Club goers, including patrons, bar staff, disc jockeys, owners and management, all agree that music is an integral part of the club experience. Music contributes to the (i) overall club experience, (ii) bar revenues, (iii) how late customers stay after “last call”, and (iv) overall customer satisfaction at the end of the evening. This paper will examine the role of the DJ, his or her musical selections within the nightclub experience and his or her influence on club revenues via music choices.
A number of the world’s top DJs suggest that people want to dance and party to music which they are familiar with. The “Billboard Pop 100 Charts” (Nielsen Business Media, 2008) the “Billboard Hot 100”1 and the “Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs” (Nielsen Business Media, Billboard Charts – Singles - Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, 2008) are used here as reference points. The Pop 100 charts are more relevant to the general public, whereas the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs are more specific to the Elixir Nightclub’s particular demographic.
The Elixir Nightclub is highly regarded as a place for the authentic “nightclub experience” in the city of Kingston. It attempts to play the widest array of music by genre including; rap, r&b, hip-hop, mashup, house, and electro-pop music among others. The majority of clubs in Kingston play house music exclusively. This strategy both attracts and repels different groups of club goers. A “house craze” may exist for a variety of reasons that will be discussed in further detail later in this paper.
This paper will show that current styles of DJ’ing can have both a positive and negative effect on the bar and what owners, managers, and DJs can do to maximize both revenues and customer satisfaction.
The following is a description of the type of music that is used in the Elixir Nightclub and the degree to which the general public is acquainted with them;
The “Big Song”. This is the song typically is rated #1 on one of the billboard charts. It can also be rated as #1 on multiple billboard charts. ”Fresh” songs they have a clear pronounced effect on the dance-floor. Their energy diminishes as the song gets older. This study will explore the optimal time to retire these tracks from the DJ’s repertoire.
“Club Tracks” have songs which have ranked high up on the charts within the past year. They are not as popular as the “Big Songs” and are therefore were not played as dramatically. These tracks are typically not retired after a given length of time, but are played in rotation in most clubs.
“Classic Tracks” have typically ranked within the Top 10 charts after 2002. This year was is a mid-way marker because it was roughly the time when the music industry started to embrace the Rap/Hip-Hop style music. This style currently makes up the large majority of the Pop 100 charts as well as the Elixir’s particular demographic. These songs are used as markers in order to identify music.
“Super-Classic Tracks” ranked high on the music charts before 2002.
“Sinkers” are tracks that have been falling off the charts.
“Duds” are tracks that have a negative effect on the dance-floor, make people stop dancing, look around, and create a generally negative feeling.
“Bubblers” are tracks that appear to be rising quickly and may make it to the top of the charts.
“Unrated Positive” are those that that have a positive effect on the dance floor but never made it onto the charts. They are typically “house” tracks which are considered “clubby” but not mainstream.
“Unrated Negative” tracks have a negative effect on the dance-floor, and were never charted.
These are also usually “house” tracks.
Stereotypical Male & Female Tracks are special types of tracks created by the artist and label.
They clearly favor one gender over the other. This is accomplished primarily through content, but also influenced by the gender of the artist.
CURRENT DEMOGRAPHICS OF KINGSTON BAR & NIGHTCLUB COMMUNITY
The city of Kingston is located in southern Ontario. It has a population of over 117 000 people (City of Kingston, 2008) and has three major colleges and universities. Queen’s University rests within a very close proximity to the general nightclub district which currently has approximately 21,500 students and 6,600 faculty members (Queen’s University, 2008). St. Lawrence College has roughly 5000 enrolled students.
Kingston is considered a “University City,” meaning much of the town’s business revenue is generated by the university community. Therefore, many of the bars and nightclubs gear their marketing plans towards attracting students. The following is a chart describing the overall demographic as represented by students.
THE ELIXIR NIGHTCLUB SYSTEM
Naturalistic studies involving humans are riddled with complex variables. This is because we do not operate in an entirely predictable stimulus-response environment. We are active, self-aware machines and it is impossible to have complete control over someone’s behavior. For example, what if someone wasn’t drinking tonight? Did they predrink heavily? What if they had a higher tolerance than others? Are they coming from another bar? Will they dance to any kind of music? Will they only dance to one type of music? Did they just break up with their girlfriend/boyfriend, did this affect their mood? The list can go on forever. Most of these variables can affect mood which will affect both nightclub and alcohol consumption behavior. Therefore, it is not possible to control every variable in the proposed ‘system’- the Elixir nightclub. In order to examine this system, a hypothesis – based on our general interpretation of club behavior – is being proposed. The working hypothesis is that club behavior is influenced by a number of variables including but not limited to (i) its geographical location, (ii) promotions and marketing activities, (iii) the “friend factor” – ie: where people believe their friends are going that night, (iv) the type of music played, (v) lighting conditions, (vi) means of social validation, (vii) gender ratio. These are considered controllable factors. The main control being applied to this system is the DJ’s nightly music track selection.
