Drumsheds offers 'unique' space for huge moments in dance music

Drumsheds offers 'unique' space for huge moments in dance music

Broadwick Live executives have spoken to Music Week about the impact of Drumsheds, the biggest indoor UK venue focused on electronic music.

The former IKEA warehouse store in North London, which has a 15,000-capacity in its main room, returned last month with a sold-out show from Chase & Status. The new season line-up includes Craig David’s TS5 Festival, a BBC Radio 1 Dance special to mark 30 years of the Essential Mix and a collaboration between Meduza and James Hype.

Drumsheds launched last autumn with a ‘Big is beautiful’ campaign to highlight the possibilities of the 608,000 sq ft, multi-room space for music in Tottenham. 

“It is doing something unique in London,” said Matthew Johnston, director of entertainment, Broadwick Live. “People have opened big venues and arenas, but a culture venue like this – doing a whole season with electronic music and showcasing [artists] at that level – it’s not really been done before.”

With Drumsheds, the company stepped up from the hugely popular 6,000-capacity Printworks venue in Canada Water, which held its final series of parties in spring 2023 after six years at the site. Printworks is set to return in some form in 2026.

“Drumsheds was a big jump capacity-wise,” said Ebony Rhiney-James, director of marketing at Broadwick Live. “It was a really big undertaking for us and we feel super-proud at this point. We’ve expanded our audience, so that’s been a huge achievement for us.”

“Electronic music is arguably in a better place now than it’s ever been, based on various metrics including attendance in the venues,” said Ajay Jayaram, director of music at Broadwick Live. “If you look at the Top 40, it is particularly prominent right now. We’re definitely feeding into that wider sense that electronic music is having a moment and is appealing to a wider audience.” 

The opening Drumsheds season of 14 dates, many of which sold out, included curated events with Charlotte De Witte, Bicep, Skepta & Jammer, Sugababes and the Piano People club brand, billed as the world’s biggest ever amapiano show. 

Broadwick Live worked with art practice United Visual Artists on the creative technical concept across three expansive rooms, which are named X, Y and Z. The audio-visual infrastructure, provided by dbnAudile, includes a huge panoramic screen, immersive light displays and high-quality sound systems.

“It is all about the experience for us,” said Johnston. “We try to bring something to our venues that is unique and can’t really be achieved anywhere else. A venue of that scale deserves a centrepiece and that screen really did provide that for us.”

“We’re always looking at how we can create a multi-sensory experience for our audiences,” added Rhiney-James. 

The team underlined the challenge in terms of production and sound in the vast warehouse space. 

“By the end [of the opening season] it felt like a venue of that size, format and layout had no right to sound that good,” said Jayaram.

“We take on spaces that are not music venues – it’s not purpose-built in that way,” added Johnston. “It’s not easy, it does take time, and people are patient with us. We did nail it quicker than we expected, and it really worked.”

Jayaram underlined the opportunity for artists to stage something special, either in partnership with the programming team or as a venue hire. As well as a Spotify Wrapped event and the first ever live show by UK music collective Sault, Bicep staged their Chroma AV DJ project with multiple artists. 

“They’re essentially mini-festivals and in lieu of stages you have [different] rooms,” Jayaram told Music Week. “What’s exciting for the key artists we work with is that they don’t always get that [multi-room] opportunity. Lots of them do massive shows all over the world, but it’s quite often just focused on the headliner and maybe some support acts.

“The Bicep show is a good example where the end result was quite different to what you might see in other spaces where they [play] around the world.”

Jayaram suggested the collaborative nature of electronic music makes Drumsheds the perfect canvas for a live experience featuring multiple acts.

“The curatorial element is something that is increasingly interesting to artists,” he explained. “If you look at the make-up of an album, these days it is very rarely 10 tracks by one artist; it’s 10 tracks with five, six or seven features. So it is an opportunity for us and key partners to really work together.” 

What we have been doing for a while is really creating moments in history for the UK music scene

Ebony Rhiney-James

Craig David’s all-day TS5 show on March 23, including Ella Henderson, Jax Jones and Switch Disco, is an upcoming example of the mini-festival concept. 

 “That’s an opportunity for him and his team, alongside us, to explore different avenues musically,” explained Jayaram. “It’s not three rooms of garage bangers; it’s a little bit more diverse than that.”

Broadwick Live also invests in photographers and videographers to produce content from shows as part of promotional campaigns for its venues. 

“What we have been doing for a while is really creating moments in history for the UK music scene and we don’t want to forget that,” said Rhiney-James. “It’s important for us to capture that to a high level, and also because content is key to our marketing strategies.”

The sold-out Chase & Status show (February 23) featured special guests as part of a new live concept for the duo. The duo were named Producer Of The Year at the BRITs following the gig.

“We’ve worked with the guys for a long time,” said Jayaram. “Drum & bass is an integral part of what we do – that audience is very loyal and they support all the things that we’ve been doing over the years.”

Broadwick Live also operates and programmes events and venues including Field Day festival, Silverworks Island in Docklands, The Beams in the Royal Docks and Depot Mayfield in Manchester, home to The Warehouse Project. 

Rhiney-James revealed that there are plans for international expansion.

“There’s a lot that we’re working on – the team are working hard across Broadwick as a whole,” she told Music Week.

With the new 2024 season set to launch at Drumsheds, Jayaram said the team will continue to programme shows covering different sub-genres of electronic music in order to reach a range of audiences.

“Having the access to a space like this, somewhere really unique where we’re able to do things completely differently, it’s a real privilege,” he said.

“So we feel a collective responsibility to try and share it with as many people as we possibly can. I definitely like to think that, across any given season, there’s something that appeals to everyone who’s interested in coming down and enjoying what we do.”

PHOTO: Jake Davis

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