Hovering on the corner desk of the bustling lounge in one of Berklee College of Music's main buildings, colloquially referred to as ‘150 Mass Ave’, a couple blend in behind the hurrying student mass transferring between morning classes. I follow the text from Angela Bray, one half of the duo mastermind behind iExperia, to meet two people clad in all-black. As we walk to our meeting room, I am struck by their deep quiet confidence, kindred to those who let their actions do the talking for them. And that is certainly the case. Angela Bray and Eric Spicuzza are responsible for throwing massive festival-style parties all around US campuses.
They may be sheathed in serious black attire, but their events are based upon all that lights up after dark. For instance the radiant student population of the entire US. The previous week I had attended their Fall party, ‘Glow Fall Fest’, at the famous House of Blues in Boston. The following week they went on tour, with events for 5000+ students in outdoor arenas, with fireworks and lighting inspired by the likes of internationally renowned Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festivals. Packed with hundreds of local students, they entertained us at House of Blues with unusual attractions. There was an aerialist, floating from swathes of purple velvet hanging from the ceiling. On juicy chorus drops, a huge brightly lit coloured robot clutching two guns pumped out plumes of smoke onto the roaring crowd. It was so packed that I only had space to thrust my hands in the air and dance sandwiched between three of my friends.
So, as an EDM producer and fan of exciting large-scale concerts, I was excited to sit down with Angela Bray and Eric Spicuzza, to pick their minds in the world of epic party-throwing.
How did the Glow events start out?
Eric: I initially started this with two friends when I was at Northeastern [University], because I felt like there weren’t many entertainment options for students under 21, aside from Frat parties. It started much smaller than it is now. The first show was upstairs at the Middle East, in Cambridge.
I was in a band and doing many shows. But I felt that I saw a lot of things that were wrong in the management. For instance, bookers put bands together that didn’t mix well, made us perform in a weird spots, and we often didn’t get paid. So one night, in my notebook, I wrote down all the problems that I could think of. On the other side I thought of the solutions to each one. That’s how I began to move in the direction of what you see now. We threw the first event at the Middle East upstairs. But event organising was a new world for me. I didn’t know many people in that community, so I posted on Craigslist to hire a team. That’s how I met Angela.
Angela: He posted an Ad looking for a DJ. I was DJing at the time and one of my friends sent it to me. So I responded and we met up at a Starbucks downtown. I was really into the nightlife scene and wrote for the school newspaper about electronic music. But I had the same issue as Eric, in that I couldn’t go to many events as I was under 21. So although I went to that first event as a DJ, I got way more involved afterwards and moved towards the event production side of things.
How did you grow your business?
Eric: Our event was very popular in the first year. So we ended up doing a whole ton of smaller events. After a year we got an opportunity to do an event at the House of Blues for the start of the following school year. From that we started booking colleges across the US, from Texas to Florida. We grew from doing a 300-person room, to the House of Blues, to a 5000+ arena in just a period of six months.
Where did the name come from?
E: I wanted a name people react to. Glow parties were the thing in 2011.
Growing at such a rate must have presented ample opportunities to grow your mindset. Can you share a few?
Eric: I’ve learned that there’s no reason to rush. It’s better to take your time, get your footing, and then take a risk. I’ve also learned that it’s not the end of the world if something doesn’t work out. The show at House of Blues last week was the result of us trying things and keeping the things that worked. Even on this event, we tried things that we won’t keep as they didn’t work as great.
Angela - I read that you hosted an EDM blog. How has that informed your journey into this world?
A: I used to do a blog where I’d cover festivals, nightclubs and sometimes bigger festivals. I started off interviewing big name DJs. I’d chat with them before or after the show, or on their tour bus. Now it’s more in the direction of interviewing people who work in the music industry. So festival organisers, the people who do the PR, or the tour mangers who work with these big artists. You always see interview with the DJs, so I’m trying to do more of behind-the-scenes stuff that music industry people, or students trying to get into that world, would be interested in learning about. It’s interesting to learn their process. Sometimes they go to school for it, sometimes they don’t. And it’s interesting to learn about the specifics of their job. It’s just really cool to talk to all these different people on what they are doing, like interviewing Steve Aoiki’s tour manager on how he got that job.