This study attempts to account for club behavior, and how it relates to stochastic optimal control theory (Bertsekas, 1976). Briefly, this theory discusses how a customer’s actions within a system (the nightclub) are affected by the DJ’s input or controls (the music) and how the individuals are governed by probabilities. The focal point of this paper is to show how the DJ’s nightly repertoire of track selection can influence the behavior within a nightclub. Certain types of songs cause people to rush towards the dance floor (the ‘big’ songs). If they are glued to the dance floor, they are further away from the general bar area which lowers their probability of purchasing a drink. Conversely, if they don’t like the music on the dancefloor they are more likely to move towards the bar rather than standing still within a crowd of people dancing. In addition to that, these songs must be played during peak hour when the majority of people have already been inside and become a part of the system.
The Elixir itself is a non-Markovian system. This means that the customers have a memory of what songs has previously happened within the system, or what songs have already been played. They may get sick of music as repeating a song is not as effective as playing a song the first time. For example, if only reggae music was played one evening, the reggae-lovers might want to return, whereas another genre-lover might not want to return. Presumably, some people would not be affected. The type of music played can influence where an individual has physically placed his or herself. If he or she wants to dance, they will situate themselves within close proximity to the dance-floor where most of the people around them will be dancing. This is a socially cohesive move. In general the dance-floor body will have some form of cohesive properties. It will almost always start out with a small group of women and grow until a much larger group of mixed males and females. If people are interested in drinking, they have to either find a server on the dance floor or, more often, move closer to the bar where drinks can be purchased. Another assumption is that people are sober at the beginning of the night and becoming progressively intoxicated.
It is estimated that it takes roughly 15 minutes to consume a mixed drink or beer beverage. It is assumed that males generally drink more than females. It is also assumed that women generally dance more than men.
The time frame being examined in this study is from January to April 2008. The doors to the Elixir Nightclub open to the public at 9:00PM. Patrons are not permitted entry after 2:00AM. Drinks cannot be served past 2:00AM, and all alcohol must be off the tables by 2:45AM at the latest in compliance with provincial liquor laws. There are typically very few customers in the early evening. Somewhere between 10:30PM and 11:00PM larger waves of customers flow in. Immediately following they are subjected to first drink syndrome. This is a term I coined to describe what is typically the initial behavior of an individual entering the Elixir nightclub. During the winter term, upon admission the first action generally undergone by a patron is to check their coat. Soon after that, the first thing they typically want to do is purchase a drink. This event is entirely out of the club’s primary control, and is not affected by the club’s music. First drink syndrome (FDS) takes between 5 and 10 minutes depending on how busy coat check is. After this set of actions is complete, patrons are considered individuals in which the bar might have some degree of behavioral control.
Assuming the customers decide to stay, situating them close the bar is encouraged for a variety of reasons. If they are arrive early and are among the first customers in the bar, they have obviously have not consumed much alcohol. These customers will likely purchase larger quantities of alcohol throughout the night than a customer who may arrive at 1:30AM.
This model favors upbeat and pleasant music in the early with a strong emphasis placed on long mixes in-between tracks. The lighting throughout the club remains on the darker colors of the spectrum, giving the illusion of a smaller space. When a space looks smaller, it makes customers feel like they are not the only ones in a club, even if there are very few people there. As more customers arrive further attempts are made to keep them as close to the bars as possible. This ensures that as new customers enter, they see people standing at the bar and therefore increases the probability of them staying for the night. This is a critical time of night, because if customers are forced to the dance floor, the rest of the club can look really empty to new arrivals, and thereby decreases the chances of them wanting to stay for the entire night. There are relatively few nightclub choices in Kingston, so the obvious goal is getting customers to come as early as possible and stay as close to 2:00AM as possible.
As the club begins to fill up, patrons become progressively more intoxicated. Below is a rough diagram of the nightclub.
The warm-up area typically fills up with customers first. At some point, a decision is made to “push” individuals towards the dance floor. This is accomplished by selecting more current and “clubby” tracks of music. Mixing songs quickly (typically the intro and chorus of each song) tends to also push people towards the floor more. Once the dance floor has been ‘constructed’, and the majority of people have been subjected to FDS floors are rotated. This involves the shifting of individuals between the bar and the dance floor. Individuals situated on the floor, dancing and enjoying themselves are less likely to feel the urge to go and buy a drink. Physically, they are situated as far away as possible from the point of purchase. This also reduces the probability of them being able to purchase a drink. Patrons positioned closer to the bars are slightly more likely to order drinks.
