Monday, October 27, 2008

On the rise and fall of clubs...

Yup, the trees are turning, and I FINALLY have some RL time to blog again! Lessee, what all have I been up to...? DJ'ing my hiney off, that's what. I'm now at GlamShack rockin' the sim between the live music Open Mic Night at the GOAT (Glamshack Outdoor Arts Theatre) and Jocelyn Sands's show, Club Amor, and now multiple gigs at Nocturne, plus I"m doing LOTS more private prn gigs. In fact, this week I'm honored to be doing a 4 hr in-character gig Wednesday night 10/29/08 for the wedding and coronation of Nax Sautereau, King of one of the biggest and most prosperous elven/fantasy multi-sim RP environments.

I've had some long-time favorites die out, though as the overall attendance of clubs in SL has declined somewhat, and the economy has lead to folks having to pull out of the club business. At long last, REDS is no longer with us. Wayne ran a GREAT club, but he just couldn't pull off the expenses of the club & land, even with the mall. Also, Blue Noise went on extended hiatus after Rhiannon had RL stuff blow up that pulled her out of world.

I've seen piles of new residents come in intent to become the next club empresario. I figured I should post a bit about clubs as a lucrative business in SL. In short, they ain't. NEVER go into opening a club thinking you're gonna make a pile off of it. Few, if any, do. In fact, few even break even.

Think about it. In RL, clubs make their money off of drink sales and cover charges. Employee Neither of these apply in the SL environment. I know of no club in SL that does cover charges. If there is such a beast, good luck competing w/ all the free ones. Further, you have to actually PAY to keep tier up on the place, plus any fees you gotta pay staff. So, in this equation, if it's only a club, you WILL have expenses coming out, but no money required to come in. Most clubs take donations, but those are voluntary.

I maintain that looking at the club business in RL as the business model to use in SL is a disastrous proposition for those reasons. A far better model to use is FM radio. You don't pay a fee to turn on your radio, or dial into a particular station. You, the listener, is NOT where the radio makes the money it has to have to pay its building lease, or the multiple millions of dollars worth of sensitive equipment even a small station has to have, or the fees to subscribe to the music services that provide them with a music library, or the staff to run the thing.

Regular commercial radio stations make their money from one source: advertisements. The music is there to draw listeners, and those annoying damn commercials that play a few times per hour are what fund it. Local merchants (and nationals as well) buy time, usually in 30 second increments, for the opportunity to announce their goods & services at points during the different dayparts. Generally, the most lucrative are, in order of price, morning drive time (usually 6-10 AM) and afternoon drive time (2-6 PM) b/c that's when you have the most listeners--getting ready for & driving to work, and getting out of work & driving home. That means, the most ears getting to hear how wonderful the sponsor's stuff is. Radio stations don't compete for listeners b/c it means more instant dollars from folks tuning in; they compete for listeners b/c it makes them more desirable as advertising venues, which is ultimately what keeps the station afloat.

SL clubs are like radio stations. Lots of overhead to entertain folks, but those being entertained don't themselves pay any fee for that entertainment. Some clubs figure this out. They have a mall attached, so as folks enter the club, they pass through a vendor area which might generate a sale right there. At the very least, it will probably get more eyeballs seeing their wares so at some point in the future, if you're looking for a new outfit, you'll remember that cool new suit that RFyre had in the mall as you were boppin' into Nocturne for the Vampire Formal, or whatever. Plus, the club MIGHT get some additional traffic from folks actually coming JUST to shop. But that's a bonus.

Downside--malls = lag, which can actually work against the club. If it's too much, folks might decide against going there. I know of several lagtastic clubs I avoid like the plague for that very reason. Embarrassingly, many don't have a mall. Rather, they have a misguided owner who doesn't get that a zillion particle poofers and special effects generate more of the lagfest effect than they do any kind of wow factor. You have to balance looking cool and having income against folks actually being able to move, let alone have fun there. It IS possible to get it right. The clubs I work all do it well; if they didn't, I wouldn't be working there.

So, why on earth would anyone want to do this thing? One simple reason: love of having fun and hanging out w/ folks. If it's worth it to you to do that, that's reason enough. That's the rationale we take on Club Amor. We take donations, but that's about it. No mall, no ad space, no nada. Fortunately, our patrons love us and what we do there enough to keep the donations streaming in enough to almost meet expenses. We don't do it at Amor for the money. Neither does Nocturne or the GlamShack. They do it purely for the full-tilt fun of having a place for folks to get together regularly and have a great time. Livvie, Lan and I make up the difference via buying L$ or earning it through our other enterprises, like my DJ work, or Livvie's building skills.

Hell, even then, I don't really do the DJ'ing for the money, nor does Livvie build (or, increasingly, DJ--she's become pretty darn good, I admit) for the money, really. We do what we do, DJ'ing AND running a club, simply for the fun of it. We do it because we really, genuinely love what we do, and we love the folks who come out and join in the fun. And that, ultimately, is the best reason I can think of for doing ANYTHING in SL.