It’s March 2010 and three men have gathered in a disused 1930’s basement boiler room in east London. They have a set of speakers, some turntables and a webcam duct-taped to the wall. Blaise Bellville, Thristian Richards and NTS Radio founder Femi Adeyemi are about to broadcast the first Boiler Room show, with no idea that in under six years, their most viewed videos will be attracting up to eleven million eager fans from all across the globe.
The Boiler Room format is pretty simple: Decks are set up with a webcam facing them in a secret location; guest DJs are invited to play; a crowd of clubbers are invited to fill the space behind the DJ; it’s streamed live over the internet. This setup works so well because it’s as if you’re at the club yourself. If you’re in a hard to reach part of the world or just can’t attend a club night for whatever reason, Boiler Room allows you to be there from your laptop, phone, iPad or whichever other electronic rectangle you have chosen to call yours.
In their first year they streamed shows from big underground names such as Hudson Mohawke, Ben UFO, Theo Parrish, Jamie XX and James Blake – for a broadcaster who had been around for under a year this was an incredible roster. The format was fresh and attractive too, people quickly caught onto it and spread the word. The shows were broadcast via uStream and hosted on the Boiler Room website, as well as YouTube, Daily Motion and Facebook – with viewers able to comment on the gigs as they progressed. 2010 also saw CEO Blaise Bellville and his entourage ushering in ‘takeovers’ by the likes of Hessle Audio and Young Turks, in which the labels would basically take control of the decks for the evening and have their artists play for several hours, sometimes back to back.
2011 was another huge year for Blaise and the guys, mainly because they broadcast their first overseas show – something which would become commonplace in the years to follow. The first Boiler Room abroad was hosted in Berlin to rapturous support and has continued since. Radiohead also hosted a takeover in 2011, with performances from Thom Yorke (a DJ set, strangely enough), Caribou and Lone. The Berlin shows really took off and welcomed performances from Roman Fluegel, Motor City Drum Ensemble and many other big players in electronic music. The success of these events paved the way for a Boiler Room in Madrid later in the year.
Since the early years Boiler Room have vastly expanded their setup and music policy. Originally a platform for electronic music, they now incorporate hip-hop, jazz, world music and much more. They’ve gone from a basic one camera operation to huge multi-angle shoots at concerts and festivals, and their Dalston hub is now flanked by locations in Paris, Berlin, L.A, Tokyo, Mexico City, Sao Paulo and New York. As well as these permanent locations they have hosted shows in around 100 cities worldwide and their artist history reads like a who’s who of modern music.
Boiler Room seem to have tapped into a gap in the market and have struck the balance of their concept perfectly – quality, exclusivity, energy and instant availability anywhere on earth. Their unique brand of music broadcasting harks back pirate radio’s golden era and offers people an easily accessible alternative to mainstream music channels and radio -which, judging by their impressive view counts and followers, is something that is in high demand. The invite only approach only adds to the allure. It’s been said that Boiler Room is the most exclusive club in the world as it’s so notoriously difficult to get in, and even if you get an invite, you’ve still got to find the place using – allegedly – pretty sparse directions….but then again, you could always just watch it from your living room.
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