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Dave Piccioni from Azuli on Business, Miami and DJing Fame

Author: Jonty Skrufff
Tuesday, May 3, 2005
"Setting up any business requires determination and drive, right now it would be a much more difficult task to set up a label today than it was then, though I wouldn't say that's a reason not to do it. But it should be well thought through. The difference today is that you can't survive on passion and energy alone."

15 years after he set up hugely successful British independent dance label Azuli and over 20 years after he became of of New York City's first name house DJs, Dave Piccioni is one of dance culture's most experienced and knowledgeable players, combining business sense with hands on suss.

"When we started Azuli we did it on passion and raw energy but at that time we could get away with making mistakes. Right now, it's hard to get away with them," he continues. "Back then, it was fortunate for me, because there were lots of people who knew about dance music and lots who knew about business but hardly any who knew about both. There were very few people who liked dance music and knew how to run businesses," he continues.

Running Azuli from his Soho offices above legendary record store Black Market Records, Piccioni's impeccably placed to view the dance business first hand and as a working DJ spinning regularly in both London and Italy, his dance floor credentials remain solid. He also retains a slight Yorkshire accent, reflecting his origins growing up in the bleak northern town of Huddersfield, during the era of punk rock, Margaret Thatcher and the mass unemployment that spawned many of the people who later invented rave culture.

Launching his club career promoting parties in his university town of Liverpool, the 20 something Brit took off for adventure to New York in 1984, ending up with a high profile Saturday night residency at Manhattan superclub The World. 5 years later, he returned to the UK as a big name DJ, though determined to make his mark in business, principally in the then nascent acid house scene.

"London in 1989 was a place for creative cool people, we still had a very generous welfare state where people could do creative things without getting a job," he recalls, "whereas I'd been in New York for five years, where it you don't make money, you end up on the street. I came back with that New York attitude and did pretty well. At the time I considered myself a New Yorker."

The business he established was Azuli Records, and one of the label's first projects was a compilation album themed around the then largely unknown Miami Winter Conference. 15 years on, the series continues and it's to promote Azuli Presents Miami 2005 that's he's chatting to Skrufff today, though he's the first to admit he's no longer the event's biggest fan.

"I'm supposed to be positive in these interviews but I'll tell you the truth, I don't particularly enjoy it there anymore," he reveals.

"It's just about big clubs and big promoters and it seems like it's just another ruthless way to make money now whereas it used to be genuine fun. The people that used to go there seemed to be happy to be there and the clubs were very quiet and they'd be glad to have you coming in. DJs would play for free and it seemed a lot more genuine whereas today everyone's out to rinse (exploit- slang ed) you."

"It's very expensive, there are loads of people there who wouldn't normally go to clubs, from the rest of the States particularly," he continues. "There's nothing wrong with that but sometimes they don't know how to behave and they don't have respect for everybody else in the club and don't know how to control themselves under the influence. I must admit I came back with a slightly negative view."

Back in London

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): What did you think of the music that was on offer in Miami-

Dave Piccioni: "Musically, it's always very healthy because it gives everyone an energy boost, producers, DJs, everyone gets a kick from Miami, it kicks the summer into gear. It's very important from a business point