A turbulent Nightlife Culture

Bijgewerkt: jan 9

I was staring in the face of someone who seemed ignorant of the fact that she was making more in an hour of twisting buttons than I do in a month of full-time work. And for what? I thought a name that costs my paycheque, times two, would at least attract more than ten people… But apparently that’s not the way the nightlife world works anymore.

In an attempt to take control of my raging thoughts once more I asked her if she’d enjoyed the dinner we had booked for her.

The chef of the restaurant had an important private affair that night and the restaurant was set to close before the artist could be there. We had to literally beg them to stay open an hour longer, because the Booker had made quite the point that the dinner was an absolute must. I awoke from the memory of that humbling experience, loaded with thank you’s and sorry’s, with a blank face staring back at me.

“Oh I didn’t go. But I’ll make sure to let my agent send you the bill of my room service.”

It has been a turbulent point of discussion in Amsterdam; ‘what is happening to our beloved nightlife culture?’

The night holds space for connection, inspiration and exploration. An outlet for art, creativity and release. It allows us to experiment with our perspective and unique expression and serves as breeding ground for talent among artists of all kinds.

According to the IMS Business Report, industry value has risen from $4 billion in 2012 (the earliest year on record) to over $7 billion in 2018. As the world’s third most popular genre, the expansion of dance music has given rise to the “middle-tier DJ”. Where DJing was once seen a supplemental income stream — a way to make extra cash on top of running a record label or promoting a party, the rise of cheap and convenient travel has allowed mid-tier artists to crisscross the globe too, in search of those new audiences and the paycheques that come with them. But in the last years bookings are down, and the scene is struggling.

We frequently hear a favourite argument for this challenge: ‘All creative non-profit initiatives have to make space for luxurious living arrangements and space for new initiatives is scarce’. Even though we agree that it’s important to keep the creative and nightlife scene alive with diverse venues, where we can gather and build a shared experience, at JACK we wonder if it’s not a bit too easy to all hide behind one argument. We think it’s up to us to think critically about our role and contribution. Who are we really catering, what are their needs and what is our added value to the scene?

Has our focus truly been on what our creative explorers are needing, and what have we allowed to grow out of proportions? Like ego’s of artists that act god-like, placing their needs and importance so far beyond what’s natural that I sincerely wonder if these people even realise that some of us here don’t even have a home to live in, let alone room service to order. How does a sense of rhythm make you a more valuable human being?

With out-of-control DJ fees, this delicious clubbing bubble we hold so dear in Amsterdam might just burst for all but the biggest DJs, events and promoters. Reasons that surfaced for the closing of clubs like Output in New York, Heart in Miami, Concrete in Paris, BAR in Rotterdam and Berlin’s Arena and Farbfernseher are surprisingly similar: rising rents and gentrification, competition with festivals, social factors like wellness trends and online dating… all directly linked to the difficulties in paying ever-higher DJ fees. And with all original initiatives out of the running we turn to face a nightlife that is oversaturated, monotonous, all about the money and not so much about the music. Losing exactly those aspects that were good about this expansion in the first place, like sharing our abundance across the many through offering plentiful opportunities for those mid-tier artists that ensure the diversity of music and experience.

Are you one of those artists? Our favourite dance lawyer Sander Petit wrote an article on how you can still pick the fruits of all your hard (producing) work after the festival season, by being aware of your rights:

“If you know what your rights are, then you can recognise your income streams. If you can recognise your income streams, you can consciously make agreements to protect and nurture them, often leading to more income”. That growing abundance can lead to more freedom, which in turn can create space for more creativity. That is the positive spiral you want to gently massage into your life, and with some humbleness we can all share that little bit more than enough, instead of sucking the scene dry with material desires the size of the Aerium.

It’s no wonder that fewer people are attracted to the fame and glory of those artists that allow their greed to compromise their integrity, drawing resources away from others while they already have more than enough.

Greed is an energy that can be sensed by others, and as such it engenders distrust and closes down opportunities that might otherwise have been fruitful.” - Richard Rudd

When melancholy hits me, I wonder… When did the music industry stop being about the music, and the party about the connection to your fellow raver, or the playfulness in the exploration of how we want to express ourselves?

Surely, those working in the music industry are wise to realise both its facets. But the balance between those facets is up to you.

“Pick the fruits of your hard work in the studio: get played, get paid” - Sander Petit

Upon the critique that Amsterdam’s creative scene has too little outlets Counselor Touria Meliani has made an intriguing and valid point… What the municipality of Amsterdam needs, according to Meliani, is a scene that takes responsibility for its own development. That means some critical thinking about what we really want for our nightlife culture, starting that conversation and communicating our basic needs.

“As counselor I can’t define the needs for Amsterdam’s nightlife, that’s up to you!”

- Touria Meliani

At JACK, this question also arose frequently the past year. What is the essence of what we want during the night? Where can we trigger the open minded creatures of the night to explore something new? And what are the basic needs that ensure a pleasant nightlife experience? Great questions -right? But truthfully we have failed to involve you in the conversation.

Where we started out believing that safety, a diverse programme and freedom of expression were at the top of the list for most clubbers, the reality seemed to differ. Location and accessibility seem to be a bigger thing than we expected, for example. Where we are perhaps used to bigger international cities (where travelling to an underground club or party could easily take an hour or more), and a sense of adventure was required to find the right location, we’ve noticed that searching for the entrance is a main point of annoyance in Amsterdam, especially if you’ve already travelled a whole of TWENTY minutes!

All in all, we hope to redeem ourselves. We are really curious to hear from you about this subject. What is it you are searching for during your exploration of the night? What kind of events would you like to see more of, and what must absolutely remain in/return to Amsterdam’s nightlife culture? Are you in for co-creation and what does that look like in this material reality?

But also, what makes a pleasant nightlife experience for you? Please share with us your perspective in the comments below, so we can take steps and work towards improving nightlife culture in Amsterdam for you. If you need some inspiration check out our poll on facebook.

If you, like many others out there, feel frustrated because Amsterdams creative open spaces are disappearing… Feel welcome to come and explore how we could collaborate to build the grounds of JACK’s laboratory into the modular venue of your artistic dreams!

With our newest initiative “Voluntary Friday” we hope to re-open the roads to the club scene for smaller creative promoters. Send us a message if you have that golden concept brewing!

And please help us out by sharing your opinion on this poll.

Sources of inspiration:







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