In an interview at his elaborate Art Deco era Miami Beach home, cloaked with vines and towering hedges, Jones said a desire to stay independent and philosophical differences led them to turn Sillerman down.
The Opium strategy is focused on luring New York financiers, Venezuelan petroleum magnates and wealthy Arabs and Russians, who roll up to SET and Mokai in Ferraris and Rolls Royces surrounded by nubile young women. They can spend tens or even hundreds of thousands in a night on $900 bottles of Dom Perignon or $2,300 bottles of Cristal Rose, their purchases celebrated by parades of waitresses and the DJs announcing their name. Bottle wars, in which one customer sees another getting five bottles and outdoes him by buying 10, are common. Servers and bartenders can earn thousands a week.
Jones, whose father Mick Jones is one of the founders of rock group Foreigner and who started hanging out at New York nightclubs in high school, said that where hipness and celebrity clients once drove a clubs cachet, now bacchanalian luxury and six-figure-fee DJs like Bob Sinclar, who headlined the SET reopening last Friday, are the draw.
Its changed so much, Jones says. Now its like, how many bottles can you buy? When youre rich and have money, people want to express their happiness that way.
His partner Eric Milon says their operations are just the most recent version of high-end nightlife.
Tables are a social status symbol, just like driving a nice car or wearing an expensive watch, Milon wrote in an email. The music has changed from disco to pop to hip-hop to dance, but the scene remains the same.
But that luxury scene differs from early dance clubs filled with an eclectic, counter-culture mix of young people focused not on showing off but on dancing all night just as the warehouse raves of the early 90s are dwarfed by giants like Ultra.
Carmel Ophir, a 90s South Beach promoter who now owns Vagabond, a downtown Miami club that caters to a dance-loving crowd and charges $10 to $50 covers to see musically revered DJs like John Digweed, wonders if the massiveness and expense will start to drive people away from the scene.
Its getting into this big corporate crescendo, Ophir says. Twenty years ago it was places to go and things to do with friends. Now its evolved into a juggernaut of an economic model. Commercialism has reached the dance music scene and will play itself out for as long as it can.
I think its going to reach a point where the audience will go, Im not really feeling this anymore, I need something different or looks at their credit card bill and goes I spent a lot of money and for what?
The Times Sisario, who points to Las Vegas casino chains competing for top DJs, says corporate Americas gold rush into EDM might end by homogenizing the scene. But he thinks the music will survive.
Theres no way Bob Sillerman could market people to death so they dont want to dance anymore, Sisario says. This music has been around for a very long time. People will always want to dance all night and go crazy. You cant kill that.