What inspired you to create a show featuring aerialists, robots, dancers alongside DJ acts?
E: I’m really interested in live shows, especially those that do extremely well across mass audiences. I figured the shows that do best are multi-genre shows. Like Cirque-Du-Solei. It’s not just a circus show. Most of their shows are basically concerts. They have a live band, and the soundtrack is very important. Blue Man Group is a great example of this, when they mix music with comedy and magic. That really appeals to me. We tried to take that roadmap and build it up that way. We try to constantly add things to keep as many people interested as possible.
How do attract your audiences?
E: From September 1st, there’s a clock ticking as to how we can reach so many people. It’s not easy, due to the time pressure. We do a lot of online advertising, using student ambassadors, flyers, showing up at other events.
A: As well as promoting online, we’ll also do in-person things. People will see, for instance, our human disco ball online. Then they’ll see it on campus, and recognise it. You know how they say if you see things three times, the third time you remember it? We try to apply that to our advertising. So if people see it a few times, they begin to remember. Cohesiveness is also important. We have a lot of pictures that we use on the same types of material, so that people know that it’s Glow Boston.
Let’s talk about partnerships and how they helped grow your audience.
E: We’ve partnered with a lot of local companies and brands over the last few years. So we've done many different kinds of partnerships, from Vitamin Water to Red Bull to spring break companies. They give away free things or have contests. As a lot of students are new to the city, we aim to connect with brands that are interesting or enjoyable for them.
The top 3 things that have helped you grow to where you are now?
E: Persistence. There's no secret - it’s not simply doing just one thing. It's doing things that other people won't do or aren’t willing to do. Would you be willing to cold-email 100 people and receive a ‘no’ every time, and get up and do it again? We've had some events that were complete failures. Persistence is being willing to get up the next day after losing so much money and time and attempt it again in order to fix the mistakes you made.
E: I am definitely the more impulsive of the two of us. If I think of an idea, I want to do it as quickly as possible. But I've learned to slow down in order to be more methodical when we try and implement new things.
I always wanted to know how to go from point A to point B. And what I've learned is that there is no set way. But, if you do good work and form good relationships, eventually an opportunity will come up. If you are prepared when that opportunity comes up, you'll be able to take advantage of it. To everyone else it will look like you got lucky. But in reality it was just your preparation and talent that allowed for it to happen. I think everyone gets opportunities, but it is just a matter of whether they can capitalize on them or not.
Just because you took a risk and it didn’t work out, doesn't mean you can't try again. You have just got to stay in the game. I think most people either try too much too fast, or they have a big failure and get discouraged. Look at some of the bigger artists who tried something and no one cared. But when they tried the same idea in a totally different way, everyone loved it. The lesson here is that maybe you have to try something different, or approach it in another way.
A: Another lesson is the importance of building relationships with people. That’s huge. I go to many events and stay really present in order to meet people. In the entertainment world, you have to know a lot of people. And you have to do the work finding them - they’re not just going to pop up and come to you.
How do you #getinthegroove?
E: When I feel uninspired, I like to go to other people’s shows to see how they do things. If I catch myself thinking how I would do it differently, then I know I’m onto something - that’s the magic. I’m good at recognising how things are put together and expanding on that.
A: For me, I am also inspired by going to shows, observing, learning by sitting in panels, and listening to people. You could call it research. It prevents me from doing the same thing over and over again. For instance, if I go to five different shows, I have the opportunity to pick something from each and see if I can mash it together to create my own thing.
I’m going to Amsterdam Dance Event next weekend, as they’re so ahead of the curve in Europe. I’ll be sitting in conference panels to learn more about concert technology and sit in a panel with one of the founders of Sensation, a huge show in Amsterdam that we’re fans of. Hearing these people’s thoughts on the future of clubbing and what they think is next in the world of entertainment means I can bring their ideas back here and create something new. You really have to go get inspired.
When we do a big show, like our event at the House of Blues [in September], or a big campus show with 5000 people, stepping back to watch it for five minutes and appreciate what we made happen, inspires me to go do it again, in a bigger and better way.
To see the next show from Glow Boston, follow them HERE