Ibiza Rocks has, for a long time, enjoyed an outsider status on the raving Island. Initially known for bringing indie and rock bands to Ibiza in the ‘00s, Ibiza Rocks are now at the forefront of the grime invasion of the island. It’s not just grime either; rap, R&B and UK garage artists have all been welcomed with huge fan fairs over the past year or two.
Craig David’s TS5 pool parties were a notable example last year (incidentally, he brought TS5 back again this year). They also invited Stormzy to host his #MERKY Festival this year, and he brought with him some of the UK’s biggest names: J Hus, Ray BLK, JayKae, Mist, Dave, Kenny AllStar, and Mostack, with Julie Adenuga on hosting duties. Complex sat down with Jordan Hallpike, Director of Talent and Programming, to discuss the evolution of the Ibiza Rocks brand — and how he rose through the ranks to become one of the most important figures in the company. Hallpike speaks with unbridled enthusiasm and it’s pretty obvious throughout our conversation that he is as much a fan of the music as he is one of its gatekeepers on the island.
As successful the brand of Ibiza Rocks is, the people behind the scenes are as passionate as any of the thousands of music fans and revelers that descend upon the island every year. After the phenomenal success of Craig David and Stormzy’s respective pool parties, Ibiza Rocks is staking its claim as ‘the new home of the pool party in Ibiza’.
“Quite frankly, there isn’t really anywhere else in Ibiza that can give them this platform.”
How long have you been a director at Ibiza Rocks?
I’ve been doing this role for the last two years. Before that, I was Manager of Talent and Programming and I’ve been with the company for about eight years now. I first came over to Ibiza in 2009. The first three summers I worked seasonally, just for the summer, and I worked in music at one show or another. The following year I went full-time as Programming Manager, and then was promoted to director two years ago.
What was it that pushed you to go full-time?
I’m actually based in London, but I go over to Ibiza every week or every couple of weeks. We moved our head office to London around four years ago and that means programming, marketing, talent, all of that, are all based out of London. There were a few things that encouraged me to go full-time; the workload increased, the size of the business increased, the amount of events we were running increased. We went from doing just one event per week when I started. My first job as Talent and Programming Manager was to create a second weekly event and now we’re up to three events a week along with the one-offs and special shows.
Were you putting on shows and club nights in London before you started working at Ibiza Rocks?
I started running parties on a very low level while I was studying at uni in Brighton. That was actually where I met my first link and introduction to Ibiza. A good friend of mine who was studying with me in Brighton actually introduced me to Ibiza Rocks. I went out to Ibiza after my final year of uni, thinking I’d have one summer of fun and madness in Ibiza. That turned into several summers. Here we are eight years later and I’m a director of the company. It started at a level where I was working in the hotel. I was partying hard and working hard but I was eventually adopted into the Ibiza Rocks family. It’s a great place to work and a very close knit group of people. It’s still sort of family run. Once you’ve been a part of the Ibiza Rocks crew, it gets under your skin. It’s very hard to move on. Like I said, that was eight years ago and I’m still here now.
That’s quite some time to stay at one company.
Totally. The company likes to tell the story in terms of how I came into the business and how I developed in the business. I started pretty much at the bottom of the ladder; I was selling tickets in the Ibiza Rocks Hotel, selling tickets to our events and to Cream, Amnesia, Privilege. I was that person you meet at the hotel who tells you all about the island and get you to buy some tickets. That then progressed into me booking resident DJs, putting on little events inside the hotel. After a few years I was doing a few more of my own things in London. I run a few parties in London so I developed that, the knowledge and the relationships. I worked very closely with my old boss, a guy called Shane Murray who’s now a VP at Live Nation. He taught me everything I know in this industry; how to speak to agents, how to book talent, how to programme line-ups, how to be a part of breaking new talent, discovering emerging scenes, etc. I learnt it all from Shane. He’s moved on now and I’ve moved up.
Ibiza’s quite an insane place; definitely not somewhere I could ever imagine getting any work done. Did it take a while to get that balance right?
