ENLIGHTENED is a series spotlighting women in the field.
For the better part of a decade, Andrea Frey has been at the helm of Las Vegas' most sophisticated productions. Las Vegas is known for its crazy parties, but overseeing the creative direction of a half-dozen day/nightclubs that are entertaining thousands of concertgoers every night of the week is no joke.
After a successful time working on production teams for festivals such as the Global Gathering Festival, Godskitchen, Dance Valley, and more Andrea was asked to lead the (then) new Hakkasan Group in producing immersive experiences for world-renown EDM acts.
HAKKASAN Nightclub, OMNIA Nightclub, JEWEL Nightclub, & Wet Republic are just a few of the spaces Andrea has overseen. On top of managing the production design, personnel, budgets, and strategy in each of the venues, Andrea stayed busy coordinating the residencies of artists such as: Calvin Harris, Zedd, Drake, Armin Van Buuren, Martin Garrix, Tyga, Above & Beyond, Kaskade, Lil' Jon, Afrojack, and okay.... we could actually keep going for a while, but I think you get the point.
Bouncing from executive meetings to a venue walk-thru, then over to meet with an artist could be a typical day. That sounds like a lot because it is, however, Andrea makes things look easy. Her admirable work ethic and determination is contagious, and to put it simply: she makes you want to be better.
We are lucky that she spent some time with us. Read the Q&A below.
How did you get started in this crazy world of production?
I started in production due to my love for house music. I was a late bloomer in that respect. Amsterdam at the time was the hub (with Chicago) for house music with the iconic club called The Roxy. Even though I went a couple of times, it wasn't my thing. I was a hardrock/metal girl. When I started working as a waitress in a bar, I caught the bug. I decided to work NYE instead of going out and spending money, and I managed to get a spot behind the bar at an Awakenings event. Awakenings was (and still is) the techno promoter in Holland.
I arrive early (as I always do because I detest being late!) and asked if I could help with anything. They put me with this lovely girl called Reina Schoorl, that was doing the artist production. We clicked, I understood what she needed and I handled some stuff at the venue for her ahead of doing doors. I was quick in sorting for her what she needed so she gave me additional jobs to handle for her. When it was time for the doors to open she looked at me and said, "I want you with me for the night, I am not putting you behind the bar." I kept assisting her for a couple of events, got to know the owner and some other key people running production & artist handling. One of those key people worked at the biggest electronic dance festival in Holland called Dance Valley. He needed an intern for 3 months running a club night in Amsterdam for him and got hired. I worked there for 6 years. Back in those days, the dance industry wasn't professional at all. It was pretty much a cowboy land. I had 4 bosses telling me different things and I work 60-70 hours for years on end and ended up having 2 burnouts.
In my days doing the club night, we had a DJ exchange with UK DJ's. With one of them, I became very good friends. He urged me to apply for a job at the Global Gathering Festival in the UK, basically Dance Valley's equivalent. Because Dance Valley was known for its high design and production level, I was fortunate to get the job and moved to the UK.
Also, did you have any mentors or people you looked up to while coming up?
I looked up to the owner of the Awakening; Rocco Veenboer. Hard person to work for, but what he produces to this day is phenomenal. When I moved to the UK, I had an incredibly hard time. I was put in a very technical role, which I struggled with as I am not technical. I just get shit done. The boss I worked for was a bully. After 3 years I changed into a different position where I would be focusing on all our international shows, which was the best thing that could happen to me at the time. This was when I started working for James Algate, who was the owner at the time and Paul Hugo who did all the sponsored international shows. We were the 3 musketeers! I worked for James ever since until now, and funnily enough Paul Hugo came on board of Hakkasan Group and runs Omnia Bali. These two people taught me everything I know.
If you could go back and tell yourself something when you were first starting out, what would it be?
Ask for help, you can't do everything yourself. If you would even look my way, I started pissing on my territory!
Being a woman in our industry is far more difficult than most imagine. Would you speak about the challenges you have faced throughout your career?
Hmm where to start. I was a woman and little so I wasn't taken seriously on numerous occasions, especially in certain territories. In Russia or Turkey for instance, the local partners we did events with, would not even speak to me. I could get ever so upset about that. Then I got smart and let them be till the realized that a lot fo the decision making was down to me. The would try to deal with other members of our team, and they would all say, "You need to speak to Andrea." Eventually, they came around, and strong relationships were formed. I learned quickly to develop an elephant skin. For 8 years, I traveled with 6-12 males. I've heard it all, seen it all, and bought the T-Shirts, lets say. Traveling with men is sometimes tough because they forget you are a woman. The positive flip side of the coin is that I became one of the boys and was treated as such. Which landed me in strange situations at times. I can wholeheartedly say that I understand men better than many women.
