Party season is upon us. But in clubland, expect less bunting to be
draped over DJs' turntables than in recent years.
Although the rise in popularity of dance music over the past decade has
been a major phenomenon, New Year's Eve will be less of an event for
clubs than usual. The downturn - together with the events of 11
September - have forced the clubbing world's PROs into a more discreet
way of communicating to the media than in previous years.
Karen Young, clubs editor of Muzik magazine, explains a further reason
for the downbeat approach to clubbing PR: 'Most PR tends to happen
around Christmas or clubs' birthdays but they are more low-key this year
because they have had their fingers burned in the past two years. The
millennium was such a disaster.'
As a result, many clubs are planning the PR equivalent of a quiet night
in rather than organising the arena-style crowdfests of the past two
'It's partly because promoters have had enough and partly because there
is the feeling from punters that they don't want to travel out to
Docklands,' Young says.
The Ministry of Sound, one of the club world's leading brands, which
takes in a magazine, digital operations and a thriving CD retail
business spun-off from the south London venue, will be hoping Young is
wrong. Ministry is bucking the trend by holding an extravaganza at the
Millenium Dome in Greenwich on New Year's Eve.
In PR terms this adds mainstream appeal. 'Being in the Dome is a story
in itself,' says Claire Ashman, senior PRO at music specialist PR agency
Slice, which was appointed to work for Ministry a month ago. Ashman says
much of the Slice strategy is based on the personalities involved: 'We
will use the talent playing for stories. In PR terms, we're using Radio
1 DJ Dave Pearce for interviews and features'.
For Slice, dance magazines such as Mixmag and Muzik are the important
target, but for a wider reach the listings in Time Out, London regional
papers and weekday free tabloid Metro are equally key. 'Something like
Metro is the best kind of PR you can get because everyone reads it and
there are people who make up their minds during the week. It is basic,
fundamental PR - but it's important,' she says.
Slice recently lost a large part of its work with Cream, the
Liverpool-based club founded, like Ministry, in the early Nineties.
Cream, a 3,100-capacity venue that concentrates on Friday and Saturday
nights, brought its PR operation in-house because, it says, that plays
well for its main audience.
'It's a lot better when dealing with the local press. But any magazine,
from local papers to Mixmag, always prefers to speak to somebody
in-house; they are more comfortable with a voice working within the
company,' said PR head Gillian Nightingale.
Despite cultivating its regional image, Cream, like Ministry, has
expanded into branded CD retail as well as a festival, Creamfields,
established in the UK, extended to Argentina last month and planned for
Australia next March. But its regional location gives it a point of
difference over the capital's clubs, Nightingale says. It will have club
nights on Boxing Day and New Year's Eve 'for a more local, northern
market', she adds.
London-based Fabric shuns much proactive PR, and says it will not do TV.
So how does it differentiate itself in a crowded market? Press officer
Nick Doherty says: 'Our strategy is based entirely on avoiding the noise
created by the industry. You have two choices: try and shout above it or
whisper - in the hope that people are forced to listen more closely.
We've gone for the latter.'
What slim PR activity there is has to be carefully targeted, Doherty
adds. 'We have the same set of contacts that we deal with continually.
And we only try to reach people that know about electronic music and
DJing - we only do music-based press.'
Far from increasing activity in the run-up to Christmas and New Year's
Eve as one might expect, Fabric is cutting back. 'This year I've
circulated a line-up and that's the extent of it,' Doherty said.
Even if clubs do not appear to be showing much enthusiasm for New Year's
Eve, targeted PR for the festive season is far from dead. Edinburgh, for
example, is expecting 100,000 people to flock to the area round Princes
Street for an outdoor party on New Year's Eve.
Although there is no full-time PRO on the project, special projects
managerNorman Ireland co-ordinates a website carrying information and
competitions on a Hogmanay theme. He also liaises with partners such as
Royal Bank of Scotland, which in turn are encouraged to run staff and
customer promotions for the event. Throughout the year a programme of
releases goes to the travel trade and a 'friends' scheme, the First Foot
Club for corporate and individual membership, has been set up.
It has been a successful PR initiative: while it is true that Scotland
has a well-known reputation for celebrating Hogmanay, the festival
itself has only been going since 1993: 'The population of Edinburgh
trebles in the summer with the festivals. The question was how to get
people to a relatively cold, northern, European city in winter?'
Edinburgh appears to have managed it, and seems set to repeat the trick
this year - even though elsewhere in the nightlife sector a discreet
tone is being adopted and low key PR is attempting not to ruffle too