Harry Millirons is 24 years old and was born and raised in Houston, Texas. He is the creator of “HardLife Presents” and has hosted parties like ZION and Underground Strikes Back. His next event is a full-fledged campout festival just south of Houston and will be from June 15-17.
How did you get into event planning?
When I first got involved in the scene in 2013 or so, I started as a glover. I was part of the first gloving team in town and then we got signed onto another event company where I got to meet the owner and he mentored me and taught me a lot about the industry, if not everything I know now. I was with them for two years and then I started my own company called HardLife in September 2015.
Did working under him give him some of the connections you needed to take your company off the ground?
He gave me a few connections but most of my connections have come from being out on the scene and going to different events. The scene works in cycles which means that people come and go fairly often. The main key for me was to just hang out in all of the different scenes and talk with people. You never know who you’re going to meet like for instance, my videographer isn’t even into EDM but he’s been doing a great job!
The talks for something bigger happened while we were planning “Underground Strikes Back” which was a Star Wars themed party. I was talking with my production and stage manager about budget and stage designs and we realized that we were spending all of this money and time on this smaller project that maybe it was time to go bigger. After we successfully finished that party, we started brainstorming for an outdoor beach party which we thought was pretty ambitious. We started laying the groundwork and throwing feelers out there to see who else wanted to get involved. We started getting more and more people contacting us from all around the state and even surrounding states like Colorado and Arkansas. With all of this support and interest, we decided to go even bigger and thus: EDEN was born.
What was the timeline for all of this?
About two weeks. ZION was planned in two weeks as well so like, we work pretty hard when we know we have something special in the works. I get a lot of ideas for parties and festivals throughout the day and so what I do is write down those ideas and store them away for when I need some inspiration later. For EDEN, we were originally going to call it “Neverland,” but there’s already a festival called “Everland” so we scratched out that idea pretty quick. I sat in this exact room for three days trying to come up with another name and then EDEN just popped into my head. I really liked how peaceful and calming its connation was. We like to keep out names short and sweet so they just roll off the tongue. I’m also dyslexic so it all works out pretty well!
I recall a previous interview where the event planner also said that coming up with a name was the hardest part of throwing an event.
Oh for sure! You can be getting all of the pieces in places and acts and whatnot but then be sitting for days trying to think of the name and theme. Most people don’t realize just how important the name is when coming up with an event. The name is the first thing that a potential guest sees when they get a flyer or event invite. The goal is to just have the name itself on the flyer and get people intrigued and interested.
Is event planning your primary source of income?
No, this is my form of art. I own construction, painting, and remodeling company which is my full-time thing. The two areas overlap when I’m creating the stages for my shows. I draw out all of the designs and lighting and give them to my stage manager to turn it into reality. Whatever structures he can’t find I build myself using wood or metal. As far as other sources of income, I’ve just started a home flipping business. The shows are just my canvas and I really enjoy doing it. I like watching people have fun and creating safe places for people and performers to enjoy themselves and everyone around them.
How do you mobilize people to work with you on these events?
It takes a lot of hope. They must have hope in me and I’ve got to hope they’ll do what they say they will. For me, the hardest part is to get people to see the vision that I have and even the people that have been with me for lot of shows were skeptical at first, my production manager being one of them. As far as logistics, I work around the clock but I work with others according to their schedules so that we’re all making the most of our time. I’ve got to say that the turnover in this business is very high because some people don’t realize just how much work it really is and then others have other obligations that they need to take care of. If you get into this, you have to enjoy it because it can get stressful at time.
So, are they… volunteers?
Some are paid, some are volunteers.
Let’s talk more about your DJing.
A lot of people don’t know that I DJ at all, actually. Around five years ago, when I was starting as a stage manager before HardLife, I said to myself that I wanted to learn how to DJ as well. I went up to the same guy who taught me how to throw shows and he was extremely kind about teaching me how to DJ as well. After I had learned some of the basics, I went out and bought some decks and started practicing on my own. My skills and intuition kept improving and so I started going out and playing locally. I landed some gigs here and there and got a few residencies as well. When I started seriously getting into event planning, my DJing sort of got put on the back burner because it’s hard to play at your own shows when there is so much to keep track of and coordinate. Occasionally I’ll give myself the 11PM slot where traffic is lower but I’m never the headliner of my own show or anything like that. You can’t really do a lot of managing when you’re preoccupied behind the decks, you know? Anyway, back in the present, a lot of people just found out that I do DJ and so I’m working on playing more local gigs because I really do enjoy it. I want to do more and I’ve been experimenting with different styles, multiple decks but I guess I really don’t advertise that I do this since I never set up a Soundcloud or Mixcloud for people to find my old sets
This one is for the aspiring DJs out there: what is the best way to get booked in the local scene?
