Can Music Save the Clubs?

By Gamal Hennessy

Less disposable cash, more lost jobs and more concern about the economy has created a unique situation in nightlife. Patrons want to go out more to forget about real life for a while, but they have less money to spend. Venues have to fight with each other for fewer dollars. How can clubs differentiate themselves, attract a steady audience and do it without raising prices? The answer might lie with the musicians.

There is no doubt that the recession will alter the music scene in New York City. The question is how it will change. One music writer for Lucid Culture sees the number of clubs shrinking and with it, the number of venues that bands can play. They predict that large venues, very small venues and niche venues will survive while remote, middle of the road and tourist venues will die off. The writer sees a rise in non traditional performance venues, more acoustic, jazz and ethnic performances and a decrease in cover charges as venues attempt to entice patrons into the bar. One possible outcome that the blog doesn’t mention is the rise of musicians of various types as a way to help venues thrive.

As competition gets tighter and venues have to do more to differentiate themselves in the market, could this be a chance for music to become more influential? If a certain venue can become known for having certain kinds of music or musicians could that keep the crowds coming and keep the doors open? Could the clubs, DJ’s and the bands help each other to survive?

Rockwood Music Hall is consistently packed (probably because it’s just a little bigger than my apartment) with people coming to hear independent music. Santos Party House has thrived recently because of Q-Tip’s spinning and venues like APT and Cielo have become staples in nightlife partially because of the music that they play.

Every club can sell bottles or offer ‘specialty’ drinks. Branding might have to come from a different aesthetic. Music could be the thing to set venues apart and set us all free.

Have fun.