21 October 1999. An epic night for the 23-year-old me. My friend James and I had blagged our way onto the VIP guest list for the opening night at Fabric.
At the time I was the marketing manager at Ministry of Sound and I was intrigued to check out the new kid on the block. London was buzzing with the anticipation of what was destined to be a new icon, a new bastion of electronic music in the city. And it did not fail.
For almost 17 years Fabric pushed boundaries in nightlife culture. It broke new talent. It championed new genres. It picked up award after award for its phenomenal sound system, as well as commendations for how it worked with the authorities to stamp drug dealing and consumption out of its premises.
It is nothing short of tragic that two young men lost their lives this summer after partying at Fabric. The fallout has hit the club hard with a judicial enquiry announcing its permanent closure. When the 100 Club was threatened with bankruptcy, Converse stepped in to save them. Will Fabric have its own saviour from the corporate world, or will the legendary sets live on through Soundcloud and Mixcould?
My social feeds have been full of stories, anecdotes and support, claiming that the fight for Fabric starts now. It would be a phenomenal and landmark achievement if the #SaveFabric campaign can overturn the appeal.
Either way London will move on. Culture and society does not pause. The nostalgia in my newsfeed was largely from 40-year-old men reminiscing.
And while Fabric no doubt was maintaining its fanbase, music audiences are getting their hits elsewhere. For every Fabric, there’s a Boiler Room, Rinse FM or Evermix who are publishing music on a daily basis to online audiences that would equate to queues from Fabric to Farringdon Station.
From Red Bull to Ray Ban, the rise in brand-owned music platforms is on the up, made all the more scalable and impactful by the digital content they serve to consumers. The Red Bull Music Academy goes from strength to strength and is as effective in giving a platform to emerging talent as Fabric, but on a global scale with a YouTube view count the shape of a mobile phone number.
Meanwhile Ray Ban and Ballentines Boiler Room partnerships bring the best of the dance floors from around the world onto your device.
It is perhaps no coincidence that there has been a rise in the number of rave holidays. From Annie Mac’s Malta weekenders, Electric Elephant and the Garden Festival in Croatia, to weekend trips to Bergheim.
As millennials crave the next big experience to brag about, their eyes are opened to a host of new music content from other corners of the globe. Where brands can leverage the emotional connection between fans and music, they can access this sought-after audience and offer something they would not ordinarily get.
But while online has made it possible for a 19-year-old from Dudley to live-stream a sell-out gig from a cool European city, the pull of the live music experience is undeniable and not going anywhere.
Glastonbury still sells out within 30 minutes. Beyonce’s Lemonade may have been making a turnover of over $3m a day when released, but her live gigs sell out within seconds.
We know festivals would not exist in their current format without brand partners. Brand funding has meant consumers can experience out-of-this-world line ups that don’t make commercial sense from a ticket revenue perspective, but whose sponsorship money has enhanced many a festival. And the good news for marketers is research proves millennials embrace festival partners and they are more likely to consider such brands after the event.
Club closures and online music streaming aside, brands and agencies can rest assured that the significance and fanbase of the ultimate live music experience will most definitely live on.
And if the naming of live music venues helps to drive the holy grail of emotional connection, then perhaps the future of Fabric is brand-focused. It could be an O2 Academy. But it's more likely to be a Tesco Metro.
Andrew Casher is the founder of experiential agency Hyperactive.
Picture credit: Ewan Munro