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The Money Programme Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 08:09 GMT
More club

CLUBBING in Britain is very big business indeed but for the elite - the so-called "Superclubs" - filling the dancefloor has become far less important than developing an international brand. Indeed only a tiny percentage of a Superclub's turnover actually comes from punters going into clubs. The industry as a whole is worth an estimated 2 billion pounds and rising to the UK economy. In fact UK Clubland PLC has become a major exporter. All around the world and in particular in the United States and the Far East, the British clubbing scene is seen as the next big thing - with a far greater impact than any hype surrounding Cool Britannia a few years ago.

Superstar DJs -who now appear in lists for the biggest earners and most influential people in Britain - are becoming global celebrities. Pete Tong's "Essential Mix" ( made for Radio One) is America's most listened to dance radio show for instance and many British DJs are in huge demand from Australia to Moscow. Meanwhile Superclubs like Ministry, Cream and Renaissance are now not only established players in the record business and media in the UK but are also setting up empires (with overseas record labels and satellite clubs) around the world. It's a long way from ravers in muddy fields and illegal warehouse parties just fifteen short years ago.

A revealing new BBC Documentary from the Business Programmes Unit - reported by Rajan Datar - examines how far down the road towards commercialisation and globalisation the UK's clubbing industry has gone. Superclubs are agreeing lucrative sponsorship with drinks and cigarette companies, selling their own package holidays to Ibiza and designing clothes. Multi-national companies like Eriksson and Unilever are also tapping the massive captive 18-30 audience - a highly desirable market with above average disposable income to burn. 43% of 18-24 year olds will go clubbing this month. With exclusive access to Superclubs like Renaissance from Nottingham the programme asks how far can promoters go without losing credibility with their crucial core audience ?

The d ocumentary looks at the rise and rise of the Superstar DJ. Turntable heroes like Pete Tong and Dave Seaman are the new rockstars and significantly more turntables are being sold than guitars on the high street. But DJs are charging higher and higher prices (tens of thousands of pounds for three hour sets in some cases) and threatening to outprice the clubbing establishment. It also looks at further threats to the superclubs from the booming underground club movement ( who believe the big boys have sold out) and from the mass market nightclub conglomerates like the First Leisure who are trying to shake off their naff "Roxy" image.

We go to New York and witness how huge the British clubbing scene is amongst America's suburban youth where all the talk is about the "New British Invasion". We go to the city's famous Twilo club where British DJ's are regarded as gods and pack out the venue. And follow Geoff Oakes of Renaissance around New York as he sets up record and touring deals with American companies.

But ultimately, the programme asks, how long will this phenomenon last ? Can club culture avoid the fate of every other youth movement and manage to remain prominent in the lifestyles of young people ? Is the drive toward business expansion at the cost of credibility and will this lead to its eventual downfall ?


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