Meet Plurfest, an up-and-coming SoCal-based concert organizer and promoting agency. We received the opportunity to speak with the company's Co-Founder and COO, Meral Arik, who is currently a third-year at The University of California, Los Angeles. For more info on all the juicy details, keep scrolling.
DB: Tell me the story behind the name 'Plurfest.'
MERAL: I'm aware that "PLUR" is a completely controversial word right now, because the original people who used to love PLUR hate it (or there's a large gathering in EDM that hates the word) and in choosing the name we were completely aware of this We really just wanted Plurfest to embody the peace, love, unity, and respect behind EDM in the non-cheesiest way possible. As in, we're trying to get back to the roots of the culture, while bringing people closer to the events. And that's what Plurfest sets out to do. We are completely proud of our name; one of our main marketing campaigns is all about starting out fresh and redefining PLUR and yourself. We want to redefine it all. If you've never given EDM a chance, give it a chance. If you hated EDM and tried it out once, give it another chance. Don't judge our company based on the name PLUR, because we're doing something here that's never been done before.
DB: You were saying that you've been doing something that's never been done before. Can you describe that a little more?
MERAL: Absolutely. Plurfest is an EDM ticketing marketplace. Eventually, we want to get all of the clubs, concerts, and venues in the world. Tickets from every single EDM-related event, in one place. You could argue that StubHub and Ticketmaster already sell tickets for these events -- so why Plurfest? What we are doing differently is the incorporation of a loyalty program. So, every time anyone does anything through us -- not only money-related -- anytime someone comments on something, buys something or sells something off our website, they get points for it. And there's a levels program, where you might be getting free merchandise, discounts off your tickets, free tickets, or VIP-access to your favorite events. Another thing is we act almost like a concierge service. Right now, we focus on catering to the individual customer experience through personal phone calls, messages, manually finding and organizing more personal events that our customers would like to attend in the future. We hope to give them a real concierge service: having an actual concierge there for each individual to find a weekend getaway involving a musical festival of interest, clubs, concerts, experiences, and the like. Lastly, we're trying to create a world where the mainstream EDM and underground lovers are both happy -- where everybody can come together.
DB: Hence the name 'Plurfest.' 'Bringing them all together.' That's rad.
DB: Can you describe for me EDM start-up life? How has it been? Has it been stressful at all?
MERAL: Oh, definitely, haha. Start-up life is unlike anything I have ever experienced; it is not what I thought it would be. I've always heard that start-ups are so much work for so little return, and that you invest so much and don't really see a lot of the results. I never found the true meaning of these until I started. While that is true at the same time, I've learned so much. Right now I'm attending school, working a job, and running a company; yet I feel like I've become a more productive person. I've also learned so much about business, technology, working with people, and myself in the past few months than I ever had in my life. It is very stressful, but the fact that it's EDM-related and music-related keeps me going. The fact that I'm working with such an amazing team fuels the energy. My business partner Heesham Naji -- Founder and CEO of Plurfest -- is the most dedicated person I've ever met. Ryan Koyanagi, our Creative Director, and every single person on this team meets so many times a week, commuting from city to city depending on the meeting's location. Every time I'm at a club or an EDM concert, or when I put on my headphones and listen to the music... it calms me down. More so, it reminds me of why I do this. Above everything, yes, it's stressful. Yes, it's unlike anything I have ever done. But it's so worth it and rewarding. I'm excited to see what the future holds.
DB: Right on.
DB: And how have you managed to get by these stresses and these obstacles, per se?
MERAL: Honestly, I think it all goes back down to remembering why I do this. You need to take a minute to breathe, to listen to the music, and just remember you're doing this because you want to and because you love this. I'm the COO and my business partner is the Founder and CEO. It's weird to think that this is our company and that any decision we make affects the entire company. And if we get lazy, the company is done. You use the passion and vision you had in the beginning. Our first meeting ever involved us talking about going to the International Music Summit in Ibiza. We were so in over our heads. "We would be billionaires," all this stuff. As we started working, we realized that it was far more difficult than we thought it would be.
DB: Ibiza will come soon, hopefully. I'm wishing you all the best.
DB: On the topic of music, at what BPM would you say your heart beats?
MERAL: Haha. I couldn't give you an exact BPM. But I can tell you that my average BPM is probably higher than it should be.
DB: As in, do you have a particular genre of EDM that you prefer...?
MERAL: I'm truly one of those people that likes everything. Maybe above everything: house and dubstep. But I do love everything -- the mainstream and the underground. There's a healthy balance in the company.
