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It's 2017 but your favourite clubs are still way too overcrowded

Overcrowding in clubs is annoying and dangerous. So why does it happen so often?

  • Words: Sirin Kale | Image: Lawrence Abbott
  • 11 September 2017
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But what’s making dancefloors feel so uncomfortably busy? While it’s easy to paint the finger at promoters for overselling tickets, that’s not the whole picture.

“With the closure of so many of the larger clubs in London, it places enormous pressure on the venues that are remaining,” explains Alan Miller of the NTIA. “This means that many events can be sold-out in advance at capacity, and pressures can occur at the door.”

Overcrowding is also due to the changing nature of the way we club now.

“I used to think there was a problem with young people not going out any more,” says Bloc festival founder and club owner George Hull, “but I’ve changed my position on that. They just do it differently.”

Time was, you’d go clubbing to a venue you like: Mancuso’s Loft, or Manchester’s Hacienda. But now we go clubbing, for the most part, to see DJs we like. Destination clubs are rare and, as a result, the industry has swung wildly in favour of talent. DJs command enormous fees, because they’re the main draw. Without the right name on the line-up, promoters will struggle to get people through the door.

“It’s virtually impossible to make money from clubbing nowadays, unless you’re a world famous DJ or one of their agents, in which case you’ll make a fortune,” Hull goes on. “This is because there’s a small pool of bankable talent who can reliably sell tickets.”

Because the margins involved are so tight, promoters are faced with the unenviable task of trying to sell enough tickets to make their event profitable — or to even cover costs — without over-selling the event and so, alienating their fans. Sometimes, even experienced promoters get it wrong.

“We’re in a highly leveraged industry,” Hull explains, “and promoters find it very difficult to keep their heads above water. When they strike it lucky with a line-up that does the business, they want to make hay while the sun shines and sell as many tickets as is reasonably possible. It’s usually to make up for past losses.”

“People think you’re just rinsing them for cash,” says Simon Denby of house and techno promoters Percolate, “but promotion really isn’t a money-making game for the vast majority of club nights that are properly in the underground.” When the ability to make a profit can turn on a dime, difficult financial decisions sometimes need to be made. “I understand why people get upset about overcrowding, but often it’s a very difficult balance. Do you want to pay an extra five pounds on the ticket price, or do you want to have more people around?”

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