Is weekly clubbing a thing of the past?

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We’re now up to the third chapter in our five-part debate series, having already chewed over whether dance music’s too easy and how dubstep’s faring in 2012. Well, now comes the time to tackle a new topic – and just like the last couple of weeks there are prizes for getting involved in the debate. All this is powered by Hyundai Veloster, and of course the need to stay entertained on Friday. So let’s get stuck in.

In an interview with our sister site FasterLouder this week, Big Day Out founder Ken West gave a frank assessment of the Australian festival scene: “This is the reality at the moment: everyone’s suffering from overspending or lack of attendance.” It’s a diagnosis that comes after Big Day Out – with a Boiler Room line-up of Royksopp, Nero, Bassnectar and Girl Talk – was forced to make some major changes to its 2012 plans.

While the claim that “everyone’s suffering” in the festival market doesn’t look so watertight from where we’re sitting, the bubble has burst. From the glut of festivals that have elbowed their way onto the scene in the last five years, only the robust remain. In our in-depth Clubs Special feature series from 2010, all the promoters we interviewed were unanimous in the opinion that festivals had taken their toll on clubs.

“You can’t take tens of thousands of people out of the club scene over summer and expect nothing to change,” said Daniel Michael from Adelaide’s biggest club, HQ. “If people spend $200-$400 at a festival then for most people that means no clubbing for a week or two – or even the whole month.” Scott Walker from Brisbane’s underground-leaning Drop had this to say: “There’s no doubt in my mind that festivals have killed or seriously maimed the club scene. It’s a shame, because in a perfect world festivals should feed the club scene by exciting the punters’ appetite and opening their ears to new sounds and artists – but in reality it only causes people to become narrow-minded and not go out in between festivals.”

They’re both points that were echoed right around the country. In the near-two-years since that feature went online, there have been numerous festival casualties. So has that spelled good news for the club scene? With fewer festivals in the picture, are we seeing more of our favourite acts on darkened dancefloors late at night? The answer, of course, will be different from city to city – especially given the trend for some key DJ tours to visit Sydney and Melbourne only.

Adelaide’s Sugar is one club that consistently takes a punt on visiting house and disco talent that may otherwise only do the Sydney-Melbourne double, and we spoke to Sugar’s managing director Driller ‘Jet’ Armstrong in 2010 about how that can be a gamble. “Joakim played on a Sunday night in Adelaide two years ago and remarked to me, ‘There is nothing like this in Paris on a Sunday night, Driller’. The club was very busy and he was shown great appreciation on the dancefloor. We had him back on a Sunday night last month and he played to 15 people!”

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Weinertron said on the 20th Jan, 2012

I look back on my weekly clubbing days with warm nostalgia. We were a family. It was the only period in my life I ever went solo clubbing. Half the khunts there were ITMers. During the weeks between parties, we would chat online and dissect the previous week, and amp up for the upcoming week. The parties were free. The club was dingy. The lighting was non-existent. You could get away with having an epic night and only hand over 50 bucks. The techno was banging and the DJ's were skilled and/or hilarious and played techno remixes of East 17 (Mike Hunt I'm looking at you). There were rarely more than 50 people there. There has never been a vibe quite like it.

What place am I talking about? MTC of course.

Of course everyone is going to have a similar story/event/weekly which holds a special place in their heart. Other weekly nights will never hold a candle to "The weeklies of Yore"(TM). What sucks is that the young'uns who are up and coming in the EDM scene are not being given the opportunity to cut their teeth on a cool, funky and CHEAP night on the town. I was not earning much money back then and if there was any entrance fee involved, that would have quickly counted me out for the following weeks' festivities. Also, there were no drug buses back then and drug driving was quite rampant, so scoring a lift home would generally save another $25 - $50 for your night out.

Fuck I sound like such a jaded motherfucker, but it's not the case. It's just that MTC was my favourite event and any other of youse khunts will have a favourite weekly of your own. When they're gone, they're gone... replaced by a watered down copy of the night with pricier drinks, "progressive" fashion and slightly less full-on music.

This post had no direction and it really shows. [/end]


trancekid said on the 20th Jan, 2012

Im from sydney. i think there are a few variables which affect the current clubbing scene:

urban sprawl & cab fares - I think because sydney and other capital cities do have such huge urban sprawls that people can rarely justify spending $ on cab fares from the city to home. i live a 20 minute drive from the CBD but it still costs me at least $40 to get home from a night out. friends of mine who live 30-40 minutes from the CBD have to spend $100 . Due to the ever-increasing presence of douchebags and trouble makers on nightriders, and the few convenient locations they do travel to, clubbers have good reason to not go out just to save themselves money on a cab or from getting into a fight.

