All In The “List”: Too Cheap To Pay To Party?

Are guest lists the friends or foes of the industry? And are those on it the elite clubbers of KL or pasty-faced cheapskates? This month, independent PR collective and local dance scene pusher Deck Time Stories takes a look at the culture of getting on the list.

Text: Deck Time Stories

We’re not sure about the rest of you but let’s say less than 10 years ago, when someone extended an invitation for a party or event, the reply would always be a simple yes, no or maybe. These days however, when that same question is asked, the most common reply would be, “Can I get in the guest list?”

Invitations on Facebook will pose the same reply options, but even if the event info section doesn’t mention whether they’re opening up guest lists for their Facebook attendees, you’ll still find the Wall filled with replies from people stating their guest list numbers. How did guest lists become so favourable and important among clubbers anyway? And why are some promoters so willing to give them out freely? Some clubs have also resorted to hiring individuals who are paid per head count to provide services like recruiting new patrons to clubs or events.

We spoke to 20 clubbers regarding this issue, of which 10 are between the ages of 18 and 24 and the other 10 from 27-32. You’d think the younger group, who are mainly students, would prefer partying for free because they don’t earn their own keep. But all 10 said that while getting on the guest list would be a bonus, they wouldn’t wait to be offered a spot on the list. The older group of participants, on the other hand, view things differently. 5 out of the 10 said they would pay for any events that tickled their fancy while the other 5 would only go if their names were on the guest list.

The reason for wanting to be on the guest list is simple for them: it’s either because they’ve somewhat “retired” from partying or they just don’t believe in paying for entry anymore. Giving out free entry through a guest list isn’t much of a problem for club promoters. “It’s highly unlikely that a Malaysian club or club night would do without a guest list completely,” says Zouk Entertainment and Artist Bookings Manager, Shazz. “The majority of clubbers will pay for entry by necessity, but there will always be those who expect to enter the club for free by guest list. More than anything else, it’s an ‘acknowledgement of status’ for them to be able to enter without queuing or paying at the door, and Malaysians do like their moments of being acknowledged. They definitely can afford entry fees and ultimately end up spending more at the bar, but they just like to be made to feel special and distinguished by the club.”

A guest list is great for a club night or event because it ascertains the number of attendees. But does it devalue the standard of clubbing? Some club promoters have abused it in order to make a quick buck, blindly putting up events with no credibility and roping in a crowd without offering good entertainment value. Giving the average Joe the privilege of being on a guest list has also led to more and more clubbers relying on this practice to gain free entry and take it for granted.

Clubs like Zouk and Mist openly hire “ambassadors” to assist them in recruiting clubbers to attend their regular nights. Some have argued that these ambassadors meet their target numbers simply because they offer any patron a spot on the guest list. But Mervin Wong of Future Sound Asia disagrees. “I feel that it’s completely unrelated,” he says. “Ambassadors are a marketing tool and should be employed regardless of the scene’s health. They represent the trendy, and are part of the clubs’ eyes and ears as well as act as recruits for a new and younger market.”

Despite arguments on whether guest lists are good and whether they play a role in devaluing the clubbing scene, it’s a win-win situation for both the clubs/events and the clubbers. Those who are guest list regulars could eventually pay for the imposed cover charge once they’re confident that a good time will be had. We say that if you can afford it, there’s no harm in making a contribution to the scene.

What do you think? Will you only party if you get guestlist? And keep up with Deck Time Stories at their website.