The future of clubbing in the UK

Last summer Newsbeat revealed that half of UK nightclubs have closed down in just 10 years

A decade ago there were 3,144 nightclubs around the UK. A year ago Radio 1 Newsbeat revealed this figure had plummeted to 1,733. 

The numbers came from the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) who told us that in some towns clubs "are gone for good and we're never going to get them back".

And it warned that further closures would leave the UK worse off "culturally, socially and economically".

The ALMR's Kate Nicholls said that difficult planning and licensing rules were to blame for some of the venues shutting their doors. 

So 12 months on, has anything changed?

With a new government brought in to carry out "Brexit" (Britain's departure from the European Union following the Leave vote on 23 June) you'd think that's unlikely.

But things are happening to protect the future of clubbing and dance music.

Supporting Britain's clubs and bars is now a 'priority' for the new government

UK Music tells Newsbeat that better regulation of clubs and bars is a "priority" for politicians, to make it easier for them to survive and grow again on our high streets. 

Director of government and public affairs at the industry body, Tom Kiehl, says British venues have a "bright future"

"The night time economy is something the [Theresa May] government will be considering very closely going forward. 

His comments follow calls for the industry to be viewed in a more positive economic light. 

Doing that is "very much on ministers' plates," he tells us.

The UK's night-time economy is worth £66bn and employs around 1.3m people

"There's been an impulse just to regulate clubs or close them down," says Alan Miller, speaking to Newsbeat at the Brighton Music Conference

He chairs the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) which has developed a nationwide scheme called Nightlife Matters.

The aim is to shift the way clubs, bars and restaurants are viewed by government.   

"When issues come up they say 'look crime's up, let's reduce it'.

"The first impulse is to regulate and clamp down - that's a problem." 

Sometimes people hold onto an old script that says nothing good happens in the night time

Alan MillerChairman, Night Time Industries Association

A recent NTIA study found the UK's night-time economy, which also includes restaurants and pubs, is worth £66bn and employs around 1.3m people. 

"In every respect the benefits vastly [of nightlife] outweigh the costs," said Alan. "But sometimes people hold onto an old script [that says] nothing good happens in the night time..."

Three clubbers smiling

The UK has recently seen changes in the law which aim to protect nightlife - and is getting closer to introducing the "agent of change" principle. 

This means that if a venue is in place before a new residential building, the new development - as the "agent of change" - is responsible for dealing with noise impact on residents rather than the club - for example by paying for soundproofing.

New 'night czars' are being introduced in the UK - an idea which began in Holland
Mirik Milan
This Dutch "rebel in a suit" could inspire UK clubs

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tells Newsbeat that building the city's nightlife culture is a "core priority" for him.

In response to claims regulation of UK clubs is a problem, he said: "Too often, these venues find themselves under threat from new development and red tape." 

So where could the UK look to help cut that "red tape"? 

The answer may lie in a Dutch man who calls himself a "rebel in suit".

Amsterdam is home to a night mayor, a role was which launched in 2014 following development of the city's nightlife for well over a decade. 

"It was introduced because people in city hall acknowledged the fact that they need someone to inform them what's going on in nightlife," explained Amsterdam's current night mayor Mirik Milan. 

Amsterdam's "square hosts" - facts

Sadiq Khan says plans to introduce a similar role in London, with other cities like Paris and Zurich doing similar. Mirik tells Radio 1 Newsbeat: "It's really difficult to maintain a culture if you have no clue what's going on and the night mayor is the liaison between these sides. 

"We brought all the venues, festivals and nightclubs together so we can speak as one voice towards city hall."

Amsterdam host

One of the key elements of Amsterdam's nightlife is making use of 24-hour licenses in 10 venues in the city. 

That doesn't mean they have to stay open all day, it just means they can open when they want. 

Many say it's something the UK is missing out on because the legislation is in place for licenses to be used but they're not used.

Staas Lucassen

One of the clubs operating under one in Amsterdam is Radion on the outskirts of the city. 