If you could give a bit of advice to the young female creatives in our industry, what would it be?
Be patient and smart, pick your fights but always stand up for yourself. Additionally, to that, do not ever sleep with DJ's, agents, managers and/or other key people in the industry! Throughout my career, no one was ever able to say that about me, and it cemented the respect that I have. I am proud of that.
What is one element of our industry that needs change?
Talent fees. It has such a negative effect on the industry. I've seen the nicest people turn into assholes.
Somehow you ended up in Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the WORLD! Did you ever see yourself doing the work you are doing, and can you talk about how you ended up in LV?
I never thought I would end up being back on the club level. Not that there isn't anything wrong with it, but it was quite the change going from huge multi-day festivals, and 15,000 capacity arena shows to clubs.
When still in England, the main owner of the company left to see if he could set up shop in Las Vegas. That was Neil Moffitt. At the time, he landed the Bacardi B live account where Bacardi would fund 2 larger format outdoor events in LA and in Miami. At the time, everything in Vegas was on "club level," and they had no experience in festivals. So they sent me to assist. That was in 2008. I was meant to stay, but Bacardi pulled the events, and I went back to the UK. When Mr. Moffit opened Hakkasan Nightclub at the MGM Resorts, he asked me if I could move to the US and work for him. The rest is history.
So when Hakkasan Nightclub LV opened, it was legendary. I remember seeing pictures of the giant truss arrangement at one point surfacing online. Can you flashback to those moments and talk about what it was like? Did it feel like there were eyeballs on you? My pals and I just sat around the screen and stared in silence until someone finally spoke up, "What could it be like to BE there?!" It was SO COOL!
Oh man, I was so nervous. The one thing I kept saying was, "Do not put me in a technical position, I am a project manager type of person." Well, the first that happened was I was given a hard hat and a construction drawing, and off you go! I remember thinking how on Earth am I going to do this! I remember the front of house was planned in the DJ booth! I also wasn't familiar with the phenomenon of tables. "Where is the dance floor?" I asked. I even went back to the office to say that they needed to remove all these tables to allow for a proper dancefloor, not knowing that tables were the moneymakers and dance floor was for general admission ticket holders. That was mind-blowing to me. Where I come from, there was no table service, it was all about the dance floor.
I remember I had to hire a production manager to take over from me so I could focus on what I came for: making custom shows for each resident DJ we had on the roster. I couldn't find anyone that I thought was good enough until Gerardo Gonzalez walked through the door. I knew it instantly.
I always want to mention that being at Hakkasan Nightclub when it was still a dusty pit with electricians, builders, mill workers, etc., I developed a strong love for construction. I am fascinated as to how all of these moving parts come together and BOOM, you have a building!
Eyes on me? Not really, it was always a team effort. I was the one with the eyes on me. I am my own worst critic and sometimes my biggest enemy. I can be incredibly hard on myself. When something goes wrong, I blame myself. I still have a tendency to do that.
You have said before that later in your career you have grown to be much more willing to share your experiences and knowledge, what do you think caused that transition?
That comes with age and experience, I think. For a long time, I always felt I need to prove myself. I was a woman, I wasn't technical, I wasn't familiar with the US, not familiar with how clubs are run on the strip. After a while my role changed with the birth of OMNIA and JEWEL becoming more management of the teams, budgets, strategies as opposed to running a show at night. As you know, our team members were quite young. We did that on purpose. I wanted young people, not from Las Vegas, that were keen to be here, and were keen to learn. The arrogance of most staff in Las Vegas has always bugged me. But with a young team comes more management, development, and guidance. I hope I made a positive mark on that front. It's nice to notice that you are ready to teach and pass on.
This year, we both climbed The Stratosphere for a charity fundraiser benefiting lung cancer research (and I was fastest)! You always seem to be hiking, climbing, running or cycling. What hobbies or activities are you into right now? How do you stay inspired creatively?
Working out has always been my sanity. How I train is how I live, with a form of dedication. How you do one thing is how you do everything in my book. Music is my second passion. On the music spectrum, I am pretty much into everything. Apart from Experimental Jazz, that makes me nervous as I don't understand what they want from me when I listen to it. I love going to concerts, shows, ballet, etc. and get lots of inspiration from those things.
Apart from that, I love eating. I call myself a professional eater! And my dogs, of course. I am nowhere without them.
Last but not least, if you want to talk about anything, promote anything, or shout anyone out, here is a spot to do that!
With the lockdown and quarantine, I want to promote that every human being should push themselves to get out of their comfort zone. Change is always hard but always good. I've learned that in the last months!
ENLIGHTENED is a series spotlighting women in the field. Connect w/ Andrea Frey.