of 500 and more are united with each other and being lifted into the stars. Truly magical moments.
We are lucky to have easy access to tunes that bring back memories or give you goosebumps, but nothing beats that moment at the rave when the breakdown fills you with emotion, and then the great release, when the drum beat kicks in. Whether it be tuning into Trance-Energy Radio, listening to Mixcloud or a podcast, there’s loads of ways to listen to great trance music. That’s a true blessing when around the world ravers are forced to stay at home.
Let’s talk about trance and reality of being a promoter during COVID. Everyone knows the big global trance brands such as Dreamstate, Luminosity and Transmission. Whether it be through attending their parties, watching YouTube videos or buying their merch, these are big players and huge investors into the trance scene and deserve huge respect. Through their size and reach, I have no doubt that in 2021, when normality returns, they’ll be back bigger than ever and putting on amazing parties.
But what about the guys that have been keeping the scene alive by putting on parties that don’t have global or national reach? These guys are the true heroes of the scene and they’re just as important as the global players. For many, it’s an expensive hobby driven by the love of trance music.
This is the story of Nathan Martin, a promoter in Kent, UK, and his event named Trance, and how COVID has wiped out 2020, but hasn’t wiped out the ambition to bring great trance events to the South East of England as soon as possible.
I guess like most promoters, it all started for me as a raver on the dancefloor, attending our local nightclubs at the height of the early trance days, mixed with a lifelong passion for trance. This led me to travel the country to attend bigger branded trance parties. For me, you don’t get that euphoric feeling from any other genre. For sure, each creates their own moments, but trance takes that to the next level of goosebumpage!
So what’s your all-time favourite trance song?
What a question! I really cannot pick just one. There are so many special tracks that mean very different things, with different memories. I guess Energy 52 ‘Café del Mar’ has to be up there, along with Moonman ‘Galaxia’ as it just reminds me of Ibiza with my sister, as does Ferry’s mix of ‘Barber’s Adagio’, BUT….if ‘Push’ came to shove, I’d go with Push ‘Strange World’.
What inspired you to become a promoter in the trance scene?
I have always been a promoter, having put on various parties over the years. I will openly admit that I moved over to the house/tech-house/techno scene because that’s what was working in Maidstone (100,000 population town in Kent, England) at the time, but on a personal level, I missed hearing trance locally as well as playing it as a DJ… so I decided to do something about it. I didn’t expect it to take off as quickly as it has though.
Tell us about ‘Trance’ and the journey to date?
It’s certainly been a journey, but every step has seen the event grow stronger and stronger. We are still young in terms of an event, having started in 2017, predominantly to bring trance music back to Maidstone. There was never a big plan to grow the event, we just wanted to play and hear trance again. We have been lucky though and the support from day one has been phenomenal! We had no choice but to push the event up a gear at each party to keep it moving and fresh and to date we have had some amazing guests including Graham Gold, Dan Stone, Darren Tate (DT8), Amy Wiles, Farius and Sean Mathews all playing for us. We have an amazing new resident in Adam White, plus local legend Paul Johnson, as well as our faithful residents and an abundance of local talent who have played for us and will be invited back again, so we are incredibly grateful to have so many people on board.
If someone comes to a ‘Trance’ event, what do you hope them to experience?
First and foremost a warm welcome from a group of likeminded people who will make everyone feel like they are part of the family. I always make a point of introducing myself to our guests and finding out about them, where they are from etc. At TRANCE, you can go as mad as you like on the dancefloor, or you can spend the entire time making friends and socialising, even hanging out with the headliners! I’m proud of what we have created.
What would you say has been been your biggest learnings to date?
Remain humble and be grateful for every opportunity. I have never played a status card and never will. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by the most amazing group of people. Know your roots, remember where you came from and Just. Be. Nice. We have created a family at ‘TRANCE’ and that will remain. There are no VIP’s and no guestlists. We are all the same. There’s no place for egos at our events.
We have to talk about COVID ☹… How frustrating has 2020 been?
Incredibly frustrating, but we need to look at the bigger picture. It is likely we will be back up and running at some stage and our lives will carry on, but for so many, 2020 has ripped lives apart and taken so many from this world, way ahead of their time. We must remain grateful for what we have, there are families far worse off right now and our thoughts go out to each and every one of them.