Totally. I think finding that balance is the difference between going out to Ibiza for one summer, or a couple of summers, and trying to work and going out there to make a career out of it. Because if you don’t find the balance between party and working in Ibiza then it can take its toll on you. It can take a little while to find that balance. I’m not gonna lie, my first year in Ibiza I was probably out every single night of the week. But I was still managing to get to work and I was still managing to do my job. Eventually you develop a thick skin to Ibiza. Now when I go to Ibiza I go to nice restaurants, I hang out with friends, I watch the sunset. I may go to a couple of club nights but very rarely am I doing what I used to do eight years ago. But then that’s just getting older as well!
Ibiza Rocks is a little different to what’s going on elsewhere on the island. What do you look for when you’re booking acts?
We like to say we’re disruptive when we book our talent. Very few places do live music, very few places do urban music and very few places do grime music. We’ve always been a disruptive brand and ever since we’ve come to the island 10 or 11 years ago (when we were the first to bring guitar music to the island), it felt at that moment that it was a part of youth culture that young people were seeing at festivals. People were demanding it but it wasn’t being represented in Ibiza. Ibiza was always known as the island of dance and it looked very strange when we first brought guitar music to the island. We had some really fantastic moments with the likes of Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys, Babyshambles, The Libertines and all sorts of huge festival bands. At that time it was new and disruptive. That’s what our mentality has always been towards booking talent. It’s finding an area within the market that feels like it’s hot but maybe underrepresented in Ibiza.
Quite frankly, we can’t compete with the big super clubs when it comes to talent in electronic music. What we can do is offer new and emerging subcultures a platform in Ibiza. We did it with guitar music and we did it with bass music when we were bringing the likes of Chase & Status, Boysnoize and Annie Mac over for their first shows. We did in the Disclosure/Rudimental era. When they were first popping we gave them their first shows. And we gave people like Skepta, Wiley, Dizzee Rascal and now Stormzy their first shows. It’s always about us being on the forefront of emerging cultures and emerging scenes which helps us carve out our own little niche within Ibiza. That’s how I look at developing our lineups.
You mentioned Stormzy. How did #MERKY Festival come about?
We actually had a really good relationship with Stormzy for a number of years. He first played for us in 2015 when he supported Dizzee Rascal at one of our Ibiza Rocks live shows. He was having a moment where he was bubbling up on the undercurrent so we knew when we put him on that show that people would be excited about it. We had a load of people coming to that show just because of Stormzy. Everyone can see it now, but what we saw then was how much of a stand-up guy he is. He felt like someone you could really build a relationship with. You could see he wasn’t just going to be a flash in the pan and that he would be loyal to people who had helped him through the early parts of his career. So we gave him that show supporting Dizzee Rascal and we actually had a cancelled show that was that same year in September. We were doing a party with Rinse and the headline cancelled that show so we looked no further than Stormzy. So he was the support act in the same year that he became a headliner.
We’ve never done that before. Then, the following year (2016), we did a mini residency with him, which was where we helped him first develop his #MERKY event concept. It was a brand that he was playing with already with the record label and various other things. He proposed it as an event and we were absolutely all over it. He did four events June, July, August and September, and created the line-up. Then we came to first summer and we thought how do we develop this further? How do we build the relationship with him, give him something that feels like a progression in the relationship and in his career. That’s when I came up with the idea of doing the longest party we’ve ever done at Ibiza Rocks with multiple areas in the hotel. We had Stormzy create the line-up, a bigger line-up than we’ve ever had, we stayed open later and we called it a festival. We opened from midday and went all the way through to 11pm. I think when he heard that pitch he saw an opportunity to carve out a festival brand for himself. It was one of the best nights we’ve ever had at Ibiza Rocks. Seeing Stormzy in that environment on a line-up with his peers and friends in Ibiza in the sunshine with 3000 people that traveled to Ibiza for that show. It was a special moment.
“J Hus, Dave, Ray BLK... I think those guys will definitely be ready to step up next year and headline their own shows.”
Are there any newer artists that you’ve got your eye on to bring over for Ibiza Rocks?
