DWP and the Rise of the Indonesia Dance Music Scene

Major Lazer in DWP 2015.

Rob Schwartz

The 8th edition of the Djakarta Warehouse Project (DWP) dance event in Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta took place on December 11-12, and the growth of this powerhouse fest mirrors the development of the overall dance market in Indonesia.

Held at the Jakarta International Expo site, DWP drew 70,000 people in 2014, the first year it was a two-day event, and Billboard estimates that 75,000 flooded onto the grounds for this year’s proceedings, generating $2.9 million in revenue. Headed by leading dance draws like Armin Van Buurin, Tiesto, Kaskade, Major Lazer, DJ Snake and Jack U, among others, drawing 31 international DJs (65 in total). Attendance was split (roughly) 80 to 20 percent between Indonesians and international attendees.

DWP began as something close to an accident. The promoter -- lifestyle multi-national corporation Ismaya Group, which owns restaurant chains, clubs and bars -- faced a dilemma back in 2008. Ismaya Group co-founder Christian Rijanto explains, “In the beginning we didn’t plan to have a big party or festival. We used to do warehouse parties next to one of our clubs starting in 2006. In 2008 there was a mafia fight in the venue two weeks before the show, and there was damage to the club, so we couldn’t use it.” The altercation Rijanto refers to left one dead and two seriously injured at the upscale Blowfish Bar.

Rijanto continued: “In a matter of 12 or 13 days we had to create a brand-new festival, because we already booked the artists, we already sold tickets and we already had sponsors. The easy way out would have been to cancel it. But we have so much commitment and we wanted to deliver the experience so we decided to do a festival outdoors in 12 days… We created the production, changed the marketing, informed the ticket buyers, and communicated with the sponsors.”

The event became the first Djakarta Warehouse Project, and drew about 2,000 people. Attendance doubled the next year, eventually reaching 15,000 in 2012. It doubled again each of the following two years, becoming the biggest dance music festival in Southeast Asia by 2014, and overall one of the biggest music events in the region. Rijanto estimates that 250 managers from all divisions of Ismaya, and over 2,000 staff overall, worked on DWP this year.

Ismaya has become firmly established as the leading promoter of dance music events in Indonesia, also doing Ultra Music Festival Bali.

The rapid rise of DWP also encouraged the company to become a promoter of more mainstream music and entertainment events. In 2009-2010 Rijanto founded the Live division of Ismaya and the company has promoted tours by Katy Perry, One Direction and John Legend, among others. It also puts on Broadway shows and comedy by superstars like Russell Peters.

One of the leading local DJs at DWP this year was Diphas Barus, voted DJ of the year by the foremost Indonesia dance music outlet Paranoia. Barus started spinning in '04 and has seen the scene expand massively through the intervening years. “The dance music scene here has really grown in the past five to ten years. Before that it was just underground rave parties. Now there are big clubs in cities like Medan, Surabaya and the like, not only in Jakarta.” These clubs can usually host 2,000 to 3,000 and regularly feature DJs playing cutting edge house, techno and trance.

Barus relates that for a gig in one of these major clubs a DJ can earn around $700. This figure illustrates the rise of the earning power of the profession in Indonesia, a country where the per capita income $3,630, according to the World Bank.

Osvaldo Nugroho, another local DJ who was featured at this year’s DWP and voted producer of the year by Paranoia concurs that dance music is exploding in the country. “The industry is really growing. I think it’s because in Indonesia all the pop artists are using dance music now.”