James Algate Handles Top Hakkasan Talent—and Their Secrets Are Safe With Him

Photo by Francis + Francis

Photo by Francis + Francis

At its core, James Algate’s job is curating the Hakkasan DJ lineup and making sure all of the artists’ needs are met. Once those basics are covered, the Hakkasan Group vice president of music and his team follow through on all aspects of the night’s production, ensuring that Hakkasan’s shows will stand out from the fold. Whereas the DJs’ performances begin and end the same night, Algate’s involvement is more of a long game. We caught up with him to find out how the former GlobalGathering music festival CEO stays sharp as Hakkasan heads into the second half of its second year.

Can you elaborate on your role?

Since opening, the majority of my day-to-day work is selecting the talent, booking the talent, contracting the talent and listening to their requests. My main focus after we schedule the year is creating a production for each performance. We get with the artists and their management teams to create compelling production pieces, so that whether [guests] come to us on a Thursday, Friday of Saturday night, [they] will have unique experiences.

What sets Hakkasan’s bookings apart from the rest?

When Hakkasan opened, it was very much about selling a dream. Even before Hakkasan came on the market, only a couple of clubs were doing very well. We sold talent the dream of what we were trying to achieve. We created the most expensive nightclub ever built—and with five levels—a real all-encompassing experience, where patrons could go for dinner and then listen to two or three different music styles throughout the evening. Attention to detail and our background in electronic music started to turn people’s heads. Once we confirmed Tiësto and Calvin Harris, everybody else took note and understood that we’re very serious about what we’re trying to do and deliver.

How have you managed to capture so many A-list names?

It became easier for us [after booking Tiësto and Harris]. Because we weren’t selling the dream anymore, we were selling reality. That’s really what puts us in good stead going into what will be our third year in [April] 2015.

On that note, how do you keep the programming fresh?

We continually tweak it—literally on a week-by-week basis. We’re never happy. There’s always something that we learn from the previous weekend, be it from a customer, a member of our staff, a DJ. There’s always something we’re trying to improve. From a production standpoint, if you look at the club now, the show you get has far increased from when we first opened.

Explain your process for developing  a production with an individual artist.

We sit down and discuss with each of our artists what they’re trying to achieve for their night. Some very much want to have a performance-based show, with aerialists or dance troupes with choreographed performances. Then we have others who are really not looking for that. They want more lights, lasers, cryo, CO2 and the more traditional club production.

They must show up with a host of personal requests.

They’re all individuals, and they all have different requests. The biggest thing for us is we want our talent to be happy, so we’re willing to listen to anything that they want to send our way. Whether or not we agree to it is another thing. The fact that we’re entering into long-term agreements with these people [obviously implies] that they’re very happy with us and we create a good partnerships.

Any out-of-the-ordinary requests?

I’ve been asked this question a hundred times, and the answer is always: “I couldn’t possibly share any.”

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