Dance Floor Turnover: The Nightlife Industry’s Money Maker

dance floor turnover

Let’s turn the dance floor over. A crucial idea to the nightlife scene. What exactly does this mean? In the restaurant industry they have a similar term, table turnover. If there is a patron sitting at a table long after they’ve paid and are done eating, they are now taking up space and not allowing other potential patrons to take their place. They’re not allowing another party to sit down, order, and eventually pay – the more turn over, the higher revenue, theoretically.

In the nightlife and bar industry, dance floor turnover has a very similar effect. If people are on the dance floor dancing all night they are not at the bar spending their money. Sometimes this makes no difference. Perhaps the venue has a cover charge in which they make up for the people who are not buying as much at the bar. Other times, having people buy drinks is very important to the venue. This could be because they are in a city where the venues don’t necessarily charge a cover, Fort Collins, Austin, I’m looking at you!

Sometimes, the venue can be packed and host the best music in the city, but can still fall short on crushing bar sales. The reason? There is no dance floor turnover. But wait, as DJs, don’t we want the dance floor packed? Of course we do, but as business men and women, DJs want to make sure that bar sales are being made, that secures the longevity of the venue, and in turn secures the longevity of you working with said venue. Other times, the DJ gets a cut of the bar sales, so it’s in the DJ’s best interest to push bar sales as much as possible.

In some instances, the dance floor will turn over naturally throughout the night. This could be because patrons decide to go to another bar (as people tend to bar-hop) allowing others to come in, or something pulls them away from the dance floor, like the arrival of friends or the need to use the restroom. This is more on an individual basis though.

As a DJ, you really have to be observant when it comes to your venue. Key word, YOUR venue – meaning your residency, the place you play at on a weekly basis. This may not apply to one-off gigs or guest spots in another city, but be sure that managers and owners are paying attention to the numbers on each night. If you’re business centered, or somewhat care about the long-term aspect of the venue you’re at, you’ll pay attention to the bar. Are there people at the bar? Are they buying drinks? Are they just standing there? Do the bartenders look bored? Etc.

As above mentioned, sometimes the dance floor will turn over naturally. Other times, it needs a little help, that’s where the DJ’s creativity comes into play. Turning over the dance floor doesn’t necessarily mean bring it to a complete standstill or clear it 100%. It mainly suggests that you entice people to take a little break and go get a drink. There are many ways to do this, let’s break down a couple below.

Using music to turnover a dance floor may be one of the easiest by utilizing genre, style, energy, and tempo. Furthermore, this concept may be the easiest to apply for open format DJs. Open format DJs play a huge spectrum of genres throughout the night, which can range from hip hop, to dance, to EDM, and old school throwbacks. It’s obvious that you will not be able to please EVERYONE with your mix of music. If you think you will, you’re going to burn yourself out and be very disappointed with life. Instead, use that to your advantage and use that to help turn the dance floor over. If you’re playing some dance music, use a transition to come down to some hip hop. The people that aren’t fans of hip hop will use that time to go get a drink. Then after a few songs, bring back the dance music, or go into some old school.

Another way to use music is to play tracks that suggest drinking – I’m sure a track just popped into your head while reading that (Shots, shots, shots, shots, shot, shots, everybody!!). There’s a plethora of tracks you can choose from that inspire people to put their drinks up and say “bottoms up!”

This one is tricky. Some DJs have a good mic presence, others not so much. But it’s OK, for this segment we’re just saying a few words. Some words of choice, “if you don’t have a drink in your hand, get to the bar and get one!” Or just announcing the drink specials will suffice. This helps if you have a specific time for drink specials, like “$2 shots till 10pm” – just remind the crowd that they have about 30 minutes before the drink special ends.

Reading a Serato forum, some have it down to a science. They’ll create a dance floor turnover, watch them get a drink, then play something to get them back on the dance floor immediately so that their drink gets watered down as they’re dancing, forcing them to get a fresh drink. You can’t make this stuff up! When I was first starting out as a DJ, I once had a promoter tell me, “I like what you did just now, people took a break from dancing to get a drink, good job.” I looked back with confidence and said, “of course!” In actuality, I had just played a track that cleared the dance floor. A track that I thought was awesome, and the crowd obviously didn’t agree. Since then, I’ve had that interaction in the back of my mind, and think of how important it is to everyone in the venue that bar sales are being made and exceeded.

Dance Floor Turnover

There’s a symbiotic relationship at work in the nightlife industry. A trifecta if you will. This trifecta includes the venue (management, bar staff, promoter, etc.), the crowd, and the entertainment (the DJ). They all have to work together to make something great, and to make that something great work efficiently to its full potential. If one is slacking, the others suffer. As DJs, we have a job, play music and entertain a crowd. Simple right? Well, not really. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes of what it means to be a DJ, like knowing when to turn the dance floor over. Sure, there are venues that don’t need help pushing bar sales (Vegas, I’m looking at you), but others do. Having this knowledge, and actually caring about the establishment that you’re playing at will inevitably show through, and can possibly lead you to landing more gigs and a reputation of doing exceptional work! It will certainly keep your employer happy, and will only benefit you in the end by making you more observant, more creative with your mix, and overall wiser and more knowledgeable when it comes to your industry.