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Top 100 Clubs 2021: Analysing this year's key trends

Our annual Top 100 Clubs poll is back for another year. DJ Mag readers from around the world voted in their droves for their favourite dancefloor destinations, choosing Washington DC superclub Echostage as their No.1 club for the first time. We analyse the key trends behind the results to determine what this year's ranking tells us about the current state of the global club scene

When we announced the results of our annual Top 100 Clubs poll last year, much of the world was just going into lockdown for the first time, in efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19. At the time, like many, we hoped aloud that we’d be returning to clubs, hearing live music, and sharing dancefloors with friends again in just a few months’ time. Almost a year and a half later and, though social distancing measures and vaccination programmes seem to have turned the tide, our struggle against coronavirus is certainly not over.

In the UK, where DJ Mag HQ is based, clubs were allowed to reopen in mid-July, implementing various safety measures in order to help curb the damage another wave of the virus could cause. Some countries that were quick to act, and employed particularly stringent restrictions — such as China, Taiwan, and New Zealand — were able to return to a degree of normality much quicker, with videos of busy clubs and festivals generating mixed feelings among those in less fortunate regions. But as we go to press, there are still numerous clubs that aren’t allowed to open — the livelihoods of their staff uncertain, their dancefloors silent and empty. There have been positive stories amidst the turmoil, however. While shuttered, many clubs have looked for alternative ways to keep busy — helping the local community through projects such as food banks, or providing more socially distanced activities such as pop-up restaurants or art galleries. As you’ll read in the following pages, many have taken the chance to make structural improvements or beef up their soundsystems. And, of course, there have been countless live streams from empty clubs, with some even going the extra mile to create virtual-reality versions of their real-life spaces.

For some clubs the financial struggle has sadly been too great, but others have been successful in attaining government grants, and many more have been able to rally support in the form of online fundraisers. As part of the Top 100 Clubs voting season this year, DJ Mag invited clubs to host Covid-safe live streams, with the option to direct those watching towards fundraising projects they support.

All this has had some very interesting and often surprising effects on the Top 100 Clubs poll, which this year saw over half a million votes from people all across the world. At a glance, Europe does seem to have taken a bit of a hit, with 51% of clubs dropping places. However, the continent is still top in terms of overall share of charting venues, and has actually increased that share to 49, up one from last year.

As may be expected for an island that relies so heavily on summer dance music tourism, Ibiza has been particularly affected, with 63% of White Isle clubs falling down places — but it too has increased its share by one, thanks to new club Octan, which opened on the former site of infamous club, Sankeys.

All three of this year’s non-movers come from Europe, showing an ability to hold firm in the face of adversity, while another win for the region comes from the UK, which is now the country with the most charting clubs worldwide (14 in total, one more than previous title-holders, the United States). This change has been driven by two of the UK’s best- loved small-capacity clubs — Hope Works and Sneaky Pete’s — joining the list this year.

What the US has lost there, it’s more than made up for elsewhere, claiming its first-ever No. 1 spot in 2021. Washington, DC club Echostage has been challenging for the top spot for several years now, and has finally pipped Brazil’s five-time winners Green Valley to the post — a massive achievement, so congratulations to Echostage! With GV’s site destroyed by a cyclone in 2020, and a full rebuild in progress, it will be interesting to watch these two titans battle it out in the future.

The US is also up in terms of movement, with 10 clubs rising up the chart and one new addition (compared to just two dropping places). This in turn means North America is up as a region — as is South America, just, with 56% of clubs gaining places.

Asia has been the biggest winner overall, perhaps thanks to so much of the region acting quickly to curb coronavirus. 77% of Asia’s charting clubs are up places or new entries — with the continent once again claiming the most new entries with seven this year. Five of these come from China, a country whose love affair with dance music is more plain to see than ever before. Six of China’s remaining seven clubs move up the list in 2021, while the nation also claims this year’s Highest New Entry award via the Guangzhou wing of superclub chain Space Plus, and Fonshan-based Club Galame takes Highest Climber, leaping up an incredible 42 places. Asia also boasts this year’s only re-entry — Hanoi, Vietnam’s 1900 Theatre, which last charted in 2019 — while other new entries for the region come from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Perhaps the most exciting new entry, however, comes from Kenya, which makes its Top 100 Clubs debut via MUZE, a 400-capacity venue based in the capital, Nairobi. This also marks the first time an African club has charted since Space Sharm — the Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt-based wing of Space Ibiza — last placed in 2015. With homegrown movements like gqom, amapiano and more continuing to make an impact across the continent and around the world, will the number of African clubs being recognised grow too?

After such a catastrophic year, we’d like to say a huge well done, not just to the clubs who have charted, but to all those that have survived. We wish every venue the best in the ongoing fight, and those that haven’t made it through will be sorely missed.

As more people are able to return to dancefloors across the world, we ask you please to do so carefully. Take precautions, be safe and considerate of your fellow ravers and venue staff. There is often talk of the rave scene’s founding principles being Peace, Love, Unity and Respect — please remember them when you next step towards a dancefloor.

Want more. Read our Top 100 Clubs winner's profile here