Ferrer Vs Mansion: What It Really Means For Clubland

Ferrer Vs Mansion: What It Really Means For Clubland

It often amuses me how the worlds of pop culture and music collide on an almost nitely basis. As a group of people, djs tend to be passionate, opinionated and dependent upon public opinion to make a living. Any dj worth his or her salt can spin philosophic about polarizing figures like Pauly D, Paris Hilton, Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta, etc. Depending upon your point of view, the dumbing down of the universe is a blessing, a non issue or proof of the impending apocalypse.

What I am sure of is that what these figures all have in common is the debate over the “old school” notion that fame and fortune are meant to be earned, not conferred. The idea that compensation and adulation should somehow be connected to “talent” and “artistic integrity” is crucial to many people’s core. Individuals intoxicated by the wealth and consumerism celebrated by “bottle service” and “get bitches at all costs” dance music culture think the customer is always right. Perhaps my dread at hearing Moby advise all rock stars to learn to dj for extra money is unfair; why shouldn’t one exploit their own popularity? Both sides of the argument have their merits, but I am not ashamed to say that I reject the idea that consuming more irresponsibly than your neighbor makes you better or more interesting. Moby isn’t wrong, but to me being a dj is a sacred pursuit. I have too much invested in the game to think that Tommy Lee or Elijah Wood should be a dj.

Bringing this all to mind is the complicated case of DJ Dennis Ferrer performing at Mansion in South Beach and being forced off the decks because his set was deemed not acceptable to management. According to various reports 1) Ferrer decided to “educate” the crowd and play non-commercial house music 2) patrons complained that Ferrer “sucked”. As a long time fan of Ferrer, he of Objektivity Records (and mentor to the wildly popular Martinez Brothers), I was shocked to see this booking because he was on record as being disappointed with his asian gigs where he was expected to play cheesy non-underground music to satisfy fist-pumpers and mafia dons at the big clubs. Apparently Mansion did not go too well regardless of where you stand on the musical direction debate.

Dennis Ferrer tweets about incident.

Mansion has every right to be as commercial as they want; they made the investment in the venue and should be compensated for their trouble. No one made them book Dennis Ferrer. He should have been treated with respect and dignity. Management should never feel as if they can dictate to an artist what or how they play on a given night. Presumably the patrons came to see Dennis Ferrer. Venues are all too busy booking the same unoriginal acts over and over again, so they can’t get a pass when things go badly with an internationally acclaimed artist. Dennis Ferrer should have known better, but he has managers and agents who are supposed to make sure that things like that don’t happen. Unfortunately, even SHM know that in Miami (and other places), the Paris Hilton’s of the world can complain to management and try to get you to play Wiz Khalifa or Yung Jeezy at a supposedly “House music” venue and get their way.

They once closed their doors to Jersey Shore. Now, they only want commercial Dance music?The reason this all matters, the elephant in the room, is the politics of economics. While it is indisputable that Blacks and Hispanics are literally the Godfathers (and Mothers) of House and Techno, my brethren have largely been missing from the so-called dance music revolution that is sweeping the universe. For every Avicii, Deadau5, Kaskade or Skrillex there appears to be no corollary of comparable colored persuasion. How is it that titans such as Louie Vega, Todd Terry and Derrick May fail to command the same respect and compensation as Pauly D?? Likely because real djs don’t do reality television or make music that can be consumed as the soundtrack to a night of drunken and drug-addled debauchery. My heroes have also not mastered the pr and music-by-committee game perfected by the likes of Tiesto, Guetta, Sinclar, etc. By the way, they happen to all be talented people who have made the decision to make music that unsophisticated people happen to enjoy. That doesn’t make them criminals; I just don’t like what they do. Bob Sinclar and Kaskade used to be among my favorites; they made a conscious decision to cash in. My issue is why can’t more organic expressions of House music win favor as well?!?!? Generally, when a headline dj plays he can do no wrong; why is it different in this case??

The defense for bottle service oriented clubbing is that the patrons pay their fair share and everybody wins. Fair or not, Deep House is associated with urban people of color who are not inclined to pay $20 for a mixed drink or tip a doorman $100 for the privilege of paying $2500 to reserve a table for an evening. This has nothing to do with “clubbing” but everything to do with “balling out”. Clubs, with rare exceptions, exist to sell expensive drinks much the same way television exists solely to deliver advertising to the masses. This is a cultural battle that is being waged every nite and the “pragmatists” who are simply giving people what they want are surely winning this debate by a large financial margin.

Yes it is true that it is wonderful that some djs can command $25K – $100K per date and the shows are getting more elaborate and corporate. I am simply afraid that clubs that exist to showcase music and develop talent will soon be extinct. Imagine what life would have been like without Groove Jet, Zentra, Centro Fly, Sound Factory, Fabric, etc. Is it wrong of me to think that a generation of djs are getting into the game to mimic Afrojack rather than because they truly love music and are willing to struggle to make it happen?!?! The best nites of my life were spent in small or medium size clubs with great vibe and ambiance; will this experience be lost to me forever?? We are living in a time that rewards mediocrity and places celebrity above talent. We are not too far away from a world where midgets will be killed live for entertainment or clubs will restrict admission based on credit scores. Is that a world we want to live in; is this the club legacy we want for our children??

Please think of all this the next time you see the line-up for Coachella, Electric Daisy Festival or Ultra Music Festival. I thought these were meant to be the premiere events in USA for cutting edge dance music. I know that these events are publicist-driven but they are not shilling bottle service and have captive audiences. It would be nice to see some djs who do not need pyrotechnics and light shows to entertain the crowd; I thought dance enthusiasts were supposed to be a little different than the people who buys tickets to see Justin Bieber or Coldplay and a bit more discriminating. When that ceases to be true, we all lose. Everyone can’t be rich but everyone should be able to be true to their art and make a decent buck. To me this is like comparing Manhattan Transfer to Miles Davis; do you really think the comparison is even fair!?!? It’s not always about race, but it is usually about who makes the money.


Sorry for not posting this sooner, but I simply didn’t want this wonderfully written piece to go down in history without this update of events that transpired after its initial publication. I think it’s important that all the facts and views expressed about this issue are within reach to you the readers.

After Dennis Ferrer’s initial tweet expressing his disappointment at being kicked off the decks at Mansion, one of Miami’s most famous niteclubs, he went silent. The Internet on the other hand went beserk, with fans and veterans alike sharing their two cents, like we did with this piece -well, maybe we shared more like a dollars worth. But the silence was broken soon after and not only by Ferrer, but Mansion also released a statement on the whole affair.

Ferrer broke the silence first by posting to the DeepHousepages forums. In his original post and subsequent replies to other posters, Ferrer goes on to explain in a little more detail what exactly went down that nite from his point of view. Which is surprisingly not as full of vitirol as many originally imagined. He was quite understanding and fully aware of why Mansion did what they did. To sum up Mansion’s statement I simply quote them: “Every DJ has a bad day, and Dennis’s was last Saturday.”

We’ll let you read these comments for yourself, but essentially, it all boils down to one thing; this is a business and no one, even a veteran like Ferrer can be “benched”.

Read Ferrer’s post on DHP here.

Mansion’s statement here.