During lockdown, Late Night Shopper (LNS) helped their community stay connected to the sounds and the spaces of London’s bubbling underground. They streamed from shuttered, but iconic venues and transported back into the nightlife spaces we longed for in isolation.
Co-founded by Hal Jordan (a.k.a Allecto), Melissa Fund ( a.k.a mi-el), and Olli Nelson (OL Drift) the trio became pioneers in live-streaming music. They ran a weekly show that hosted the likes of Daytimers, Horsepower Productions, AYA, Tim Reaper, and more! They also paved the way for experimental hybrid URL/IRL events collaborating with iconic club spaces like The Cause, Grow, Venue MOT, and others. And every sense of the word, they kept the spirit of the dancefloors truly alive
As part of our Change-makers interview series, we sat down with Hal to discuss how LNS came to be, the challenges they’ve faced building their brand, and how they’ve adapted to new modes of performance.
Aside from the obvious lockdown, what prompted the idea of hosting events in disused venues? And what’s it been like?
Late Night Shopper originally started as a club night in Manchester when I was a student, but then as a result of lockdown, the entire project was sped up. We also had a goal to have a radio show, that was the original idea but then started live-streaming because we felt the visual element was really cool. It was me, my girlfriend Melissa (DJ name) and Olli. Our goal was to stream the clubs, obviously, they were all shut down at this point, and produce content that was very DJ-centric - a really simple shot. Clubs have all this equipment there and we had time, I mean we're all sitting at home doing nothing. And we're like why not? Why not bring people together in this a safe, socially-distant way.
Tell us about the logistics behind the project? What was it like reaching out to venues, and how have you made your set up portable from place to place.
To be honest we were really lucky. It was so random, we got the first space through someone who knew someone that was setting up a space. It was a spot in Shoreditch, an old gym-turned art studio that also had a great kit, and you know we asked if we could use it while it was empty. We had a few people that helped us with the logistical side, like setting up the stream, how to film it, archive it, etc. I guess it snowballed from there, and I want to stress that we wouldn't be where we are without the venues. They took a chance on us, they were so accommodating and bought into our vision. Plus it wasn't about the money for us, you know? We're here to keep people engaged with underground dance music while the industry was practically shit down. And by the time we started streaming at bigger venues like the Cause we already had like a portfolio, and they trusted us to deliver. As I said, we were lucky and it went pretty smoothly. Only minor snags when we’re deciding on the shot, the aesthetics. For us, it was about simplicity because it was easier to stay consistent and replicate it. Think like HÖR, they have that fish-eye lens, or Keep Hush with their green lighting. And my advice to anyone streaming is to get a good camera. This was a big learning curve for us, because effectively what you're saying when you decide to live- stream is that the visual element is super important. But to be honest, and I'm not just saying this -- genuinely– -the really sick thing about Mixcloud is that it’s super accessible. When it comes to setting up a stream it’s just made really, really easy, even with OBS.
You've programmed with a range of artists and collectives, across genres from grime, club music, jungle & more. What's feedback been like from artists and collectives you've worked with? How have they found the hybrid events / live streams from clubs?
So it’s a 100% different kind of performance, and the feedback has been really interesting. We’ve had some people that really have to psych themselves up for this set in a way that they wouldn’t have to for radio. Because you are on camera the whole time; imagine playing a set for 2 hours it’s easy to forget you’re being recorded. You might check your phone, something small like that. You can’t really relax when you’re in the spotlight for the entire set. The flip side is some people really love it and they’re ready to perform at a higher energy. Personally, I think a radio show is definitely more relaxed than a live stream, just because of that level of performativity that you have to rise to. Depends on an individual’s personality. Some people find that distance from the audience helpful to perform, but some people freeze or slip up more.
Did live-streaming your events have an effect on how you put together your lineups?
Not consciously, but yes. It didn’t at first… I mean would never write someone off just because they’re not as energetic during their stream. But at the same time, I can’t ignore the fact that there are some people that have the right energy for this. In that case, I’m just more likely to book them again. There are some people that are just made for it, that own the booth. And I’d say that a lot of DJs are shy and it’s always interesting to see how they’ll react to this setup.. Some are the quietest people in person, but as soon as they get to the booth they really come out. Some are just extroverts and super performative. We actually used to stream 2-hour sets but we moved away from it. We noticed that even if you had great energy and all that, it’s still hard to keep that level for two hours. There’s nothing to feed off of, there’s no audience or feedback loop to see if they’re enjoying the music you’re playing. So we switched to back-to-back sets, one hour each, it was way more effective.
How has it been performing at one of London’s most iconic venues, The Cause, especially since it’s closing down soon?
I mean the two real venues that have really helped put us on were The Cause, but also Venue MOT. In terms of taking a chance on us etc. It’s definitely going to be a big loss for the community that the Cause is closing. It’s undeniably one of the biggest venues in London, with like a 2000 capacity. They were active too, you know, during the week and all weekend. That kind of activity supports a lot of people’s careers. We need more venues like The Cause, and it’s really sad that it’s going. I hope they come in one form or another.
Do you think there’s a future in hybrid events? And what’s your experience with them?
So earlier on we did host a few social-distanced events, which I personally wasn’t a fan of. It’s hard to answer this question because people were sitting down, and we had to keep policing people to sit down. So it wasn’t a typical audience. I think it was all we could do at the time. And it was awkward to curate dance music but people couldn’t dance. Sometimes I felt like we were running our own party. But the whole live-stream interaction is an interesting one because it can work if we had multiple cameras etc. Right now our shot is super simple, the camera sits where the crowd would be, and that would be hard to execute it if there was a live audience. We did do Halloween at the Cause and that was filmed but it wasn’t live-streamed at the time, but we used the video to live stream at a later date. This means we can do a small edit if it’s needed, sort out any issues, and it just gives us more flexibility. Although I understand the appeal of it being live, and I don’t underestimate how big live-streaming is getting. On the one hand, the virtual scene was bolstered out of necessity. It’s meant to recreate the real thing and I think all the live streams, archiving, all the content that we put out during lockdown was meant to encourage us to go see these DJs in person. But with that said, it’s hard to ignore how big hybrid models are getting, I mean look at Keep Hush they’ve done super well. And I’m not going to give anything up yet but we’re definitely evaluating what our role is in that future.
What’s a piece of advice you’d give to a music creator starting in the music industry today? Specifically, a DJ wanting to start a collective like yours?
Hmm, that’s a good question. So much, I’d start off by saying that if you’re just starting out, don’t get too bogged down in the numbers. Good things take time, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Even LNS was a little event series before our live-streaming boom. Also don’t get too bogged down on booking talents that have just got fame, book people that truly inspire you and align with your vision. If you keep churning out stuff that’s quality, people start looking to you as the tastemaker. People will come to trust your taste.