Working in live events is always a challenge with shifting consumer tastes, the difficulty to keep venues open, ridiculous hours and a hyper-competitive business that many want to be in. Avant Gardner has been a revelation for the Brooklyn music scene, putting on some of the biggest electronic music shows in the city in their three main venues -- Kings Hall, Great Hall & Brooklyn Mirage, in addition to other events in the area.
Hayata Ishikawa began his events career in the industry in 2013, starting the party brand Tribes with Matt FX (not to be confused with MattOx). Already a DJ since he was a teen, Ishikawa then became a resident at Webster Hall and worked on their marketing team as well. His career has led him around the New York event scene, now landing as the Director of Marketing & Brand Strategy at Avant Gardner.
We chat with Ishikawa about his various steps in the business, what it takes to be successful and how to find your niche.
How did you start your career in your industry?
My first CD was Let Go by Avril Lavigne. In 5th grade. If that says anything…
Everything started at the age of 16 when I learned to produce hip-hop beats. I then learned how to DJ because my parents asked me to curate music for their company holiday parties, which graduated from playlists to CDJs over the years, so I suppose I owe it all to them! In 2013, I started an underground party brand called Tribes NY with my partner Matt FX (he went on to be the music supervisor for Broad City). We started as a small 50-75 person party and graduated to rooms with 500-600 cap in a year.
The Tribes events brought a niche crowd sprinkled with industry folks and I eventually connected with the Webster Hall crew. I joined as one of their resident DJs forever ago (I remained a resident up until the day it closed in 2017), helped oversee marketing and promotions for the Girls & Boys brand there, ended up at Jukely a few years later and built out a tour marketing platform. I went to RPM Presents / Schimanski as a marketing lead and booked BangOn! events & Elements Music & Arts Festival before landing at Avant Gardner as their Director of Marketing & Brand Strategy ...and the rest is basically history.
What is the best part of the job in your industry?
Honestly, it's being able to work with artists I look up to. Putting our heads together with their teams to produce unforgettable fan experiences is incredible. Seeing the crowds at the venue having the best time is what makes all of it worthwhile. The energy you feel is priceless.
What are the biggest challenges of getting into your industry, how did you navigate it all?
The biggest challenge is figuring out what you’re really good at, passionate about, and how to grow in that field. From the beginning I knew I was more of a creative person than an analytical person and honed in on finding unique ways to approach content and marketing.
What career advice would you recommend to someone just starting oﬀ?
Learn as much as you can from everyone you meet. Even if you know exactly what you want to do in the industry, still make it your mission to have a well rounded skillset. Don’t pigeonhole yourself. It’s imperative to understand all facets of the industry. Leave the ego at the door and be eager to learn, even if it means doing bitch work.
As the electronic music culture continues to grow, what do you think the secrets to longevity in this business will be?
Having an open mind, not being afraid to try new things and being receptive to change. It's great to see artists pushing boundaries, working with other artists in different genres, and bringing more live elements to the scene. The beauty of electronic music is it's obviously technology based, so as the tech side evolves so do sounds. We’re seeing and hearing incredible things these days from artists that heighten fan’s experiences.
Did you start oﬀ as a fan of electronic music and then became involved in the business side, or did business bring you into the electronic music world? Describe that process.
As mentioned earlier I was a hip-hop kid but the energy around electronic music really drew me in. I knew early on this is the right place for me once I started to throw my own parties.
What does electronic music mean to you? What is your favorite genre?
It means freedom. There's nothing you can’t do when it comes to electronic music and I believe that's why I fell in love with it. My favorite genres (two) at this moment are deep house and “melodic house,” but I’m a fan of all genres.
What are some hobbies you pursue in your downtime?
Cooking is my biggest hobby. My parents are close friends with a lot of Michelin star chefs so I was in that world early on and appreciate the creativity. I also find myself reading tech reviews during my downtime. Not sure how that happened but I have a serious interest in new technologies coming out.
How do you stay relevant in an industry that is constantly changing?
Always staying ahead of the curve. You don't want to be doing the same thing everyone else is. Find inspiration outside of the industry or your typical “scene.” A lot of times the best inspiration is right there in front of you in your everyday life. Take a step back, It’s the simple things that can spark a genius idea.