Presumably, people will be more inclined to dance to a song they enjoy or a specific genre to which they are partial. Conversely, they will be less inclined to dance to songs they do not enjoy and more likely to exit the main dance floor area. In addition, some individuals love dancing and will do so for the majority of the night, while some individuals do not particularly enjoy dancing and will remain closer to the bars for the greater portion of the night. As a result there is a “balancing” issue between the bar and dance floor area, as the DJ attempts to shift people within these areas. Certain controls can be applied with the intention of influencing these issues. Song selection acts as the control to influence this system.
This paper’s working hypothesis is that playing a wide variety of music, including different genres, different tempos, and alternating stereotypically “male” and “female” songs, will lead to overall increased total nightly revenue for the control demographic. In addition, the dance floor energy will be higher leading to happier customers and reinforcing customer loyalty for future events. Pop 100 music charts currently consist of multiple genres. DJs recognize that this is a logical phenomenon. People do not typically listen to only one genre of music and DJs have to try and please everybody. Utilizing a track selection with a wider array of songs is going to be naturally more stimulating overall. Playing all “house” music for a night will segregate the crowd as most of the patrons in attendance for “house” music are generally going to stay closer to the dance floor. Those who are more partial to other genres will stay further away from the floor.
The DJ must attempt to give these individuals a degree of optimal satisfaction. Everybody in the club cannot hear exactly what they want at the same time. Therefore, when switching from ‘rap’ to ‘house’ music, there is an expectation that ‘house’ lovers will become most excited. However, this level of excitement generally declines as the ‘house’ set of music stretches onward. This is because while rap music is playing, they are craving ‘house’ music, they will begin to crave it more and more as the length of the rap mini-set continues. The first ‘house’ song is going to be the most exciting one for the house lovers and should be selected accordingly. Over time, it has been observed that one of the most notable excitement peaks on the dance floors are precisely at the moment of genre change. It is exciting for the people who have been waiting for ‘their’ songs, and also gives those on the dance floor a chance to relax, and a reminder that their drink is almost finished and now would be a good time to the bar and purchase another one.
By carefully selecting tracks and timing them in a manner that flows with the natural drinking rhythm of the club it is possible to cycle and turn the dance floor to keep everyone happy. This means constantly positioning people on and off of the dance floor, as well as close to and far away from the bars. This excites and calms them as they hear songs they like and don’t like. In addition, it places them closer to the bar as their drinks are consumed which subtly cues them to purchase another. This process acts as reinforcement for bringing patrons back to the establishment on subsequent occasions. It also gives everyone a chance to dance and a chance to relax. The end result is overall dance floor energy is higher, the number of drinks sold is higher and therefore nightly revenues will be higher as well.
To properly examine this relationship, data will be collected as outlined below. The data will be graphed and will show the number of individuals who entered the club during a given time period. This will enable a view of when the majority of individuals were subjected to FDS. On the same graph, the number of drinks purchased per interval will be shown. In addition, it will show the controls applied at a specific time, and the subsequent effect on the bar sales and dance floor.
The research plan for this study consists of a compilation of data acquired from three separate independent sources. The first piece of hardware was purchased from nID solutions, the Digital Doorman. Patrons are required to have their ID swiped upon admission to Elixir for a variety of reasons including; (i) verification of legal drinking age, (ii) identification of customers with VIP status, (iii) identification of problematic individuals who may be refused entry and (iv) maintaining the safety of inside customers- a value held strongly by the staff of this establishment and (v) to minimize the possibility of human transcription error. At the end of each night, the Digital Doorman is synchronized with the office computer allowing access to files containing time-stamped information of nightly head counts. The data is exported into a text-based, comma separated value format, which contains all the information encoded on patrons IDs. This data is imported into Microsoft Excel and all personal information about these customers is deleted except for their time of entry. This is an example of a 1 hour tallied interval sheet displaying the number of customers currently in the bar. It is fairly simple to read these charts and determine when most people were arriving, and when we reached the peak was reached.
The second piece of apparatus is the point-of-sale (POS) software/hardware system purchased from Business Software Solutions. The management features of the software allow us to query the database of purchased drinks and output the number of products sold within a specific time interval. Thirty-minute intervals are typically used to pull data from start off of the evening until more customers arrive. Intervals are then shorted to fifteen minutes. Later, intervals are shorted to five-minute periods, which are the intervals of primary interest.
Drinks1 is the total number of drinks purchased at Bar #1. Bar #1 is the first one in the nightclub to open and as a result of this will always sell more drinks than any of the other bars. Total2 is the number of drinks opened at Bar #2, which is the second cash register to open up during the night. It opens up after the first wave of customers. Lastly, Bar #3 opens up usually when the club starts to fill out more. It is located on the opposite side of the club. The general dance floor/bar area is located in between all three bars. The three drinks values are tallied to produce a number that represents the amount of drinks purchased throughout the club within a five-minute period. The same is done for the total amount of dollar spent within the club. This will be used later to determine if our techniques are increasing or decreasing revenues.
