Interviews

Gold-Diggers: the 1920s hotel that’s become LA’s coolest music venue

Words by Kate Menzies
Photos by Pablo Enrique

We interviewed the team behind East Hollywood’s most innovative music hangout about its past, present and future.

Before it was a venue, hotel, and recording studio, Gold-Diggers was already a part of LA venue history. Located on Santa Monica Boulevard, East Hollywood, it was a reminder of the area’s raunchy past. It began life as a hotel with a bar attached, and over time turned into a strip bar. The top two floors of the 1920s building had been empty for 40 years before Dave Neupert came along with a new vision for the campus. Neupert’s experience as a venue owner made him the perfect candidate to bring Gold-Diggers back to life. 

Neupert maintained that the building’s history wasn’t going anywhere: “When we took over the building we inherited its history, so instead of whitewashing the whole thing we kept the name and the original sign. People know Gold-Diggers as a unique venue in the LA ecosystem. The idea has always been to make a beautiful thing within the walls, even if it doesn’t look beautiful from the outside.”

People
know
Gold-Diggers
as
a
unique
venue
in
the
LA
ecosystem.

The recording studio at Gold-Diggers is managed by Simon Horrocks, who’s worked in the music industry as both an artist and a producer. When he arrived in LA in 2015, the stars aligned and Neupert was in the process of acquiring the campus. “Gold-Diggers is a unique campus and that’s what has driven the business”, says Horrocks. “The facility has allowed us to have a hotel and a venue and a recording studio. We quickly realised the content that would be created here. We started a media company almost immediately when we created Gold-Diggers. We were doing projects for clients like Airbnb, Guitar Center, and Spotify to help them pair up with indie artists.”

Gold-Diggers had been hitting its stride for a few years before 2020, and Neupert’s plans were panning out nicely. “It was always our idea to have a multi-media campus”, he says. “When the pandemic hit, we were still hitting our stride – we’ve only been around as a collective since 2018. Having a few years of ramping up and getting exposure, the hotel won some design awards and the studio has all these accolades. That changed when the pandemic hit.” 

We
had
to
come
up
with
a
solution,
so
it
didn’t
matter
whether
it
was
going
to
be
a
perfect
or
complete
thing.

Having a number of different offerings meant that some would be less relevant when circumstances changed. Neupert explains: “The hotel had to struggle through this because people aren’t travelling. In the past, artists would stay at the hotel when they were recording – Leon Bridges stayed there in fall 2019 for six weeks while he recorded his album. He did a pop-up show at the venue, and that was a perfect example of what we’re trying to accomplish.” This fluid arrangement – where artists could record at their leisure, stay at the hotel and maybe perform in the club on a whim – is exactly what the throwback LA venue was meant to offer.

Since March 2020, the team has pivoted, but the core concept remains: a well-rounded and holistic experience for the artists who record there. The hotel might not be getting as much traffic, but thanks to an early investment in live streaming equipment, the venue is still alive. Horrocks points out that the priorities for the studio have shifted. “We wanted to have a live-streaming facility before the pandemic, we just never had the time to do it”, he says. “But now, the venue’s been closed for a year.” 

The team knew what they had to do. Horrocks explains: “We had to come up with a solution, so it didn’t matter whether it was going to be a perfect or complete thing. Dave and I were on a bunch of calls with agents last year in April and May and they were asking us about live streaming, and we would ask, ‘How do you want to do a live stream?’ And they would say, ‘I don’t know.’ So we decided to educate ourselves and come up with a solution so we could offer streaming as a service for the venue in addition to all the other things we can do.”

Thankfully, the team at DICE were able to support Gold-Diggers with a sudden pivot to streaming. Neupert notes that: “Pre-pandemic, DICE offered up a flexible ticketing solution that fit perfectly with our non-traditional venue model. We host many non-ticketed events as well as ticketed ones and DICE works well for both options. I was really impressed by their seamless transition to becoming a multi-faceted live stream enabler.”  

Despite the challenge of creating a new solution, the project has been a success. “DICE’s early outreach to us within weeks of the shutdown was a catalyst for us to take a serious look at the opportunity to become a live stream production venue”, says Neupert. “Their belief in us during the lockdown has taken our collective relationship to another level. I can’t wait until the day when we can host live shows again with DICE as our ticket partner.”

From
a
production
facility
standpoint,
we
were
probably
80%
audio
and
20%
audiovisual,
and
that’s
really
changed.

Tyler Hale is a recent addition to the team. He’s been working in content production and optimisation for years, so he was the perfect choice to help Neupert and Horrocks react to the pandemic. As the Head of Content at Gold-Diggers, Hale’s well placed to help the team create original content and distribute it themselves. And the insights he’s gained from artists have been invaluable. “In the last few months, we’ve learned so much about what artists want right now”, says Hale, “they want higher production values for their recorded content, and they want to be thoughtful and deliberate with what they’re sending out to their audiences. From a production facility standpoint, we were probably 80% audio and 20% audiovisual, and that’s really changed.”

A layered approach to content generation and distribution will help Gold-Diggers to adjust to life after the pandemic. Hybrid events in particular are a way to diversify their offerings. Neupert clearly has a plan: “I think that coming out of this, you’re going to see a hybrid approach. When venues are open again, there’ll be an extra revenue stream on top of paid tickets for the room, and you’ll be able to sell live stream tickets as well. It’s going to create a new business model for venues and for artists. We’re not a traditional venue anyway, so we want to create this new hybrid business model ourselves, where we can create original content and programming which we can do in-house and distribute through our own network.”

There’s
a
light
at
the
end
of
the
tunnel
now,
it
feels
like
the
beginning
of
the
end
has
started.

After a year of coping and pivoting, the team is able to see what they achieved. “Having to take the pause has actually allowed us to accelerate the ideas we always wanted to put into place. In a way, we’ve been able to do the things that were already in the business plan. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel now, it feels like the beginning of the end has started. Now, we’re looking at how we’re going to relaunch with better infrastructure”, says Neupert. Horrocks adds: “If we sat around and planned everything, we’d still be planning on how to do the perfect show.” It’s this spirit of innovation that’s made Gold-Diggers an iconic venue, and that will lead the way to success after a year of limitations. We couldn’t be more excited to see what the team does next.

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