There’s a massive trend brewing in America’s nightlife scene. Nightclub and bar attendance has been on a steady decline for the past several years and counting. Nightclubs are going out of business left and right with more being threatened to close their doors each and every day. There has been a massive decline in liquor profits and overall revenue. This trend isn’t only exclusive to the United States; the U.K. has also been experiencing a similar drop in their once world-renowned nightlife scene. What is to blame for all of this, you ask?
Who are these impactful millennials?
According to GFK, the global research firm, millennials are widely categorized individuals who were born anywhere between the years 1977 and 1994. Ranging between the ages of 21 and 38, they are the target demographic for all club owners and other current nightlife vendors. These millennials are very different from their Generation X parents—they were raised to be extremely tech savvy since they entered adulthood equipped with cellphones, up-to-date social media interactions, and would certainly much rather spend their hard-earned money on experiences rather than material possessions.
While evaluating such preferences, millennials sound like the ideal group to be regularly enjoying themselves at various nightclubs—or so one would think? If this is the case, why are nightclubs and entertainment venues alike suffering such massive declines in their numbers? Since millennials favor experiences over material things, shouldn’t nightclubs be benefiting? Where are these millennials going instead?
Are millennials going to nightclubs?
Simply put, not really—at least not as frequently as their Generation X counterparts did at popular discotheques. Countless studies, as well as daily observations, show millennials are no longer opting to go to nightclubs anymore when contemplating the value of a night out. A survey by ULI/Lachman Associates dictates that only slightly higher than 60% of all millennials spend time at nightclubs. Of that 60%, only 25% spend time at nightclubs more than once a month. The millennials who go to nightclubs say they mostly go for “special occasions,” like bachelor/bachelorette parties, viewing a specific DJ, attending a celebrity event, or going out to explore party capitals like NYC and Las Vegas. Although these serve as the main reasons why millennials venture into nightclubs, they don’t seem to be enough to back up such dismal numbers.
Nightclubs do not have a large return rate of millennial consumers. Nightclub owners are finding it very difficult to keep their doors open when a large portion of their clientele only stops by occasionally and skimps on drink orders. (It’s all about the pre-game anyway, right?) It comes to no surprise that an average of 6,500 venues have been breaking down earlier and earlier each night and officially closing up shop before passing the first year mark in their business, at least according to J.C. Diaz, the Executive Director of the Nightlife Association. To add insult to injury, the IBIS World Bar Business & Nightclub Business Industry reports that bar and nightclub revenue fell 9.3% in 2009 following The Great Recession. While other businesses are slowly climbing back up from higher unemployment rates and lower consumer spending, the nightclub industry just doesn’t seem to be following suit. The industry is not bouncing back.
Why aren’t millennials patronizing night life venues?
We know that millennials aren’t frequenting nightclubs often, but why? What are their reasons? An anonymous online survey set out to find the answers. Millennials who were not regular nightclub attenders were asked for their reasons for not attending. Their responses:
- Expensive cover charges
- High-priced drinks
- Long lines
- Slow bar service
- Rude staff
- Being pushed around in crowded atmosphere
- Poor male-to-female ratio
- Better ways to discover new music
- Inability to have a conversation
The last two reasons are especially important to pay attention to. The fact that millennials can go elsewhere to discover and listen to new music and that they can’t have a decent conversation with people at nightclubs, came up a lot in the survey. Technology has played a tremendous role in how we source our entertainment and choose to communicate, which is a major change from the past.
With very limited resources to discover new music, Generation X highly depended on nightclubs to dictate what was worth listening to, hear new releases, and dance to those catchy beats. With advancements in technology and music streams at their very fingertips, millennials don’t feel as if nightclubs provide as much value for socialization or to the music industry anymore. “People mostly find new music on Facebook, SoundCloud, Twitter, Instagram, TV, and through friends,” says an anonymous source. Another survey participant wrote: “People who appreciate underground or live music are at music festivals, concerts, and jazz clubs.”
These respondents are also adamant on no longer needing to go to bars and nightclubs to meet a potential partner. Thank you, Tinder! Again, nightclubs were an lively atmosphere for meeting people highly popularized by Generation X. These venues acted as a social hub for meeting new people and expanding a person’s network. With new alternatives, such as online dating apps and websites, many millennial women feel that online dating is a lot safer and much more efficient than the organic ways of years prior. Millennials understand that controlled online settings are more appropriate for finding potential mates than drunken fumbles in a sticky-floored club. Sophie Wilkinson, news editor of women’s lifestyle website The Debrief, makes an excellent point when it comes to women and nightclubs. She says that nightclub bouncers are much more focused on kicking out drunk men and preventing senseless fights rather than preventing harassment of female clubbers. “I think apps like Tinder provide a safer environment for women—it’s a bit easier to filter out any baddies if you are behind a screen.”
If millennials aren’t going to nightclubs, where are they going?
Millennials are noted for picking authentic experiences over frivolous spending, so why aren’t they out partying? Isn’t partying an experience? The same anonymous survey asked millennials what they enjoy doing in their free time inside of going to nightclubs. Responses included boating, binge-watching series on Netflix, hiking, biking, traveling, paddle boarding, skiing, kayaking, drinking wine, frequenting rooftop bars, playing guitar, reading, movies, concerts, napping, relaxing, reading the news, walking around the city, discovering new restaurants/foods, hanging with friends, home improvement projects, happy hours, and beer festivals. Nightclubs? Nope.
Millennials are a generation of adventure-seekers and thrive off the momentum of living for authentic experiences. They are a generation of foodies who love venturing into new restaurants and attempt to identify with various cultural experiences. Traveling to exotic locales ranks among the preferred expenditures of millennials. They would rather skip the club, save some coin, and splurge on a trip of a lifetime.
Do nightclubs have a future in the lives of Millennials?
J.C. Diaz remains hopeful that as long as people want a place to hang out, dance, and have fun with friends, the nightclub scene should prosper once again if they attempt to regain nostalgic, or ground-breaking themes. Diaz says that “the industry is definitely evolving. You’re beginning to see people focused on fusion or flavors whether it be cocktails or food. You’re seeing new design elements and advanced LED technology. You can make your place look like you’re in the middle of the forest or in space. It’s becoming more of a real life experience when you get companies like Cirque du Soleil partnering up with a club.”
People should be getting a lot more out of their nightclub experience than they previously had. Nightclubs used to be a single room with a dance floor, DJ, and a few colorful lights beaming back and forth. Catering to the ideals and standards of the millennial demographic, who are tech-savvy adventurers, nightclubs now come equipped with LED walls, LED stages, state-of-the-art sound systems, and exciting laser lights. Will this be the saving grace?
Millennials have the power to make or break this industry. Millennials realize the notion of their time being sacred will decipher where and how they choose to spend it. Nightlife venues need to cater to this demographic and make their nightclubs a true experience worthwhile.