Dear Nightclub Owners…
The following are some very important tips from dancers if you want your club to succeed:
The more clubs I visit all over the country, the more Iâ€™m beginning to realize how the clubâ€™s owners and promoterâ€™s personalities show through in the ambiance of the clubs themselves. When a club promoter is unfriendly, stressed out, or uncaring, it reflects in the atmosphere of the club.
When the promoter is shaking hands, smiling, and greeting guests, it gives the clientele a warm feeling inside. Guests end up “wanting” to stay. They have a few more drinks, and will do everything they can to get their friends to come to this “friendly, easy-going, relaxing, and fun” place next time. To get guests talking positively about your club is 10 times as hard as them not saying anything (notice how I said “guests”, not dancers, people, or clients). Itâ€™s an uphill battle to get positive “word of mouth” to start happening. But get a single negative comment or rumor started, and itâ€™s over. Negative remarks about nightclubs spread like wildfire faster than you can imagine. The sad part is, people tend to believe negative comments 90% of the time more so than positive comments.
There are certain clubs in LA that I refuse to go back to because the owners are unfriendly, rude, uncaring, apathetic, appear completely stressed out, donâ€™t take the time to shake your hand, or even smile.
When youâ€™re promoting a club, treat your clients as if they were friends or guests in your home. Welcome them, love them – even if your clients are unfriendly back and complete jerks – itâ€™s OK. Remember, your clients have problems of their own, theyâ€™re at your club to relieve their tensions of the day. Remember where theyâ€™re coming from. You donâ€™t know the whole story – they donâ€™t know yours, but that shouldnâ€™t matter. Theyâ€™re patronizing your club, and thatâ€™s the only thing that matters. The one thing they will remember is how well they were treated by you and your staff. They will remember your warmth, and come back later with a better attitude over time. Give them time. The main thing is that they COME BACK. Thatâ€™s whatâ€™s important. Right?
If you promote a nightclub, believe it or not, its just like “performing on stage”. Even if you donâ€™t want to, SMILE damn it. Show your clients youâ€™re happy to see them, APPRECIATE their patronage, shake their hands, Nod your head in a “yes” fashion when talking to them, put your hand on their shoulder in a friendly brotherly way, LOVE your clientele, and for crying out loud, be SINCERE about it – remember, people can see right through you – especially dancers. Welcome them back, ask them to come back, make them feel at home. Your door man and ticket-giverâ€™s attitudes and smiles must shine like solid gold. They give the first and lasting impressions.
Provide Coffees, Lattes, Sparkling Water, Juices, Sports Drinks, Teas, and charge for water…
Salseros don’t often drink that much alcohol. We feel our “high” from the music, and doing all those fancy dips, tricks, and turns… we can’t AFFORD to screw up if we drink.
To make money, and keep your Salsa Club open, you have GOT to charge people a minimum for coming in, be very strict with your guest lists, and provide us with drinks we enjoy – don’t just limit us to alcohol. You will be surprised to see the number of serious athletes that frequent the Salsa dance floor. Marathon runners, gymnasts, stuntmen, martial artists, bodybuilders… all of them watch their health like a hawk. Drinking alcohol is not part of their makeup, but exercise is. Dancing to them is another form of exercise. If this is the case, provide them with the fluids they need such as Sports drinks, juices, and coffees.
Salseros can’t AFFORD to screw up or fall on the dance floor if they drink. To some dancers, Salsa/Mambo is not only a spiritual and physical renewal, but it’s also an art form, and to others, a form of exercise or contact sport. Whatever the case, they may not want to mix health, art, sports, or exercise with alcohol, but when that’s all there is available, no wonder they don’t buy anything but water at the bar.
There have been countless times when I show up at a club a little tired from the day, and need an extra “caffeine” kick to start off the night. About 50% of the time, the bar doesn’t serve coffee. Once I dished out $3 for a coffee, very willingly because it tasted great, got me going, and with a $2 bottle of water, quenched my thirst! Plus, I was able to stay awake for the long drive back to my house!
Many of us are “athletes” out on the Salsa dance floor, and nutritional and stimulating caffeinated drinks are what we’d prefer if we don’t drink alcohol, so provide it for us!
Provide Proper Lighting
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT invest your money on colored, flashy, stroby, spinning lights!!! There is nothing worse than a club with strobe lights (ugh!) or flashing colored lights moving all over the place. When you’re at a club where there is less than one white light on, the walls are dark, and the only lights that are on are colored, moving around, and strobes, you cannot see your partner’s hands! I cannot tell you how important this is.
I used to frequent a club that used to flash strobes, have black-painted walls, and colored flashy lights all over the place. I saw three women fall there. Two of them got hurt and could no longer dance that evening. You are asking for lawsuits if you don’t turn some white lights on! Besides, Salsa is a beautiful, erotic, fun, PARTNER dance, where you must be able to see your partner and their hands.
