DHP Giving Venues A Soul

In the beginning there was Rock City, the first venue on promoter/facility operator DHP Family’s roster, which today encompasses eight spaces across the UK including the newly acquired Borderline and Garage venues.  

Located on Talbot Street in Nottingham, Rock City developed into one of the UK’s most iconic venues over 35 years. “It was started by my father in the early ’80s. When I took over in the early ’90s it was very much known for its golden age of hair metal and cock rock,” DHP’s MD George Akins remembers. “We’ve been able to evolve what Rock City is about, so that we’re not pigeonholed in time like for example The Marquee or CBGB’s. There are venues all over the world that are known for a time and a style of music and therefore have a shelf life.”

Today, Rock City’s program is best described as eclectic. But it’s not just the music that evolved. Over time, DHP added elements that you wouldn’t usually expect in a club at the time.

“We try to take every element we do as seriously as the other,” he said. “We are concert promoters and we are club promoters and we are bar operators, rather than a live music promoter that does a bit of club and a bit of bar.”

DHP Family just bought The Borderline from Mama Group and The Garage from Academy Music Group.

Questioned about what inspires him to open up a new space, Akins replies: “We really like interesting buildings. The building will dictate the type of offer we’ll deliver. “For instance, the Borderline is just a nightclub venue. You can’t put a bar in there, it’s one room, there’s no window, it’s a late-night space, whereas The Garage has some frontage bar space as well as your large nightclub venue at the back.

“Each venue has to have its individual soul, so it can build its own identity, its own history, its own customer base that has memories of and feels for those places rather than create carbon copies of each other.”

Refurbishing both venues is Akins’ current priority, realizing the company’s vision in design, product, club-night delivery and booking policy. It’s safe to predict that these aren’t the last venues DHP is going to acquire.

While Akins couldn’t reveal anything concrete, he said this: “Our core is the live music. We wouldn’t be opening something that doesn’t have a live music offer. Whereas we could offer something that doesn’t have a food offer or doesn’t have a night-club offer.”

In the long run, Akins wants to work on DHP’s festival strategy. “We do have a really good indoor festival strategy with Dot to Dot and our metropolitan festivals like Mirrors in London work well. But our outdoor festival strategy still needs to develop.”

Live Nation’s dominance doesn’t bother him too much. While it is true that Academy Music Group pretty much had a monopoly when it came to 2,000-capacity venues, DHP’s offering in that segment still held steady with Rock City.

Add the company’s other venues, festivals, artist management and promotion departments, and Akins says it becomes clear that DHP is offering artists a wide range of live opportunities “with an independent attitude.”