Friday, January 27, 2012

Hey, Gang! Let's Put On a Show!

It’s a disease.  Got to be.  You go to a club in Second Life.  You see how beautiful it is, you love the music, you have a great time.  You put a tip in the DJ’s tip jar, and one in the club’s donation jar, and when you do, you notice the floating text above them.  “Total contributed, $L2,596.”

"Wow," you say to yourself.  "This place is making a mint!"  And that’s it, you’re infected.  You’ve got Club Fever.  You want to have a fun place of your own, a place where all your friends will come and enjoy themselves.  “And,” you tell yourself, “I’ll get rich and party, all at the same time!”

There’s no doubt about it, Second Life clubs ARE fun.  And with a bit of luck (well, a truckload of luck), they can make money.  I just finished building a very nice ballroom-type club, and we had a terrific opening night, danced our feet off, and both the performer and the club made a nice evening’s profit.  Watch for “Ava’s Gardens” in Events and come check us out! (Shameless plug.)

A few quiet minutes before Opening Night

But before you start shopping for dance balls and tip jars, I want to inject you with a healthy dose of Reality.  The reality is, clubs are a heck of a lot of work, and the old adage about boats (“a hole in the water into which you throw money”) applies to them.

Like anything else in Second Life, building and running a club should only be done if it’s something you love doing.  Don’t go into it expecting to make a bundle of money, and be sure that you understand that the club’s not going to run itself*.  It’s going to take a lot of your time.  A lot.  Empty clubs don’t attract many customers.  Guess who’s going to be spending most of her time there?  Look in the mirror.  You will be managing groups, writing ads, interviewing DJs and performers, creating event listings.  Your friends are going to threaten to mute you if you send them one more spammy notice to “come on down!”

What makes a good club?  A lot of things go into it.  The build itself has to be not only attractive, but distinctive.  You want people to see things that they don’t see in a hundred other places in SL.  Having a theme will limit your choices in some ways, but it can also give you a framework to build on.  You might want a casual, sawdust-on-the-floor country and western place, or a swanky, glittery ballroom.  Or a biker bar, or a futuristic spaceport tourist trap, or a perpetual beach party, or a hall in a great castle…the only limits are your imagination and your budget.

You need places to sit and chat, as well as a dance floor.  You need a place for your DJ or performer(s).  You need dances.  Not just any old freebie dances – you need quality dances that make people look good.  You need enough variety that people can find a dance to match any music tempo or mood.  You need both couples and singles dances.  You will probably want to add other ways for your customers to have fun, too…maybe some gaming tables, or other games like Trivia, Truth or Dare, or a sploder ball.  You could have an area outside for strolling, or upstairs rooms for more privacy.  Some places combine a shopping area with a club.  Bogart’s was the first place like this I encountered…you had to pass by a lot of stores selling gowns, tuxes, shoes, and jewelry to get from the arrival point to the club proper.  It was a clever move…someone who felt underdressed could easily buy herself a stunning new outfit and be dancing in it a minute later.

You DON’T need a lot of poofers, rotating spotlights, or animated  neon dance floor textures (unless your theme demands them).  This sort of “bling for clubs” can really contribute to lag, and with a crowd of customers all dancing, you are going to want to do whatever you can to keep the lag down.

But even the best build won’t succeed unless it’s a fun place to go…and that means people.  The manager, hostesses, DJs and live performers, to start with.  A great DJ can practically guarantee a club’s success.  You need to find people who other people enjoy being around.  From this core, you build a group of regulars…people who come to your club often.  It’s very difficult at first – but if you get the mix right, it can take off and develop a life of its own in a sort of domino effect.  The very best entertainers already have their own “following.”  If you can get them to play at your place regularly, they’ll bring along a sort of “built in” audience.

What should you pay your performers?  Well, what can you afford?  Some live performers charge the venue a hefty fee for their appearance.  Others will work for tips only…and some of the latter are very talented (I’ll put in another Shameless Plug here for our Opening Night singer, Potlatch Foggarty.  He was amazing!)

It’s the DJ’s job to provide the music and keep the party atmosphere alive.  It’s the hostess’s job to greet people as they arrive, answer questions, solve problems, and remind people to tip the performer and the club if they’re having a good time.  It’s also her job to keep the peace and enforce the club’s policies (unless there is a separate security person to do this).  If you have a lot of staff (exotic dancers, for example), you may also need an on-duty manager.  It’s her job to see that people show up for their shifts and stick to the club’s policies, to hire and fire people, and to referee any employee disputes.

When should your club be “open”?  In one sense, all clubs in SL are open 24/7…but even though you can go there, most of the time the club will be empty.  They only have scheduled events at certain times.  The big name clubs really are open 24/7…they have several shifts of hosts and DJs to keep things going around the clock.  Weekends are when the most people find time for SL, so most clubs are more active on the weekends.  But you have to take your own schedule into account, too.  Timing is everything…you have to be open when most of your customers and potential customers are on line, and avoid being open during times when there are no customers to come visit.

Getting the word out about your new club can be very hard.  Of course, tell your friends…but you don’t want to push too hard, or you may lose your friends!  List your club in Second Life Events, when you have something actually going on.  Post about your club in the Second Life forums, too.  You can apply to be listed in the Destinations Guide, but Linden Lab decides that, and it can take a long time to happen, if it ever does.  You should take out a Classified ad, and be sure that your club’s parcel is set to “Show in Search”.  You’ll want to form a group for your club; the more people you can get to join it, the more you will be able to easily reach a “target audience”.  (Note:  uncheck the group ability “share group dividends and liabilities” for your rank and file members.  It’s not fair to ask them to share in the cost of your listing fees.)  Put your club in your Profile Picks, and encourage others to put it in theirs.

Most of all, visit some of the successful clubs in Second Life and take a close look at them.  What are they doing right?  Don’t be a copycat, but incorporate ideas that work into your own project.  And when the curtain goes up on opening night…break a leg!

*There's only one place I know that was an exception - the MoonGlow Ballroom.  This dance floor by the sea was completely unattended, and was open for years.  But it appears that even the long-running MoonGlow has succumbed to economic reality.  When I went there today, it was gone.


  1. Dear Lin: don't leave out: "make sure to appoint your partner(s) as Managers"!

    1. Why, that would be downright nefarious!

  2. Hi Lin, A very well written blog, if you don't mind, I would like to put a link in my next blog to this. Congratulations on your club and I will look forward to stopping by. Still Braveheart

    1. Hi Still! Thanks for reading, and yes of course you can link to here!

  3. MoonGlow Ballroom gone:(
    I'll never forget the 1st time i went there, on my 1st date with my soul mate, on the 19th of March of 2010.
    We choose (she did as i was a newbie by then, less then a month old) Franks's place, We arrived (full glowing on a ball dress that keeps making all go insane when i use it!)and at the door the Hostess asked for the invitation! As we didn't had none, she wanted us to pay L500!
    So we ended on MoonGlow Ballroom, using the search engine (it was the 2nd on the list being 1st Frank's) and We had a blast!
    We did celebrate out 1st aniversary there and almost all months we used to go, even if for a few minutes there.
    Last December we found that MoonGlow Ballroom was no more to be found and ended celebrating at the place that had refused Us the entrance, using the same dresses, and this time no invitation needed;)
    Still that 1st night at MoonGlow Ballroom will be always remenbered!