Here we have two guys with great educations and skill sets that chose to get into the club biz instead of pursuing traditional careers. They took the route of promoters, honed their skills, made relationships, made contacts and have taken the job to the next level, now working multiple clubs on multiple nights. Matthew Isaacs and Jordan Harris are part of an intelligent subset that doesn’t actually own a club but does own a marketing entity that isn’t limited by ownership. The Bloc Group is built for speed and versatility, and its ability to fill small or large rooms with a specific demographic makes them very valuable to clubs in need. The industry has evolved from a time when an owner and a couple of partners would throw on a DJ, hire hot staff, and open the doors. This partnering with promoters who bring in supermodels and celebrities, but not necessarily the masses, marks a development that will redefine club promotions. Danny A. has brought his bevy of beauties and movie stars to hot clubs for quite some time, but his pairing with savvy producers like Matthew and Jordan gives owners an opportunity to have a defining night delivered to them hook, line, and sinker. The fact that they are able to task multiple venues on a single night was unheard of just a year or two ago.
Tell me about your company: Matthew: The Bloc Group is a New York City-based marketing and nightlife promotions company.
And did you guys start off as promoters? Matthew, how did you get into the business? M: Actually we didn’t start as promoters. I started off in Mark Baker’s office. I was there for about eight or nine weeks, and then I got moved over to Lotus, where I worked in house for about a year and a half. Jordan: We actually know each other from doing some very small promoting during college.
Did you guys go to Cornell together? You went to Cornell, right Jordan? J: Yes, and I had a friend at Cornell who grew up with Matthew in Soho. So we were connected a few years before; over a couple summers in a row we would do small promotions together with a group of our friends. Nothing super serious.
Matt, what did you do with Baker? M: Baker’s office was one of my first jobs out of college, pretty much on an assistant level, but I guess I demonstrated some kind of talent within it, and I went over to Lotus and eventually took over their marketing and promotions programs. And I think that was probably during years two to four at Lotus.
I think Lotus came into its own during years two to four. Mark is one of my dear friends, he’s one of the nicest guys in the business, I’ve known him for many years, and he’s a good person to start to work for because he really does know his stuff. So, after a period of time as promoters, you guys started looking around … J: Well, I think Matthew saw some potential in the job he was doing. We obviously knew a lot of people around the city, so he came to me and said, “Why don’t we start doing this a little more seriously, in addition to the jobs that we’re doing now?” I was doing a marketing job full time at that point at a high-end concierge service. And we sort of got together and we started on one weekly party.
Which party? J: Thursday night at Manahatta, on Bowery. M: Manahatta, that was our first party, I think that was mid 2004. At that point we didn’t go into it subbing and bringing 20 people; we just went full on and started producing this Thursday-night party.
Did you like that party? J: Yeah, it was our first one! M: At the time we loved it … It was a great time because we didn’t know too much. I was at Lotus so I had some exposure to the nightlife community, but at the same rate we weren’t as involved as we are now, so it was just very enjoyable from the onset. But that quickly changed, I think anywhere between six to nine months into it, we were balancing day and night jobs, but that’s a pretty typical situation.
So then you made the decision to start the company? M: Yes, we went full on and started the Bloc Group.
So what I find really interesting about the Bloc Group is that a few times you’ve had a strategic partnership with Danny A. at Upstairs and the Plaza. Basically you provide a large compatible crowd that spends money, and Danny A. brings a very high-end crowd. How did that relationship work out, who approached who on that? M: Well, we had been working with Danny A. for about three years, I think. He first approached us at Marquee on Tuesday nights, because we were there pretty much from the beginning of the party. M: When Danny opened Upstairs, I think he realized he needed a little extra push in addition to what he was doing. Unlike the situation at Door, which was very very private, he didn’t necessarily want to over promote the club, but he wanted an extra fifty people around so that it wasn’t ever quiet or boring. J: He wanted a great crowd that would spend a little bit of money and would also mix in very well with what he brought to the table.
So you brought in an extra 50 people and these were your higher end people? So in a sense you had the ability to upgrade your scene because you were exposing your good people to Danny’s brilliant people and that really helps. M: And it wasn’t a conflict of interest for our business because a lot of what we do is really promotional management, which is kind of the way a modeling agency would manage their models. A roster of 40 or so sub-promoters that we assign to all these weekly events, but we’ve been doing it long enough so that we know how to manage these parties.
How many nights are you involved in around town? M: We work generally 5 nights a week, but there are between 10 and 12 events on those nights. About 2 or 3 a night.
So you have two or three different venues on a given night, you have promoters that are signed to each one, you may mix them, or boost one, manipulate the sub-promoters to enhance the crowds? J: Yes, we have a big team that controls the network of our people and just make sure that each particular party is busy and going well each time.
I always say that a club is defined by its filler. The problem with club owners is they don’t understand that. Most clubs spend all their money on the high end and assume the filler is just going to show up. You guys are against that theory, and that’s how you make your money. J: Well, we do both. We can do high end and we can do filler.
But you’re making your money and people are hiring you because you can do both? M: It depends on the capacity. When we were working with Danny, when we were running Upstairs with him, or at the Plaza, we were delivering what we believe to be a really high end crowd. Some places we’ll provide him high end, it really depends on the venue and what their strategy is.
But you’ve built yourself a company that can do a lot of things. You can do event management; you can book entertainment and run shows and things like that. M: I think Jordan and I decided a couple years back that we really wanted to concentrate on building our company and building it so we could take on specific marketing projects or event planning gigs. And although we’ve had a good amount of success with promotions, every year we see other things we’re doing getting more and more successful. At the moment we have a roster of corporate clients that we work with on a retainer basis, Showtime, Ciroc Vodka, In Touch Weekly, etc.
How about DJ’s? Do you have a stable of DJs? J: Yeah, we have different DJs.
Since you have about ten events a week, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have regular DJs you work with and just have a little bit of control over them? Because in a sense you are owners, you are owning the entity. M: Well we only own it on the nights we produce the parties. J: Certainly we might make more money than a lot of the owners out there if we did that.
Well certainly you do, don’t you? Isn’t that the whole point? J: I think that’s what we’ve been weighing, when we’ve had opportunities in the past couple years in terms of ownership. It’s weighted against, ‘hey we’re going to make less money if we do this but it would be a great next step.
So you really have graduated, you’re not promoters anymore, you are a marketing company that works in partnership with other clubs. So you have created your own industry? M: Yes, we’re a marketing company geared toward everything nightlife. So a big corporate entity might come to us and say they want to do a nightlife program, they want us to cater to their talent at night, lets say Showtime for instance.
So, what’s the next step? M: Well I think we’re always going to continue developing the marketing end of Bloc Group. J: I think it would be very helpful if we had our own place to call home, it would help the other arms of the company, and we could take it to the next level.
Having your own club? J: Yeah, obviously Noah Tepperberg having his own club, he was really able to take his marketing company to the next level by having Marquee as his venue.
I never wanted my own club, I always considered myself a barracuda, rather than a reef. I didn’t want to be stuck on a coral reef; if my coral reef started to die I wanted to be able to swim to the next one. M: It’s nice not having that liability.
Read Part 2 of Steve Lewis’ interview with Matthew Isaacs and Jordan Harris.