The last set of data comes from a piece of Java-based software that was written specifically for this project. The following is a screenshot of the field-recording software.
This was written in a Java-based language so that it could run on any operating system. The software is run on two separate computers, one of which is located in the DJ booth. A volunteer recorded a reading every time a track was played so a timeline of the music played while constructing our graphs could be created. In addition, it allows to the possibility of logging musical requests. These requests provide additional information as to which songs were extremely popular in the demographic, instead of relying solely upon the billboard charts. The comments field is reserved for any important notes or memos necessary to record during the night (for example, private bookings). This can influence the nightly music track selection.
The panel on the far right is the floor and bar rating system. It consists of a slider, which shows the general spread of individuals throughout the club. This outputs a value to a maximum of 4. If the dance floor had 100% of patrons on it, it would receive +4 points, the bar would receive +0, and vice versa. An even distribution of people throughout the club awards both areas +2 points.
The motion variable describes whether or not people are enjoying the music-based on visual observation. Body movement is seen either (i) early on in the night as people are just arriving and getting into the mood, (at which point they most likely have not had too much to drink), (ii) moving to songs they enjoy listening to, but don’t necessarily know, or identify with, or (iii) dance-floor momentum. Motion awards each section +1 point on the rating system.
Movement is implicit in dancing. People are presumed dancing when they (i) know the song and enjoy it, (ii) are more intoxicated, (iii) under the dance-floor momentum effect. The difference between dancing and moving although determined subjectively is extremely obvious. Dancing awards each section +2 points, but improves the area health to a slightly higher degree due to its reliance on having the motion variable active. A dance floor that is actually dancing is considered much “healthier” than one that is just moving, or just gaining momentum. This was the easiest and most concise way of assigning a finite variable to a human behavior.
The third variable is singing. Singing awards the area +3 points based on a few logical premises. If patrons are singing along to the song, they know it (because they know the lyrics). In addition to that, they probably are enjoying it; presumably they would not be singing along to a song they didn’t like. People tend to sing when they are either intoxicated or sober, but generally more so when intoxicated. The effect is more pronounced when they know others are singing and they attempt to socially validate themselves.
In addition, we have two balancing variables that operate according to sex ratio in a given area. This variable, “male skew” accounts for certain assumptions and situations that may occur in our model. Each checkbox awards the area +3 points. The first situation represents a large number of males on the dance floor around the standing tables area. If there are a large number of males huddled around the dance floor, it means that they are enjoying the music. Yet, they are not likely to dance together in a group as women do, and so without the balancing variable it would give our floor reading a deceptively low value. Conversely, if we have a large number of males by the bar, it may slightly skew our bar sales upwards as men generally consume more alcohol than women.
The other software based assumptions as follows; (i) people will bop their head to music they enjoy, whether they are aware of it or not, (ii) people enjoy dancing to music that they know, (iii) people love to sing to music that they know (which indicatives that they know the song), and (iv) if people really do not enjoy the song selected they will stand still.
Lastly, the data from these three devices is compiled onto a single spreadsheet and graphed. The charts attempt to show the relationship outlined in the earlier presented hypothesis.
A NOTE ABOUT SERATO
The ability to manipulate the crowd using music has evolved because of advances in modern technology. Digital Vinyl Emulation systems, a product made by Rane Corporation named Serato ScratchLIVE is the club industry standard set-up. It consists of the ScratchLIVE USB box that allows the turntables to interface with the laptop and the mixer.
This system allows a DJ to bring virtually all of his or her music to a gig. In addition, it allows the DJ to mix songs faster. Songs can be changed without having to switch records. This saves a lot of time, especially if the DJ wants to switch away from a track that perhaps did not go over very well. DJs no longer have to purchase expensive vinyl records or throw away worn down records. Other outstanding features include the ability to place up to 5 quickly accessible cue points (instead of searching through a record you can push a shortcut key on your laptop). Records can be sorted into “crates” but because they are electronic mp3 files, one can have the same record in as many different crates as is desired. This is useful when arranging music by mood, genre, or other categories the DJ deems necessary. These are a just few of theoutstanding features that bridges the digital world of music with the analog feel of true vinyl, and influence the DJs ability to shape the evening and revenues. It is the industry standard with so many DJs currently on it, and so many switching over every day. Club owners should consider installing either the RANE TTM57-SL mixer, which has the serato-usb interface built into it in their clubs, or at least the SL1-box in order to accommodate for their DJs. Rane Corporation generously sponsored the project with the generous donation of their flagship mixer, the TTM57-SL.