Have DJs who you’ve booked been supportive?
On the most part, yes! And I think this comes down to communication and transparency. Both of which I am hot on! I have always been upfront with the DJ’s and agencies I work with, and this appears to have been appreciated. I have paid all fees due and never asked for a fee to be cancelled. The dates will simply be rescheduled when we can. I’d like to think that this has helped them and their families with at least a little income. We keep in constant touch, and for some, we have even made plans for future bookings, which keeps things on a more positive level.
Before COVID hit, what were your plans for 2020?
This is a difficult question to answer as 2020 was set to be our biggest year yet. We had our first ever street party planned with Dave Pearce headlining, plus our line ups for the rest of the year were insanely good, bringing some of the biggest names from the scene to our little party in Maidstone. All the acts had been booked, we were well ahead on planning, we had a vision and were about to launch a rebrand. So, this was meant to be the year we took TRANCE to the next level….
We have done a couple of TRANCE live streams, and we just update people on the socials as and when we can. There is very little else we can do right now other than sit tight and hope for a swift return in 2021.
Facebook doesn’t make it easy for livestreaming events… Compare the online event you put on to a normal event. Were the challenges the same and did you enjoy it?
There is no comparison. Each has its own element of challenges, be it technical or physical, but being able to interact online really helped and receiving great feedback made it all worth it, but you absolutely cannot beat putting on the live event. We all really enjoyed the live streaming event. It was a learning curve for us as well, but it worked out brilliantly!
Hindsight is a wonderful thing; do you think you could have done anything to put on events in a safe and legal manner?
Yes, absolutely we could have done, and we did consider every possible option. Endless meetings searching for a way to get the party back. Obviously during the first lockdown, nobody was able to do anything. When restrictions were lifted a little, we could have easily put on a TRANCE ‘light’ party, or a TRANCE ‘brunch’ event, but I have always stood by the ethos of being and doing the very best you can. TRANCE needs the lasers, the volume, the euphoria, the hands in the air moments, the losing it to the random person next to you on the dancefloor when that drop kicks in. We wouldn’t be able to create that the way things are now, and I won’t put on a half-hearted event, so for now, we sit and wait until we are back to that point. Sorry folks….
Getting the crystal ball out… What do you think the post COVID will look like for your events?
I think to begin with, some people may be reluctant to party in crowded places and I understand that, so I can see it will take a while for events to get fully going again and for people’s confidence in large gatherings to return.
What restrictions do you foresee in 2021 and what will you do to ensure you can still put on great events?
Again, who knows right now. There is too much uncertainty now, and a lot of speculation as to when gatherings will be allowed back. How we put on our events remains to be seen, but the safety our team and guests will always come first.
Do you think it’ll be tough getting guests to return?
Totally, and I refer to my previous points, whereby we won’t put on an event until we feel the time is ready, in an environment where our guests will feel safe and assured.
Are you in close contact to club owners to keep tabs on their plans for getting their venues back open?
Yes, it’s essential to remain in contact with venues, promoters, agencies and suppliers. By keeping up communication, we will all be in a much better position to get the party back up and running as soon as possible.
How soon post COVID will you look to hold an event?
As soon as it is considered safe to do so. At the moment, I think it is impossible to put a time scale on it. Things are changing every week, but as soon as we feel confident that we can deliver the party we have worked so hard to produce to date, we will fire up the lasers once more.
Money… Has COVID left you out of pocket?
Yes, absolutely it has, but I’m fine with that for the reasons I have given. If the expenses paid out have helped cover some of the losses our booked artists and suppliers are experiencing, then that makes me ok with it.
When normality returns, what is your ambition for ‘Trance’?
To just keep growing the event and give everyone who attends the most memorable few hours as a release from day-to-day life. To continue to grow the family we have created (everyone’s welcome!) and keep on bringing world class headliners (of which many are planned!!) as well as continue to welcome the abundance of local talent to the decks at TRANCE. I want to give new DJ’s the opportunities I never had at the start of my career!
Written by Gregg Devine