Lunches alfresco, dinners under the Mediterranean moon, dancing all night at Pacha in Ibiza. That sounds like a dream—or a permanent vacation—but this is Louis Diaz’s everyday life as the Pacha Group’s Global Director of Music & Programming.
Pacha is one of the crown jewels of Ibiza and its longest-running club, originally established on the island in 1973. Diaz has been a figurehead of the Pacha brand since 2018. Prior to that, he was a fixture in the Miami scene running some of the city’s internationally recognized clubs and events. These past 20 years, Diaz has built a reputation as one of the friendliest, most hospitable, and down-to-each members of the dance music industry.
This is an extension of his upbringing in Puerto Rico where he was born. Diaz spent his summers between New York and Miami, spending time with aunts and uncles in the former and with grandparents in the latter. At 18 he moved to the mainland and began his journey in nightlife.
After stops in Tulum, Miami and Ibiza, Diaz slotted a chat with Festival Advisor between meetings disguised as meals to explain how he made the rest of the world’s leisure into his long-standing career.
How did you get started in nightlife?
I wasn’t even looking for a job in nightlife. A friend of mine was opening a club. He said, “You’re coming to Miami. I’m opening a club. You’re going to be the general manager.” I said, “I’ve never worked in nightlife. I don’t know how to work a bar.” He’s Cuban. Cubans and Puerto Ricans, we mess around with each other. Cubans say Puerto Ricans are not smart. Puerto Ricans say that Cubans talk a lot of shit. He said, “Don’t worry about it. You’re the smartest Puerto Rican I’ve ever met. You’ll figure it out.” That’s how it happened. I was thrown to the wolves.
What was the first place you worked in nightlife?
That was called Honey, 645 Washington Avenue. It opened December 2001. I stayed there for three years.
Where did you go from there?
From there we went on to build a mega-club in Downtown called Metropolis that was two blocks away from Space, 24-hour liquor license as well, the whole works. I went back to Puerto Rico for a year and worked for the Wyndham Group. I was miserable because it was corporate, but it was a good experience. I don’t regret none of it. When I came back, the club was built.
What was your next move?
I didn’t have the fire to be the operator anymore. I wanted something else. The natural progression was, I started doing my own parties. I knew everybody in the industry, so I partnered with some good friends. We were doing special events, but on a weekly basis we were doing a Monday morning party. We would open at 4 a.m. Any DJ that was in town would come play for us. They would play Space or they would play on the beach or somewhere else, but they would still be in town. I would call them and say, I have $500, do you want to play? They did it for the fun and the friendship. It grew exponentially. Sometimes we were doing 3,000 on a Monday morning.
How did you go from your parties to Club Space?
I already knew Louis Puig and Emi Guerra from Space. Louis broke the mold. He pioneered Downtown Miami, in a sense. Before him, there was nothing there. My Monday party put me on their radar. Alex Omes from Ultra was one of my best friends and the music director for Space back then. I landed in Space as marketing manager/marketing director and ended up swallowing the music director position because I was handling the contracts, dealing with the agents, doing everything basically, so it just happened.
What you were doing at Club Space grew a lot during your almost decade-long time there from 2007 to 2016...
When Louis sold Space to Opium Group in 2013, I stayed on board. I took over all of the Opium Group’s music department which included Mansion, Mokai Lounge, Cameo and seven other clubs on the beach. I also signed with SBE, so I was between Downtown, the beach and Vegas. It was a pretty hectic couple of years that burned me out a little bit.
What did you do in the two-year gap before you started at Pacha?
I was having a baby, so I left Space. I was never going to go back into a nightclub. I kept on doing events. Me, Louis and Emi, we’re still partners. We co-own Miami Music Partners. It’s a company we’ve been using for 14 years to do events, and I kept working on our events two, three times a year and that was it. I was home chilling, until I got the phone call from Pacha. They had me at hello. I didn’t want to do nightclubs again, but it’s like the Yankees called. To me, that was a no-brainer.
Your role at the Pacha Group’s Global Director of Music and Programming is very extensive. What does it entail exactly?