A NOTE ABOUT MIXEDINKEY
Another useful piece of software that is a part of our apparatus is called MixedInKey. MixedInKey scans mp3 files and detects the key of the music. This was used as a preliminary examination of the hit tracks so that we can see if they have anything in common. It is also useful for determining which songs will clash when mixed or re-mixed together. The software saved a lot of time during track analysis. There are an estimated 15 000 DJs who currently use it and presumably more who have downloaded pirated copies. Their forum, http://www.mixedinkey.com/ contains topics that have reached over 5,000 unique views alone (Varobyev, 2008).
Music seems to have an interesting effect on the listener. Through casual conversation with individuals it is quite apparent that people listen to such a wide variety of genres. It is exceptionally difficult to find a person that doesn’t enjoy listening to any genre, or to music in general. Music appears to be hardwired to our body and mind and somehow ingrained cognitively as we grow. It can affect us in many ways, by altering our mood, exciting or calming us. It can also make an individual to feel the urge to sing and dance.
When people listen to music they unconsciously feel a response from hearing it that is beyond the actual stream of sound. Music consists of a set of rules or “musical grammar” (Jackendoff & Lerdahl, 2006) in which a wide dimension of musical events including but not limited to meter, pitch and tone are interpreted by our brain. Even an untrained ear will notice immediately if a singer’s vocals are off-key in relation to the music. This is because musical sound and syntax invoke specific structures within the brain of which we are not conscious (Jackendoff & Lerdahl, 2006). The part of our brain that interprets music is linked to our motor cortex (Grahan & Brett, 2007). As a result, when listening to music we often feel the urge to nod our heads or tap one’s feet to the beat. The reason it inspires singing and dancing is because the area of our brain simulated by music is directly linked to the motor cortex. Listening to music involuntarily stimulates movement with the beat. Mainstream western culture really does act like a universal language to its targeted. This is why music in a social setting can be so important. Bar owners want customers to feel an extra dimension of cohesion that will contribute to an overall better night. The addition of music to a social environment has been proven to stimulate mood, decrease boredom and increase alcohol consumption (Lindman, Lindfors, Dahla, & Toivola, 1987). The presence of other individuals in close proximity also precipitates increased drinking behavior (Lindman, Lindfors, Dahla, & Toivola, 1987). Through careful music selection it is also possible to increase a customer’s post-consumption product analysis (Teng, Tseng, & Wu, 2007).
A good example of these findings can be found in a study conducted with students aged around 23 years old (Teng, Tseng, & Wu, 2007). The subjects were presented with questionnaires to determine their musical interests. These individuals were then provided with drinks (in the form of coffee) in different musical environments. It was determined statistically significant that a positive mood was a mediator in the relationship between musical preference and customer satisfaction. In other words, the students consuming coffee in the presence of their preferred type of music rated it as a “better” experience. Although the products being sold by nightclubs are alcohol-based, it is reasonable to assume that music provides a positive effect on mood that in response provides the consumer with a higher post-consumption rating.
There have been a number of studies involving how music affects exercise. It is not only the presence of music but the volume and tempo which motivates individuals to exercise for longer periods of time (Wininger & Pargman, 2003). It was determined that fast and loud music was related to the fastest running speeds on a treadmill as well as heart rate (Wininger & Pargman, 2003). Although these studies involve exercise, it is postulated that high-speed music also gives people the desire to dance more than slower paced music. Typically, fastest music falls within the category of “electronic” music. Electronic music is very popular within nightclubs but rarely is this genre on the Billboard Pop 100 charts. Perhaps only a dozen of the total songs throughout the year fall within this category. At the same time, many clubs in the world have nights where only house music is played. This is an appropriate strategy for venues where all of the patrons are going there to hear strictly house music. Nightclubs hosting a mixed crowd and playing strictly house music (or any particular genre for that matter) may negatively affect their bar sales.
“House” music has certain traits give it advantages and disadvantages. It is typically in the upper range of the tempo spectrum ranging from 125 – 140 beats per minute. This high-paced tempo excites individuals and provides dancers with a fast beat. Although much of the mainstream house does contain lyrics, it is more instrumentally based whereas top 40 music is more balanced with instrumentals and vocals. Music primarily stimulates the auditory complex in the right hemisphere of the brain whereas lyrics typically stimulate various regions in the left hemisphere of the brain. By playing music without lyrics one only stimulates half of the brain at a time. Music that contains lyrics is therefore twice as stimulating (Racette & Peretz, 2007). At the other end of the spectrum, by playing Top 40 songs with lyrics that people do not appreciate there is negative stimulation. It makes the most sense for a general population of club goers to play the widest variety of house and top 40 combinations.
Music can excite or calm the listener, and it can bring about unexpected emotion by triggering a memory. In fact, several studies conclude that music is as effective as diazepam (valium) in reducing preoperative anxiety (Berbel, Moix, & Quintana, 2007). The stress one undergoes before surgery is presumably great. For something intangible such as music to be as effective as a sedative indicates that is only the tip of the iceberg as to how it truly affects our body, thoughts and emotions.
