Welcome to 2022! Last year sucked and this one may suck as well, but hopefully it sucks less. As we enter 2022, we hope for fewer show cancellations and a ride out of the worst of the pandemic. The events business has been upended time and time again with starts and stops over the past two years. It has left people out of work, caused big financial losses and prevented community gatherings that humans need. The Gardens of Babylon is one of the many companies that have tried to navigate the landscape. Shishi Meriwani first founded the Dutch events company in 2016 and a label was founded two years later in 2018. They combine spirituality and music at their events, seeking a “more conscious way of gathering.” This can manifest into yoga, meditation and of course, dancing.
The label embodies that holistic spirit with deeper, melodic house music that toes the line between meditative and ready for dancing. Given the landscape, we wanted to find out how TGOB is putting on events, signing music and managing the pandemic. For a new Industry Insider feature, we chat with the founder Shishi Meriwani about those points, how last minute things can be when booking a show, how they choose music for labels and events and more.
RM: What are the two or three key things that can make an event successful?
SHISHI: I think the intention you have to organize your event will definitely affect its success, for example creating a beautiful experience for others versus pure profit. You can feel the difference when you are at an event no? Another key to success is collaborating, co-creating. It always leads to beautiful ideas.
What is the booking policy like for your events? Are there considerations for gender / racial diversity?
Now we do yes. The team had a long diversity training at our office to actually understand what diversity is all about. Regarding gender diversity, when I started with The Gardens of Babylon, I just created the line-up how I wanted. I figured as a woman and as the founder I had more freedom. Now five years later I am more passionate than ever to really consider my line-ups. In the end if you believe you can really make a difference you actually will.
How do you sign artists / tracks and are those diversity considerations made as well?
For the record label I am open to anything I receive and fall in love with. I am still learning a lot and I am also learning how to implement diversity. Although the nationalities and gender diversity are already very much present, I guess it’s not the part of Babylon where I think diversity is the leading way.
How do the events and music releases work together?
We link bookings to the releases. At least we tried. A lot of was released during COVID, which made it more challenging.
Events have been upended by COVID over the past two years. How will this disruption impact how you plan events going forward?
You can definitely tell that the shows are planned more last minute. It’s for example very difficult to plan our 2022 and 2023. That can be stressful. The Monastery, our four-day festival in Germany, has been postponed twice. But again, we work on it as if it will happen.
What is something you have taken away as a businessperson during the pandemic and how did you survive as an events brand?
The biggest lesson of the pandemic for me is that we are all in this together. We left India suffering by itself and we got the delta. We have no communal effort in Europe. We continue to rise and fall. If you also take this on a more micro level. We are all in this together in the music industry. We need to look after one another. Promoters, ticket providers, DJs and also the crowd. If we don’t join forces we will be in this for a long time.
As an event brand from Holland we got a few months of support. For which we are lucky if I look at some of my colleagues. Important is of course how do you survive as an event brand when you do not have events. So how do you keep your community active. And that would be we organized a LOT online.
Where are some places you would like to do an event, but haven’t had the chance to yet?
EGYPT. Egypt has been on my wishlist forever. It will happen in 2022 I am sure of it. But we also have London lined up. Georgia, it’s the dream. And I guess my ultimate goal is Japan. But the list is endless. We “only” touched 22 countries. And the world is filled with cultures and places to explore full of amazing people.
What would be your advice for someone in the music business looking to pivot to the label or event side of things and can’t afford to do unpaid internships and may not have label / events experience already, which most entry level jobs seem to require?
I had a full-time job when I started. Working during the day at a hotel and in the evening for The Gardens of Babylon. Nothing comes without effort. My advice would be to still volunteer or make concessions on income if it’s your dream to work in music.
How did you get into the music business?
I was studying law and basically got bored of both University and the parties in Amsterdam. So I started just for fun by doing a hip-hop weekly that wasn't really credible. Over the years my taste in music started to change including the music I wanted to bring to Amsterdam. A few years later still with little experience, but a very strong drive, I started organizing the Babylon events. I needed a lot of help in the beginning and fortunately I found that in the Babylon community. An endless amount of volunteers helped create this community, as well as my current business partners, the guys from Apenkooi. They organize DGTL festival and so on. Now I know a few tricks of the trade of course, but you never stop learning and growing. I like that. I love working in music.
What type of people / specific qualifications do you look for in potential employees at TGOB?
Hard workers. Doers. I understand that as an entrepreneur you have a different mentality. But I can’t deal with 9-5 people at all. A job at The Gardens of Babylon is very fun, you travel, the team is absolutely amazing. But you are expected to work hard. Also, flexibility is needed if you work on our team. We can get a show 3 or 4 weeks from now, but we have two lined up already. How do we deal with this? And last but not least, a team player because we are in it together. If someone is drowning in work, we all step in. It feels good to work hard though at this company. You see the results in each show. Not just at the end of the year for example.