To get women on the dance floor in Kingston nightclub where he DJs, all Yale Fox has to do is play a little Beyoncé. To get the men to join them, he pulls out some Justin Timberlake. “Justin Timberlake is not a soprano, but he’s pretty high up there. He is probably the perfect artist for a dance floor because the girls love him, but the guys will sing along and dance to it because it’s not sexually challenging,” says Mr. Fox, who also steers clubgoers to the bar by mixing music genres.
The DJ has painstakingly graphed out his observartions in a sober 40-pages academic paper called “Inside the DJ Booth: How a Disc Jockey’s Strategic Track Selection Can Enhance Experience, Foster Loyalty and Boost Profits.” In it, he examines how music affects behaviour, be it cranking up booze sales or getting women to dance – apparently the two are not mutually exclusive.
Mr. Fox, a recent science and biology graduate of Queen’s University, was mentored by music and commerce professors in his research. The 22-year-old hopes to have his findings in an academic journal, but is also keen to market them to club owners who want to maximize their bar sales with music.
In Kingston, a university town where teens pre-drink to save money, Mr. Fox says his data have been particularly valuable to Doug Jones, owner of the popular Elixir Nightclub where both men DJ.
“Music can completely control a dance floor,” Mr. Fox says, and “we only have from 12 until two to run people through, so every drink really does end up counting.”
Between January and April, he had staff count patrons at the door, record his song choices, count drink sales at five-minute intervals and cross-reference the information into a series of complicated graphs and charts.
The first rule of nightclub economics appears to be satisfy the women
“It seems that [men’s] No. 1 priority is if the women are happy on the dance floor,” Mr. Fox says. “As soon as the girls start showing up, [men] start drinking more to loosen the social tension.”
Gender politics also dictate that Kingston’s women are always first to the dance floor and enjoy female vocalists and Justin Timberlake’s falsetto. The study shows that men tend to like hip hop. House music appeals to both sexes, as do duets, like Way I Are by Timbaland featuring Keri Hilson – men and women can then sing to each other on the dance floor.
For a healthy mix of dancing and boozing patrons, Mr. Fox plays three songs of one genre and then switches to another. The worst thing a DJ can do, he says, is alienate clubgoers with self-indulgent song choices. His study found liquor sales slumped with guest DJs who lingered on aggressive electronic tracks – the club now rarely books them. The DJ now also avoids playing hit songs at last call: this might distract patrons from rushing the bar. As sales spike just beofre 2 a.m., he plays requests instead.
And when it comes time to send them on their way, Mr. Fox says he pulls out some dated R&B, preferably Usher.
How does Mr. Fox think his patrons would feel if they knew his Djing pivots on subtle cues to buy alcohol?
“It’s not by any means a socially manipulative experiemnt to get people to drink more because it’s in the best interest of the club owner, but really, that we’re playing this wide array of music and every-one has a song that they like.”