Individuals flock to nightclubs for a variety of reasons. The two factors that this study is most concerned with are music and alcohol. There is an interesting parallel between music’s ability to affect the individual in a way that can calm or excite them. Similarly, many of these individuals take other substances such as alcohol or drugs that act as stimulants or depressants. Patrons feel ups and downs throughout the night and that is what makes them feel relaxed. It is a biological phenomenon- naturally we like to feel this build and release effect. The typical phrase of a song includes an introduction, a verse (the buildup) followed by the chorus (the release). This structure is then repeated creating an interesting parallel.
A study conducted by Stroebele and de Castro examined the relationship of people’s food intake and meal duration in the presence or absence of music. It was determined that “exposure to loud music increased auditory stimulation, which lead to an increase in soft drink consumption.” Although study focused on soft-drink consumption, it is reasonable to suggest that similar conclusions could be reached in a similar study examining alcohol-consumption. In addition, the louder the music, the more people drank (Stroebele & de Castro, 2006) and a lab experiment showed college students drinking faster when exposed to fast music compared to slow music (McElrea & Standing, 1992). In a restaurant setting, music affected chewing intensity with an increased number of bites associated with tempo. More importantly, it was found that slower music was accompanied with slower eating but increased drinking (Stroebele & de Castro, 2006).
This study examined the effects of DJ track selection on bar sales. A total of ten nights were used. Each night had the same demographic but contained a different subject pool. Subjects typically had similar interests and may have been there for a party, fundraiser, or general club night. The purpose of the analysis was to determine a format that provided maximal amount of customer satisfaction and highest bar revenues. The demographic was mostly 19-25 year old males and females of different ethnicities. Musical selections were categorized under the following genres; R&B, hip-hop, rap, reggae and “house”.
The city of Kingston, Ontario generates an interesting amount of club patrons to target. There are two main groups of clientele, the first is the Queen’s University students and the second group is local inhabitants. Through examining data contained on our digital doorman handheld, it can be concluded that the majority of individuals arriving before 12:00AM are more local inhabitants whereas the Queen’s University students typically arriver much later in the night, closer to 1:00AM and after heavy “predrinking.”
They typically spend the least amount of money at the bar per person. This is related to their late arrival, and alcohol saturation. Generally, the peak drinking hours starts at 12:00AM and end at the 2:00AM last call, although the club is open at 9:00PM. There are really only two hours to run customers through the bar and this is one of the reasons why so many elements are utilized in order to maximize nightly sales.
The three factors that influence track selection are the layout of the nightclub, the current clientele, and the target clientele. The time frame during which the study was conducted was the winter term. These charts show the general behavior of an individual or group of individuals that enter the bar. The first phase is the “entry” phase that consists of the customer, (i) waiting in line, (ii) having their ID scanned, (iii) paying the cover charge, (iv) usually entering and looking around for a moment to see if its busy or not. The “decision” phase is when the customer decides whether or not they are going to stay. This decision is based on a variety of factors that are in some way related to the time of night. Individuals that come before 11:00AM are typically doing so to either avoid waiting in line, get ‘pre-stamped’ so they can come later and not wait in line, or avoid inclement weather conditions. The city of Kingston has a few major clubs that are competitors. They are all in close proximity. This means that customers that arrive to the bars early can easily walk inside, see that the Elixir is either busy or not-so-busy and then decide if they want to stay for the night or not. The dominant factors during the decision phase are therefore: number of other individuals in the club (the busier it is the more likely they are to stay), drink prices, and musical track selection.
For this particular model, the most critical point of the night is when the club is shifting from warm-up to club mode, The DJ has to pay special attention to track selection and customer distribution throughout the bar. It is known that if the place feels busier, then people will be more likely to stay. Additionally, people drink more when they are in a more densely populated area (Lindman, Lindfors, Dahla, & Toivola, 1987). In an attempt to lead newly arriving patrons to perceive the club as busier than it is, this is a time of the night that DJs refer to as ‘warm-up’. This is how the DJ will prioritize ideas when selecting music; the most important factor is track selection, followed by mixing techniques and last but not least, harmonics.
Upbeat tracks generally are selected, usually 95 to 110 beats per minute and are mixed harmonically. One tries to keep everyone in as close proximity to the main bar area as possible. If “clubbier” music is played customers will place themselves closer to the dance-floor as they begin dancing. The club may look exciting with everyone dancing early on in the night, but it will look like there are less people inside. In addition, music selected at the beginning of the night (and throughout the night) is both gender and genre-balanced. This will be discussed further in the next section of the paper. Essentially, the music played during warm-up persuades the incoming customers to stay for the night by keeping the bar areas as crowded as possible with the existing customers.
