Nightlife Culture is Changing Dance Music Culture
I was shopping for tickets to some of the pool parties for EDC week in Las Vegas when I had something of a realization about nightlife culture that I think we should be talking about. The thought I had all stemmed from the concept of the differential ticket pricing that I saw when looking at tickets to Las Vegas nightclubs. Differential ticket pricing is the idea that admission for women will be cheaper than it is for men. There are a lot of really strong arguments for why this is common practice in a lot of places and I’ve been ruminating on this one for a bit but I think there is something much more subtle at play here in dance music society than most people realize at a cursory glance. I want to challenge you to think about this a little more deeply.
So what are the reasons we lower the ticket prices for women? The natural conclusion we must make is that clubs want to (or need to) attract women to come to their events more than men. The arguments I’ve heard in favor of this practice all sort of circle around this idea that you want to encourage women to come to your club for various reasons. There is this sort of appeal to the business model: the more women in your club, the more men you will attract who will come buy tables and spend lots of money to impress those women. One could also point out the competition aspect: every other club in Las Vegas offers discounted or free admission to women so how can my club compete if it doesn’t? Then you have an appeal to the experience: an evenly balanced crowd is more fun for a variety of reasons. I’ve heard girls say they feel less threatened in a crowd full of women so there aren’t a bunch of guys constantly hitting on them or giving them unwanted attention and I definitely can understand that sentiment.
What I don’t really understand, however, is why we need to offer a discounted ticket price to see someone like Alesso at The Light in Las Vegas in order to attract women. The last time I saw Alesso play a DJ set it was at the cozy little Showbox at the Market in Seattle and he absolutely blew the roof off that place! I was so floored, it was literally one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m having trouble scaling up the emotions of that experience in my imagination to the kind of experience you would have seeing a show like that at The Light in Las Vegas. Not sure what I’m talking about? Take a look at the photos from their opening party with Zedd and Hook N Sling and poke around their website to see what kind of incredible and unique place they’ve put together there and you will know exactly what I mean!
So this begs the question why’s it cheaper for girls? This is what I’m getting at when I mean there are some very fundamental assumptions that are underlying this practice that are damaging to dance music culture or at the very least, miss the point entirely. Is it not enough to have one of the greatest night clubs in Las Vegas hosting an absolutely stellar DJ talent to draw in a balanced crowd? People who know this music aren’t going to look at a 50$ ticket price for Alesso and a 30$ ticket price to see a DJ they don’t care about at a different club and choose the cheaper option because they know the value of what they’re buying: they are there for the show. If we assume that it’s true that the crowd will be completely full of guys if the ticket prices are the same for both sexes, then a necessary implication of that assumption is that women aren’t really the same kind of fans of the music as men and I don’t believe that for a second. I know just as many women as men who love this music with all their heart and they will see who they want where they want to see them even if it costs 20$ more for admission.
Below this, however there is an even more deep-rooted assumption that I think is the actual thing that is causing all the issues that people are trying to correct with differential ticket pricing and it’s honestly the idea of sex. The nightlife industry isn’t about music: it’s about sex. Think about it: the only reason anyone cares if there are enough girls to balance the gender identity of the crowd is because of sex. There is this idea that going to a nightclub is a way for people to meet people to hook up with and I want to challenge this.
Let’s think about the problem differently: if one issue is that the experience isn’t fun for girls because there are so many guys preying on them if the crowd ratio is off, isn’t that partly because nightclubs are attracting guys who are looking for girls to hit on? What if the guys that you’re attracting to your club came to your club because you are bringing a great DJ and have an amazing show, not because you give free admission to girls and they know all the women in Vegas are going to flock to your dance floor? Consider the earlier argument that having women in your club brings guys who will buy VIP tables and spend lots of money to impress those girls; what type of guys are you attracting with that mentality? Guys who love the music? Maybe some! But a lot of them honestly don’t care what’s playing as long as there are dancing girls to throw money at. I define that as a crappy experience too.