Co-founder Staas Lucassen explained how the club's 24-hour license is "one of the keys for success". "We have events that take 30, 40 or 50 hours but you don't have to push everybody out onto the street at the same time. 

"You don't have noise on the streets and you don't have police coming by and stuff like this."

Over the last decade three letters have dominated mainstream dance music: EDM
Avicii plays a festival in Hungary
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The debate rages over EDM - has it opened doors or slammed them shut in dance music?

Despite the term dating back to the 1980s, it's been adopted by the US to describe a "mainroom" electro-house hybrid. 

The movement's seen DJs like Calvin Harris, Skrillex and Avicii become some of the highest paid musicians on the planet. 

So what's the impact of EDM on the rest of dance music? 

Despite reports that the movement is fading out, in 2015 EDM was worth around £5.5bn in the US alone, 60% more than it was in 2012. 


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"For me any explosion of music is a good thing it means people are enjoying."

"It's had a similar explosion to house music in the UK," says Howard Lawrence, one half of the sibling duo. 

"It doesn't mean we want to make that kind of music at all, but I don't mind it existing. "I think there's too much hate going on, everyone needs to just let it be, man. 

His brother, Guy, adds: "As much as you can musically slate it for being formulaic or basic it brings joy to thousands of people. "Life is short so why wouldn't you celebrate that?"

Alison Wonderland

Alison Wonderland
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"There are so many different types of genres within electronic music."

"People compress electronic into these three letters - EDM - which I don't like because there are so many different types of genres within electronic music. 

"It's kind of cool to not only play electronic festivals but also Coachella, Lollapolooza... stuff like that."

"It didn't happen overnight. This is years and years of hard work for me."

Alison WonderlandMusician

"I've been producing for almost 10 years now in my bedroom and people started to vibe with it - and it took me around the world and I'm super stoked.

"It didn't happen overnight. This is years and years of hard work for me."  


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"It's had its peaks and its downs but it's a massive genre and a massive thing."

"Just because it doesn't get played on the radio as much as it used to, it still here. It's great to be a part of that and be part of the whole boom. 

"Back in the day we couldn't get a show anywhere, we had to hustle into clubs to pay to play for 300 people. 

"Since then it's been a massive, amazing journey and now it's just a big part of our life.

"Maybe 30 years from now we will be able to reflect on how much fun this whole journey was and how big it became and what we did together with all the fans."

Oliver Heldens

Oliver Heldens
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"It's time for all the different waves which are coming up."

"'The EDM bubble has burst, they say. 

"The right translation for that is that this one big wave with more progressive electro big-room kind of style has reached its peak, but now it's time for all the different waves which are coming up. 

"Right now it's such an exciting time. [There are] all these new talents who can play all these festivals now... because there's so much room for new music."

Electric Daisy Carnival
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And there's a new fight against pirate sites which eat into the dance music industry
Pirate Download Stores
Pirate Download Stores will look familiar to anyone who has used any major dance music download site

A network of illegal music download sites are "affecting dance music in a really bad way". 

Websites known as pirate download stores imitate legal download and streaming sites and fool people into thinking subscription fees are paid back into the industry. They're not. 

Ben Rush, who runs anti-piracy site AudioLock, tells Radio 1 Newsbeat: "We're seeing lots of these sites, they seem to be getting away with it."

He told Radio 1 Newsbeat the network of around 50 sites they are currently aware of is "probably the tip of the iceberg". 

Pirate Download Sites graphic

One of the main concerns with pirate download stores is how authentic they look and feel. 

"The experience is a very legitimate one... there's nothing saying 'hello I'm a pirate site'," explained Ben. 

"They have everything; privacy policy, terms and conditions, credit card logos and security certificates."

What can be done about them? 

 If the sites are based in the UK then police can shut them down, but often they're not. 

 Pirate download sites can also get closed if their payment systems are picked up by the likes of PayPal - but again that doesn't happen very often because they tend to be based on the so-called dark web.

Pirate sites
Features like "staff picks" makes the sites seem more legitimate
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