Non-Salseros or people new to Salsa love to watch the dancers. You won’t attract these folks if they can’t see anything. Salsa was meant to be seen!!!
Some excellent club lighting examples are:
The Mayan, Los Angeles, CA – Well they took [most of] my advice, ran with it, and have a worldwide clientele to DIE FOR.
Provide Adequate Ventilation
It will not “boost liquor sales” if you turn the fans and air off. It will just “boost liquor sales” at another club where people can breathe. You’ve GOT to let free-flowing, outside air into the place. If you can’t have doors open, then place ventilated air conditioners and/or fans in every corner of the room. Dancers will leave if it gets too hot and sticky. When dancers get wet, they usually grab the napkins on the tables. It’s hell when bits and pieces of their napkins stick to their faces when they’re trying to wipe off the sweat.
You know it’s too hot inside when you see men’s shirts soaked to the skin with sweat. Some of them look like they just got out of a swimming pool. What’s worse, is when you don’t allow them to leave to change into another shirt (50% of the guys bring spare shirts specifically for this reason, believe it or not…). Your club feels like a prison with no relief after a while.
No woman wants to dance with a man that’s completely sopping wet!!! And the same goes for a man! If a woman is all wet from dancing so much and there’s no relief for air anyplace, they will leave. They will more than likely not come back. The only reason why a club will last is if it is the only one within a 20 mile radius, and there’s no other place to go. It was sad to see these people go through that because they didn’t want to have to drive downtown…
Good MUSIC – THE ESSENCE… will keep your clientele coming back for MORE!!!
Play Good, Old, and Slamming 70’s Hard – Core Salsa Music
There is NOTHING WORSE and more FRUSTRATING than asking your favorite partner to dance the next song, and you get out there ready to tear it up, and IT’S A SLOW, SALSA ROMANTICA SONG. And it shouldn’t be too fast either! There’s nothing worse than fast song, after fast song, after fast song!!! Give your clientele a rest with a medium or slower, more romantic song for crying out loud!
Hard Core Salseros especially like the music where the the flute and gÃ¼iro are used a lot…. where you can REALLY FEEL the clave, congas, cow bell, and timbales boil in your veins… THAT’S the type of Salsa we love to JAM to. Steve Shaw of www.salsanewyork.com puts it beautifully with the following statement, “Edie, here [in New York], when they put on “Lady” by Orquesta Palabra, “Otra Oportunidad” by Jimmy Bosch, “La Soledad” by Ismael Rivera, “Apiadate De Mi” by Victor Manuel, and similar others, the dancers love them. I think the real issue is that strong dancers’ rhythm and groove, not the speed. And it can be romantic too, as long as the strong rhythm is there.”
Steve Shaw of New York has created a list of more than 150 songs with that “classic sound” . Higher up on that page is the Guidelines of DJ’s. The info on their site is definitely World Class!
THIS is what serious Salseros LOVE, and EAT UP while they TEAR IT UP on the dance floor. Old School Salsa gives Salseros their FIX, puts them in that hypnotic, drug-like, addicting state that can at times, be better than sex… and will keep them COMING BACK FOR MORE…
Again, there is NOTHING more important for a club’s success than awesome Salsa music. Fast, (NOT modern slow and romantic) old, Rumbero, 70’s Salsa is the best. I’m compiling a list of great DJ’s that play phenomenal hard-to-come-by music so you can get their opinions and samples of the type of Salsa music they play.
A good Salsa Club mix is one or two Bachatas for every 7 or 10 Salsas. In other words, one Bachata during every set of a band’s Salsa. Ask any true Salsero, and they’ll tell you there’s no real reason for Bachatas other than to rest between Salsas. Maybe to practice your Salsa moves, that’s just about it. Oh, and to make you appreciate just how much you really love Salsa…
Seriously, a good DJ mix is really only one or two Bachatas for every 7 or 10 Salsa songs.
No Techno, House, Rap, or Rock Music, please.
None. If you advertise “Salsa Club”, then why play Techno? If you advertise a “Salsa Night” then why would you spend half the night playing Bachata? Create a Bachata night! Do you play half Salsa on your Bachata nights? I would not go to a Techno or Bachata club to listen to 45 minutes of Salsa, would you? You scare off all the great Salseros that way. Believe me, they start looking for other, even smaller clubs the minute your Techno or Bachata starts playing. Sad, but true.
When they leave, I usually end up leaving because I look around and realize there are no more good dancers left to dance with!
If you feel you need a variety of music during the evening, try playing a few Cha Cha’s and Rumbas. I can GUARANTEE you’ll get repeat customers – higher income, less messy, classier, drink more liquor types – it’s true. You will. Plus, you’ll get the added benefit of actually educating these teeny boppers on what a classy place truly is. Those places are few and far between, and when they do come around, they stay forever.