What I am saying is that dance music isn’t about finding your next hookup. I am dead serious when I say I would pay $50 to go see Alesso at The Light even if the crowd was literally 100% male because it shouldn’t matter. It isn’t about finding some girl to grind on all night who is looking to get free drinks or to get lifted on substances in Las Vegas for a weekend and doesn’t know why I’m melting from chills of pleasure and I’ve got tears in my eyes when I hear the first guitar chords to City of Dreams come sailing softly over air. It’s about giving ourselves to the music, singing our hearts out, and letting go of all the emotions we’ve been storing up all week by sweating it all out on the dance floor.
Conversely, having a club packed with women isn’t a good thing all by its own merit if the only reason they are there is because you’ve got the lowest admission. What type of girls are we attracting with that mentality? Girls complain about guys lavishing unwanted attention on them but as a man who has the confidence to really get on the dance floor with a smile on my face, shuffle, and dance the night away on my own I can tell you that we get just as much unwanted attention from a crowd full of girls who don’t know the music and are just looking for free drinks or their next one night stand.
I really believe that if you focus on the atmosphere of your club and having diverse and talented bookings you won’t even need to think about the gender demographics at all because you’re going to attract more of the people who really get it and there are just as many intelligent women who are passionate about this music as there are men. Those people are the ones that I want around me in a crowd, not clusters of vapid girls talking at each other over the music and scanning the crowd as they finish the vodka-soda-lime in their hand to try to find the next sucker who will buy them another.
You can accuse me of being a purist or being overly idealistic but I’d challenge you to ask yourself this: What is the difference between an idealist and an industry visionary? It’s having the means to make a change. All we need is one person who can afford to run a nightclub in a place like Las Vegas and who has the guts to scrap the VIP tables and make it their verbal mission to have the best musical experience in the Vegas Nightlife and we could see something really extraordinary and beautiful rise out of the Nevada desert.
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I wonder how common this phenomenon is outside of Las Vegas? I personally have only seen cheaper admission for women on rare occasions - here in Seattle it seems to be the exclusive province of 'Ladies Night', usually a Wednesday or Thursday night at a struggling bar with their local resident dj playing hip hop and pop.
If what you say is true, it may be that the change in dance music culture has allowed this kind of discriminatory pricing to occur, so the opposite of the headline, for this reason: Back in the 90s, most electronic dance clubs played house, and house has always been a popular genre among gay men. When half of the dudes in the crowd would PREFER a sausage party anyway, the promoters were not looking to even out the gender ratio, since that might be perceived by the gay crowd as a shift towards the "meat market" style bar. Moving into the 00s, as genres like breakbeat and dubstep became more popular in the mainstream and EDM lost its perception of being a "gay" genre, club scene promoters found they COULD attract more heads overall by offering a discount to women, just like they could on a hip hop night.
I agree with your overall point though, that if you're booking world-class talent at the right size venue, it will be filled up with electronic music heads of both genders who want to be there, not just guys looking for pussy and girls looking for free drinks.
Fuck. I just wrote a fucking big comment showing my support for your way of thinking (because I feel the same) but it was deleted because I had to register. So I'm not writing it again, yet I wanted to support you about that nightclub!
@neuralnet Thanks for such a well thought-out comment! You may definitely be right in that it's kind of a "chicken or the egg" type of question. I know that personally, trance is my favorite genre of music and it definitely draws a different crowd than break and dubstep so that really supports what you say. I really just kind of want to air the issue out a bit because I had a discussion with some people on my Facebook wall about this a few weeks ago and there were a lot of opinions about the practice both for it and against it. To answer your question, I know this is a phenomenon in a lot of other places I've gone clubbing though it's not a feature of the Seattle nightlife scene (and also not very common in Ibiza I should point out ;) ) but I've seen it in Paris and some other cities in Spain as well.
@JuanL Thank you Juan!
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