What we normally do is we have a big headliner and then an emerging artist as the support act. Then, hopefully the following year, or even the same year, that support act becomes a headliner in their own right. That’s the model we always want to use. It’s what we did with guitar music and it’s what we did with Stormzy. Seeing the response to J Hus and the response to Dave... J Hus’ album is absolutely incredible. It’s full of sunshine, Afrobeats and grime. It worked so well for us in Ibiza. We’ve worked with J Hus for a couple of years now. He did support shows for us last year with Stormzy, he played twice for us this year, and I think he’s a headliner of the future. I think Dave’s a headliner of the future as well. I think Ray BLK’s a headliner of the future. These are all acts that we had on the #MERKY line-up. I think those guys will definitely be ready to step up next year and headline their own shows. What we’ve got with the #MERKY Festival, moving year-on-year - and I’m confident we can do it bigger and better next year - is for Stormzy to bring through the next roster of talented UK artists within the scene. Quite frankly, there isn’t really anywhere else in Ibiza that can give them that platform. We want #MERKY to be the gateway for these guys to come over, which would be fantastic for us and fantastic for Stormzy.
What would you say has been your biggest achievement, the one thing you’ve done at Ibiza Rocks that you’ll look back on in 20 years with the most pride?
I think the biggest achievement for me is when we first started bringing over urban artists to Ibiza. When Andy McKay, the founder of Ibiza Rocks, actually first brought guitar music over to Ibiza it was so disruptive that he’d probably say that was one of his crowning moments and I think that’s the same for me bringing the urban scene over to Ibiza. I think the jewel of that would’ve been last summer when we beat everybody to the punch with Craig David coming back. Very early we locked in a pool party residency. He played eight weeks last summer and we managed to make that pop just at the right moment. It was unexpected but it was credible and we became part of the story of Craig David and his rise back to where he should be. I feel really proud that we’re a part of telling that story. I’m really proud that we did that before anyone was willing to take a risk on that. When we’re doing these residencies and we’re coming up with this concepts it’s always good to work with artists who respect you, respect your loyalty and respect the fact that you’re trying to build with them. That’s what we did with Craig and that’s what we’re doing with Stormzy.
We’d never really done a daytime pool party; we’ve always been a 7pm until midnight gig slot. Our catchphrase was always ‘dance under the Balaeric stars’, but since Craig David it’s become all about the pool party. Now we’re the home of the pool party we’ve had great success with people coming over to Ibiza to take advantage of the sunshine, being around the pool, and partying with their favourite artists. That’s how I see us developing over the next few years, and that’s exactly how the Stormzy event ran with big talent throughout the day up to the evening when Stormzy blew us all away with his headline set. Ultimately, it’s about developing that daytime market for Ibiza Rocks so that these people can flourish.
So what are the plans for Ibiza Rocks, specifically, over the next few years?
We’ve been doing less live shows recently and we’re moving more into a daytime environment. This year we did up to three parties a week. That might be a live show or an Elrow pool party, it might be a Craig David pool party, it might be a Stormzy event. Next year I see us moving into four or maybe even five daytime events a week, each with their own identity and musical landscape. We’re crossing lots of different areas and that’s what our audience has always been; they’re not necessarily people who will only listen to one genre of music. If we give them different genres and different parties to be a part of whilst they’re on their holidays, then that’s what we’re gonna do. We want to give our guests and San Antonio a nice snapshot of youth culture. We’re almost there.
Check out the upcoming events for Ibiza Rocks below.
Aug. 13 — Do Not Sleep presents Cuckoo Land with Riva Starr, De La Swing, Latmun, Raffa FL, Jamie Roy, Faction DJs
Aug. 17 — Craig David’s TS5 Pool Party with Low Steppa, Ibiza Rocks DJs
Aug. 20 — Do Not Sleep presents Cuckoo Land with Mihalis Safras, Detlef, Latmun, Matt Tolfrey, Pirate Copy, Faction DJs and special guest (TBA)
Aug. 22 — Elrow presents Far West Pool Party (line-up TBC)
Aug. 24 — Craig David’s TS5 Pool Party with DJ Barely Legal
Aug. 27 — Do Not Sleep presents Cuckoo Land with Huxley, Josh Butler, Citizenn, Jamie Roy, Paolo Francesco
Aug. 29 — Ibiza Rocks at Pikes Hotel with Primal Scream + Hinds
Aug. 31 — Craig David’s TS5 Pool Party