I’m the music director. It’s “global” because we are in an expansion phase. We have multiple brands. Pacha the club, the shop, the restaurant. Lio is our cabaret/restaurant. Destino is our resort concept. Pacha Hotel is a little bit of a higher hotel concept, and we developed a new one that’s Casa Pacha which is going to be more organic, boutique hotels, five-star service, very Tulum-ish, very Formentera vibe. We like to have hubs in every major city we go into, because we can create an ecosystem and offer our customers the entire experience.
I curate the music for the different venues. In some venues it’s not as hands-on as in the club. The club, the live shows, the outdoor shows—we do big events that are basically like putting together a small festival. For the club, we focus a lot on seven residencies for 21 weeks over the summer with the big names: Solomun, Marco, Claptone, Bedouin. It’s intense.
I outsource the music for the hotel, but it’s under my umbrella. My team and I give directions on what we want to hear at certain times in the lobby and what kind of vibe the pool should have, and they can curate it. If we get a call from a manager saying the music is horrible, we let them know and they fix it remotely. We stay on top of it.
What does your day-to-day look like in non-pandemic times?
There are two totally different day-to-days: season and off-season.
During off-season, we do all the clerical stuff: negotiations, new contracts, preparing for the summer, preparing the marketing initiatives and plans, production, concepts. Everything we do that’s off-season is a lot of office work.
Summer is hectic; seven days a week, all day long, all night long. During the day, I might have lunch at a beach restaurant with an artist or with an agent or with some friends that came from New York. Three hours later, I’m having another lunch or I got to jump on a boat and entertain some guests. Then I have dinner, go to the club, repeat all over again. If I go to the office during summer once a week, it’s too much. I’ll go for two hours for an executive meeting on a Tuesday or something like that.
Hosting, making sure the party’s being run well, being there. During the day [I’m] taking care of people, taking them around, showing them a good time on the island. I’m having a great time doing it, but it gets intense. By the middle of summer, you’re wishing it’s already October and closing. When November comes you’re like, “Oh my god, I can’t wait for this to happen again.” I used to come here every summer before I worked for Pacha, and I fell in love with the island. It is indeed magical.
What has your day-to-day looked like in the last year or so?
My part was pretty much dormant. Everything was set for 2020, but we don’t know what’s going to happen next year, so it was useless to keep talking until we had more clarity. There wasn’t much to be done during winter except renegotiating certain things.
The focus has been on mitigating risk for everyone. The conversations have been very easy, but it’s been pretty slow for me.
The rest of the Pacha team have been really active dealing with growth and expansion. Whenever there is something pertaining to my department, they’ll reach out and I’ll give them feedback on music or an artist and what we can do eventually on the music side.
I go back and forth to Miami to see my daughter every month or month and a half. When I’m in Miami, I do a lot of meetings, but it’s catching up with industry friends. Let’s have dinner, let’s go out, let’s have coffee. It’s busy, but you’re not on official business. You’re not really making any deals.
Now, it’s picking up again. We’re going to open Mykonos. We know we’re going to open hotels. There has to be some type of content in all those venues, so I’m getting busy now.
What can you tell us about the most recent remodel at Pacha?
Pacha’s heritage is intertwined with the island. The word we use for Ibizans is “pagés.” Pagés is the local people and the culture. When Pacha started, it was the pagés form, a little rustic house. The remodel has those elements. It has the woods [and] the rocks, but it’s still modern. It’s still 21st century. On the production and the technical aspects, we were able to bring all the new toys, rigs. We don't want to be Hakkasan or Omnia. You have to stay true to the identity of Pacha, and that was very difficult. I have to say, we nailed it. I can’t wait to reveal the club. It looks perfect. It’s exactly how Pacha needed to be. I couldn’t be happier.
What would you say are the key turning points of your career?
The biggest turning points have been joining the Space crew because it started as an employee/employer relationship and ended up being more than that. We’re family. For that, I’m very grateful. Miami Music Partners was big for my career. It really puts your name on the map. It gives you credibility with the agents, the artists. It takes you to a different level. Pacha was the finalization of that journey—without me searching for it, and that makes me appreciate it more.