20 Jul 2021
by puaweiyi | News, Interview, Feature
This week, we are thrilled to invite Willer, Director of Spin Sum, for an interview with us! The Hong Kong-based DJ joined us to talk about Spin Sum and their work as an event organiser.
Spin Sum focuses on electronic music events that invite international guests to Hong Kong to play for their events. The event organiser recently celebrated its 3rd Anniversary with an event that featured a lineup including Willer himself, Alex Nude, small&TALL, etc. with DJ El Toro (Andrew Bull) being the special guest of the event.
Last year, they became the first in Hong Kong to jumpstart a podcast about the music industry, where guests such as songwriters, producers, festival organisers, etc. are invited to share their stories and thoughts on the industry, providing listeners a rare glimpse into the industry, as well as the artists’ background. The podcast has previously featured guests such as Jason Swamy, Gilbert Yeung, Katsu, Awen, and Johnny Hiller.
Willer has also talked with us about his activities as a DJ and producer. Read on to find out more!
1. Hi Willer, could you please introduce yourself to our users?
I’m a Producer/DJ/Event organiser from London, and have been based in Hong Kong for 5 years. I’ve been the Director of Spin Sum since mid 2020, and the resident DJ since we started in June 2018. I’m also one of the resident DJs at Cassio.
2. You are the Director of Spin Sum. Can you tell us what Spin Sum is?
Spin Sum is an Entertainment Group that organizes events and creates audio visual content. We started out with the goal of bringing exciting musical talent to Hong Kong from around the world. Over the last three years we’ve been hosting events at many different locations in Hong Kong, hosting an array of international and local talent. COVID has made life difficult for us but we’re still going strong, and in the last year have branched out to some degree, launching our podcast.. “The Spin Sum Podcast”.
3. What kind of event curation does Spin Sum focus on?
We throw parties, with a focus on electronic music. We’ve hosted Damian Lazarus, Yokoo, Floyd Lavine, Hyenah, Oxia, Viken Arman, and many others. We’ve also promoted dozens of talented HK artists as well. We take great pride in our lineups, and also take pride in giving our artists a memorable experience playing for us.
Aside from the music, we spend a lot of time thinking about curating the experience of our events… details that ensure each person has a positive and memorable experience. So many things can influence this - obviously the quality of the music, but also a like minded crowd and other factors like the quality of the sound system. The production of our events is taking up an increasing portion of our budgets - decorations, staging, props, lighting, sound… as it's clear that when you put the effort into the detail people really appreciate it… it lightens their mood… and they have more fun… which is what it's all about. Our 3rd Birthday party was completely over the top in that regard.. with colour, decorations, umbrellas, hand fans, the works… but in pretty much every photo you see beaming smiles. It was such an amazing vibe. It’s been so great to see the crazy reaction it has generated.
Our next event, on July 25th, is going to be just as outrageous as we hope.
4. What is the type of crowd you seek to serve? Will you consider it somehow selective or exclusive?
Since the start our goal has been to build a community of people who are passionate about music. We hope that people will appreciate the effort we put into our line ups, and appreciate the artists who perform. There’s a difference between someone who goes to a party just because everyone else is going, and someone who goes as they are excited about who is performing. Our target market is the latter. There’s no selection but we do rely on referrals from friends of Spin Sum a lot. As I said, we care about the experience for each person… If you are surrounded by fun, friendly people who are passionate about music, we believe you’ll have a much better experience.
5. How does Spin Sum differentiate from the rest of organisers?
We’ve been around for a while now, so we believe we understand Hong Kong. We know the venues, the artists, and the crowd. Every time we host an event we improve something… so now that we’ve done 14 it starts to pay off. We are very business minded, particularly when thinking about the product we are providing to guests. We believe that if we charge for a ticket we have to provide an amazing experience, so that people want to come again. That drives everything that we do.
6. What is your opinion about the current scene? Is there anything you would change?
Hong Kong has so much potential as a music scene, it’s one of the world's great cities so attracting or finding talent here should be easy. It’s also stunningly beautiful in both it’s urban and oceanfront landscape… so there is no reason it shouldn’t be amazing….
I have to admit when I arrived from London, one of the best Music scenes in the world, I was pretty surprised how little was going on. It shouldn’t be that way, and I spend a lot of my time trying to figure out how we can improve it.
Sadly there are many obstacles facing promoters, artists… venues are extremely hard to find due to insane rents and currently extremely restrictive government policies in relation to COVID 19.
I would clearly change the rules for gatherings if I was in charge! I don’t see why vaccinated people should be stopped from going to large music events or concerts.
7. You are one of the first in HK who started a Podcast that focuses on the music industry. You’ve invited people who play a big role in the scene like Jason Swamy, Andrew Bull, Gilbert Yeung, etc. Can you explain our users a little bit about it? Any hints on how’s coming next?
The idea came from a dinner we had with Damian Lazarus before he played for us in 2019. He had so many hilarious stories from his amazing career… it made me think that as the event organizers we were in a fortunate position to be meeting him and hearing them. The vast majority only heard his set, which was epic, but my thinking was that it would be interesting to start a podcast so we can hear the stories behind the artists we invite, and share that with our followers. I’ve interviewed 6 different guests so far - each one has an amazing story from a distinguished career in music. They are also true music lovers and selectors - and I ask each guest to share 3 or more records that have inspired them. It's so interesting to hear an artist explain why a record has influenced them, and I hope it's a way to inspire people to listen and find more music as a result . One example for me personally is Jason Swamy recommended an album called 76:14 by Global Communication. Since we recorded that in October I must have listened to it 100 times, now I have it on vinyl. I’m obsessed. In his words “it’s a masterpiece”.
I really hope your readers will go check out “The Spin Sum Podcast” on Spotify. There are some crazy stories and some amazing song recommendations.
8. Going back to events, the way your attendees attend Spin Sum events is slightly different from a regular nightclub event. Can you explain to our users who might be interested in attending your events how it works?
We don’t advertise our events anywhere publicly or on social media….. that’s mostly driven by COVID and a desire to avoid unwarranted attention. We now use only WhatsApp. But, since we’ve started doing that we realized it’s the best way to get the crowd we want. We use networks that we have built up from 3 years of doing what we do. We hope we have a strong reputation as a result and a decent amount of loyalty from those who’ve attended our previous events.
On our instagram page bio we share our whatsapp number. If someone is interested in our events they can message us, we ask a couple of questions about how they heard about us, and after that we will add them to our lists to be notified about upcoming events. We can’t promise that everyone will get a ticket as our events sell out so fast, and at the moment finding large venues is difficult due to restrictions.
9. All Spin Sum events have taken place in Hong Kong. Any plans on helding a future event in another country?
Yes, 2 locations in the works but cant share where they are yet. Very exciting to dream about it but right now it's impossible due to travel restrictions.
10. What are the future plans for Willer and Spin Sum?
Spin Sum is planning to expand the size and range of our events. This means bigger, more exciting production and crazier locations. We have some amazing artists lined up to come and visit when travel rules relax.
It also means live music. We are plotting a move into hosting live musicians and bands. Hong Kong needs more live music!
For me, I’m about to release my first EP on United Music Records, which is exciting. I’m busy playing full-time at Cassio as well. I see it like an apprenticeship and an opportunity to keep learning and improving- and man it’s a beautiful DJ booth in which to be doing that. Lastly, I'm working on incorporating a live element into my sets which is something I’ve always wanted to do.