Exporting a brand into foreign territory and having it succeed is the dilemma that high-end nightclubs have as they begin developing in the Far East. It started with Las Vegas when the highest grossing clubs began bringing their best shows and biggest entertainment to the area. Now, it’s the rest of the country imitating Vegas.
The transition from LA or Chicago or NYC to Vegas isn't as difficult what the bon vivant jet setter, Mark Baker, has decided to do. Instead he’s jet setting right past Vegas, looking out the window at LA and landing in Bali to export his brand. At first we all thought that would be his Double Seven brand but now it seems that the brand he is exporting are clubs like Lotus, Tunnel, Mansion and The Liberty Theatre. However, these are just the tip of the iceberg on this club moguls resume.
Nightclub & Bar caught up with him in Jakarta to find out what he’s been up too.
NCB: I’m sloshing through snow and you're in Bali and Jakarta. From what I understand you are there to export your brand to Indonesia, correct?
Mark Baker: Well it’s a little more than that but first let me tell you that it’s Sunday morning and I'm sitting by my pool drinking tea, sunny and 80, with the sounds of exotic birds singing away, I feel for you in the snow and slush! We were at an amazing jungle party last night with exquisite costumes and beautiful people from all over the world. Here and what we just saw in Jakarta verifies our decision to make this move to Bali and the Asian region. It’s very exciting here! There is a new found wealth in Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and many others. As you know I've been coming here for years and always knew eventually a big part of my life would end up here.
The fact that I'm uniquely positioned to straddle cultural issues and differences and bring with me the New York nightlife vibe is proving to be a winning combination. We’re signing deals in Bali and multiple other places throughout the region. We are working on nightlife venues, festivals and events, juice and organic food venues and much more. It’s a lifestyle group were growing and I've assembled an amazing team of next generation power players to roll this out with me. It’s very exciting! There's so much energy and hunger. I felt that after 25 years at the forefront of NY and international nightlife its time for the new guns to run things. They do things differently and I have the utmost respect for them, however, we all still talk daily about the direction. I've always been about collaborations and joining forces to create great things. I enjoy showing and introducing people to new nightlife experiences and I can be a lot more creative here.
NCB: Exporting a brand to Las Vegas is problematic however to the Far East must be beyond problematic. How do you export a brand that far and why?
Baker: As New York is the de facto capital of world nightlife, having owned and operated some of the top names you get a feel for what would work elsewhere. We’ve gone through the trials and tribulations of what works and what doesn't. Having local knowledge and support is key but we’re very hands on. We design, build and operate everything. There are of course issues, service for example is not at the same level here, it takes a lot of training. Things are done much differently over here and it varies from country to country definitely making it a real challenge.
DJs music style and alcohol preferences, (most drink brown liquors as vodka and tequila are just making an appearance) are different but the key is knowing what the market will accept and be open to. That takes experience and actually being here, not just licensing a brand.
NCB: What do your clients expect from the brands and what are the differences in the club culture?
Baker: I'd say that everything is close on the heels of the west; they know and get the DJs and trends. Look at Robot Heart and burning man, they're out of Hong Kong, and Jason Swamy is running a very cool music scene there. I'd say were about a year ahead right now therefore we will build the next generation of nightlife and lifestyle here.
Our first Bali venues will open in summer…more news to follow.
NCB: How important is local representation in regards to laws/rules and not being the "Americans"?
Baker: You have to have local partners for both legal and common sense factors, and it varies from place to place. I have assembled a whole team of power guys and girls to roll out everything in the region. Local partners in Bali for projects here and partners in Singapore for there, Bangkok and more...it’s all connected.
NCB: What is right and wrong with the NY market?
Baker: Oh boy, that's a huge question and would require more time than we have. I'd say a number of factors. New York is the crossroads of the world, amazing and big and non-stop all the time. It has celebrities, characters, models and people transiting all the time which makes for a great pool of energy to pull from. In NY nightlife is the place to get together with your surrogate family.
However, it’s become a bit stale. There is too much emphasis on making money and not on creating fun wondrous things. The community boards and authorities have disinfected nightlife, eliminating its raw quality. Now it’s all compartmentalized and predictable. I don't want to disrespect NY nightlife but I believe its seen better days.
NCB: You were there in the beginning of bottle service. Is this a permanent part of club culture or is there something new?
Baker: It’s not going anywhere. However, changes may be made including more realistic pricing and the way it’s served. Bottle service should be part of a venue not a prerequisite for a table. There should always be a balance.
NCB: Tell us about the music you play, your sources for DJs and the differences between the sounds there and NY.
Baker: Booking DJs has become a complicated process now that big agents and big money are involved. The booking market has gone crazy due to festivals and bidding wars. However, there is a movement towards amazing new underground talent.
NCB: How does your product co-exist or assimilate to the local culture?
Baker: We have identified needs and desires in all of the markets were in and are collaborating with the best locals to develop those needs. Hopefully, through the steps we’ve taken our lounges, bars, clubs and festivals will assimilate into the local culture. I love and will always love New York, I've laughed cried and nearly died in the Big A, but now it’s time to move on and export that New York love around the Asian and Australian region.