If you’re considering buying your own nightclub, there are multiple venues you could pursue: live music, comedy, dance club, or even a duelling piano bar.
One unique example in this industry, the Jazzlab, shows us that the key to nightclub ownership is finding what you’re passionate about and letting that passion propel you to success. For Jazzlab owner, Michael Tortoni, that passion is jazz music.
The Jazzlab is located in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick and boasts an impressive history of dedication to creating a unique and specialised nightclub to showcase jazz music in its purest form.
Opened in April 2017, the Jazzlab is a continuation of the legacy that Tortoni began in 1992 when he founded what eventually became a world-renowned nightclub, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club.
A passion for music
As one of ten children from an Italian family who migrated here in the 1950s, Tortoni’s journey toward his present-day success includes quite a whirlwind ride of determination and fortitude.
His experiences include being a member of the 1970s heavy rock group Taste, studying classical music at Victorian College of the Arts, playing in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and small jazz bands, becoming a successful stockbroker, and finally founding Bennetts Lane.
“I had a very single-minded focus,” states Tortoni. “A lot of people will come around and have a lot of great ideas about what can be done differently or better, but I had to shut them out and stick to what I knew I wanted.”
He stresses, “It’s not easy to do, but I stuck to my guns. I was prepared not to do it if I couldn’t do it my way.”
Although Bennetts Lane Jazz Club holds quite a history for Tortoni, boasting jam performances from Sting, Prince, and Harry Connick Jr., the Jazzlab is a culmination of his 25 years’ experience in the business.
However, when asked about a certain business plan or model he followed, he states, “I really had no business plan, just this passion, idea, and drive. There was a lot of hard work. For many years I worked around the clock to make it work.”
A clear vision
Tortoni offers this advice to others hoping to pursue their own dreams of entrepreneurship: “You have to have a clear vision to be able to handle the ups and downs that will definitely come your way.”
“There’s no magic formula,” he explains. “Each individual can tolerate different levels of risk or management skills with handling different personalities because musicians aren’t always the easiest people to manage.”
He continues by sharing, “Having to manage staff in the late-night venues is not easy. You have to be able to manage relationships really, really well.” This is a skill that Tortoni seems to have a mastered as he has been working with the same manager for over 20 years.
Another factor to the success of any business is location, and Tortoni knew that Melbourne would be the perfect spot for the Jazzlab.
He explains, “A lot of people don’t seem to appreciate how close Melbourne is to
Tortoni is also firm about requiring a cover charge at the door stating, “Musicians deserve to get paid. This is their job, it’s how they pay the bills and take care of their families.”
Realising true success
The Jazzlab is a combination of all the best features of Bennetts Lane combined with Tortoni’s continued vision to create the ultimate live stage to showcase all the colours of music that jazz has to offer.
As a venue that attracts all ages and offers a form of music that evolves through time, Tortoni says, “It seems to be kind of
Tortoni shares, “It’s my life; it was born from my imagination and certain experiences I’ve had. The club is a way I can listen to the music that I love every day.”
When asked what he sees as his biggest achievement, however, Tortoni is all about family.
He proudly shares, “My biggest success is my two children, now ten and eight. They’re at that age now where they’re finally figuring out that their dad is doing something really different, and it’s exciting to think that they might take this all over someday.”
Michael Tortoni’s success is an excellent example of finding what you’re passionate about and letting that vision fuel your determination to fulfil your dreams.
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