Over the last five years, Robin Schulz has been an ever-present in the Top 100 DJs chart, something reflective of the German’s immense popularity across Europe and well beyond. Undoubtedly one of German dance music’s most commercially successful artists, Schulz’s productions have notched up hundreds of gold and platinum sales awards.
While the global pandemic has curtailed his usually hectic touring schedule, Schulz has continued to churn out the hits. He was responsible for one of the cheeriest mainstream house hits of the summer after remixing Bob Marley classic ‘Sun Is Shining’ for Island Records, then followed that up with a radio-friendly hook-up with Alida, ‘In Your Eyes’.
Schulz has also spent some of 2020 developing a new label to showcase up-and-coming artists, Mentalo Music, and established a music publishing company. With one eye on his career after music, he’s also taken steps to develop a future career. “I’ve been working on so many projects and one of those is turning my hobby of cooking into a business idea,” he explains. “I’ve been working on a BBQ cookbook!”
What three things have most helped you through Coronavirus Lockdown?
“The launch of my own record label Mentalo Music, for which I signed lots of new promising artists, working on my upcoming studio album which is scheduled for January 2021, and pimping my home and garden into the most beautiful place on earth!”
What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis?
“I learned that it is sometimes a good thing to step down from all this touring and concentrate on making music again. More than anything I feel sorry for everybody who had a hard time in 2020!”
What steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene?
“I never felt that there is racism in the dance scene. I am proud that our scene is a global phenomenon and does not care about the colour of your skin or your sexual orientation. I feel that on the dancefloor everybody is the same, and I hope it will keep like that.”
What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive?
“I‘m not pushing anything but of course I watch very closely what‘s happening on the market, especially when it comes to streaming.”
Marco Carola has been synonymous with what has become known as business techno for the last decade. He's one of Ibiza's biggest draws thanks to his own Music On night, and is just as big in the festival game given that he hosts his own Music On weekender in Amsterdam each May. This year, of course, it was postponed, as was his full Ibiza season, leaving fans desperate for some of that stripped back, rolling minimal techno that is known as the Neapolitan sound.
He first fomented it back in the south of Italy in the early ‘90s, a time when the likes of Luigi Madonna, David Squillace and Joseph Capriati were also cutting their teeth. Famous for playing seemingly endless sets up to 18 hours in length, he has also produced on key labels like Minus, mixed it up for fabric, and put out acclaimed albums like ‘Play It Loud’.
Fans have been treated to sets from their techno god just a couple of times this year. The first was a few days after the world went into lockdown back in March, when the most famous Italian in techno played a live stream from Clubspace in Miami, and a couple of times since then he has played low-key beach parties in Italy. They were apparently enough to keep people on board and voting for Marco, who remains one of techno's biggest global stars.
Location: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
This former warehouse in Vietnam’s biggest city has become a lavish keystone indoor party space at the forefront of the country’s burgeoning electronic music scene. Alongside providing a home for growing local talent, the club’s brought several global names to the country, including NERVO, Quintino, Martin Jensen, Fergie, Sophie Francis and more — even the legendary Lil Jon!
Its immersive and glamorous two-floor interior includes a huge 100-square-metre LED wall, and can host up to 700 people. The focus is on its rich interiors, clear views throughout the venue, and in particular, hospitality and personal service — aka partying in style.
Location: Ibiza, Spain
Ushuaïa Ibiza’s founder Yann Pissenem had a dream to own and run a beach club. He moved to Ibiza in 2008, and when he arrived in Playa d’en Bossa, he found "a wild and almost undiscovered empty beach in the middle of nowhere". This scene reminded him of Ushuaia — the final inhabited place on the southern-most tip of Argentina. He took that small place on the beach and transformed the empty location into the first Ushuaïa.
Starting life as a free beachside cabana bar on the east side of the island, Ushuaïa has become one of the most dominant clubs in Ibiza, and in the world. The vision was to breathe new life into Ibiza, with a space that wasn’t just a dark, indoor, nighttime club, but somewhere to embrace club culture in the natural beauty of the White Isle.
