Behind closed decks: former Dubspot employees offer insight on the school’s shoddy business practices, eventual closure
Dubspot CEO Dan Giove resigned from his position with the company on May 19, 2017. A self-proclaimed “global leader in electronic music education,” Dubspot was founded in 2006 by Giove in an effort to market engaging production and DJing instruction from its flagship location in New York’s Meatpacking District.
Giove’s vision for Dubspot would draw many patrons to the its decks, as major news outlets like TIME and Time Out New York spotlighted the enterprise. The caliber of the institution’s offerings seemed to be further elucidated by the school’s attraction of central industry figures — DJ Shiftee taught there, while DJ Sprinkles and Nile Rodgers also had involvement with the program.
At its peak, Dubspot touted “events, a café, a podcast series, a blog, and notable alumni across the electronic music spectrum,” features that only further contributed to the brand’s illustrious reputation as an authority of electronic music instruction. It routinely sold out its classes, frequently priced in the thousands.
Former Marketing and Research & Development manager, Dave Cross, recalls its conception as a platform of, “really healthy activity in the NYC school and an online school that was starting to take off.” The success of its New York City location would prompt Giove’s establishment of a Los Angeles center in 2014. As the CEO would move from New York to California to develop the West Coast school, he would leave behind a business model fraught with financial misconduct.
Dubspot’s credibility as an esteemed educational arena for electronic preparation grew suspect once VICE Media’s electronically-focused channel, Thump, ran a story detailing the school’s course fraud. Written by David Garber, the original story cited more than 55 respective complaints that the school had failed to host classes that enrolled students had paid for. The students that registered and paid for the classes prior to their start did not receive refunds.
International enrollees Nina Braith, Iva Zabkar, and Mee Eun Kim each applied for visas to travel to New York to study at Dubspot. Braith, Zabkar, and Kim each paid $4,000 to join matriculate, but were subjected faulty orchestration soon thereafter. While Zabkar eventually elected not to take classes there after Giove informed her that the then “current disorganization” was due to an impending loss of lease, Braith accepted Giove’s promise that the courses would continue at the New York location in spite of Dubspot’s rent concerns. Her class never ran, nor did the school refund Braith — she only received her original payment amount once her credit card company processed a refund to her account several months later.
Kim’s course never began either. To complicate matters, Kim had paid for the class via bank transfer, negating her ability to initiate a chargeback. She did initiate a small claims court case against Dubspot in May, but Giove notably did not appear in court on the trial date. Kim has since discovered that Giove has closed the accounts that he held at many banks.
Giove’s negligence became apparent to various employees rather early in the school’s foundation. Henrich Zwahlen, who assisted Dubspot in the creation of courses working with Ableton, Komplete, and Maschine attributed his resignation to noticing the company’s depleting funds. Zwahlen imparts that some staff members were aware of Giove’s plunging finances, and accordingly sought to invest in the company. Once the interested parties offered to give Giove a minority stake in the salvation effort, Zwahlen reports that Giove rescinded the proposal and fired the employees.
An anonymous source notes of Giove’s questionable fiscal behavior, “There were lots of shady refund practices with students; it seemed like a money-grab kind of situation. [Giove] still owes me money to this day.”
Dave Cross further underscores Giove’s “shady” financial actions, admitting that he and four other “higher-ups” eventually recognized that Giove had spent money allocated for Dubspot’s Los Angeles base on a number of luxuriant art pieces, including an African mask that allegedly cost $50,000. Giove maintained that the purchase of such props was necessary to the induction of an “art-focused community space.”
A number of other employees were attuned to the insufficiency of funds available to formidably open another location. Cross and other his colleagues spoke to many of the company’s “middle managers” about the dwindling budget, devising a plan to persuade Giove to postpone the opening of the West Coast location. Giove promptly fired three people presumably involved in the suspension effort, and Cross resigned shortly afterward.
While Giove did kickstart Dubspot’s Los Angeles initiative, the West Coast edition of the school would flop alongside the New York location. Some of the pricey décor that Giove had purchased with money from the Los Angeles budget would later be given to Mike Henderson, a member of Dubspot’s Los Angeles team. Henderson recalls Giove presenting him with a “bunch of gear” in place of his commission checks. Giove reportedly gave Henderson the items, saying “Here, man. I can’t pay you, but just take this gear, sell it.”
Some of Giove’s former employees have identified an alcohol-related problem as a potential culprit in many of Giove’s poor business decisions, despite his claim to have been sober for nine years following Dubspot’s opening in 2006. “For young business owners, dealing with mental health issues when you’re starting a business is one of the hardest things you can ever do,” Giove declared. “It makes you absent. There’s a lot I think that could come out of this for anyone working in the music industry. It’s so closely tied to mental health issues. For me it’s been dealing with depression and anxiety and all kinds of other things that come with doing this.”
Reflecting retrospectively on Dubspot’s collapse, the former CEO laments having to close the company. “It’s beyond heartbreaking,” Giove remarks of Dubspot’s demise. “The worst part of it all was not being able to pay the students, teachers, and creditors the money they were owed.”
Thump’s original Dubspot report can be read here.