There is something to be said about a brand that does not need a line up to entice you to go. Elrow over the last few years has topped lists as one of the best parties to attend. With over twenty different types of themes, its a wonder how the Elrow crew is managing over 250 events across 50 cities around the globe.
It may come as a surprise to many that the roots of the Elrow curators start as far back as 1870 in Fraga, Spain. Leading through six generations of visionary family entertainment businesses until the Aranu siblings, Cruz and Juan, took over the family business and eventually led to the creation of Elrow the club in Barcelona, Spain in 2010. Over the course of seven years, the Elrow concept has spread like wildfire across the globe with successful seasons in Ibiza and appearances amongst large-scale music events such as BPM & Amsterdam Dance Event. In 2017 alone, Elrow has had two festivals, 18 stages at various festivals (cumulatively) and been in 24 countries and 50 cities.
Coming up this weekend in NYC, Elrow is bringing its wildly popular Brazilian themed party, Sambodromo de Brasil to Brooklyn. The brand boasts of being brought into a tropic wonderland filled with jungle rhythm and electronic beats. It is inspired by a troupe of Samba dancers, carnival floats, drummers and various other Brazilian delicacies to immerse the attendees in a fun new world. The line up consists of Art Department, Patrick Topping, Steve Lawler, Marc Maya b2b Bastian Bux and Justiano b2b Simon M.
Despite all the hectic work that is working for Elrow, their booking director, Victor de la Serna, took the time out of his insane schedule to talk to Magnetic Magazine about the workings of the Elrow inner sanctum:
Magnetic Mag: What do you do at Elrow? How did you begin working with them?
Victor de la Serna: I am the music director which means that I do all the promoting and booking for every single show. I have been with Elrow for a little over three years now.
MM: Do you feel like part of the family?
VS: Yeah, of course. I've known them for a long, long time because we come from the same city. Coming to work for them was very organic and an easy transition.
MM: Even before working for Elrow, what have you experienced watching them grow from a local Spanish event to now a globally recognized brand?
VS: Yeah, it's really funny, because actually, maybe last year, I was cleaning one of my old computers and I found a video from Elrow from 2011 where Richie Hawtin was playing on the Terrace and Paco Osuna was in the main room. Paco Osuna in the main room was playing for like 10 people and it was interesting to have seen that. I would never have expected to be working for them six years later on such a grand scale.
MM: Between its inception in 2010 and the boom of events globally produced since 2015 until today, what is it about the Elrow events do you think have made it such a popular success?
VS: I think it was because of the focus of acts, [and I know] this is going to sound very egocentric of me, but the music policy before was a little all over the place. You could find a heavy techno DJ like Sven Vath and the next day you could the Martinez Brothers. It was a bit all over the place, they had no music identity, and it was a bit of everything goes. I'm not saying I was the one to introduce the policy but I kind of focused more on the tech-house, funky house vibe.
At the end of the day, Elrow's parties are about fun and in my experience, house and tech-house genres embody that fun vibe. You know, I love techno, but techno is meant to be in a dark room. Techno is not meant to be in the daytime with glitter and characters running around. Between the new music policy and more exposure, the party started to grow. Our Ibiza season in 2014 and 2015 at Space, really helped show the Elrow brand to a more international crowd.
MM: What relevance does the word, 'Elrow' have in Spanish. What made Juan & Cruz's family decide to call their club/brand Elrow?
VS: Originally the club was called, Row 14. And I did not hear this from Juan and Cruz, but there is a story to the name Row 14. Their family has been in the industry for so long and when you work in this business [music business], or any business, making money quick is normally not a sign of success. If you reach a high level, really quick, you're not going to attain the level you want, but if you keep going forward in a steady way, you're going to lose money, you're going to make money, lose that money again, make some more money, lose it again, in the end, you're going to keep what you have in your hand. I think the word Elrow came from that. In this industry, you have to keep rowing to get ahead and the number 14 was because the club was 14 kilometers squared.
MM: I thought Elrow meant "arrow" for some reason...
VS: Elrow means 'the row', so in Spanish, when people say, 'Let's go to the row' they say, 'Vamos el row'! They took the nickname Elrow and here we are!
MM: Elrow seems like a strong family as much as it is a business. What values does the brand uphold amongst its team members? Would you say that there is a need for more members of the music community to work with similar values rather than the pursuit of just monetary success?