Gen Y - Gen Y are the main demographic which go clubbing, and because living in sydney IS so expensive, they are more likely to live at home with their parents instead of moving closer to the city, and this ties in with my previous point about it being expensive/dangerous to travel home from the suburbs.

how dangerous the X is - the last 3-4 times ive gone to the cross there has been brawls. not just fights, actual brawls in which the aggressors pick on random bystanders. the heavy police and security presence isnt enough to comfort people.

dress codes/ racism of doorguys - a few of my friends are middle eastern and even italian, and are the nicest guys you could ever meet and would not hurt a fly but because of stereotypes they dont get into clubs most of the time, which is reason enough to stay home.

festivals lifting expectations - After going to a few festivals in my time, a random club night which has all the above attributes starts to look pretty shit compared to one good day out with all your friends where there are world class artists with world class production and a vast array of EDM genres, and people are more likely to make an occasion of a festival than the weekly pilgrimage to the city where too many things have to go right just for a good 4-5 hrs.

its awesome to see great club events like laidback luke, carl cox and kyau and albert coming up though. club events are better than festivals (markus schulz nye was the best event (both festivals and club ive been to) but clubs just have to become that extra bit special so they can drag people away from the festivals again. i do believe club events will take over from festivals soon, but only the ones which have big names and great production like fake/ivy/laundry.

/end rant


Kiron said on the 21st Jan, 2012

This also I think Uncyclopedia put it best

Civic - where the lowest common denominator congregates every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Those with sense avoid it but finding young people with sense in Canberra is like searching for a condom machine in the Vatican. With a vast sprawl of horrendous nightclubs filled with psuedo-drinkers looking for a fight you'll find a night out in Civic a refined and enlightening experience. The sight of fat, orange scantily clad young girls and their beefcake boyfriends stumbling around aimlessly, vomiting, may trick you into thinking you've somehow stumbled into the Jersey Shore. However, be warned, these people have about double the aggression and half the intelligence or charisma of "Snooki" or " The Situation" so do not be surprised if you end your night with a broken nose because you glanced vaguely in the direction of a Mooseheads patron, girls included.

Arguably the culmination of all that is wrong with young people in Australia, Civic is truly a sickening experience.

Canberra's scene is filled with too many douchebags, the older crowd is moving on, most of the young people who like decent music bail to Melbourne as soon as they finish school and the crowd that is left is way to small. (There is a decent Brostep crowd here in Canberra, but they don't seem very supportive of other forms of Dance Music and I honestly believe they are just riding the fad so meh)

There is hope though as some people in this city are willing to try put on decent parties that are not held at generic club venue's and focus on good dance music so who knows, maybe the future is bright.

Ben Royal

Ben Royal said on the 22nd Jan, 2012

I think there is a combination of a lot of factors that have worked against weekly clubbing the last few years:

1. Festivals. Yes, they are hurting clubbing but the bubble is bursting. I can see major, established festivals (FMF, SS, BDO, PL, GV) surviving but start-up festivals wont have a chance. I think even the big guys will have to re-think their festivals in terms of drink and ticket prices over the next few years as they wont have the luxury of charging whatever they want and people still paying. I dont bother with festivals unless there is an amazing lineup as its just too hard and expensive to have a good day.

2. The more internationals that are brought out, the less likely people are to go to weekly nights featuring just locals. If I can see an international at Billboard for $30 vs locals only somewhere else like 161 for $20 I will pick the international.

3. The GFC caused people to re-assess their spending. When you are unsure if you will have a job next month and the value of your house is decreasing suddenly spending $100 on alcohol at some 'exclusive' club isn't a top priority.

4. As others have said, the quality of pingas has decreased dramatically.

5. The generation of the 'ITM crew' I believe are now largely growing up and moving on. I know lots of regular ITMers who have been active on this site for 5 years and now are too old to go out every single weekend so pick and choose more carefully. Add to this the stupid door policies of some of the 'exclusive' weekly nights in Melbourne and its just so much easier to go to 1 ticketed event a month than somewhere weekly for the same crap every week.