Assuming the customer decides to stay, they are then subjected to “first drink syndrome” (FDS) which consists of first checking one’s coat, then purchasing the first drink. This behavior is not influenced by the track selection, because far and wide every customer that walks through the door is eliciting this exact behavior. We have very little control over where they situate themselves in the bar at this time. They must walk to coat check first, and then they must walk to bar #1 to purchase a drink. Bar #1 is opened first and conveniently located as close to the door so that it is visually observable by incoming customers.
After this portion of the night the customers are more subjected to our controls defined as individual songs. Certain tracks have the ability to cause an influx to the dance floor whereas others presumably would cause people to leave the floor. There are also points of the night where people just want to dance and others just want to drink. Throughout the night, the same methodology is employed with gender and genre balanced music. Basically, one never wants to play a song that is going to “dump” the floor, situating them in closer proximity to the bars and increasing the likelihood of purchasing a drink.
Hypothetically, there could be a room with 100 people 25 only like house music, and 75 only like hip-hop music. If one plays all hip-hop music, the 25 house patrons may leave and go to another bar. In addition, they will forever remember that one experience as the time they came to the club and only heard hip-hop music. These people will be lost as nightly customers and as returning customers. On that same night, when all the “house” patrons leave and you have a room full of hip-hop lovers, what happens when the DJ plays house music? Patrons are less responsive and do not have as memorable of a time because the songs are not targeted effectively. The worst-case scenario is when a DJ buries them self in a genre and is forced to stick with it for an entire night because, in this particular city, people will actually leave and go to another club. Therefore, in a club like the Elixir, with such a diverse group of people, (many of which are more partial towards certain genres of music), it is important to play a wide musical repertoire.
After consumers have been subjected to FDS, ideally they are situated as close to the main bar area as possible. Music is played in a manner that will keep people uplifted and lively. At the DJs discretion, when the place begins to rapidly fill up, the track selection is shifted towards the more clubbier side of Top 40 type music. This changes the club’s atmosphere, making it feel busier and encouraging people to stay and drink more. As the club begins to fill up requests are played as often as possible providing they are deemed to be both club-playable and appropriate for the general audience. This really is a provocative factor that increases the customer’s nightly satisfaction as well as loyalty to the business. Requests that cannot be fit into the general format of the night and are typically saved until last call. Last call is another critical point during the night that can be used to manipulate both bar sales and overall customer satisfaction.
The microphone is used to announce last call at intervals between 1:45AM and 2:00AM. The time it is first announced and the intervals are carefully picked depending on the number of consumers within the club for that given night. If the club is not very busy, and the DJ announces it too early, it makes the patrons feel as if they are being pushed into purchasing a drink. The ‘last call’ message ideally is used as a reminder to get your last drink because we usually stay open right until 2:45AM- but it is not intended to manipulate people into purchasing another drink. If the club is really busy it is announced earlier so customers have a chance to get to the bar before it is swarmed. In addition, it is a service to the bartenders to ensure they are not swarmed at 1:55AM because it will result in a loss of sales as alcohol cannot be legally served past 2:00AM.
The dance floor and general bar area is a naturally resonating system with respect to the rates of the intervals between which individuals are either purchasing drinks or consuming drinks. There are obvious exceptions such as non drinkers, non dancers, non purchasers, etc. but this is the general model of club-going behavior that is being examined. Rather than attempting to control people into purchasing a drink or dancing, one can utilize the information that the data has provided.
Initially, this project assumed a relationship that was negatively inverted, high dance-floor energy = lower bar sales and low dance-floor energy = higher bar sales. This is not the case. The model is actually moderately related to the initial assumption but now takes into account an extra dimension. The optimized model as portrayed below shows the conclusions. This model is more accurate because it takes into account both the customers’ nightly satisfaction as well as global satisfaction (i.e., will they return next week). A model like this is more representative of the idea of mass appeal. When the optimal point is reached, the most people were satisfied with all aspects of the nightclub (music, atmosphere, crowd, drink prices, etc.). This is determined by the fact that they stepped into the Elixir, they did not leave to go to another bar and they remained there for the entire night. They spent the most amount of money, and will return in the future and repeat the process that is worth more in the long run.
Please note that both of these graphs are hypothetical, and, based on the following conditions in accordance with stochastic control theory, they are both logical and rational. Here is the set of rules that apply if individuals behaved like robots and these same people:
come to a nightclub to dance
come to a nightclub to drink
would prefer to listen to music they like, rather than something they haven’t heard
find it difficult to purchase a drink while dancing
spend drink purchasing time at the bar of less than a few minutes
hear a song they like or enjoy, they will move towards the dance floor
hear a song they dislike or don’t necessarily know, they will move away from the dance floor
Granted, because this is both a naturalistic and social study, there are plenty of exemptions and analogues to these rules because there are real life live, breathing, thinking people involved. There is a type of theory we can apply to a model like this and it is called “stochastic optimal control theory.” This would mean, “the closer people stand to the bar, the higher the probability they will purchase a drink” and vice versa “the further away from the bar people are situated (on the dance floor) the lower the likelihood or probability to purchase a drink.” Although several “control” factors are involved, music is the “control” factor that is examined to apply on our system (the nightclub) in order to produce the optimal model. As a result of this, tracks must be selected for and played in a certain manner.
