sitting down with a nightlife event guru
Vito Bruno is the CEO and founder of AMPM Entertainment and hosts a laundry list of impressive feats within the nightlife industry. He started his career at 2001 Odyssey the Brooklyn club made famous in Saturday Night Fever during the Disco era. He booked The Village People, Chic, Kool and The Gang, The Trammps, Gloria Gaynor and the like.
Soon after he moved his game to Manhattan and ran the celebrity infused after hours club AMPM. He became the promoter at the Roxy introducing the little known Bronx genre Hip Hop to the Manhattan scene. He put on up and coming acts like Run DMC and LL Cool J and worked with a never before seen artist named Madonna. He took Latin Hip Hop to Club Inferno with DJ David Morales and acts like Lisa Lisa, Cover Girls and Doug E Fresh into the mainstream. He has operated Studio 54, 1018, Palladium, Tunnel, Homebase and the Building at various times in their history.
His AMPM Entertainment Concepts has had 50 Billboard #1 records and has sold over 150 records worldwide. He invented the "Outlaw Party" which precluded rave parties. Vito had a raw feeling that is now nearly impossible to find.
Today, he has produced extravaganzas and countless events for the likes of Pepsi, Marc Jacobs Christina Aguilera, Brittney Spears and Jennifer Lopez. He created and produced Beatstock a Free Style Free For All where major acts perform to sold out now adult crowds.
He has been a busy man and Nightclub & Bar caught up with him to find out his take on the club world.
Nightclub & Bar (NCB): What does AMPM Entertainment do?
Vito Bruno: AMPM is a full service entertainment company. We produce events, concerts and shows; everything from Disco to Deadmau5. We have also made over 51 billboard records including one last month from Crystal Waters. We’ve sold over 100 million records over the years. In addition, we manage other talent including some of the greatest dance artists.
In terms of special events we produce everything from the Coca Cola 100 Year Anniversary Party to Super Sweet 16 Birthday Parties for MTV and everything in-between. AMPM is also involved in marketing and promotions with radio station events including Beatstock which had 30,000 attendees and Orchard Beach concerts for 200,000 people.
NCB: Tell me about Freestyle events?
Bruno: Freestyle events today are now seated concerts events that have hard tickets. As you know freestyle began in Inferno, which is a combination of music from The Loft, Paradise Garage and the Roxy that came together with a Spanish flare. DJ Morales skillfully blended the music back in the 80's. Back eight or nine years ago I brought all the acts to dinner and stated that I wanted to put them in a section of Beatstock as a seated event. Without burning the acts out, we built the segment up nicely and after two years we brought it out on its own. The ticket sales were strong and now these events are very good. We just sold out a freestyle show at Radio City a few weeks ago. The demographic is typically Spanish and Italian but we are seeing an influx of other demographics and generations. The music is retro, but a lot of the 80's music is coming back. Some of the new songs have an 80's vibe to them.
NCB: You had a career in club promotion and event production during an important chapter in club history. Where is that history being written today?
Bruno: We began in the nightclub business back in the 70's at 2001 Odyssey, where the movie Saturday Night Fever was filmed. Soon after, Disco fever exploded and we were lucky to be in the center of that universe. We decided to go into Manhattan and open AMPM nightclub, the original Roxy and 1018. We were fortunate to have the press follow us into the disco world. AMPM was an after-hours club that played new wave new format music - very cutting edge.
Today the press is not following us at all. Today the history is being written in Ibiza and Las Vegas. The mega-clubs which are unbelievable venues include Marquee, Tryst and Hakkasan - a $100 million venue. The clubs in Vegas are multi-million dollar venue with impeccable service. They have also blown EDM music out of the water.
NCB: The EDM revolution has swept across the world. What is the appeal of this genre? Why is it more popular and more lucrative for DJ's and event producers than anything that has come before?
Bruno: If you are an EDM DJ or manager then you are at the right place at the right time. If you are a producer or promoter, it’s fool’s gold. I don’t believe you cannot make money on it. It’s upsetting to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to DJs for two hour sets. The “old time” DJs were getting a few hundred dollars to play for hours and hold a crowd in the room. It’s my opinion that when you compare those guys to the guys in this generation, they can't hold a candle to the ones that came before.
NCB: The after-hours club AMPM was amazing. Was the virtual loss of afterhours clubs a great blow to the NYC club scene? Did the demise of these places spell the end of a less controlled more fun era?
Bruno: AMPM was a great place. You had all the superstars including Andy Warhol who helped us get the place off the ground. You had celebrities, bus boys and regular people. It was the wild wild west and no one busted any chops for closing at noon. Those days and that generation were some of the greatest times in the club history. Unfortunately, they’ll never be repeated or seen again.
NCB: Although others have gotten credit for “outlaw parties”, I remember it being you to start these semisecret gatherings at a specific time and a specific non-club location. How did they come about and what was in it for you?
Bruno: The “outlaw parties” were no doubt “an explosion of fun” as Michael Musto wrote in an article. It all started when we got booted out of the clubs. I figured, what could we do about this? So… our righteous little selves thought we could make a change. I went and found these great little neglected and abandoned spaces like the old 23rd street train station, The West Side Highway, the amphitheater on the East Side and Williamsburg Bridge. All of these places are fully renovated and usable now.
Back then there was no financial gain. It was just for the satisfaction and to bring attention. People now say the “outlaw parties” were the grandfather to rave parties. We miss those great times.
NCB: What are your future plans within the business?
Bruno: I'd like to end this whole thing still in the business, making records and producing events. Long live the club world!