Must come to an end. Quiet. Lights off. Alone. And more often than not with tears streaming from your eyes.
I took one last walk in and out of every room, inside the place I had considered my second home for almost 9 months for a few minutes, after everyone else had left. In truth, I have spent more hours in the KamaSutra than in any other place on the grid, so she’s been as much a second home to me as this has been a second life.
Born of a mixture of memories and illusions, she is both warm and welcoming, yet somewhat inaccessible and never completely knowable. She has a mysterious and melancholy side, but she’s fun and lively in groups of people she trusts. Sometimes, she is hopelessly quiet and lonely. She inspires as much loyalty as she’s ready to give. She’s imperfect; a product of planning and happenstance. In many ways, she’s me.
I get attached to places and things; ascribing a personal connection to inanimate objects as if they were alive. It’s called “personification”. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. Whether its cars, flats, workplaces, and even cities, it’s often the same. When it’s time to go, I need to sit there, by myself, and say goodbye.
Sometimes, it feels a bit like saying goodbye to a very large part of yourself.
On Saturday night, I closed her down.
I will not be opening her again, not as she is. Harvey and I will be spending the holidays on a new build, on a new sim, with a whole new concept, business model and name.
We were planning big changes for a while; the trigger just came a few months quicker than expected. My original plan called for a review in March, but I more of less knew the conclusions I’d be drawing.
I have culled the staff list for months, from as high as 100, to as low as 16 registered dancers and courtesans. In the exotic dance club business, you rely on your dancers for income. The more good dancers you have, the more guests they draw and keep in, the greater the tips. Once you’ve paid your fixed overheads, the margin of 20% can be pretty good.
As a result of hiring more and more staff, I began to notice that the staff group had become a group in name only. It was a list of strangers, with only about 20% making the effort to visit the club and work. After I sent a message to everyone asking them to renew their commitment, the quality in the list bubbled forth. Firing people is never easy, even in Second Life, but it was pretty clear who was part of our family, and who had chosen other paths.
One of the many reasons we started this Club was to create a sense of family and community among dancers and entertainers, and a sense of loyalty among guests of the Club. These two things tend to depend on each other – as committed staff tend to keep loyal guests.
Personally, I have always wanted to lead an exclusive club. Success to me means a place where people want to be, a place where people take pride in membership, and a place where they feel they not only give, but feel contributed to. I’m not interested in growing a group for the sake of numbers. This approach may cost me earnings in the long run, but for me, quality is much more important than quantity – it always has been, and it always will be.
I was hoping things would get better with the Kama model, but they didn’t.
We averaged about 300K a month in income over the first 3 months, and then slowly declined down to just under 100K in the 8th. Sure, there are a lot of external factors one can blame, but the facts are the facts.
In the end, the club made over almost 1.8 million Linden Dollars and achieved break-even over its 9 month run. As nice as profits are, and they are considerably better than the losses which are much more common, making a profit in Second Life isn’t why I’m doing this. Break-even is totally fine with me.
One of the biggest signs that things weren’t going right, was that both Harvey and I began to feel like we were badgering people to take part – whether they be staff or guests. This, to me, was a clear signal that the old girl had lost her luster.
I didn’t have to close her. I might have just kept to my first plan, and pushed her for another 3 months. But when the landlord asked us to move because they couldn’t sell parcels next to an exotic dance club, despite us being well within our rights to rent there, I decided now was the time.
Maybe it’s because I just wasn’t up for another move in only 3 months. Maybe it had a bit to do with the fact that one of our two managers had left indefinitely, leaving Harvey and I doing pretty much everything – all the time. Most likely however, I think I’ve just finally come around to the idea that I’ve stopped innovating.
She was good, but she wasn’t great.
I’ve spent a lot of time visiting other clubs out there in Second Life – and not just exotic dance clubs. I’ve chatted with staff and guests from all over the place, trying to put the pieces together for the next move.
Generally, my conclusion is that, while there are some notable exceptions, the era of tipping a dancer as they swing around a dance pole might be coming to a gradual end.
Instead, I see new trends emerging: I see successful private members clubs that are charging for membership. Some are getting it right, some aren’t. I see the more successful of these clubs offering great value to their guests, in the form of free amenities and lush surroundings. I also see a trend towards hyper-immersive realism that resembles real life more, despite of the magic we can carry out in Second Life. I see a desire for novelty, of course this is nothing new, but it’s consistently becoming harder and harder to get a foothold on the attention economy. Most of all, I’m seeing a move towards exclusivity, as people like me become tired of constantly fishing around for a place full of people who might appeal to them as much as certain places in RL do.
We’ll be back, just different.
So on Saturday night we had a big party to say goodbye to the old gal. It lasted for over 7 hours, and we were entertained by several of our loyal dancers and DJs that could make it. We also held our date auction. We saw old, familiar faces, and a few new ones saying they’d be back. It was probably the busiest night in months.
I thought on more than one occasion that night, we should have had a closing party every week.
At one point, somebody said: “Ah well, I know the KamaSutra will be back”
“Well, not as you see it,” I said, “but we’ll be back, and we’re all the KamaSutra, so yeah, you’re right.”
Anyway, the good news is that we will be opening up another club in the new year. I’ll be building it with Harvey over the next three weeks.
As hard as it was to let it go, and believe me it was really, really very hard, I do believe it was the right decision.