Events and nightlife in the scenario of social distancing: restart by listening

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The world of events, and in particular that of clubbing, is among the sectors most affected and potentially more distant from a short-term recovery, as well as from the possibility of seeing its past reaffirmed. What will happen, in a future of social distancing which discourages any activity perceived as ‘unnecessary’, to a business that thrives on crowds, human contact and entertainment?

Why do we talk about nightlife: numbers and considerations in support of the dignity of a market

At this moment, the discussion around nightlife settles in a niche far from being considered urgency. It gets no mention at the large tables where the recovery is being structured, its operators know nothing about what will await them and, above all, it seems that nobody is worrying about it.

Yet, we are talking about a business with considerable numbers: the latest data exposed by Il Sole 24 ore outline a market that in Italy is worth around 71 billion euros, with 1.4 million employees. 19 million Italians attend every year the country’s nightlife, generating a considerable chain of income also for complementary sectors, such as tourist accommodation (think of the famous summer nightlife destinations), transport (taxi and car sharing) or restaurants. The experience that English speakers refer to as “night out” is, in fact, a package guided by night clubs that consumers complete by relying on various other services.


The tendency to relegate night entertainment to second class business, in the principle of a certain skepticism and widespread reticence to treat the sector with the same seriousness that is dedicated to other markets, is unfortunately not the result of the Covid-19 emergency and 2020.

It originates in a decennial culture where work and fun move on parallel tracks that are impossible to cross: having fun is an accessory activity, at times reprehensible, and those who make of fun their work seem forced to accept to offer people a service they don’t really need.

If entertainment becomes decent, it does so only during the day, only as an exception and only if associated with more socially acceptable ways of spending your own money and time.

If we dwell upon these numbers and these reflections, it is natural to see how the scenario for these operators is now more complex than ever. How could a market that has been living in the shadows for 40 years see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel?

The recovery is also an afterthought: reconnection and listening as a method

If the effort is to treat the nightlife sector like any other business, it emerges the urgent need to rethink the traditional canons of the market, to make it survive in a condition of modified reality.

As for tourism, fashion, retail, even here there are no ready solutions, but still there are opportunities. In these days I am dealing with managers and professionals in various fields, who are facing with strong determination the challenges that Covid has launched for companies. An entrepreneur told me that, in approaching new critical issues, a new opportunity emerges: eradicating dynamics and habits that have dragged the markets over the years, resting on balances that indeed favored the maintenance of a comfortable status quo, but that moved away day after day, year after year, any possibility of growth in terms of value generated.

If something good exists in the particular condition we are experiencing, it is certainly contained in the word ‘restart’: it is an obligatory moment in which the main actors of a sector are called to return to point 0, the one in which people have needs to be met, a given spending power and contingent limitations, and companies must offer experiences capable of generating value in a sustainable way.

Precisely for this reason, I believe that in order to restart it is necessary to reconnect. Reconnecting demand and supply, reconnecting supply and market, reconnecting supply and supply: consumers have changed needs, the market has different conditions, substitute or complementary offers can and must come out of the logic of competition to compete together to rethink valuable experiences.

Listening and confrontation, these are the opportunity to restart the night entertainment business. Let’s pause projections and trends dragged by the old systems and bring together at the same table all the actors involved in the value chain of a given market: people. People who buy, people who sell, people who live experiences, before as now.

A first, strong sign of reconnection: live meetings by Uniti per la musica

Someone in the nightlife sector has already shown that they feel the need for a paradigm shift.

In mid-April the Facebook page “Uniti per la musica” was born. Created by Leonardo Gonnelli, DJ and producer, this page is an open place to gather all the people who have an interest in rethinking the market: club owners, DJs, booking agencies, promoters and, above all, customers.

Each week, the page promotes live events in which important voices of the Italian nightlife discuss together on the possible scenarios, with a critical spirit towards the past and mutual listening to draw the future.

The participation of what Jovanotti, many years ago, called “people of the night”, is fundamental: the audience that participates in the live broadcasts from all over Italy has the opportunity not only to attend the discussion, but also to interact through the comments, providing their own suggestions and ideas, which the participants in the discussion table regularly take up and face together.

Max Di Blas, DJ, promoter and owner of the AltaVoz brand, signature of a festival that brings together the most famous names in the international electronic scene, told me: “The goal we have set ourselves with the Uniti per la musica project is transforming the issues of the lockdown into an opportunity: in a sector in which we live by chasing performance, often to the detriment of others and the consumer himself, we have finally found ourselves collaborating and engaging in an effort of reflection and important self-criticism. Our business, which had already experienced moments of stop and contraction in recent years, now has the opportunity to rethink itself and try to generate a new product, which is truly cultural and valuable for people”.

Beyond the results and the possibility of seeing feasible solutions emerge, the point of attention is another: ruthless competition, sinking logics and wars of booking and prices have given way to to the consumer and to the productive discussion. A commitment that, in the face of an investment that involves time and mind ahead of money, can result into the genesis of a different market, close to people, being experience and value before numbers and chase.

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13 May 2020 Sofia Bellamio

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