The Future of Nightlife

type - features
category - society
type - future of
Future of
As one of the final recreational tiers to be unlocked, the slow re-emergence of nightlife has brought with it big expectations and even bigger future-facing questions

Despite post-pandemic projections of a roaring 20s for the new millennium, the industry has more than just practical considerations to contend with, as clubbers and partygoers bring recalibrated values and intentions that they refuse to leave at the door.

Relying on large crowds, carefree mindsets and precarious employment patterns, the Covid-19 crisis has decimated the traditional nightlife industry. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) had estimated losses of $1.5bn globally, with that figure predicted to rise as a number of countries remain staunchly opposed to opening or providing financial aid. 

Where venues are legally allowed to re-open, returning to pre-pandemic levels of success will be an uphill battle. In the UK, at least a quarter of people remain unsure about attending concerts, live events and festivals, while an all-party parliamentary group on nightlife reports that venues have generated only 20% of their pre-Covid-19 revenues and made more than half of their staff redundant since lockdowns started in early 2020.  

It’s a bleak outlook, but one that doesn’t show the whole picture. Grassroots collectives, digital spaces and soft recreation initiatives have rushed to fill the space left by post-pandemic uncertainty, catering to a youth market where unabashed hedonism, discriminatory policies and blatant inequality were already looking outmoded.  

The necessity of lockdowns forced the nightlife industry to embrace the digital realm. VR and AR clubbing spaces were no longer a sub-par promotional tactic for the night out, they were the night out, as promoters, clubs and music industry officials collaborated to provide bespoke playlists and Instagram Live concerts that culminated in fully built digital clubbing environments.  

Reaching attendees across the globe is a sure-fire pull for venues. Tobacco Dock’s one-of-a-kind events will use digital portals to allow direct contact between virtual attendees and those inside the venue, while Fractal Fantasy’s virtual club space, Virtua, is a strictly digital offering.  The platform’s 3D-rendered club functions as a blueprint for an idealised community space, comprising immersive installations and spatial audio systems, as well as life-mimicking lockers and vending machines to encourage the meaningful interactions afforded by the structure of physical spaces.  

Not only benefiting from the safety and discernment of curated nights out, these initiatives also combat the top-down power structures that the industry has rightfully been criticised for – placing the power and autonomy back into the hands of the talent it relies on.  

Published by:

10 August 2021

Author: Darian Nugent

Image: Microshell by Production Club


The Lesbian Bar Project by Jägermeister, US

Peckham-based band Sweat spent lockdown conceiving and coding its own online venue from scratch. Its 3D club space, SweatNet, hosted a month-long VR festival where attendees could watch hologram performances, simulate conversations in the ‘pit’ and visit merch stands. Viewers were also encouraged to donate to independent venues via a link inside the club.  

But it’s not just the ‘where’, but the ‘what’ of nightlife that has been reframed in light of Covid-19. Generation Z were already providing glimpses of their expectations of slower, health-conscious and intellectually stimulating nights out, which, having been catalysed by the anxieties of a global pandemic, are set to be adopted across generations.  

Think events like those offered by Nowadays in New York, which integrates health-conscious drinking into its offering, or Weed Rave in Los Angeles, which combines cannabis with dancing and yoga.  

Those dedicated to boosting their mental resilience will lose their inhibitions, free from enhancement, at community events such as Special Guest, in which audience members are invited to take to the stage for 60 seconds and share a thought, idea, story or party trick. More transformative still are sober club nights like Misery, which integrates therapy-based practises into its queer and transgender people of colour (QTPOC) parties. 

Founder Aisha Mirza sees the event as a necessary response to a youth mental health crisis. ‘A lot of people aren’t going to call a therapist and have a consultation,’ they say. ‘But they are going to come to a club.’ 

It’s this kind of community creation that’s at the heart of the anti-corporate return to nightlife. For Gen Z, recreation is inseparable from their unflinching attitude towards equality, and the pandemic has laid bare the possibilities of spaces away from the tangible (discriminatory door codes) and structural barriers they had become accustomed to.  

It’s one of the reasons the illegal party scene skyrocketed during lockdown, as clubbers sought the anti-establishment roots of the nightclub through underground events that repurposed car parks and roof terraces for multi-day events.  

Providing a safe space for marginalised communities is key here, and something brands can and should tap into without centring themselves. Jägermeister recently launched a fundraising campaign to support LGBTQ+ spaces with a short film that gives a voice to bar owners, activists and archivists to discuss the positive impact of lesbian bars amid record closures.  

The documentary also expands on the brand’s #SaveTheNight campaign, which provides curated community events for LGBT+ groups and works to preserve nightlife during and post-pandemic.

Organisations have a key opportunity here – whether it’s embracing and refining digital, embedding caring practices or striving for equality in every aspect of their offering – success won’t be achieved by striving for the oft-criticised, post-pandemic mantra of a ‘return to normal’.  


This article was written by our senior strategic foresight writer Darian Nugent, who writes our client foresight reports. These are a compelling resource that provide insights to your company internally and help you carve out a distinct viewpoint externally. Find out more here.
‘A lot of people aren’t going to call a therapist and have a consultation, but they are going to come to a club.’
Aisha Mirza, founder, Misery

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