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Laura Carroll

Party on: It's not just clubs, concert venues also have New Year's Eve in focus

4 December 2012

LAS VEGAS -- The $2 billion nightclub industry sets its sights on New Year's with a laser focus, but it's not only clubs vying for consumers' late-night entertainment dollars. Concert venues, too, are playing the Las Vegas New Year's Eve field in a big way.

In 2011, an estimated 314,000 people visited Las Vegas on Dec. 31, up from 2010's 309,000 visitors. The nongaming economic impact from last year's festivities was $192.6 million, up from 2010's $189.6 million. An average 2012 weekend in Las Vegas draws 300,000 people, but New Year's projection for this year aren't yet available.

One factor that could add to the New Year's payday this year is that Dec. 31 falls on a Monday, which has some nightlife operators programming the entire weekend with New Year's-caliber entertainment. The last time Dec. 31 fell on a Monday was in 2007, when 284,000 visited, bringing a nongaming economic impact of $196.6 million, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority records.

Nima Samadi, bars and nightclub industry analyst for IBIS World, said although there are more than enough bodies to go around, clubs are in heavy competition to get as many of them as possible.

"DJs and headliners tend to be the biggest draw," he said.

Deals, such as open bar or a champagne toast, also help. A new club opening doesn't hurt, either.

"In general, there's pretty constant rebranding. There's a strong emphasis on having the latest and greatest to attract new visitors," Samadi said. "This industry's kind of strange in the fact in that it's fundamentally about buzz."


At the Hard Rock Hotel, this year, the buzz is surrounding history reversing itself.

On New Year's Eve 2010, Body English closed and Vanity opened, with the former remaining shuttered except for special events here and there. On Dec. 28, Body English will reopen as the Hard Rock's primary nightclub and Vanity will host its last party Dec. 30.

When asked why reopen Body English, vice president of nightlife Michael Goodwin said, "The customers of the hotel and of our nightlife here have always had an affinity for that particular room."

And, he said, he thinks it's the right-sized club for the 1,500-room Hard Rock, with a capacity just less than 800. The 1,400-capacity Vanity was just too big.

When Vanity closes, the space will be used for a "different direction," but "the final decisions haven't been made," Goodwin said.

At Body English, there will be a strong focus on electronic dance music and underground music from Europe. On Dec. 30, the club hired EDM DJs Drop the Lime, Switch, Mr. White and Destructo. On New Year's Eve, the format changes to indie rock to complement The Black Keys' show at the Joint. DJs Richard Beynon, Block Party, Kele and Adam 12 from She Wants Revenge will perform.

On New Year's Eve, clubs are chasing a lot of different demographics in one night. Because of that, VIP hosts at XS at Encore and Tryst at Wynn Las Vegas are working marketing lists to make sure they're leaving no rock unturned.

Programming at XS revolves around EDM, because as marketing director Ronn Nicolli put it, the club "has developed a reputation for having the biggest EDM names in the world."

Expect a packed weekend featuring Tiesto on Dec. 28, Steve Angello with Third Party on Dec. 29, Deadmau5 on Dec. 30 and Avicii on New Year's Eve.

"It ends up being a better potential for revenue and a built-in crowd," Nicolli said of the long weekend.


The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is also celebrating for multiple days. The Killers are there Dec. 28 and 29 inside the Chelsea Ballroom, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers will perform Dec. 31. Both already are sold out.

At MGM, there's an Ultimate Fighting Championship fight between Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez on Dec. 29 at the Grand Garden Arena, and the next night the Eagles are performing.

"We haven't seen any downside to a Monday. All we've seen is an extension of the weekend," said Lisa Marchese, chief marketing officer at The Cosmopolitan. "There's a ton of enthusiasm in early bookings from guests so we're excited."

But it's not cheap to throw a good party. Goodwin said that citywide, DJs cost anywhere from $1,000 per set to $250,000 per set. Clubs choose what they can afford based on capacity - 700 people won't be able to support a $250,000 DJ - and what type of vibe they're trying to perpetrate.

"Everybody makes the decision on where they can play in that world," he added. "It's just like a band. There's bands that play at the Double Down and there's bands that play at the MGM Grand Garden."

And then there's the Black Keys, who play the 4,000-capacity Joint on Dec. 30 and 31. Tickets cost between $95 for a regular ticket and $321 for a suite, and they're almost sold out.

"Las Vegas is always a very competitive market. Every show we land we take from somebody else and every show they land they take from us," said Paul Davis, vice president of entertainment at the Hard Rock Hotel.

Bands cost from $100 to seven figures, depending on the group and what venues can charge for the tickets.

Davis explained that concert venues and nightclubs in the past "seemed a little out of control" with overbooking and visitors were suffering from "sensory overload."

But, as with many other industries and the recession, things have changed.

"There's been a bit of a market correction," Davis said. "People are booking what the market can bear."

And, some clubs that previously were more competitive, Nicolli said, exist more as a resort amenity now. But, it's tougher to compete because nightclub consumers have become more cultured and want only the best.

"If you're not playing on the highest competitive level, you're going to end up falling off," Nicolli said.

Marchese agreed and said, "It seems like everyone's kind of upping the ante."


Other markets, too, are starting to copy Las Vegas trends, Nicolli said, which creates a higher demand for music and talent.

"On New Year's Eve I don't just have to compete with Vegas," Nicolli said. "Now I have to compete with every other place."

As for drink service, champagne and vodka are king on New Year's. Champagne has a "subconscious cool effect" and vodka is a popular communal drink on the holiday. Dom Perignon, at $1,000 per bottle, is the heaviest circulated, and Belvedere and Grey Goose are the most popular vodka brands. A bottle of vodka on New Year's starts at $525.

To get people in the door, Tryst is offering a Belvedere open bar from 9 to 11 p.m., then Nicolli said he thinks customers probably will buy a few more drinks. He estimated that XS patrons will buy about three drinks each. Entry fees to get in the 1,100-capacity Tryst cost $50 for men and $30 for women. At XS, general admission is $75 for women and $150 for men.

But, the tickets to see Avicii at the 5,000-capacity XS are selling at warp speed, and Nicolli said it's one of the fastest sellouts the club will have.

"It's a testament to everything we've done the last 18 months to build this audience," he said.