It’s not often you come across a tireless self promoter with a track record that
speaks for itself. That’s part of the yin and yang that fuels Yoel
Silber, a 35-year-old self-made entertainment mogul who’s channeling his
boundless energy into realizing a dream – transforming Tel Aviv into one of the
electronic music capitals of the world and by doing so, solving all Israel’s
hasbara (public diplomacy) problems with one droning beat.
mastermind behind the upcoming first Tel Aviv Electronic Music Festival on
October 20 at Hangar 11 – featuring 12 hours some of the world’s top DJs,
including Boris, Hex Hector, Chris Liebling and local electronic faves Astral
Projection – Silber, the Bronx-raised son of Israeli parents, is pouring tons of
time and effort into the project, which he boisterously claims will change the
face of the country’s music scene.
He’s also putting his money where his
mouth is, with oodles of funding (for mini-movie promotional videos at
and multi-colored fold-out posters) garnered from his
years as co-operator of The Sound Factory, one of New York City’s most
influential dance clubs, and more recently the founder and CEO of the
mega-successful Promtix, which provides special after-prom dance events for
teens in the New York-New Jersey area.
“Every notable city and country in
the world has a big electronic music event. In England there’s Queenfields, in
Holland there’s Awakenings, New York has the Electric Soup Festival and Las
Vegas has the Electric Daisy Carnival,” said the boyishly enthusiastic but
hard-boiled, business savvy Silber.
“In Israel, you have some of the
biggest electronic music artists in the world – Infected Mushroom, Astral
Projection – but you don’t have much to show for it. For every Oman 17
[the landmark Tel Aviv dance club] there are there hundreds of New York venues
of the same or better caliber. What I’m doing is going to be a game
Silber has been writing his own game plan ever since, as a teen
entrepreneur, he joined forces with an older partner, Joseph Anthony Lodi, to
build the Sound Factory into one of New York’s trend-setting clubs in the
“It was about theater, a show, a scene, electric and fun. There
were gay people and straight people, everyone together, which was kind of unique
in New York at the time,” said Silber.
“People like Lady Gaga and Madonna
will tell you that a lot of what they picked up and made their own derived from
the New York club scene like ours.”
While learning and absorbing
everything there was to know about New York nightlife, Silber discovered an
untapped niche – prom night.
“Kids in New York would rent limos, drive
around the city and do nothing all night. Parents had nowhere to send them and
no way to know what they were doing,” said Silber.
“I saw an opportunity
that nobody else was taking and started creating classy events for high school
kids only at clubs and venues.”
“I was selling out venues like the
5,000-person capacity Rosebud on a Wednesday night – with no artists, no radio
promotions, just credibility. I didn’t mix the teens with the general public,
there was no alcohol, and parents knew that their kids were in a safe
Promtix has become a multi-million dollar business and made
Silber a wealthy man, opening the doors for him to pursue other pursuits that
strike his fancy – like taking on the Tel Aviv nightlife scene. It began when
Silber flew to Israel in 2007 for a two-week vacation, the first time he had
been in the country since a family trip when he was nine.
“There was this
amazing energy in Tel Aviv that reminded me of the way things were in New York
in the ‘90s,” said Silber.
“It was interesting to see people going out
every night – ‘til three or four in the morning. Not just kids but adults with
hi-tech jobs. I was like, ‘wow, this is something special that I don’t see
anywhere else.’ I just fell in love with it and ended up staying for two
THE IDEA for funneling that energy into an annual event – an
electronic music festival – that would consolidate Tel Aviv’s status as a world
nightlife leader was hatched and has been in incubation ever
since. Silber saw the idea not only in business terms, but also in
helping cultivate a new image for the country that he has identified with all
“Music fans travel from all over the world to these festivals.
Once a year in a certain time frame, they’ll know that Israel is the place to
be, the DJs and the record labels would know it, support it, brand it and push
it,” he said, adding that the specter of terrorism and unrest is an outdated
mode of thinking.
“The days of Israeli minds justifying whatever
shortcomings there are by saying ‘but we have terrorism’ are gone. You know, I’m
sorry dude, you can go anywhere in the world and be subject to the same things
Israelis experience here. But you know what the difference is? Israel is safer
than any country in the world. And people in the US who I know realize
“Israelis need to stop this primitive way of thinking that this is
how people perceive the country, because from my experience, it’s not. People
will come here to an event like this, and then it becomes a special attraction
and will spur a world wide global effort to spread the word and support
Crossing off one potential buzzkiller from the list, Silber then
explained the advantages that Tel Aviv has compared to other electronic music
capitals – primarily the weather and the entrepreneurial spirit that’s endemic
in the country’s psyche.
“In New York, everything is based on weather.
You can spend a quarter million dollars on producing a function, and then
there’s a snowstorm,” he said.
“People kill for the weather in Israel.
And the US is no longer the entrepreneurial playground it once was – Israel is.
If you have a great idea, Israeli banks will support you.”
returned to the country earlier this year to lay the groundwork for the
festival, he was met with opposition and apathy from many who he thought would
be his greatest allies – those involved in the dance music business – who said
that Silber’s grandiose New York plans would falter in Tel Aviv. But he doesn’t
“Here, you have four or five people involved in promoting dance
music, claiming to be the biggest in the country. If they’re so big, how could
they let someone come in and take this niche away from you? If they were as
smart as they thought they were, they would have already done this,” he
Who is right will be determined only on October 21 when the strobe
lights are turned off and the spilt beer is mopped from the dance floor at
Hangar 11. But even if the Electronic Music Festival, under the auspices of his
King Jew Enterprises, doesn’t draw the numbers that Silber is confident it will,
it won’t lessen his determination to carry on with another event next year, and
keep increasing it in size until it fills a stadium.
“The reaction has
been amazing. Our flyer alone is something that most people here have never
seen,” said Silber.
“I’m not cheap and my brand is not cheap. I’m going
to spend $10,000 on printing a multi-color foldout flyer because I’m crazy, but
stuff like that is the difference between A and B. I want to be A. I didn’t come
here to do what everybody else does. I came here to do what has never been done
If Silber’s walk is as good as his talk, then we’ll be
witnessing an annual electronic music festival for years to come.