I think things will get better for clubs and worse for festivals but the 'glory days' of clubbing are well and truly over (remember when Tank did Defected In The House weekly one summer? Imagine that happening now?). Proper house music has decreased in popularity as electro, then dubstep and the big-room SHM trancey-synth sound has replaced it. Im just glad I have got to experience the glory days and can now move on to other things. There are more important things in life than getting drunk in nightclubs every weekend.


ezekii said on the 23rd Jan, 2012

just a few things to say, from a outsider living in town for a couple of years now.

this is a really good discussion.
i really think the music/ night life community should get together to work with the council something to improve the weekly club scene. also promoters should get together

Sydney is a major entertainment city, with out a proper night life. there is no clubs here. you can`t call chinese laundry as a club! or home! the place might look like a club, but to make it a club you need much more, decent people, great vibes, less bouncers, good line ups(no friends on the line up, please), longer hours.

* there are too(x2) many promoters out there, they all have money to book internationals, they have friends djing for them(if they are not djs already), but most of them don`t have a crowd, they are all sharing the same crowd! and they all stop with their weekly events before they build their own crowd. in the end they are ruining others promoters crowd, adding another crap event to the night life calendar, booking inexperienced djs(because they bring 10/20 friends to the gig) and they all claim to play top quality underground music(biggest bull shit because they all play the same tunes, a couple of years ago was trance, than electro, than techno came along, after techno all kids in town were playing minimal, deep house came in 2010 as the next big thing, by middle 2011 was the deep/disco/house thing, hot nature. cross town stuff) and every kid in town is downloading the top 10/50 tunes from beatport, or even Resident advisor, they don`t spend time researching, finding new artists or even listening to new music. on the weekend, they go and play for their mate who is a promoter/event organiser or owns a club. and again they are all playing the same tunes, everywhere you go.

* the underground, is not underground anymore, it`s becoming mainstream( jamie jones is playing FMF2012,3 years ago he was playing civic for only a few people)

* drugs(specially E) is getting worst every time i buy it.

******* CIGARETS laws are killing the dance floors - how many times you were dancing , the dj fucked up a mix and you went for a cigaret, or you just followed your mate/girlfriend/boyfriend???? once u leave the dance floor other people will think the same and they will leave the dance floor to have a ciggy.

* drinks are too expensive, get any scotch/vodka with red bull and you will spend 12 to 16 bucks! and sometimes they will only fill up your glass with ice, 30ml of vodka and another 50ml of red bull.

*since Facebook and smartphones are synchronised, clubbing isn't the same. it`s everything about status update

*chinese laundry held for 1 year as the best club in australia, and number 80 something on the dj mag poll, if you look back you will see that they don`t invest time and money on whats really good, they only invest on what is selling more, nowadays dub(crap)step. of course they have the garden events which most of the times are good(gui boratto, james zabiela, plump djs)

*stupid council laws, forcing the closing time to be too early.(where i come from, the main dj/act starts between 4am to 6am) - club starts at 12AM.

* I love australia, but i hate most of the clubs here.(if u can call as a club)
instead, i prefer a warehouse, or even a house party, where i can drink and smoke and decide if i`m too drunk or drugged!

Mel Laidlaw

Mel Laidlaw said on the 24th Jan, 2012

There's a couple of sayings that go something along the lines of: 1. don't try to reinvent the wheel and 2. everyone that succeeds in the Italian restaurant business just took the basic spaghetti recipe and placed their own emphasis on it. Something like that..

After having clubbed weekly in the UK and also experiencing some of the festivals there, I returned to Australia to live since 2004 and attempted to regain the experience on the Gold Coast going to both clubs and festivals. And without going in to too much detail on the past, I think where Australia is now is that we're seeing the end of an age in nappies and now we're on the verge of a whole new age embracing dance music. The UK is somewhat ahead of where we are, but we're catching on, and like the saying of the wheel or the spaghetti recipe, we have the opportunity to learn the basics and then add our own Aussie touch to what goes.

And what goes is the atmosphere in the clubs in the UK - that I feel Australian clubs are missing. I wholeheartedly recommend any serious club owner to check out the top ten clubs worldwide (see DJ Mag) and go there to experience and ask questions / make contacts then take that basic recipe and add your own uniqueness.. wallah! If you're asking is "clubbing a thing of the past" my only answer is no - look at the clubs in the UK & Europe.. If you feel like your club is a thing of the past, it is time to get your groove on. Come on Aussie! :)

I'm also surprised Australia hasn't caught on to the whole tourism thing yet also.. look at Cafe Del Mar for example. Here's an idea.. How about websites such as In The Mix offer overseas travel packs to clubs and festivals -- and do the same for international dance music enthusiasts interested in visiting Australia. If you provide a great service to people in the same way that club owners/managers do to DJs, everyone wins!


larrisajones said on the 27th Jan, 2012

I do agree entirely with gedwashere91's point on the mainstream acceptance of dance music as a key factor in this shift - you don't HAVE to go out to hear tunes, you can hear them on the radio, the internet, youtube from anywhere you have your smartphone ... which means that going 'clubbing' for many many people, especially the <21 group is basically 'going out to get fucked up' as opposed to a passion for the music that they're going to listen to.

