Strobe lights flash across a near-empty dance floor, as a DJ livestreams thumping electronic music from a Singapore nightclub to revelers confined to their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has shuttered once lively nightspots from London to New York, but innovative DJs have started putting their performances online so that clubbers do not miss out.
The trend is another example of how the virus, which has left about 3.6 billion people stuck at home under lockdowns, is upending daily life in ways unthinkable until recently, as governments impose social-distancing curbs to stem its spread.
After Singapore last week ordered the closure of many entertainment venues following a steady rise in infections, popular nightclub Zouk threw a “cloud clubbing” party, streaming live performances by six DJs via an app.
It took place on a Friday night when the club is often packed with hundreds of partygoers — but only a handful of people were allowed to attend, most of them staff members.
DJ Nash D conceded that he found it weird at first.
“When you play for a dance floor with a room full of people, you can feel the energy come back, and I like to DJ off that energy,” the DJ said.
However, he quickly got used to it, saying that live comments from clubbers on his laptop were helpful.
“Whatever song requests that they had actually guided me in a certain direction,” he added.
Clubbers also used the livestreaming app Bigo Live send the DJs gifts, such as bells and snowflakes, that could later be exchanged for cash.
The nightclub partnered with gaming equipment company Razer and Bigo Live, and attracted 200,000 views of the three-hour event, with 5,600 viewers at one point.
In China, DJs and nightspots started livestreaming performances at the beginning of February, when the country’s outbreak was at its pinnacle.
Shanghai and Beijing venues pioneered livestreamed clubbing on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, which also allows fans to buy gifts that can be swapped for cash.
Beijing club One Third attracted more than 1 million viewers and generated nearly 2 million yuan (US$281,686) in rewards from its fans in a five-hour livestream, news Web site iFeng reported.
Closed nightclubs and DJs stuck at home are also hosting virtual dance parties in New York.
Live-performance outfit The Dance Cartel has started hosting “Social Disdance” parties three times per week for “dance nights together, apart.”
Participants dance with one another over the Zoom video chat app, with some donning costumes and others setting up colorful disco lights.
The parties are free, but people are encouraged to make donations to the DJs and hosts.
Singapore’s decision to close nightclubs came as authorities slowly tighten restrictions following a jump in cases. Despite the challenges, some performers are slowly warming to the idea of online clubbing.
“Online, I feel that everybody is more in their natural state,” said DJ LeNERD, who played at Friday’s event in Singapore. “They are more themselves and they are more honest.”
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