Forget monitoring humpback whales in Hawaii. That was Yale Fox’s biology project two years ago.
This past school year, from inside his disc jockey booth, he tracked the migration patterns of nightclubbers, how the music moves people either to dance or belly up to the bar. "It’s not social manipulation," insists Fox, 23, who graduated from Queen’s University this spring.
"It’s reinforcing customer satisfaction."
Fox is a DJ at Elixir, a Kingston nightclub popular with students. For his undergraduate music thesis, he devised ratings for a crowd’s good time, tracked each night song by song and had a detailed record of bar sales. He had software developed that helped him mix it together to organize and interpret the data. Among his findings:
The First Drink Syndrome – Bar sales spiked when waves of people entered the club, no matter what music was playing. It’s the urge to fit in. "People will purchase a drink, even if it’s just something to hold on to," he says.
Genre-cycling – Clubbers seemed happiest and bar sales healthiest when he kept mixing short sets of one type of music – such as reggae, hip hop, electronic – with other types. When one guest DJ spent an hour playing only one genre, bar sales decreased by an estimated 188.4 drinks.
Perfectly-timed "bangers" – When the DJ plays bangers, the top few songs on the charts, people rush to the dance floor. If the bangers are timed to end at "last call," 1:45 a.m., booze sales spike.
Some professional DJs have adopted these practices instinctively, says Fox. The Toronto resident hopes to become a full-time DJ. "As a DJ, music always comes first, but you have to remember it’s a business that’s paying you," he explains. "Implicit in that is people purchasing drinks."
University students are tough customers, tending to drink before clubbing to save money. At his club, a patron spends about $25 a night.
Fox hopes to take his project nationwide as part of graduate studies. "I could be the only person with a PhD in DJing," he says, laughing.