Designed for clubbers and ravers both young and old, Pissenem combined luxurious VIP clubbing and a festival-like atmosphere to create the sunsoaked poolside hub, which has stood in Bossa in its current format since 2011. The club’s Adamson soundsystem — featuring 12 E15 cabinets on either side of the stage — provides crystal sound no matter where you find yourself on the mammoth, 4,000-capacity dancefloor, and is ideal when some of the best seats in the house are at the very back.
But Ushuaïa has never been shy about treating its VIPs like VIPs. Pissenem understood that while the punters on the floor make the party a party, the older, more monied fans want something upscale and relaxed away from the masses — a place to hang out next to the pool, drink premium beverages and listen to the sounds of EDM, house, techno or hip-hop.
Pissenem also ensured balance in the club’s bookings, and the artists booked for Ushuaïa have remained as diverse as the day the superclub opened its doors. Resident artists in 2019 included some of the biggest names in electronic music: think David Guetta, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Nic Fanciulli, Martin Garrix, and Calvin Harris.
The club continued its homegrown, underground residency ANTS, while also introducing a new Latin concept that showcased international superstars such as Daddy Yankee, Becky G and Bad Bunny. Ushuaïa also hosted Swedish House Mafia's return to Ibiza performance, plus one-off shows including Underworld and Kraftwerk 3-D with Cocoon, Armin van Buuren, Above & Beyond and more.
As it stands, the 2020 line-up holds even bigger and better productions, with an exclusive 24-hour opening event featuring Charlotte de Witte, Paul Kalkbrenner and Tale Of Us, as well as the return of David Guetta to Playa d’en Bossa. The ANTS colony are also confirmed for an INVASION of epic proportions, celebrating their eighth season across the summer. As Ushuaïa quite rightly finds itself in the Top 100 clubs list for another year, the club moves into a new decade poised with special announcements and surprises, and ready for another summer of madness.
Location: Washington D.C., USA
Eye-catching lasers, cryo-jets, confetti cannons, a d&b audiotechnik V-Series audio system and sprawling, high-resolution LED walls sound like the trappings of a festival main stage — but there’s one East Coast venue that has all this fanfare and more packed inside. This epicentre of entertainment is known as Echostage, and at 30,000 square-feet, it’s Washington, D.C.’s largest nightlife venue.
Established in 2012 by GLOW (the District of Columbia’s longest-running electronic music promotions company), Echostage rose to prominence during the height of America’s EDM boom, and has been delivering top-notch nightlife experiences to a wide range of music lovers ever since. In the past year, both live acts and headlining DJs like Black Coffee, Skrillex, Illenium, FISHER, Martin Garrix and DJ Diesel (aka Shaquille O’Neal) have filled the main room to its 3,000-person capacity, blasting their hits across Echostage’s newly upgraded four-channel D80 amplifiers. These rattling badboys produce upwards of 48,000 watts of sound, sending fans’ eardrums on an auditory adventure they’re unlikely to forget.
However, it’s not just the bumping soundsystem that makes this warehouse-inspired behemoth tower above the rest. Echostage’s designers have always strived to deliver the full multi-sensory experience to the club's tens of thousands of annual attendees. This is accomplished in part thanks to the expertly designed layout, which includes two 60-foot bars that flank the dancefloor. Either in line for a frosty brew, or perched near the railing of its spacious VIP mezzanine, Echostage audience members can expect to catch unmatched views as the club’s unobstructed sightlines ensure that there’s no wrong way to indulge in the visual feast that sits at the head of Echostage’s ever-packed dancefloors.
In 2017, Echostage called upon its most technologically savvy enthusiasts to design a backlit LED wall in a contest that saw one lucky innovator take home $2,500 and leave a lasting legacy installed within the hallowed space. Last year, Echostage introduced a brand new state-of-the-art, 16x30-foot LED addition, fulfilling a goal to always remain on the cutting edge of production.
