Music can learn a lot from other industries. So I was delighted to see a piece of research into the UK’s lap dancing boom reported in yesterday’s Financial Times newspaper (which I find shrugs off butter and jam far better than would the iPad I don’t yet have).
It’s not lechery that is driving the boom so much as an influx of dancers – it is an incrementally popular remunerative activity. Nor is it the business it seems – the women (I think the researchers were interested only in women) pay the bars and clubs a fee each evening to buy dancing rights, and then 30% of their earnings on top.
The oversupply of dancers has driven the price of a lap dance through the floor, while the clubs of course have maintained or increased their fees. On the whole the dancers like the work, though earnings are down, and sometimes the women end up out of pocket for the evening. Average earnings for a session are around £230. Here’s the bit I love – “They call it a race to the bottom,” Ms Sanders [the researcher] said.
So the learning?
Ignoring any cheap shots, like comparing [insert name of scantily clad pop songstress here] to a telepresent lap dancer, this business looks remarkably like a Tunecore/iTunes combo, with a pay to play operator controlling access to the wallets of the customers.
The key of course is the pricing power of venues and the supply of aspirant dancers. Customers will only pay for lap dancing in a limited number of clubs and pubs, so for the women there is no real choice. They couldn’t for instance offer their services in the municipal park on a Sunday afternoon, so they have to pay up.
The other big factor is the interchangeability of the product, – because after 5 vodka & blacks one set of wiggling bits is both absolutely outstandingly beautiful, and completely indistinguishable from any other. And that is perhaps one possible future for the music industry.