Throwing events in Ibiza is no easy task. The competition is fierce and fans want the absolute best when they are paying outrageous prices for tickets and water. ANTS is providing that elevated experience, growing from an Ibiza brand to putting on events all over the world. In a see of mainstream music at Ushuaïa, they are bringing some of the best in house to the club each week with the likes of Maya Janes Coles, Andrea Oliva, Joris Voorn, Steve Lawler, Groove Armada and more. They also do frequent stage takeovers at festivals like Tomorrowland, Summer Park and World Club Dome, in addition to single night events around the world.
Putting all of this together is challenging from the creation of new production to shipping it and staying on top of trends to keep music fresh. For our latest Industry Insider, we chat with Romain Pissenem, the leading figure behind ANTS unique production and owner of global production company, High Scream about how he gets all of this done and keeps ANTS on top.
How did you get into the business, what was your first job?
I saw this girl working in my school that I thought was really pretty. I told the teacher that I wasn’t there for any kind of theatre lessons, but that I was a show director who was there to rent the theatre to do a show. I ended up starting my first production company at the age of 17 and 24 years later I’m still doing the exact same thing!
At the beginning I was much less keen on theatre and more into organizing parties – so we came up with a concept: electro-theatre, where you produce a show with proper lights and setup but mixing it with the energy of a big party. This is what you get when you come to Ushuaïa – you get a big production, an Italian party setup (VIP, big dancefloor, iconic stage), and we produce a different show every day, much like acts in a theatre -- we like to have a story or a theme.
When people go out, they want a story, they want an adventure. With our shows, I want to make sure that we offer a proper journey; a proper experience. It’s a concept I’ve tried to do all my life – from theatre at 17, national theatre, adverts, clubs etc. When our club opened, electronic music was starting to become more popular, and it would be interesting to see the state of production and events in 10 years or so.
What is the secret to being a successful promoter in the Ibiza in 2019? What are your biggest challenges?
I always say that it’s the passion. You need to work and never stop – you need to have a good relationship with management and artists. It’s very important for every show to present a level of passion and professionalism. You need to be careful that everything has been thought about and considered.
They key is working a lot and being very excited.
What is your favorite part about your job?
This is a very good question! With ANTS, I wanted to find something different this year from the usual. When I was in London, I went into a shop that sells those maps and posters of London, and I saw an underground map of Piccadilly Circus. I saw it and thought, “This is it!” I wanted to be able to do this kind of underground city with ANTS – it looked like the movie Metropolis. I wanted to create a kind of upside-down parallel world: an ANTS city. When you have an idea like that and you go to the designer, and then 1 month later you see it come to fruition and become reality that is my favorite part of the job. You realize you are not as crazy as you think.
How do you book for different markets in Europe and around the world? Are there overarching themes you see and what are more regional tastes?
We specialize in electronic shows, but we are doing a lot of other projects and collaborations too. We do club design as well as production; we work globally. We do the David Guetta world tour; we did the new Martin Solveig – a lot of different projects with different artists.
We have our own style, but we like to do collaborations (such as Black Coffee). I compare my job to a chef in the kitchen – I can cook some good shows, I have different recipes, but what’s important is to find the right ingredients.
The complaint about Ibiza nightlife is that it has seen itself split up among the have’s and have nots. How can a more equitable Ibiza be created without just playing on nostalgia?
What I love is that we have a huge diversity in Ibiza. For my part, the production part, it’s really important to consider the people who come and buy the tickets to come and see the show. People are obviously there to make money, but our job is to entertain people mainly. When people pay lots of money for tickets, there should be big production and shows on offer, so they can have a huge experience. It’s very important to consider the customer – they are the people who make us live. I want people to leave the show and say “wow.”
Where do you see the biggest growth for your events and where are some areas that are a bit stagnant?
For us it’s important to offer respect to the audience who come to us every day of the week. In terms of production, if we put the seven days of the week into one show, it would be absolutely amazing. It’s a bit like when you go to see a cabaret – there are so many features and acts you may prefer, but all of the acts will be of the same level.
What are the various pieces of the colony for your Ibiza production?
A lot of people! I start with the concept, then the stage design, the technical plans, the setup and the decoration. When you’ve done all that you need to ship it all and then take it down every day. We also have the costume designers, video content, light design and so on – it’s a big one!
What is ANTS doing to make their events more environmentally conscious?
In all of the shows we try to work with recyclable materials and with companies who only recycle. It is very important to me and is something we always need to be careful about. All of our confetti is biodegradable, for example. There’s not a planet B! When I was younger, our generation was not so conscious of the environment – but today, it is very important for us. We are not 100% perfect, but we really try the maximum that we can.
What are traits and skills that ANTS looks for in potential employees (how would someone get hired)?
Nice people! When people start to work at High Scream, they realize people are so nice. I consider my business more like a car – you need every piece of it. If you have one piece missing like a broken wheel, you have a big problem with the entire car. We all need to work together; what I want is people who are good at their job but are part of something much bigger than just the company. I’m looking for people who want to go into this journey with everyone else. My most important thing to consider is the knowledge and the passion.
What is a piece of tech or trend you see changing live music in the next 5 to 10 years?
Every year we have more technology - people I speak to in the industry say how far things have come. In electronic music, we did not start with big productions; it is an industry that is growing a lot. Today, we are heading in a direction where we can create shows for electronic musicians that are akin to U2 or Elton John. Every year the quality of the shows is getting bigger and better.