After the first year in action, Echostage cracked DJ Mag’s Top 100 Clubs poll, entering in the 38th position in 2013. Since that hot debut, the hybrid live concert venue/nightclub has continued to steadily climb the ranks. In 2019, Echostage dethroned Ibiza institution Ushuaïa from its No.2 stronghold, making it the highest ranked North American venue yet. And in 2020, Echostage holds onto a place in the top three, while securing the highest North American club gong for the fourth year in a row. “We are grateful to the dedicated fans who take the time to attend our shows every week and look forward to an exciting year,” GLOW's CEO, Pete Kalamoutsos, tells DJ Mag.
Location: Camboriú, Brazil
Outside of the great Brazilian metropolises of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, a few remote, forest-bordering clubs such as Warung and Sirena have been important for staging big electronic dance music parties to help facilitate the burgeoning Brazilian electronic music scene. But none has had quite the global impact of Green Valley in the Santa Catarina region in southern Brazil.
It started out simply as a party in the jungle. Some electronic dance music fans wanted to put on a big rave in 2007, and booked none other than Carl Cox to headline in a makeshift tent on an old airfield. When this event was a spectacular success they started booking other international DJs and growing some infrastructure to begin making it into a permanent venue.
A mere three years later it had shot into DJ Mag’s Top 100 Clubs poll at No.27, and by 2013 it had been voted the No.1 club in the world. Quite an achievement! GV scooped the most votes again in 2015 before winning again in 2018 and 2019.
The big news this year is that DJ Mag readers have voted Green Valley to No.1 for the third year in a row — the only club to ever achieve this accolade. So it’s a big congratulations to the Green Valley team on securing this memorable hat-trick!
From its humble beginnings only a dozen or so years ago, Green Valley has been continuously adding more features and areas as the years have rolled by — quite like the way some Ibiza clubs evolved and upgraded over the years. Much of it is open-air; thanks to the warm climate, it has a vibe more like a festival than a dingy underground club space, and feels as free and airy as any outdoor fest in any manner of exotic locations.
The main arena is covered by a vast tarpaulin, tent-like structure — and this has been upgraded over the past year so that it’s 20 metres longer and 10 metres higher than previously. The main stage has also doubled in size, while the backstage and VIP areas have recently had a revamp. This will have given increased luxury to some of the many big-name DJs who have starred at the club over the past year, including Fatboy Slim, FISHER, NERVO, Nicky Romero and Meduza, as well as Brazilian superstars ALOK and Vintage Culture.
Main stage proceedings are generally warmed up by residents Dropack, Doozie and the inimitable Rodrigo Vieira, augmented by all manner of LED walls, lasers, CO2 cannons, and more special FX than a Hollywood blockbuster.
Just recently, a slew of new bars have been built — the Absolut bar and booth, the Red Bull Drinks bar, the Elyx bar and booth, and so on — and some swish new decking and chillout lounges added to the lake area. Yes, Green Valley has a lake! How many other clubs can say that?
Adjacent to the lake is the UNDERline_ stage that hosts more underground visiting DJs, peppered between sets by residents Pabricio Pecanha, Full Duplex and San Schwartz, and there is also another festival-size stage on a higher level that’s used for special occasions. Green Valley crowds sure know how to party too, and love the club so much that they vote for it in the Top 100 Clubs poll in their tens of thousands.
With its distinctive green butterfly logo dotted about the place, and a succession of ongoing international tours in the bag (until the coronavirus put paid to 2020’s plans), Green Valley is a brand that pays maximum attention to all aspects of the nightclubbing experience with the utmost professionalism. The GV team has created a magnificent party playground, rich with amazing spectacles and bona fide ‘moments’, and fully deserve their hat-trick of victories.
