Nightclubs as Research Labs

Yale Fox, a former Freakonomics intern, is a Canadian DJ who studies nightclub culture. He looks at how music trends, fashion, and even perfumes are the results of codified social behavior at nightclubs. He recently gave a TEDx talk on the subject:


Top Ten Flaws in Fox's Presentation:

1. Nightclubs have been around for about 40 or 50 years.
2. Nightclubs are relatively small rooms
3. Nightclubs only exist in highly urbanized metropolises
4. Nightclubs m/f ratio is ALWAYS 60% women/40% men
5. Laws are broken all the time in nightclubs and nobody gets in trouble
6. If you didn't like music you didn't pass on your genes
7. Humans are the only creatures that listen to music
8. Guitar Hero outsells every other video game
9. Everybody can detect emotion in a song
10. Today's fashion was probably designed two or three years ago

not to mention his white belt!

Eric M. Jones.

I agree with VBin NV. I think the conclusions are suspect and he has not done the thinking on this. Guys seek beauty but women seek guys with access to resources? So guys with bucks all have beautiful chicks? I don't think so Bubela.


Start watching at 7:44 and stop at 8:16.

Bu$y B

@VBinLV - Good points but not all true: Guitar Hero does not outsell all other games, not even close; Madden, Grand Theft Auto, Mario, Halo, Call of Duty, and several others all out sell GH. Also, not sure m/f ratio is as static as you say; I've been to plenty of clubs that would be called a "sausage fest".


That's my point...he claims it does outsell all others.


This was good.
The only problem I have with it is the assumption that we are all advanced species with stone aged brains.
Other than that very interesting findings, and very good presentation. Definitely have me thinking about my own research.


Re points 1-4, Fox uses an extremely narrow definition of the term "nightclub". I agree with VB that as most people understand the term, these statements are baloney, but if you throw in one aspect of Fox's description, namely doormen who restrict access to the venue and have the authority to select customers, his statements are at least arguably correct. Indeed, the 60/40 ratio is probably a component of the business model for what he's calling a nightclub. He needed to explain his definition of the term.

5, 7 and 8 are objectively incorrect. Do Ted talks routinely permit speakers get away with this sort of thing?

I have no idea whether 6, 8 and 9 are valid, but based on the "facts" presented in the rest of the talk, my guess is either not true or very, very conditionally true.

A lot of his other points were interesting, and overall it was a good, interesting talk, tainted by some crazy assertions and poor (or no) explanation of terms.


Yale Fox

My comments to some of the feedback above. Try and remember you only have a couple minutes to cover a lot of material so some generalization is necessary to get the point across. It's better to come out logical rather than confused them. There are exceptions TO EVERY rule in the world, always.

- Nightclub definition - in all of New York, there's only a few places that I would consider nightclubs. The door is what governs it. They are bottle service driven. They are never larger than 250-300 people. Post some examples of what you think a nightclub is and I'll tell you why it's not. These are the "elite" of the elite. These types of clubs have been around for less than 10 years.

- Humans are indeed the only animal that listens to music, whale-song is more like speech or dialogue, a form of communication. It sounds like song to us, as there are repeated melodies - they are not. I spent a lot of time in Hawaii researching Humpback Whales first hand. Happy to discuss this further. Birds are not mammals.

- Please notice that I said listen to music. Making music, or stringing together sounds that to a human ear have some sort of melody isn't music. I can go more in depth on this, I strongly recommend reading Daniel Levitin's "This Is Your Brain On Music." He's a field leader in this research. This was not my assumption, this is backed up by several books of hard facts.

- Guitar Hero is one of the best selling games of all time. So is Rock Band, so are other analogues. I think it would sound stupid if I wasted the time listing them all off.

- Everybody can detect emotion in a song, with the exception of people with Autism who have difficulty with emotion, empathy, etc. Prove me wrong :)

- Laws are broken all the time in nightclubs. The clientele in these places are 50% criminals, by trade. Give or take, that data lives in a black box and is hard to speculate. My friends that owned some of the largest discos in the 1970s said it was the same back then. Drugs are done, people have sex in public places, shootings and stabbings occur that never meet the news. The list goes on, but I won't post them online. Contact me directly if you want to learn more.

- Today's fashion was designed *at least* two years ago. Probably more. It's not timely, think of the sheer manufacturing process to get a line ready for the next season.

Find out more:



"Everyone can detect emotion in a song."

This implies nature, but I think it's more nurture/cultural. Western music has the same basic major/minor structure, but there's plenty of other music in the world that doesn't follow the same rules.


This must be the worst TEDx i've ever seen. Who let this guy on to the stage? He has absolutely nothing to say. And the cross referencing of DOW jones with Minor and Major chords, as if it means anything. Don't waste you time listening to this - it's utter BS, if not worse. The guy has done more "nightclubbing" than thinking, that's for sure.

Chris D

Yale just barely makes it into the Pseudoscience category :)

From Wiki:
"vague, exaggerated or unprovable claims, an over-reliance on confirmation rather than rigorous attempts at refutation, a lack of openness to evaluation by other experts, and a general absence of systematic processes to rationally develop theories."


"The clientele in these places are 50% criminals, by trade."

If you truly believe that 50% of costumers in nightclubs are criminals (meaning crime is their main occupation) - I would suggest that you have been "studying" the wrong nightclubs.

As for your nightclub definition - Pacha NYC (2000+ people) is not a nightclub? Marquee (500-600+)? Wikipedia's definition of a nightclub doesnt talk about size. You say: "I’ll tell you why it’s not. These are the “elite” of the elite. These types of clubs have been around for less than 10 years. "

If you are talking about this "special Yale Fox definition" of nightclub that have only been around for 10 years - why did you say in your talk that nightclubs have been around for 40-50 years?

What happened between 1960-1970? Are you referring to the nightclub as the Disco?

You present your premonitions as facts, mix it up with a good chunk of research done by REAL scientists, for what? Why are you doing this? To sell yourself as a nightclub consultant to the corporate world? Trust me, they will not buy this.