DJ SBL is a well known DJ on the Island of Bali who has been on the island for many years following a very successful international career prior to landing on these shores, and under the safety blanket of anonymity aka DJ SBL, they have kindly agreed to write occasional articles for Secret Bali Life on the subject matters others dare not to discuss publicly.

For their second piece DJ SBL discusses over development on the island of the Gods and how it's affecting the music scene on our dear island…

UNARRESTED DEVELOPMENT - How the over development of Bali is affecting the music scene… By DJ SBL

It has long been a hot discussion topic over the dinner and coffee tables of this wonderful island that the unchecked rate of development in Bali is have a detrimental effect on the landscape and that the rice paddy views once so highly coveted by residents here are rapidly disappearing in the ‘bule’ regions of the island. In fact where a rice paddy view was once coveted it is now even considered a negative in some cases as it is also highly likely to become a building site in the not too distant future, which is not something anyone wants in front of their dream home at anytime or in any place.

However I believe the unchecked development is also potentially detrimental to the music scene on the island and I will now attempt to outline why. Before i do however i must point out that we do have a very healthy and incredible music scene here with many incredible venues who genuinely care about the music. However it is becoming harder for them year on year and in this piece i will try and outline why and the potential effects this could have on the future musical soundscape of Bali. 

As well as the plethora of villas and hotels which most people tend to focus on in the main when discussing this topic, there has and is, especially in the last year or so, an abundance of newly developed beach clubs and new nightclubs on the horizon. Surely this is a good thing I can hear people asking already, how can new hotbeds for music be a bad thing when other places like Sydney are losing them at an alarming rate?

The reason why this is not a good thing is quite simple… mathematics. If you have 1000 fans of a football club and you are building a new stadium you would probably build a stadium for 2000 people, with en eye to getting more fans in the future… agreed? You would NOT build a stadium for 75,000 people… because you will NEVER fill it. Unless of course you give those tickets away to anyone and everyone to get the place full, but then you will struggle to raise the funds to pay the rent or the players, so you are still fucked even if it all looks good on the surface.

This is basically what is the danger in Bali now, or in the near future, at the very least. There is simply not enough genuine clubbers and music lovers here to justify all of these venues, which has resulted in a music scene where it is almost impossible to make money and at the end of the day despite a love for music or the scene, it is still a business! These days if a venue in Bali breaks-even it is considered a success… Generally you can just about make it work if you get the numbers in and break even on the door and make your money on the bar, or consider it a loss leader for the brand but this has its problems too. Generally the people who are into the more credible music forms do not have as much money to spend on drinks as people who consider the VIP area to be the driving factor of their evening. Therefore the moneymen at these venues have a very easy decision to make, do I book a super credible DJ not many have heard of or do I book some super commercial guy whose music is bullshit but pulls in big spenders who don’t know what they are listening to.

Then there is the future of the scene and how that is affected by this economy. In any creative industry it is the independent, up and coming, forward thinking designers, artists, musicians, producers and promoters who are always the driving force, the trendsetters. They experiment, they create, they take risks and the mainstream follows… But in Bali we have created an environment where it is almost impossible for these types of people to thrive. How can you compete with venues letting people in for free to see world class acts? How can you compete when people question paying an entry fee for an event without even researching the line-up? How can you compete when your only income is from tickets? How can you compete when you are offered 10% of the bar? Simple… you just can’t!

If you are only in it for the love and you are Indonesian, you can just about make it work thank fuck, like the incredible guys and girls at Tuck & Trap, TANTRA and PNNY who have survived for several years now hosting truly non commercial credible events but I am positive that many of you reading this will have no idea about Tuck and Trap or Tantra or what they do. Because unfortunately what the incredible Indonesian creatives do on this island is often overlooked by the western factions but that’s a conversation for another day.

But for foreigners who come here, with pure creative intentions, they have to worry about kitas, permits, being charged western prices for hiring of equipment and venues and so on, so for those boys and girls who want to come here to create, network, share and survive, it is almost impossible. Which in turn is indirectly a loss to the Indonesian scene as they are not able to share ideas and resources with like minded others because the ‘others’ are not here in the numbers they really should be.

If all the venues in Bali were brimmed to capacity and making good money then by all means, crack on, but that is simply not the case. More and more we are seeing great events not as busy as they ought to be. Recently we had a weekend with 4 international genuinley shit hot acts all on the same night… in the middle of lo season! In Ibiza and other European hotspots, during the winter many major venues close down and wait for the numbers to come back but here its relentless 52 weeks a year.

I hope from the bottom of my heart that people who are hosting the truly credible events start to pull together, help each other out, communicate more and take action in order to ensure that there is breathing space for credible music and events to thrive here, but as each year goes by, and more venues pop up, its only going to become more of a challenge… I look forward to being proved wrong!

And to those venues in Bali that do continue to book credible acts and stick to their guns… THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!