As dance music booms, top club bets on Macau over New York


House music was made in America, but as the dance scene increasingly goes mainstream a leading club is placing its bets on Macau over New York.

Pacha NYC, one of the premier nightclubs in New York and a launchpad for DJs now famous around the world, on Saturday night will throw one last party on its four floors of dance space along the Hudson River.

But instead of retiring, owner Eddie Dean has become managing director of the 3,000-capacity Pacha Macau, which opened last weekend in what is billed as China’s first club in the style of the Spanish party island of Ibiza.

With a nearly 100 square-meter dance floor, Dean says Pacha Macau may initially seem overwhelming to revelers accustomed to cozy drinking dens. But he voiced confidence that this was just the beginning.

“On a scale of one to 10, you’re looking at 0.5” on potential achieved so far, Dean says.

Macau, a semi-autonomous former Portuguese colony, is the only place in China with legalized casino gambling and long ago surpassed Las Vegas in revenue.

But like Las Vegas, Macau is now seeking to diversify. The city’s gambling revenue fell by more than a third last year as China cracks down on corruption.

Pacha Macau is part of the Studio City resort that opened in October with the world’s first figure-eight ferris wheel.

“Three, five, seven years from now, however long it may take, I like to think that people will look back at Macau and say that things started changing with the addition of Studio City and with the nightlife,” Dean says.

The clubs are part of a franchise based in Ibiza, where Pacha is a prominent name in the island’s famous nightlife.

The Spanish company, which also runs hotels and restaurants, says that it is putting a growing focus on Asia and is studying projects in mainland China, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.

The expansion comes as electronic dance music grows rapidly around the world, led by a burgeoning festival culture and the rise of music streaming sites.

A 2015 study at Ibiza’s International Music Summit found that the industry surged 12 percent in the previous year to be worth $6.9 billion.

The researchers found huge potential in China, with capacity for events growing 30 percent since 2011, but still far below levels in the United States and Europe.

China’s biggest electronic event is the Storm festival, which last year brought celebrity DJs including Tiesto and Skrillex.

But Dean hopes to build an audience for major DJs who may be not be household names. Pacha Macau’s opening featured Ibiza-bred Sebastian Gamboa as well as New York’s Erick Morillo, who is best known for the beats behind 1993 club hit “I Like to Move It.”

Despite the challenges of creating a club culture in Macau, Dean, a 25-year veteran of the New York scene, says he knew it was time to pull the plug on Pacha NYC.

Dean says that Pacha NYC, which takes up a precious 2,800 square meters in Manhattan, was able to survive but he voiced concern over the direction of clubbing in the United States.

“Right now I think the dance music industry is in a major period of transition,” he says. “A lot of clubs have opened ill-advised and it’s watering down the market.”

The dance music boom means promoters can pay hefty premiums to DJs not to play at rival venues in an area.

“I think that’s really hurt, especially for a lot of the up-and-coming artists,” he says.

“They may have a big track or two, they get on a festival lineup, and the next thing they know they can’t play in the market for six months.”

The European market remains healthier and California attracts DJs who have prioritized profitable residencies in nearby Las Vegas, Dean says.

But in New York, despite its rich dance music history, Dean says he hoped to end on a high, although he hinted that future events could come.

“I just didn’t feel like it was going to get any better,” he says of Pacha NYC. “I’ve been in the business a long time and I’ve watched many — way too many — clubs just flame out and end bad and awkward.”