DB: How do you integrate local talent into your shows, if at all?
MERAL: Eventually we want every club, concert, and venue in the world. Right now, it's all about the local talent. Granted we have Norin & Rad (Nick Sember) coming up on the 27th, but we really want to get the local talent out there. We work with local promoters that really know what they're doing, like Ambiance Group and Page Productions in OC. We go to the experts -- the people who pull in OC, who promote everything. We put out what people already like, while trying to give people who want a shot at the EDM world a chance. One of our members -- Felipe Garcia -- is a local deejay in Orange County; he's also a great resource to have in our team as the company's head promoter and deejay.
DB: That's rad, indeed.
DB: And how do you know if a local deejay is the right fit for the night you have going on? Like, let's say, "Oh, this is a Thursday/Friday/Saturday;" how do you go about getting the right person for the right night?
MERAL: We always talk to our deejays and try to gauge their vision with their music, and try to see what they're doing. We always listen to their work, ask them where they see themselves going, and ask them about what kind of music they like. We pair them with who we're having planned to play and let them do their thing. We haven't been too strict, since we haven't planned many events, but we do try to give everybody a chance. It's a balance of what they've done in the past, what they hope to do in the future, and how they sound instinctively and intuitively to us.
DB: Right on.
DB: Which local venues do you currently have an intimate partnership with? And could you describe how those business relationships have been so far?
MERAL: Well, right now we're working with Manal Hussain, who is a part of a company called Haywire Entertainment -- our first partnership. We're so grateful for her. She is the one that helped us so much with planning the Norin & Rad event. We also have partnerships with Ambiance Group and Page Productions, the latter of which is the reason we were able to have Adrian Lux perform on the 5th.
DB: Considering the fact that you are relatively new to the industry, and that this is your first company, have you ever felt that you were not taken seriously in this regard?
MERAL: I would definitely say so. Not only by people in music-related companies, but also by people in general. When you're walking around as a twenty-two-year-old saying that you're opening up a company that is composed of a good number of college students... it's skeptical. Despite this, I've found that a lot of people respect us for trying to get ourselves out there. I actually spoke with a well-known promoter in Vegas, who runs a company that exclusively caters to celebrities and affluent clients. I called him about a month ago for a partnership, and this was far before we were ready. Instead of shutting me down, he gave a lot of valuable advice that has proven to be very helpful. We hope to form a partnership in the future. Heesham actually ran into Tim Ortiz on his way to our website developer in San Diego. He was invited into Tim's office to discuss Plurfest and other things, and he felt that Tim was discouraging him: "Heesham, you're going to need one million dollars to start your first event." But we didn't need a million dollars, so, we're doing this.
DB: Good stuff. That's awesome. Do your own thing.
DB: They say that "the road less traveled upon is the one you should take." So, I'm hoping that this will bring you guys up.
MERAL: Thank you, I hope so. Haha.
DB: How did you get into EDM? You keep stressing the company's emphasis on "the music." Who are your all-time favorites?
MERAL: Well, a friend of mine, Elizabeth Matusov... she and I actually started listening to Benny Benassi in the 4th-grade. That's why when people tell me that they've known about EDM forever... No, I literally feel like I have. At the time it was especially uncommon to hear that form of music, at least not in my age group or crowd of friends. Starting with him, I was just hooked -- I just started loving the music. That being said, Benny Benassi is definitely one of my all-time favorites. He kind of held my hand and introduced me to the EDM world. It's hard to say who my other favorites are. I love deadmau5 -- people who do things differently. I love Paul van Dyk and Armin van Buuren. I really do like everything. I'll find something in every song. Regardless of mainstream or underground, every EDM song has a story. And I get so captured and captivated by the music. I love it.
DB: "If it sounds good, it is good," kinda thing?
MERAL: I think so. And that's coming from me as the consumer. Felipe, the deejay on our team, would definitely disagree with that. The fact that I like everything shows that I'm not that educated in the music; I just listen to it and love it. But I don't play it, therefore I don't understand it as well. That's one thing Plurfest is aiming to do: to cater to people like me who just love the music and the experience, and to also cater to people like Felipe who is a deejay himself and needs to hear the full length of the set to determine if he likes it or not.
DB: Yeah, because who's to say that you shouldn't blur the lines as far as genres are concerned. Because, honestly, if it does sound good, then it is good. Have you listened to Mat Zo?
DB: His sets demonstrate quite the variety. He plays drum & bass, trance, progressive... he even throws in some funk-driven songs of the Chromeo caliber. I think that's what people want to see nowadays. They want more of that variety in a set. They want more vocals. They want to get over the whole stereotype that EDM isn't "real music," or that it is considered that way.
