Live DJ sets in front of … no-one. Are smartphones killing nightclubs?

In my spare time, or when I’m writing articles for this site, you can find me listening to music. Whether it’s via MixCloud, SoundCloud, Spotify or YouTube, there’s a lot to choose from.

I’ve written this site for over 17 years now and I remember how I used to go clubbing when I first started. That music, that shared experience in a nightclub and that feeling of freedom – it as just brilliant. I’ve been to Ibiza twice and regularly went to a nearby club whilst at college. The dance music of the late 90’s still gets played today but the nightclubs have, in recent years, closed with alarming regularity.

Some clubs get converted into gyms, others into shops and some into indoor trampoline centres. Our local one is now a shop and sometimes, on a Saturday afternoon, you’ll see parents in there staring up at the roof – where laser lights once shone and speakers hung. Now, there’s no bars and the music is just numbing background pan-pipes.

There’s many reasons for the closures. Some kids are more health conscious now and there’s tougher licensing laws. However, the rise and rise of smartphones and social networking has removed our need to “go and get smashed” in a local nightclub in order to meet people. In a way that’s good, because if smartphones had existed when I was out and about, I think I’d be in a whole heap of trouble. It also means that “kids” (as I call anyone below the age of 21 now) can hook up more easily – minus the  massive hangover and huge dent in their finances the next day.

Kids also care more about their appearance and their lifestyle. The “Instagram Life” has to be amazing, inspiring and – heck – it absolutely MUST create jealousy among your friends. You can’t have a picture of you in a puddle with beer down your shirt.

So now, on YouTube, I’m seeing a strange transition when looking for “Live DJ Sets”. Whilst many are still performed in front of huge fee-paying crowds, there’s a growing set of videos which have been filmed in front of just a dozen or so people. This one, featuring the excellent Fatboy Slim, only has a few people dancing around, but it’s been viewed nearly 12 million times in the last year.

With nightclubs closing, DJs and promoters are looking for other ways earn revenue. YouTube is a good way of doing this – especially when the big DJ’s can get many millions of views. But, this being YouTube, you have to make it look as good as possible.

That then, brings me to this back-to-back DJ set with Einmusik and Jonas Saalbach. It’s the usual mix of GoPro cameras, drones and trick musical mixing, but this time there’s absolutely nobody there to enjoy it. Apart from the techies, this lengthy set – filmed in Preikestolen (Norway) has nobody physically listening. It’s all for the clicks.. all for the YouTube ad-revenue….

I think that’s kinda sad in a way. I enjoyed dancing in a field. I enjoyed falling over in a nightclub and coming out, my ears ringing, eating some chips at 4AM and walking 5 miles home in a zig-zag fashion.

Blimey. It’s time for something from back in those days… Before YouTube. Before monetisation, smartphones and Instagram. Crank it up.