Last week on a school night, it was around 3AM, but the ball was full tilt at the Marquee. It is among the most supreme dance clubs in NYC. It’s also been around for ten years now, making it amongst the oldest as well.
The popularity that this fantastic 10-year old party club has generated, inspired a professor from Harvard University to analyze it. That has led to the publishing of two papers that tout the club’s success, in a major city that expects even it’s highest-paid clubs to be closing their doors in a year or two.
The average lifespan of a Manhattan nightclub used to be an average of 18 months. This is according to Anita Elberse (professor). She states that “of the 10 top high-grossing supreme dance clubs in NYC in March of 2010, the following clubs went out of business by 2012 –
And the Marquee had no problems whatsoever. It never missed a beat. At 3AM it was still jam-packed with revelers squeezing into bars and banquettes on 2 different levels. There were many more waiting outside to get in, and they were more than anxious to part with their $60 cover fee. The NYC nightlife had just never been so good.
This industry had always been well-known for its fly-by-night operators and owners. Jason Strauss and Noah Tepperberg first opened the Marquee in early 2003. Not only have they managed to keep their initial nightclub going, but they’ve also forged out arguably the premier nightclub empires in that nation. Then in 2010 there was another Marquee that was opened up in Sin City. It carried a 1st year revenue of $80 million, becoming the highest paid nightclub in the U.S.
Anita Elberse is amongst the youngest professors to achieve tenure at Harvard University. She made her study of the Marquee back in 2008. She called it “Marquee – The Nightlife Business”. This was her first report. It offered some very unexpected perspective into why the club was such a success (they charged plenty for the liquor).
It was quite typical for a customer to shell out $375 for one bottle of vodka that they could get for $25 at a liquor store. The reason they did this was to be able to party with people like George Clooney, Bono, and the Olsen sisters.
Even with all that markup on the ‘bottle service’, those revenues were taking a downturn, and took a dive from $15 mil in 2008 to $5 mil in 2012. Even Elberse herself, who actually looks right at home in a DJ booth, was thinking about whether or not she was experiencing the Marquee’s last call. She stated that point in her initial paper.
Well, Hold On, Not Too Fast:
Other nightclub-owners have probably milked all they could from the Marquee and sold their business or sold it. However, in her latest study, Elberse remarked (in ‘Marquee: Reinventing the Nightlife Business’) that Tepperberg and Strauss actually figured out critical ways to keeping things rolling. The answer was to focus on hiring ‘star DJs’. They had the vision and insight to see how this would keep the party rolling.
Elberse wrote, “Suddenly a nightspot that had been only about selling liquor and delivering it directly to the tables of its customers, was changing to one which seemed as concerned with ticket sales and star DJs as anything else. It did feature some of the most popular A-list DJs around”.
So to put it simply, this business model that is like the ones that enabled Roseland and Webster Hall to keep on trucking after their expected dates of closing, was put into place effectively. Rather than have live rock events, at the Marquee a new focus was putting the spotlight on DJ superstars who were spinning some great EDM (electronic dance music).
Tepperberg and Strauss invested a whopping $3.5 mil last year in a very dramatic Marquee renovation. This one really raised the roof off. Before this renovation, the DJ booth was placed sort of ‘out-of-the-way’ over in a corner. It was out of sight and mind. With the new design, it was front and center on stage, with the DJs name being proclaimed to the entire crowd in one giant room in a luminescent display.
Tepperberg remarked to the news that, “we witnessed out there how this approach and EDM experience was blowing up. We took an educated gamble that it would work in NY as well.”
DJ Chuckie is a Marquee player now. He flies in from house in Aruba right before going out to play. Chuckie says he makes more than 400 flights every year, and a large portion of his Twitter fans (more than half a million) actually follow him.
He points out how nightclub owners are grabbing at ideas to get partygoers through the doors for business, and he believes electronic music is the way. He is most definitely a real ticket-seller and can pull in a crowd. Today’s DJs are seen more like artists and celebrities than just disc jockeys.
These DJs might be treated like artists but they sure aren’t starving. The top star DJs such as DJ Tiesto are reporting an average of $250,000 a night. Nightclub owners receive what they’re paying for.
A 23-year old student, named Vedrana Bobina, came into the club the other night and said, “I wouldn’t have every come here to the Marquee if not fr DJ Chuckie. I probably would have looked up a rave somewhere in Bushwick”.
It doesn’t take an Ivy League university degree to see that Strauss and Tepperberg really hit on something. They believe it is not so much the night club’s name or the neighborhood, but simply learning how to keep up with the times.