If you feel you get more liquor-paying folks if you play Techno, consider the “type” of people you are attracting to your club. These types usually require additional expense to the club for…
- more Security Guards (drunks fighting)
- more Janitorial / Cleaning crew (drunks barfing)
- additional DJs to accommodate the Techno crowd
You can also make more profits by charging everyone that comes in – don’t do a “Ladies in free before 10:00pm”. Forget about that. This day and age, there’s a great deal of women who wouldn’t mind paying a little extra to get into a classier place that doesn’t play Techno, House, Rap, or Rock music, nor have to deal with all the undesirables that come with it.
Side Note: Someone was telling me today that Salsa attracts a lot of compulsive/obsessive-type people. The go-getters in life. The type “A” personalities. I’m not surprised, as it is such a challenge to dance. I’ve met more Doctors, engineers, lawyers, physicians, CPAs and College Professors on the Salsa dance floor than I have any other type of nightclub. What does that tell you about the caliber of people who love Salsa?
To Have a Band or Not Have a Band?
Bands are important – but if you’re a relatively small club, and especially one that’s starting out, if the band isn’t great, you’re going to lose your shirt. People won’t come back. If the band IS great, you’re going to have to pay a lot, unless you work out some kind of package deal with them. Your safest bet is to just have a great DJ. I would say that 50% of the time, people get disappointed when the band comes on (I’m not kidding) because the DJ was playing such great stuff! Unless the band is just incredible, stick to the DJ.
Many, many people have often wondered why clubs just don’t try and play good ‘ole DJ music. Sometimes it’s just so much better. You don’t HAVE TO HAVE a band every Salsa night. It’s not necessary. Many people go for the bands, but more go for the dancing and social atmosphere. If the band is just too expensive, you can have one every other weekend. Please do not buy into the idea that “Oh, the Band is Everything”… It’s important – but not as important as you may think. What’s most important is the music, the floor, and the people.
Offer Valet Parking
You would not believe how much people will use a Valet when they can. It makes us feel classy, and is not that expensive. When you go to clubs alone, the last thing you want to do is get mugged in the alley on the way to the club and not get to dance that evening! Besides, before a person gets to the club, they usually have their pockets full of cash. Collect before they go inside. This brings a little more income to the club, and gives it a classier ambiance. When a guy is with his date, it’s one of the first opportunities to show his date he’s got style. A Salsa club starts at the door. Provide that little treat for your clientele.
Stick to One Solid Night per Week
One reason for the long-lasting success of “Mondays at Rudolpho’s is that they’ve always just stuck to that night, through thick and thin, good times and bad times. (they also don’t play techno, and follow all the rules mentioned above…). Wednesdays at the Quiet Cannon is another good example of literally “years” of sticking to just one night. Stick to one night, and one location. Don’t open up a club, then a few weeks later, shut it down. Salseros get tired of chasing you all over the place. They’d rather go to a “familiar” place, where they KNOW their friends will be, and where people know their names as they walk through that door.
Provide a large, Non-Slippery Dance Floor
There is nothing worse than dancing on a floor that’s too small or too slippery. When you see people starting to dance in the halls and around tables, you know you have a problem. You’ll need to expand the floor! Also, try and get a wood floor, as many dancers purchase very expensive dance shoes that easily get ruined on a cement or tiled floor. Believe it or not, I’ve heard my fair share of complaints about floors at certain clubs. Either “it’s too small”, or it’s “not wood”. I know, I know, dancers are real picky. But they talk about clubs a lot, and will spend quite a bit of money there if the place is done right. Also, when you wax the floor, it doesn’t need to be waxed to the point of absolute BRILLIANT SHINE. Dancers don’t like to slip. Dancers don’t like to fall. NOBODY LIKES FALLING for that matter. And PLEASE, don’t try to do competitors a favor prior to a Salsa contest, and WAX THE FLOOR the night before. I’ve got on video tape some pretty nasty falls at competitions – because the floor was WAY TOO SLIPPERY!! It’s better for it to be relatively rough – NOT STICKY – just so your suede leather shoe sole can grip and spin on it.
We Don’t Need Smoke Machines
Don’t invest your money in a smoke machine. We don’t like them. We don’t need smoke to fill the air, and eventually residue to stick on the dance floor. Number one, you can barely see your partner – AGAIN. It’s almost as bad as too many strobe and color flashy lights. Number two, it does “weird” things to the dance floor – stickies it up. Dancers do not like the residue on the floor from those damn smoke machines, so don’t bother investing your money on one.
I’m going to throw this one out to our readers as well. I’ll start with a few Emails I’ve kept over the last few months. Please post your Comments below…
– Edie, The Salsa FREAK!!