Zouk CEO Andrew Li Wants People Clubbing In The Cloud
What happens in Vegas, usually stays in Vegas. But when Andrew Li, chief executive officer of Zouk Group, met Tan Min-Liang, co-founder and CEO of Razer, in Las Vegas in January, what went down in the Sin City didn’t get left behind.
While they were there, both men spoke about embarking on future collaborations, for instance fitting out Zouk clubs for e-gaming tournaments or incorporating Razer’s technology at Zouk’s Red Tail social bars. “He’s a huge disruptor in his field and we have a lot in common in trying to push the boundaries,” says Li.
When Covid-19 hit, an opportunity arose for the two companies to put some of their plans into action. Inspired by how clubs in China would live stream performances at the peak of the country lockdown in February, Li had already begun to float the idea of doing something similar in Singapore. In March, when the government announced the closure of entertainment venues, Tan reached out to launch a cloud clubbing initiative.
Together with live streaming platform Bigo Live, which Razer has a partnership with, Zouk would curate a series of closed‑door DJ sets that would stream exclusively on the app. “We felt the combination of Razer’s technology and our expertise in music would encourage people to stay home, while still giving them a community experience of clubbing,” says Li. In the Razer channel on the app, users can interact with the DJs and each other via the live stream chat and also use its functions to purchase and send virtual gifts, such as “beans” or “stickers”.
The first session, streamed at the end of March, garnered 200,000 views over three hours, with 5,600 people from Singapore and the region watching at once at its peak. There are already plans to expand programming by streaming acts on Fridays and Saturdays, and to rotate the line‑up with different genres of music and types of performing artists.
“To be honest, there’s no nightlife now, so people who would normally go out are now interacting with each other in the virtual sphere,” Li observes.
It also makes business sense for Zouk to offer streaming services. A portion of the proceeds from virtual gifts that users send via the app will be paid to the DJs and offset the production costs of closed-door acts. “There’s also a branding play—when you have a certain amount of people coming online to watch you, you could take the partnership and sponsorship route,” Li observes, noting that alcohol partners, including Martell, have already expressed interest in participating.
For now, the immediate aim is to encourage social distancing by building its online community—the monetary aspect of this endeavour will be implemented later, says Li. The company is also giving back by donating a small portion of proceeds to fund the donation of food items to Singapore’s healthcare workers.
We could have a Zouk clubbing channel for our clubs in Malaysia and Las Vegas, and on our cruise ships. So the next time we have a DJ like Armin van Buuren or Marshmello in one club, we can live stream the act to our communities around the world
—Andrew Li, CEO of Zouk Group
While cloud clubbing is still in its nascent stages, this could be a permanent fixture after the restrictions are eventually lifted. “This situation has spurred us into moving into the online universe and I think it will be here to stay. We could have a Zouk clubbing channel for our clubs in Malaysia and Las Vegas, and on our cruise ships. So the next time we have a DJ like Armin van Buuren or Marshmello in one club, we can live stream the act to our communities around the world,” says Li.
Still, he admits to being “a bit old school” at heart and believes that streaming probably won’t permanently replace in-person clubbing. He says, “You can’t beat the energy and human interaction of having people in a club and reacting to the music together. Or when you are at ZoukOut [the annual outdoor dance festival in Sentosa] with thousands of people, and standing at the beach at sunrise the morning after with the wind blowing in your face. You can’t get that online.”
(Related: How This Singaporean DJ-Producer Became Recognised By Hublot)