A DJ is expected to vibe off the crowds’ energy, carefully selecting tracks in a manner that matches the crowds musical taste. In addition the DJ should be presenting the crowd with new or up and coming tracks that they will enjoy and dance to as well as their own remixes and edits as to distinguish himself from other DJs and venues. The results also show that people actually have a better time if another dimension is incorporated into their nightly repertoire- by “vibing off” natural drink replenishing times. This means music is selected and played in non-programmed mini-sets of 3 that attempt to maintain overall balance throughout the club with respect to dance floor energy and bar sales. A mini-set would be a selection of three tracks with something in common. For example: a mini-set of three hip-hop tracks followed by one of three r&b tracks.
The first individuals arrive at the venue around 10:30PM. This early in the night it is assumed that the majority of individuals are largely sober. Around 11:30PM -12:00AM they begin to get more intoxicated and newly-arriving customers have presumably been drinking elsewhere beforehand. Between 1:00AM and 1:30AM is the peak intoxication interval, this is the time at which the vast majority of individuals in the club are intoxicated. Early on in the night as individuals arrive, the DJ favors mini-sets ranging from 4-5 songs and tries to keep transitions smooth, unnoticeably and harmonically sound. Customers are not ready to start dancing and clubbing yet, and they will be later, so it is important to just keep them uplifted and relaxed. In looking at first and second drink times one can see two short bursts in sales right as the first customers arrive. It takes approximately 15 minutes to consume a mixed drink or beer product, with a standard deviation of 5 minutes. This drink time increases as alcohol saturation increases. In a club, the DJ then rarely plays past the second chorus and so four to five songs lasts somewhere around 10 minutes. This is right towards the lower end of the average drink time range. It may also be subtly cuing the consumer that it is time to purchase the next drink.
Essentially, the atmosphere will be changing and rotating every 10 minutes, this keeps people entertained musically. It also provides an even amount of similarity and variation in order to stimulate them maximally. As the night progresses, the crowd shifts to a larger number of individuals wanting to dance.
The format is changed once again in order to maximize the optimized model. Mini-sets are shortened to a duration of three songs, and various mixing styles such as ‘cutting’ (which sounds different than mixing and can excite the intoxicated crowd) are used. In addition, track selection based on crowd response is really pushed and mixing harmonically is toned down to less of a priority.
The rule of threes makes sense on a variety of different levels. At the lowest level, I present a typical western society top 40. It goes; introduction, verse 1, chorus, verse 2, chorus, verse 3 chorus, outro. Of course there are a number of varieties, some tracks include a break but for the most part a song consists of 3 verses and 3 choruses. This provides the maximal amount of similarity and variation within a song. This balance both calms and excites the listener, if you listen closely to a song the music and lyrics are timed so that it would look like this:
Introduction warms up the listener, the beat is usually the simplest and the lyrics are sparse if any at all.
Verse 1, beat usually adds another element increases complexity (starts to prime for tension, lyrics are non-repetitive and would require more cognitive power to try and memorize them off the bat.
Chorus 1, beat usually adds another element increasing complexity, the lyrics are the catchiest and the most memorable, immediately after the chorus we are “released” back into verse 2.
This is repeated until the outro which releases the listener entirely from the song, usually elements of the beat and lyrics are removed and it is faded out.
If this is what 1 song looks like, and why music that is formatted this way continually hits the top of the charts then it is likely the format that we prefer to listen to the most because it is the most entertaining. The reason for this is because your brains are hardwired to favor groupings. One song is a grouping of three builds and releases. One mini-set would be a grouping of three songs. Every three mini-sets conveniently works out to roughly 20 minutes which is the upper level of our average drink time range. Mini-sets of two would feel more noticeably short and customers might proclaim that the DJ is “changing the songs too quickly”. Likewise mini-sets of 4 seem to be too long and may not be provocative or stimulating enough for the listeners of such a mixed crowd.
Psychologically, our minds use a process called chunking to make the most effective use of short term memory. A “chunk” is a piece of information that we store in our working memory. Working memory is very important if we are to remember a string of digits, such as a seven-digit phone number, which is actually presented in the format 3 + 4 = 7 (555 – 6666) because it is the easiest number of digits for us to remember momentarily. People used to have to call into an operator for someone’s phone number and this simplified things. We would be able to recall the seven-digit phone number by repeating it to ourselves, long enough to dial it in. Three appears to be a simple and easy number to “work with” in our minds. Perhaps this is why most top40 songs follow that type of format?
Not available online
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