Respected financial magazine The Economist ran an article this week about the decline of clubbing and it’s impact on the night time economy. The market value of the industry has fallen from £1.8 billion to £1.4 billion since 2007 according to Minstel, a consultancy firm.
Much of the article focused on the woes of the Luminaire chain which many of our nightclub DJs will know went into administration last October. Of the 79 venues open when Luminaire was running the Oceana and Liquid clubs chain only 55 remain open under the new ownership. The article went onto to outline reasons why the industry is failing. Apparently the average Luminaire customer consumes only 1.8 drinks on the premises now with much of the blame going to the new habit of “pre-loading” ie buying cheap alcohol from a supermarket and drinking prior to going out.It also points out that the night clubs used to have a monopoly on drinking after 11pm but since 2005 there have been late licenses issued to many pubs throughout the UK. Venues like Walkabout have benefited from this where they have been able to maintain their position as day , early evening venues transforming themselves into clubs after 11pm.
A note of caution was sounded by the head of Luminaire,Peter Marks, in a comment that adding comedy gigs and food to Luminaire venues offerings had little impact on their profits. Essentially the venues are little geared up to be anything but the grand,impressive large scale clubs that they are and in these clubs a lack of customers will greatly impact on atmosphere and turn into a vicious circle of poor rates of returning customers and empty rooms.It was mentioned that a club with a 100 fewer customers less than it holds can feel cold and empty. So in this tough trading environment small is often better. A smaller club close to capacity is way better than a large club with hundreds more people in situ but not close to capacity. Many Live Music Management DJs will be able to back up this observation as they will always find it easier to fill a dance floor and keep customers happy if the venue is close to full.
In a gloomy summing up of the current climate the comment was made that salvation for the super club may only come with a new dance floor filling music genre which,like the dance music craze in the 1990s, led to packed houses. No one is able to will this into being and it appears increasingly unlikely that this will happen in a culture where young people appear to have varied and eclectic tastes.
In the short term it appears that the industry forecast is the following
small capacity is better than super club
a venue which can be attractive in the early evening and daytime for sales of food and after work drinks etc is better than a club venue
a venue with a wide range of activities and different small audiences is more likely to survive (ie the venue that can hold a Monday night quiz or open mic night which attracts 100 people plus a Wednesday night student night attracting 600 plus a big Saturday night attracting 600) is the kind of venue which will survive.
For those of us who have worked in the club industry for the last few decades this may not be new news but is interesting to read about it in the serious pages of the leading economic magazine.