VS: Don't quote me on that, please. We need to treat everyone, not just in the work environment, but outside and inside, we need to treat everyone like part of a family. Everyone is welcome, you know, we are very welcoming people, and we've always looked for the wow factor. For us, it is very important to entertain, innovate, and surprise. That's the only way to kind of stay on top of your game, you know, you have to keep innovating, and people need to come to your events and go like, "Wow. That's amazing." People work hard to earn the money they pay to come.
MM: Are you still working with the same original team members?
VS: Of course, some of the same people are still in the warehouse and the creative team. Obviously, people change because that happens in any company. It doesn't matter what kind of company it is, it will come and go. The core people who started it are still here.
MM: What kind of effort goes into a brand when it goes from being locally produced to over 250 events in over 50 different cities?
VS: We're constantly expanding. It's like when we started working in the office there were twenty of us. Now, we have close to 100 people. The growth is exponential. You have to grow to do the kind of shows we want to do and work in so many different countries. Key markets for us are the U.S., South America, and Asia and other various markets. We are opening a warehouse in Shanghai, we already have people working in Shanghai. We have a warehouse in Pennsylvania for North America, and we are considering something in South America, as well. To me it's common sense, you save money on shipping and you save money on a lot of things and you have someone that is local. As much as we would like to do it all, but it gets to the point where you need to have someone on the ground.
MM: Elrow has so many different themes, how do you guys keep up? How do you decide which theme gets chosen for a particular event?
VS: One of the main things is logistics because we have so many events, there is a big team of logistics, the shipping companies, the truck companies, how many days you need in one place before you go to another one, where can you go, how long does it take. Also, one of the big things we do is try not to repeat the same themes in the same city in one year. A year goes by, the decorations would have changed, would have been adapted, so then we can do the same decoration again in the same city.
MM: Why was Sambodromo do Brasil chosen for the NYC show this weekend?
VS: Every year we try to change the theme, we add a new stage, we take up some things, so the core of the theme will still be the same, it changes. If you go to see in the summer and then you go to see in March, it's going to be different. You can still feel the core elements are there, but a lot of the things change, so that's the way to keep staying fresh. This theme has not yet been brought to NYC so we went with it! You will walk into the club and it has been turned into a jungle, so it's an impressive one, and we are very good at doing it.
MM: There is a level of confidence in an event brand when they can release ticket sales without a lineup. Do you feel that Elrow has risen to the point where you do not necessarily need to entice ticket sales with a lineup months in advance?
VS: It is nerve-wracking every time we release tickets for an event that is anywhere. We're not so cocky that we are going to sell out every single event. We're happy when it happens, but you never know. If you're a promoter and you think you're going to sell out, you're in the wrong business, because it doesn't work like that. We always try and we have an amazing group of DJs that work with us but also at the end of the day, Elrow is a brand. We want to see how strong the brand is in the market and it is a good way to check that. We don't think we are going to save money on DJs because the party sells well, no. We try to perfect every aspect of the party, from the decorations to the music, to the crowd, is important to us. Having a good line up is very important to us, as well. We just like to test the market in a way. We sold X amount of tickets with the brand, so we know the brand is already big, so we can focus on things that will benefit the brand as a whole.
MM: Elrow has proven that event production is just as important to a show as is the lineup. What is the day-to-day operation of quality control for an event that Elrow is producing? What does it take to put on such a massive themed party with all the toys and performers involved?
VS: It is intense. We have the main warehouse in Barcelona, people are working here and there. We have a booking department, logistics, marketing, graphic design, finance, every part of the company works hard. We do everything in-house, hence the expansion of the warehouses. All year we are in the offices, Monday through Friday, which is where we create new concepts and themes. We build our decorations and costumes for the performers. It takes a lot of work and it is a huge operation... not that easy!
MM: What is in the future for Elrow? What goals are you guys trying to achieve?
VS: What's the goal for Elrow? That is a good question. How can I put it into words? I think it's more about doing bigger and better events, pushing the boundaries and making people happy. For us, the biggest reward is just being there and seeing people smiling. Whether it's sold out or not, that's not the main thing. It is all about the people being at the party and enjoying themselves. They're going to walk out of there thinking, "Wow. That was a great party. I had so much fun." That's part of the goal, the other is keeping it in line with what we've been doing, and just try not to burn ourselves out, because it's very easy when you become successful, to keep doing the same thing just because it works. We need to keep innovating, looking for new spaces, new decorations, new themes. We're a very creative team and Elrow really shows that.
Upcoming Elrow Themes: