Virtual Clubs Emerge As Lockdowns Decimate Nightlife

The effects of social distancing are altering nearly every aspect of our lives and there’s still no end in sight. Certainly, the entertainment, service, and hospitality industries are suffering disproportionately. In particular, the nightlife industry, reportedly worth $23 Billion in the US alone, is a shell of its former self. Indeed, news of event cancellations or postponements are surfacing on a daily basis. Furthermore, experts say things may not change for quite some time. Besides that, no one knows for sure how quickly things will pick up when the lock downs are finally gone. Nevertheless, the vacuum left in the wake of nightlife’s demise is forcing artists and party people alike to institute alternative measures. Seemingly, with the rise of virtual clubs, the evolution of party culture is already underway.

The pandemic is affecting everyone from local artists, once surviving gig-to-gig, to big-name acts hoping to keep the coffers full. As a result of the stay-at-home orders, most are resorting to livestreaming. However, these aren’t your normal high production festival streams which are of today’s garden variety. Moreover, with literally everyone resorting to livestreams, the market is quickly reaching the point of overkill. Beyond this, the vibe just isn’t the same as the live experience. That’s where Zoom and its bevy of virtual clubs come in.

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Taking Streaming To The Next Level

Surely online parties are nothing new. In fact, huge names like Knife Party, R3hab, and Carnage curated beats for‘s Rise event back in 2013. More recently, virtual clubs are proving their viability with wildly successful events in China. According to Vice reporting, Beijing nightclub SIR TEEN is able to attract millions of viewers to its online stream. Popular night club OneThird‘s ability to rack up over $140,000 in profits from its event stream is another prime example. Clearly, these virtual clubs have a formula for success—but can they work everywhere?

It’s beginning to look like the answer to that question might be yes. New York’s Quarantee and Toronto’s Club Quarantine are definitely proof of that notion. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill strobe-lit bedroom streams. Quarantee promises to deliver that exclusive VIP experience from virtual bottle service, to partying with DJ’s and models. The eye-popping $200 price will certainly bring that NYC club experience full circle, too.

With so many free or donation-optional streams going on right now, it’s hard to know if this business model is realistic for every market. In any event, it’s clear that event producers and artists need to find creative ways to generate income. Right now, recreating the party atmosphere and connecting with the people seems like the next big movement.

Virtual clubs may be here for the long term if the nightlife industry can't find a way to bounce back.

Are Virtual Clubs The Future Of The Industry?

For most of us, there’s still so much uncertainty circulating about an eventual end to the worldwide quarantines. With this in mind, the current focus of the nightlife industry is to continue adapting to these unprecedented times. For now, virtual clubs appear to be a viable option to restore lost revenue streams if done right. Meanwhile, some promoters are taking the cautious steps to postpone events or even secure bookings for the fall. Conceivably, banking on a late year industry boom could pay off for some. This, of course, depends on if things will be back to normal by then.

Even if lockdowns come to an end in time to salvage gatherings in 2020, what will the landscape look like? Millions of people are currently unemployed as a result of the pandemic. It’s unlikely most of us will be willing to splurge on festival tickets right away. Furthermore, there’s no way to know how secure people will feel about attending a large gathering. On the other hand, it’s clear we all miss the vibe that a party or festival can deliver. As we wait to see how this all plays out, virtual clubs might have plenty of time to ingrain themselves into the culture.

Above all, the COVID-19 pandemic is definitely exposing the frailty of the nightlife industry. It’s too dependent on income from touring and events for a labor force that has no safety net. Thus, it’s increasingly clear that new revenue streams have to come from somewhere. Consequently, virtual clubs may very well end up being much more than just an unintended byproduct of an industry’s unforeseen collapse.