Best way to make a real impression is to go up to the person in person and not online. I get over a hundred messages on Facebook a day so if I get one that is just a Soundcloud or Mixcloud link and nothing else, I’ll likely scroll right by it and you won’t get booked. I honestly try to answer all of my messages but sometimes it just gets to be too much; I could spend hours on my phone answering messages but there’s still a chance you could get lost in the fray just based on the barrage of new messages that will come after yours.
The best thing to do it go up to the promoter and introduce yourself, maybe ask to buy them a drink or make some other kind gesture to separate yourself from the rest. Asking to get booked is the equivalent of asking to borrow money. If you look at it that way, I think it’ll help you find the best way to approach the situation. You can’t just go up and directly ask to play at one of my shows if I know nothing about you. Another thing is that you’ve had to attend at least one of my other shows because otherwise, how would you even know what I’m about or what my parties are like?
For me, if I’ve met someone who has made an impression, I’ll ask them to send me an email with an EPK and one of their mixes. Those without a proper EPK, you can still usually get by with an excellent mix. You really can tell a lot about a person from the mix so I try to listen to all of the mixes I get whenever someone makes it to this stage. I usually have the time to listen when I’m commuting or working, but you’ve got to refrain from messaging me every five hours to ask if I’ve listened to it yet. The best way to follow up is to wait for a few days and just give me a nudge if I haven’t already gotten back to you. A lot of promoters are the same way and it just makes our jobs so much harder if we’re getting spammed all hours of the day. To sum it up, as long as you have two of the three most important things: EPK, mix, or genuine following, your chances of getting booked are fairly high.
How do you determine a genuine following?
Within the first six posts on a person’s Facebook page. I totally understand that there can be a lot of nonsense on a person’s page because they get tagged in things or have to promote certain events, but usually you can get a good sense of a person’s following within the first six posts.
Could you tell us a little bit more about the Houston Scene?
There’s so many people here in town from different backgrounds and that are into different things. Like on the streets in Downtown, there are forty to fifty people at all these different types of shows and they just aren’t really connected. The idea behind ZION was to take these little groups and put them together with five staged. We had four of these smaller crews, who usually hate each other, but some of the members came up to me and said that they thought it was amazing to be vibing out with these other crews that they thought they despised. This faction mentality is prevalent in Houston, Austin, and Dallas, at least from what I hear. I mean it’s great that people have so many options when it comes to show, but at the same time it’s splitting up the crowd and pulling apart the community.
Another pretty dangerous event was back in the summer of 2013 and as you know, in Houston summers are either extremely humid or extremely dry and this time it was dry as dirt. What happened was one of the fire spinners lost control of one of the batons and it flew over the foam pit (thank God, otherwise we would have had to pay for that!) but it flew over that and into this patch of dry grass which caused the whole section to be set ablaze. Everyone was panicking and screaming so the other promoter and I went to get the fire extinguisher to put it out. By the time we got back, apparently someone had taken off their shirt and used it to beat the fire completely out. I was relieved but my partner started spraying the extinguisher everywhere and reassuring everyone by saying, “Don’t worry! I’ve got it! Everything is completely under control!” Which was just hysterical. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to resolve what could have been a huge accident.
The last story, that is by far my favorite, took place earlier this month on Cinco de Mayo. I was with a group of DJs talking about what was going down that day and it seemed to just be mainstream parties from Spire and Stereo. We were left asking, “Well where is everyone else going to be at?” We just decided to make out own event. First, we needed a venue. For the first time, I used my connections to call in a personal favor so I called the guy who helped me throw my first party and asked if we could use his place. He agreed if we charged people so we settled on five bucks a head. We had about five hours till open but we managed to get an ice cream truck to be the background for the main stage and having people spinning poles on top of it. It was a total renegade party with the only way to get the address being by word of mouth. Apparently, it spread like wildfire because I messaged one of my buddies to invite him and he told me that he had already heard about it! We ended up getting 250-300 people there! It was the craziest and most underground thing I’ve ever done. All hell broke loose with two fights breaking out in this warehouse we got at the last minute. I mean all I wanted was a place to hang on Cinco de Mayo and it turned into a total rager. People just kept showing and I think most everyone would agree that it was a success. It’s definitely the coolest thing I’ve ever done and a story I’ll be telling till I’m in the grave: The time we threw an absolutely insane party in just five hours.
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