Massive party guys

Their parties are known for attracting A-list celebrities and good-looking yuppies, who pop endless bottles of premium champagne. In Singapore's highly competitive nightlife industry, where many night spots do not survive beyond three years, lifestyle marketing agency Massive Collective has been thriving, rolling out new nightlife concepts that give an edgy cool to clubbing.

Indeed, the creative duo behind Massive, Taiwanese-American John Langan, 32, and Australian Phillip Poon, 36, have come a long way since starting out as party promoters for clubs such as The Butter Factory, the now defunct restaurant lounge Mimolette and bars along Neil Road.

In the past four years alone, Massive has launched six club concepts, including hot nightspots Mink and Royal Room at Pan Pacific Singapore, commercial dance club Dream and the former members-only Filter club at Gallery Hotel.

Branching out from the nightlife industry, Massive teamed up with The Prive Group and restaurateur Joseph Wong last year to handle the promotions and marketing of Spanish tapas bar FoodBar Dada at Robertson Quay.

More recently, they inked a partnership in March to become a major shareholder in the public-listed LifeBrandz, owning a 14.05 per cent stake valued at more than $3.4 million. They are taking on a bigger consultancy role over LifeBrandz' outlets in Clarke Quay, such as nightclubs Dream and Playhouse.

And on Friday, Massive and LifeBrandz launched Fenix Room at Clarke Quay, a 5,000 sq ft Art Deco-inspired club lounge that celebrates the Roaring Twenties, spinning nu disco, hip-hop and dubstep tunes for their chi-chi patrons.

Their red-hot expansion streak does not stop there. In the next couple of months, the group will be launching a steakhouse restaurant called Opus in Clarke Quay, and a restaurant called Ohla and a nightclub called Providence in Kuala Lumpur.

Langan, who is currently based in Kuala Lumpur for the Providence project, says: "It's fun working on new projects and coming up with new ideas.

"We're pretty much young guns compared to the other lifestyle operators in town. We might as well do it now while we still have the energy."

Far from the partying bad-boy image one might expect from the self-made duo, Poon and Langan are serious about their business. They just like to party along the way.

Indeed, Poon can be spotted working at Mink in the wee hours on weekends, not drinking but chatting with club regulars and observing the crowd.

The youngest of three siblings, Langan has a Taiwanese mother who works as a nurse and an American father who is a retired university professor with a doctorate in Chinese history. He studied at the National University in Singapore for a semester on an exchange programme while completing his degree in psychobiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

He returned in 2005 to find work after graduating. For a while, he worked as a forex trader but later quit to work in a publishing firm. There, he got to do events planning and brand marketing for luxury retail and alcohol brands such as Grey Goose vodka, Rolex watches and Krug champagne. Australia-born Poon moved to Singapore with his family when he was about eight. His mother works as a financial controller and his father runs his own finance-related consultancy. He attended St Joseph's Institution here but later went to Melbourne to study at the prestigious Geelong Grammar School, and then studied business marketing at Monash University.

He came back to Singapore after his graduation and worked in his father's business for a few years before working as a full-time party promoter.

The two have had a knack for organising hip parties since their teens. Langan held fundraising parties for his university social club as a student, while Poon started organising ticketed parties when he was 16.

Poon says with a chuckle: "After my O-levels, I did a party at the old Concorde Hotel in a function room. About 500 to 1,000 people showed up, and we even had former radio deejay Mark Richmond's brother, Don, DJ at the party. And I made money from the event."

The two bachelors got to know each other while partying in the same social circle back in 2007, and teamed up as party promoters for one-off corporate events, as well as themed nights at some dance clubs and bars here. In 2009, while doing promotions for Thursday nights at The Butter Factory, they met Singaporean Cedric Chong, 33, who was promoting Butter Factory's Wednesday nights. The three of them decided to form Massive Collective.

Poon says Chong handles the money side of things while he and Langan handle the creative side. Massive did well as party promoters and as brand marketers for corporate clients, earning five-figure sums from corporate sponsors and a cut of takings from the venue operators for successful events.

The game-changer came with the opening of their members-only Filter Club at Gallery hotel. By then, they had saved enough money from their events and parties to invest in and operate their own club.

The venture in 2010 was a collaboration with the Emerald Hill Group. But Filter closed in March after a three-year run as Massive felt it had "hit its peak and that it was probably best to end it on a high before we do other things down the road".

The club offered VIP-bottle service, where one server was assigned to each table to pour drinks and take orders. Only those on an exclusive guest list could enter. The concept was new to Singapore at the time and clubgoers loved it.

Business was so good that Massive was making six-figure sums on weekends, with snaking queues of patrons waiting up to two hours to get into the club. They broke even after their second week of operations. At one point, the 2,000 sq ft club was so popular that patrons had to spend a minimum of $7,000 for a table. Table reservations at other clubs are usually secured by opening two bottles of premium liquor or a spend of around $1,000.

"Filter definitely set the tone for all our other ventures in Singapore," says Langan. Poon says their collaborations with F&B groups such as Prive and Emerald Hill Group were not so much a planned goal as "opportunities that came at the right time".

He says: "There's an element of timing but we do have a general idea of where we want to go. We have a lot of ideas but no venue to do it, so we sit on them until an opportunity comes along." Langan and Poon say much of their success is due to their innovative way of marketing, good networking and developing a fan base of devoted clubgoers who have been following them for years. Their marketing gimmicks included bringing sexy Asian women dance acts to perform at the club, such as Taiwan's Luxy Girls and Cyber Japan, a group of professional dancers from Japan who are well known for pole-dancing.

Langan says: "Our business model is different from other players, it's more marketing-driven, it's quirky and edgy and we ride on social media trends."

He adds that he and Poon travel at least once a month to check out new clubs in the region and also visit Las Vegas and Hollywood to keep abreast of new trends. He says: "For the stuff that we're working on, we spot something overseas which we think will do well here, we bring it here and we'll get the crowd to embrace the culture."

Looking forward, they say they hope to expand their portfolio, and perhaps venture into other Asian markets. Langan says: "Singapore is a very competitive market and there are a lot of talented people, but momentum in opening new concepts makes a difference. Now we have a following, not a big one but definitely a loyal one."

Poon adds: "We're just doing what we do best, creating something new and something interesting."

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