thump news

Cityfox is Building a Digital Doorman for its Parties

The app, Visionnaire, is intended to foster a more “music-centric and respectful audience.”

Will Caiger-Smith

Photo by Dean McColl.

The team behind the Cityfox Experience's deluxe warehouse parties has created an exclusive, invite-only app for purchasing tickets for events at its ambitious Bushwick venue the Brooklyn Mirage.

The Visionnaire app, which offers members advance access to discounted tickets before they go on general sale, can only be accessed with an invitation code from Cityfox, giving the promoters a level of control over the crowd more commonly associated with clubs like Berlin's Berghain, which is famous for its selective door policy.

According to Simar Singh—Cityfox's head of strategy, marketing, and development—the purpose of the app is to foster "a music-centric and respectful audience" at Cityfox events.

The launch of the app a few weeks ago came just before the reopening of the Mirage, the outdoor space at Avant Gardner, a sprawling 6,000-capacity events space which was granted a liquor license earlier this year.

With the Mirage's summer program now in full swing, THUMP caught up with Singh to learn more about the concept behind Collective Visionnaire.

THUMP: Tell me about the concept behind the Visionnaire app. What are you trying to achieve with it?

Singh: Very fundamentally, Visionnaire is a way to foster a music-centric and respectful audience at Cityfox events, to curate a great crowd, and grow it organically. To understand why it's necessary to introduce something like Visionnaire moving forward is to recognize that the dance music scene in NYC is exploding, and that the atmosphere at an event series or establishment can shift quickly if it becomes popular or "mainstream."

We've keenly observed how the audience at our own events has evolved as we grew, and how many [people] would attend our events never having been to dance music events before, or having attended events that were a totally different style. That's not a bad thing—it's great to introduce our music and vibe to new audiences. But if that happens too quickly, or at too large a scale, we begin to lose what we built, and our events become less appealing to our original attendees.

The idea of Visionnaire isn't to be exclusive per se, but to maintain a level of control on growth so we don't risk losing what we've created. Though many may not recognize it, we've always toed a fine line between an "underground" sensibility and commercialism, and when confronted with a choice between the two, we've always chosen the former.

"Pure growth—numbers, ticket sales in the short term—are not why we do this. We want to create a great experience, and the audience is not only a fundamental pillar of it, but the center of our attention."—Simar Singh

Are you expecting the app to impact turnout at all, at least initially while you're still building the community?

Of course. We're already seeing it. But Visionnaire is a long game. Pure growth—numbers, ticket sales in the short term—are not why we do this. We want to create a great experience, and the audience is not only a fundamental pillar of it, but the center of our attention.

How are you determining who gets invitations to join the Visionnaire community? And how many members are you targeting?

We extended thousands of email invitations to frequent attendees of Cityfox events. We also disseminated thousands of member codes and physical invitations to ambassadors within the music community—friends, fellow promoters, advocates. From there, members can then recommend a friend. We're receiving email and messages, and we will add a "request a membership" function soon to the app and website. We're up to several thousand members. There is no target or cap—it's about growing organically through connections within the music community.

Can you give some more detail on what the perks are of being a member?

The first and primary perk is discounted tickets to currently announced Cityfox Experience events (only four more this summer!). The next big Cityfox show is coming up this Sunday, July 23. We've also held two free events for Visionnaire members, where they could bring friends, who were then given invitations to join the app.

We also use the app to recommend other promoters' events and offer discounted tickets if they make [them] available to our members. Going forward, we're developing the app so that members can offer feedback and complete polls that will influence lineups.

We want to interact with the Visionnaire Members. We can offer discount tickets for non-Cityfox events (think: rock, indie, special events, etc) held at The Brooklyn Mirage. It's an evolving system, and we're looking for ways to strengthen a sense of community.

These days, the NYC electronic music scene tends not to have the restrictive door policies that are used at clubs like Berghain. How would you defend the app and the concept to people who say it's too restrictive?

NYC clubs did have very exclusive door policies in the past, using door selectors during the 90s and early 2000s (Twilo, Limelight, etc). But things definitely changed with the flourishing of the warehouse scene, which is different from the European club scene, where door selectors are more common.

There's an ongoing debate between inclusivity and the experience. To be 100% inclusive is to exercise zero control on what we feel is a fundamental pillar of a great event experience: the audience and the vibe they create. And if you're growing, highly visible, and becoming very popular, that's just not an option if you want to keep a good thing alive. At present, we make a limited number of tickets available to the public, but the large majority of tickets to our events are available to Visionnaire members, and membership is growing daily. We feel that's a fair balance between inclusivity and exclusivity.

How have other promoters reacted to the release of the app?

Almost all promoters we've spoken with understand why we created and launched Visionnaire, especially those who seek to curate their audience but are experiencing rapid growth. Several have even asked to license it. We think that's a good sign that we're on to something.

Follow Will Caiger-Smith on Twitter.