MERAL: Right. And that's another reason that I think that when you're putting people like Ariana Grande with Zedd, it annoys a lot of people.
MERAL: At the same time, it's a good thing! It gets the music exposed to more people.
DB: I agree. It's a really good thing.
DB: So, who are you currently listening to?
MERAL: Pretty much everyone that I just listed. I really do listen to everyone. Lately, I'd say... ugh. I don't even know. When I put on my Pandora, it gives me every single thing. And when events approach, I like to listen to people who are going to be performing at those events just out of the excitement of the event. It allows me to get more educated on the person that's coming up. It's an exciting opportunity to get to know EDM even better. Since I started working with this company, my love and understanding of EDM has only been growing by sharing it with more people. I love to ask all my friends to see who their favorites are, to try to listen to them. I feel like a playlist totally defines who you are. I think my playlist defines who I am!
DB: 'Cuz you're all over the place!! Nah...
MERAL: Yeah, because I'm all over the place! I like everything! And I specifically... like everyone.
DB: Where do you think EDM shows will be seven years from now, considering live acts from the likes of BT, Infected Mushroom, and Netsky? Do you think that turntables will forever dominate, or will electronic-based instruments triumph?
MERAL: I definitely think that turntables will become more of a rarity, based on how technologically-driven our society is. That said, it's really hard to say where we're going to be in seven years. Technology is getting crazy these days. And I love EDM because it develops with the technology. Like Tupac's hologram, or something in the future like a pair of glasses that will let you experience an EDM show... in your own house.
DB: Oh... that's freaky.
MERAL: Plurfest could still tie into that! We could track how many shows you watch and how you're doing. We could still give you points for that, because at the end of the day we just want to reward the love of music.
DB: What would you say is the largest issue that the world is facing in this day and age?
MERAL: I would say perspective and the lack of ability to consider other people's perspectives. Every problem in the world stems from this -- war over religion. You all are fighting, and yet you have similar ideas. If people could just slow down and take a minute to rewire their brains, and learn to listen to people before turning on defense-mode right away, that would solve a lot of problems. And that's why I love music! It's a universal language. If you're at a show -- EDM or not -- you listen to the artist's music -- that's their heart and soul opening up to you. That's why people love music. I mean, when you're sad, there's a song for you. When you're happy, there's a song for you. That's the moment you realize you can pick any song that is reflecting how you are feeling, and you can identify with them.
DB: That reminds me of a quote... that "the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." The downfall of our generation will be our disability to relearn what we have learned. To utilize different perspectives and different angles to approach a certain problem.
DB: And if you could change anything with the snap of a finger, what would it be and why?
MERAL: That's difficult... I would change negativity and doubting yourself so much. Especially in our society that is tainted to perceive and attain perfection. I think we are too go-go-go, and that we don't stop to actually smell the flowers and breathe the air. If people calmed down and realized that they're actually doing alright, it would be profound. Whether you want to be happy or sad, you will be it. You determine your outlook -- your success. It's great advice, and I honestly need to remember it myself. There have been times when I've been so frustrated. Having a strong, supportive team around me to always keep me grounded helps me with this. Yet, a lot of people don't have that. Our society and the whole world need to work on that.
DB: If you could book any artist at a local venue, who would it be and why?
MERAL: We've been wanting Dillon Francis since the beginning... and DJ Hanzel. It would be really funny. I love that he's a comedy act, and that in itself would just be a show. That's another thing I love about EDM. It's a story. It's funny, yet it's great music. It's a statement. It's raw and it's fun.
DB: Dillon's definitely a character.
DB: What would you say is the golden rule behind your current success? Do you have any words of wisdom to share with the world out there?
MERAL: I say this on behalf of my whole team and I: live by your passion. Let passion, not money, be your motivator. Passion is the only thing that will really drive you, in the end. You can only keep up with something you don't love for so long. If your vision is what's keeping you going, then even in times of hardship you will keep going. If not, you'll just quit. It's important to remember that. Do the things no one has ever done before. Do what you want to do. If you're really doing these, then that success will come. And you have to believe it.
DB: So, basically do your own thing and never settle, right?
MERAL: Yeah. And do what makes you happy.
"Let passion, not money, be your motivator." Sounds pretty golden to me, Meral. We're looking forward to Plurfest's future events. If you're itching to fuel your passion for EDM or to spice-up your holidays, I suggest you check out their upcoming show featuring the talent of Nick Sember at The Yost Theater, Orange County on the 27th.
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