Location: Ibiza, Spain
Plenty can happen in three years — just look at Hï Ibiza. In three seasons it has established itself as one of the island’s most popular destinations for dancing and debauchery, packing the calendar out with high-profile parties and A-list residencies, and pulling in thousands of revellers on the hunt for large-scale production and exceptional club design.
The cavernous building offers three very different spaces, each creating very different atmospheres. It’s said the main room — Theatre — was inspired by Italian amphitheatres. Whatever the truth, it makes a monumental impression. Circular rigs holding moving kinetic lights hang from above, which can be configured to unique effects suited to each event, with giant LED screens, called "the Twist", behind the booth and across the walls. More underground-minded heads make a beeline for The Club, with its low ceiling and dizzying light installations firing beams into a crowd on DJ eye-level. Meanwhile, The Wild Corner is an unofficial third dancefloor situated in the unisex bathroom, white speakers contrasting black doors, with unannounced headline sets par for the course.
The club’s decision to install a bespoke L-acoustics soundystem shows just how seriously the team take the quality of audio, in addition to the focus on visual prowess.
Outside, the sprawling Magic Garden and The Secret Garden provide the all-important al fresco elements — after all, this wouldn’t be a real Ibizan club without open-air spaces to break out into, observe the island’s creatures in their natural habitat, and take five on custom-designed furniture that adds a real air of surrealism to the whole affair. Not that dancing in a toilet wasn’t already enough.
Summer 2019 was the venue’s most successful yet, adding Bodyworks — with CamelPhat, Solardo and FISHER at the helm — and David Guetta’s iconic F*** Me I’m Famous sessions to an already-stacked list of events, which includes Black Coffee’s much-loved regular soirée, the always spectacular Glitterbox, and Afterlife, run by Italian technoists Tale Of Us. Hence laying claim to so many sold-out dates, with the likes of Âme, Basement Jaxx, DJ Harvey, FJAAK, Louie Vega, Maceo Plex, Masters At Work and Sven Väth making appearances in the last 12 months alone.
Provided the ongoing coronavirus pandemic doesn't put a halt to plans, the coming season is likely to follow suit, kicking off with the return of Odyssey, that epic 24-hour Opening and Closing event split with sister venue, Ushuaïa Ibiza, across the road. As for improvements to the club, those behind the scenes are keeping tight-lipped, but assure us that work has been taking place throughout the winter to elevate the experience to whole new levels, meaning we’re expecting more queues round the block once things are in full swing, and plenty more stories of heroic sets from the inside.
Location: London, England
Printworks rose amongst the post-modern ruins of East London’s disused docks and closed factories, transforming what was once Western Europe’s largest printing factory into one of the country’s most impressive club spaces.
Set across 12 acres of land, Printworks is a huge venue; essentially it’s like partying in several interlinked warehouses. Once inside you find yourself in a raw, industrial, almost-dystopian setting, but one that’s packed to the super-high rafters with ultra-futuristic production, including dbnAudile sound, Kinesys lighting, and a truly massive custom-built LED screen with visual design from Rebel Overlay.
The Press Halls main room is long, a couple of stories high, with balconies along both sides and a soundsystem trained so perfectly on the dancefloor that a decent conversation is perfectly achievable just a couple of feet away. Some of the original imposing printing machinery has been left in place, giving Printworks something of a party-on-a-spaceship feel. The DJ booth is high up at the end of the room in front of the genuinely impressive LED wall, which works in tandem with the lighting array to cover the entire room in sheets of strobing colour. The view from the balcony of a packed Printworks main room at peak-time is a sight you won’t forget in a hurry.
Aside from the famous Press Halls space, there’s the aptly named, low-ceilinged Dark Room, which serves as a perfect vibey contrast to the scale and sheer mega-ness of the main room. The huge bar area that runs alongside the Press Halls can function as a live room, with the modular bar setup switching to the club space. There’s also a dedicated cocktail bar (Control Room), and a big outside food courtyard.
