’20 best cities for nightlife around the world!’ ‘Ten cities in Europe where you HAVE to go out!’ We all know the countless headlines that round up the cities which are supposedly offering us the best places to party. However, clubbing in Europe is in strong decline. The number of clubs in the UK has been almost halved between 2005 and 2015, and between 2001 and 2011, clubbing in the Netherlands declined by 38 percent. Millennials are less interested in clubbing – but why?
While some of the answers may not be as direct as you would expect, they make a lot of sense. Most experiences that clubs used to offer their visitors have become available in other ways. Think of meeting new people or meeting “The One”. Young adults nowadays would rather use Tinder, the successful dating app which allows users to ‘match’ based on whether they liked each other’s profile, where they can get to know a person before meeting them, or go to more specific events where they would meet someone they have a common ground with rather than meeting them in a sweaty, crowded club. For women, this is also a lot safer; only people they have ‘liked’ can message them, as opposed to all the creepy guys who can walk up to them in a club. For many women, it also makes them feel safer to meet someone for the first time on their terms, instead of drunkenly ending up somewhere.
Back in the day, there was another reason people would visit clubs: to stay up-to-date with the latest music development and to hear the awesome new tracks by hip DJs (yes, really!). In the age of Spotify and Soundcloud, these albums are at our fingertips whenever we want, on our way to class, work, family, you name it. Odds are that we have heard the tracks in a club before and we no longer need clubs to find out about new music. Moreover, because an incredible range of music is so easily available to us now, our taste in music has broadened with it. How many people do you know who only like one kind of music? Exactly. For a venue that usually focuses on one particular style, it risks the problem of boring their customers. Some clubs, however, that target a very specific audience and have made a name for themselves such as Berghain in Berlin, fill a niche and thrive as a result of that. It is an experience – but still, not one many people would go for every single week.
An interesting feature of Millennials that has been researched is that this group, growing up during economic crises, is more thoughtful about spending their money. They would rather spend it on experiences than on material things and preferably, original experiences, too. A great festival, a new pop-up restaurant or a secret movie theater generally beat your average club. Cover charges and drinks in a club are crazy expensive, and queuing for half an hour in the freezing cold to get into a venue where you can queue again for the bar and the bathrooms generally ruins the fun of it. Also, in a time where social status is partially determined by your Instagram or Facebook profile, a club does not nearly get you the pretty pictures that a night at a poetry slam event gives you – inspirational quote included.
Speaking of social media, while older people can grump about ‘those kids nowadays always looking at their phones’, research shows that the Millennial generation are great communicators. Text, Whatsapp, GroupMe, etc, allow us to be in constant conversation with fellow humans. Clubs are not exactly the best places for deep, meaningful connection. The crowdedness and loud music make conversation almost impossible, which has proven bothersome for the Communication Generation.
Lastly, let’s be honest: to truly have fun at a night out, one needs a large alcohol intake, or oftentimes people even use drugs such as ecstasy or MDMA. Fact is, drug use has been going down steadily among Millennials for the past few years, as has the number of ‘frequent drinkers’. With fewer drugs and booze, people are less inclined to go out to clubs, depressing customer numbers. If a group of friends decide to go out, they would rather avoid the insane prices at clubs and make sure to pre-drink at someone’s place (who can blame them?). Research by Luminar, a nightlife firm, found that people only buy an average of 1.8 drinks at the venue. Lower revenue for clubs means some of them will go bankrupt, as has been seen in the last few years.
In short, there are now many alternatives to the functions only clubs used to offer. An abundance of places and events to meet new people and discover new music is one, the additional need for photo-opportunities is another. Societal trends such as a decrease in drug and alcohol intake and an increase in the need for communication have further depressed the number of club-goers. One solution for clubs would be to serve a dual function as a regular bar, with music at a lower volume and cheaper drinks in a specific section, where people can get to know each other or just hang out. Another is to ‘up their game’ when it comes to DJs: great names or new talent still attracts customers. Governments are not making it any easier for clubs either, with stricter regulations and more attention for complaints from neighbors. Some initiatives such as the nightmayor in Amsterdam, who lobbies for the clubs and venues, try to turn this trend around, but can they? Will the next generation return to the party experience of clubbing or will more and more have to close their doors? Alternative entertainment such as TV series or hip pop-up restaurants offer a serious threat to the previous Kings of Saturday Night, so will the clubs be able to beat Netflix and chill?
Picture taken from Flickr.com (Beo Beyond, 2008)