Older friends often talk fondly of their raving days, of a community that developed as a direct result of seeing the same faces and trekking to obscure warehouses. I was lucky to catch the back end of that world but it was essentially dead by the time I started my clubbing career - one thing I notice now is that i don't see that younger 'crew' out. I see my friends, I see the generation above me, but the generation below aren't regular faces there are pairs here and there but not the dozen or so people.

So where does that leave those in my position? Many friends have given up on the going out thing with any regularity - the music may be good but they can listen to it at home without having to worry about inconsiderate idiots pushing and shoving them. So many people out and about seem to be there for the image and the idea of going out rather than the artist and their mates.

I hear the point re drugs but my honest honest opinion is if you can't go out and enjoy yourself to the music you are supposedly passionate about without them then you should rethink just how much you like that music? I can party hard (many and ITM'er can attest to this) but some of the best nights I've had have been when flat broke hence totally stone cold sober in every way.

However all that said, there are still a whole bunch of gigs on every week - there's barely a weekend that goes by where there isn't something to go to.


djwaz said on the 31st Jan, 2012

The venues in Sydney are sub-par in relation to what they used to be - and venues at other cities. The only venue in Sydney which has a proper club setup - and decent sound/lighting/lasers - seems to be Arq.
All the other decent spaces have closed down, and we seem to be left with glorified bars with shit sound systems screaming out crappy headache-house played by 18 year olds that wouldn't know how to use an actual turntable if their life depended on it.

Brisbane has The Met and Family, GC has Platinum, Perth has Metro's, Villa, Adelaide has HQ, Electric Playground, Melbourne has it's fair share of great venues and small clubs slamming out the underground, what the fuck happened to Sydney?
Whenever I have a weekend off from touring, I go to go out in my home city, and I'm always left bitterly disappointed.
Used to love going to Laundry in the Cave, getting my head pounded in by proper tech house, last time i went it was Dubstep WTF?!?!?!? Shame!!!

Maybe I'm just getting too old for Sydney? Maybe I'm too fussy? Maybe I should just go back and enjoy the shit out of Ibiza and come to terms with the fact that most clubs here are just rubbish?

There have been a few great venues opened recently that I've had the pleasure to work in (The Standard, The Beresford, OAF), but these don't seem to have late licences, and are more 'live music/event' type venues, rather than nightclubs...

I guess with the ridiculous licensing and council restrictions, it'll never be as good as it used to be.

Expensive drinks, shit drugs, douchbags all have helped with the decline too... I just hope something positive happens soon! It's quite sad that the biggest city in Australia has the worst nightlife..


atlas9 said on the 10th Feb, 2012

I think its due to a couple of things.

Firstly, dance music owns the radio. What this means is that the barrier between clubbing music and pop music has largely been eroded - so "Top 40" people can hear songs they know out and gravitate to the places that play them.

Secondly, its the power of social media. Back in the day, you would only physically be able to co-ordinate a relatively small group of people to go out for the night. Indeed one of the reasons regular nights were so popular is that the same crowd would be there, beyond your smaller group.

However now anyone can look at an event page and see everyone who is going to that club. People like to know other people out - and the weight of pure numbers of people they know creates pressure on larger social circles all frequenting the same venues at the same times. This obviously plays into the hands of more generic and less music driven venues.

Thirdly, our attention spans are awful. Which means people want to move around - something they're less inclined to do if they had to pay to see a certain music act. Also, co-ordinating times and where to be on a night out can be too much effort.

Lastly, festivals offer better value - and feed on our aforementioned attention spans. Not only do you pay less to see Aphex Twin, Swedish House Mafia and Fat Boy Slim together rather than individually - you pay less on drinks (and drugs, if they're your thing) - all of your friends are there (because of the eclectic lineups) and you get huge international acts on after another.

The bottom line is - music festivals are here to stay. It's how clubs adapt and build off of them that will determine how the scene prospers