Over the past year, Printworks has hosted an impressive amount of quality electronic music parties and club-nights, including Klockworks, Eskimo Dance, Gou Talk, The Hydra, Sunday Service, BuggedOut!, Metalheadz and Glitterbox. And has given Londoners the chance to catch a wide range of world-class DJs, such as Seth Troxler, Moodymann, Gerd Janson, London Elektricity, Amelie Lens, Kenny Dope, Helena Hauff, Jeff Mills and Denis Sulta. Printworks also has put its particular acoustic charms to good use on some acclaimed live music shows in the last 12 months, including Floating Points, Aphex Twin and Skepta.
It’s been a busy year for Printworks, as production was upgraded across the entire venue, including installing the aforementioned 12x4-metre LED screen, as well as a bespoke ‘blinder’ light so bright it is capable of illuminating the entire main room. The space also gained over 180 metres of Sceptron LED strips to the Kinesys lighting rig, installed custom stage structures including isolated sections to allow for faultless use of vinyl, and updated its DJ equipment and P.A. too, giving you even more reasons to pay a visit to one of the UK’s most exciting venues.
Location: Cologne, Germany
Having knocked Berghain off the highest German club spot in last year’s poll, Cologne’s Bootshaus takes the crown again in 2020 and moves up another two places to land just outside the top five. Situated in a former boat house — part of the industrial legacy of the River Rhine — the space was home to an underground techno venue that called Sven Väth resident before becoming Bootshaus over 15 years ago.
Since then the music on offer has diversified, and the venue has been fitted out with signature features that have made it a true destination club. The main room (known as Mainfloor) brings an indoor festival feel, with ceiling-mounted flamethrowers, CO2 and a Funktion-One impressing the 1,200 ravers who fill it on the regular. Room two (BLCKBX) is recognisable for the backlit fans which spin above its 400-capacity, Martin Audio-powered dancefloor. Dreherei presents itself as a 200-cap industrial sweatbox packing more Funktion-One sound. And Bootshaus also boasts a substantial outdoor space for partying under the sun and stars.
Of course, a club is nothing without DJs to play the tunes, and Bootshaus has those by the bucketload. Steve Aoki, Charlotte de Witte, DJ Snake, Oliver Heldens, Hardwell, Don Diablo and FISHER were just some of the 500-plus acts booked throughout 2019, while a team of 11 dedicated residents held it down week in week out.
The biggest achievement for the Bootshaus team last year, though, was the launch of two festivals. Nibirii Festival brought Goa trance, drum & bass, techno and 20,000 revellers to Dürener Badesee — a swimming lake just outside of Cologne — while the 7,500-cap Blacklist Festival focused on trap, dubstep and bass house up north at the Turbinenhalle in Oberhausen.
Location: Zrce Beach, Island of Pag, Croatia
Back in 2002, a collective of Croatian visionaries wanted to create an internationally known open-air club. A space that would put Croatia on top of the world map for festival-goers and adventure seekers. A site that would wow visitors and excite the clubbing community. Job done. Since then, the pool area has had a complete redesign, and a few clever little remoulds to the setup and decorations in the daytime part of the club keep this wonder-venue fresh.
Papaya Club, set back just a few steps from the ocean, is completely open-air and basically one of the most idyllic and breathtaking clubs in the whole damn universe as we know it. A go-to for Croatia’s festival season, Papaya is open from late May to early September. Last year, it welcomed back the likes of Don Diablo, Amelie Lens, Marco Carola and Timmy Trumpet to dazzle on the shell-like main stage decks.
This year there are plans to host over 10 festivals, from Hideout to Sonus, with fabulous headline DJs joining their equally fabulous local resident DJs: Kosta, Radman, Trevon, Sheko, Marzz and Rudeejay. Peak summertime this year sees Day & Night Festival laying on a lavish EDM event, while Beach Odyssey Festival will be keeping things trance-like and progressive. There are also plans in the pipeline to craft entirely new festival brands, with Vaquation, Isla Loca, Daddy Yankee and Spinnin’ Records among the partners and like-minded collaborators being mentioned.