The Ballare Situation

Ferzona's Intro

Everyone looks at Matt Maynard and the DUSK brand and echoes to themselves silently “I can do that. I’ve got many friends....they’ll show up to my event!” or they see a packed BBTT event and swear "all it takes is good promotions." Well, think again. Cause without practical experience and The AOR you can’t do it half as good and BBTT is more than just social media and flyers. Read on and I’ll tell you why.

2020 has been quite a shitty year for almost everybody, but I would say perhaps the worst news to hit the residents of Cambridge throughout this year must have been the huge news regarding the shut down of Cambridge's most popular night club - BALLARE (or Cindies to a lot of you). 


I was in the middle of setting up a meeting with an event organiser - planning a new ground-breaking #FerzonaEvent to be hosted at Ballare - when the news got broken to me. As an upcoming events planner that started his career at this venue, you could only imagine the heartbreak and distress I immediately felt. It was almost mind-numbing! The following paragraphs will introduce you to "The AOR" (understood by a few in the nightlife industry) and why this news is terrible for specific entrepreneurs within the Cambridge nightlife scene. Dive In!

Immediately after hearing the news, I phoned up a few friends within the nightlife industry, and it became clear that the feelings of distress were not peculiar to me. Many of them expressed their unhappiness towards the news in explicit terms - using words such as "gutted", "...will never remain the same", "...need time off", "...will be extremely busy", etc. All of these words convey the apparent feelings of uncertainty and disappointment faced by these entrepreneurs as to the future of their businesses within the Cambridge nightlife space. Once you peel back the curtains and take a closer look, the reason for these widespread feelings point in one direction: "The AOR"

The AOR!

The AOR is exactly what makes every enjoyable night out you've ever been to in Cambridge successful. It is what makes BumBumTamTam and Muevete and Slipped Disc and Fleek Fridays operate so smoothly. It is what makes Cambridge Nightlife vibrant as it is. Here is how it works; For you to keep going to an event every single time it's on, you must be happy and excited with AT LEAST 2, if not all of the 3 things listed below (I call them the essentials):

1. Music Policy (DJ)

2. Location (Venue)

3. The kind of people you will meet there (Crowd)

These 3 things uniquely blended in various ways become "the vibe" you get off any event. If you like it, you’ll become a frequent; if you don’t, you will not return.  It is the job of a nightlife entrepreneur to keep this vibe consistent as possible in order to build a strong brand. This means employing The AOR successfully. If you’re able to do this, then you have a brand that is easily recognisable and loved by a particular audience BECAUSE of the unique mix of the above listed essentials. The Brand becomes the value you offer the many people that turn up to your events.


Fresh Tuesdays

            Music Policy: Mix n Mash (Rap, RnB, Hip Hop, Bashment, AfroBeats, etc)

            Location: Every Tuesday @ Fez Club

            Crowd: Erm…Everyone?

The news of Ballare closing down permanently has shattered years worth of providing instantly recognisable Branded Nights within Cambridge, forcing established entrepreneurs to alter their service offerings to their audience and uprising entrepreneurs attached to the venue scrambling to prepare new pitch decks in a bid to secure new venues for their events. It is not easy. It certainly involves more than picking up a phone and dialling a number.  [For reference, check out How I Started Ferzona Events]

The clear obstacles of limited venues (restricting the kinds of event they allow/being fully booked out with other brands) to the very delicates of audience/DJ attachment (preferring a particular venue over another) is just the beginning of the woes faced by every single entrepreneur within the Cambridge nightlife at the moment. [Believe it or not, some DJs will ONLY play at certain venues] Ballare was not just another venue within Cambridge, it was probably "the people's favourite" with 40 years making history and creating memories with the residents of Cambridge.

The not-so clear obstacle and probably the most important one is that of relationships. Every single successful event promoter in Cambridge has succeeded so far because of the quality of the relationships they have been able to build and sustain over the years. The AOR is key. If you have not figured it out yet, The AOR means The Art of Relationships.

With the AOR working in my favour, I got my first event at Ballare. To prove the effective power of The AOR - my event wasn't 400 or 500 people; it was just over a 100 AND (Thanks to Barney and Russ) I was still able to secure the venue for subsequent events. With this same AOR, Fleek Fridays built a solid relationship with its audience based on brand offfering; with the same AOR, DUSK and AfroSoulBros got together to provide Cambridge with BBTT. With the same AOR, MixDat Squad got with Ferzona Events to bring about AfroFiesta. And the list goes on.

Relationships are a tricky thing to build and maintain. This is because relationships are not necessarily built on competence, fame or crowd size. Relationships are generally built on delicate things such as emotions, gut feeling, agreeableness and other delicates. The stakes go up even more in an industry as volatile and adversarial as the nightlife industry. Many events you have come to love at Ballare were built on series of complex relationships spanning months (maybe years) Between the promoter and the venue; Between the venue and the crowd, Between the crowd and the brand, Between the brand and the DJ, etc. All of these relationships matter and are inter-connected in various ways. 

Many Cambridge nightlife entrepreneurs will lose a bit of the value (Brand Offfering) they've built over the years simply because one of the essentials has been affected – Venue. It is such a sad news and it is with heavy hearts that we wish Ballare goodbye and wait eagerly for what will pop up in its place. Whatever that is, we welcome you with open arms, but we all say this, it will take forever to replace the joy and happiness Ballare brought and kept going within Cambridge with its friendly staff, impressive space and welcoming atmosphere. Farewell now Ballare, unto greater heights.

Now, the race has begun. Who can build new solid relationships and introduce a new blend of the essentials while at the same time navigating the already plenty obstacles of limited venues, hungry adversaries and a crumbling events industry because of COVID-19?     

Final Notes  

I predict that new brands will pop up after the COVID situation, offering new value propositions (Their unique blend of the essentials) AND established brands will PIVOT in an effort to salvage the good will built around their brands. And many of them will be successful. I can tell you this – Ferzona Events is already cooking up a ground-breaking event that will take Cambridge by storm, all it takes is the patient application of The AOR, Stay Tuned!  The good thing that will probably comes out of this sad news I predict, is that formerly unpopular venues such as 2648 and La Raza will see a boost in business because new and old nightlife entrepreneurs will flood these venues with event requests and many of them will accept it.  

Till next time,  

The Ferzona Group     

ASIDE: I think this article will serve as a reminder: Entrepreneurship is fun and exciting, but it is not always a straight road to success. Every day, we’re faced with critical business problems that need novel solutions. And our very business depends on quick and insightful actions to ensure survival. BUT once all is done and you overcome all obstacles, you emerge at the other side a stronger conqueror. Nothing beats that feeling…. NOTHING!  


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