Clubbing goes online as virus shuts nightspots

Published April 3, 2020
SINGAPORE:  A Nightclub DJ performs in front of a video camera during a “cloud-clubbing” party.—AFP
SINGAPORE: A Nightclub DJ performs in front of a video camera during a “cloud-clubbing” party.—AFP

STROBE lights flash across a near-empty dance floor, as a DJ live-streams thumping electronic music from a Singapore nightclub to revellers confined to their homes due to the pandemic. The outbreak sweeping the globe has shuttered once lively nightspots from London to New York, but innovative DJs have started putting their performances online so clubbers don’t miss out.

After Singapore ordered the closure of many entertainment venues last week following a steady rise in infections, popular nightclub “Zouk” threw a “cloud-clubbing” party, streaming live performances by six DJs via an app.

It took place on a Friday night when the club is often packed with hundreds of partygoers — but only a handful of people were allowed to attend, most of them staff members.

As well as the comments which came in via live-streaming app Bigo Live, clubbers sent virtual gifts to the DJs such as bells and snowflakes that can later be exchanged for cash. The nightclub partnered with gaming equipment company Razer and the live-streaming app, attracting 200,000 total views for the three-hour event. At its peak, 5,600 people were watching via the app.

In China, where the virus first emerged last year, DJs and nightspots started live-streaming performances at the beginning of February when the country’s outbreak was at its pinnacle. Shanghai and Beijing venues pioneered live-streamed clubbing on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, which also allows fans to buy gifts which can be swapped for cash. Closed nightclubs and DJs stuck at home are also hosting virtual dance parties in New York, the epicentre of America’s worsening outbreak. Participants dance with one another over the Zoom video chat app, with some donning costumes and others setting up colourful disco lights. The parties are free but people are encouraged to make donations to the DJs and hosts.

Despite the challenges, some performers are slowly warming to the idea of online clubbing. “Online, I feel that everybody is more in their natural state,” said Singapore DJ LeNERD, real name Patrick Lewis, who played at Friday’s event. “They are more themselves and they are more honest.”

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2020

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