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Putting a new spin on retro

Jeremy Hobson Mar 25, 2010

Putting a new spin on retro

Jeremy Hobson Mar 25, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: Marketers are always trying to keep up, selling us the clothes we want to wear, the cars we want to drive, the 3D TVs we want to watch “Avatar” on. And the music we want to listen to. And not just the latest hits, either.

Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson reports from New York, retro is getting an update.

JEREMY HOBSON: There are 10,000 bars and clubs in New York City and just about every one of them would love to be the it place for 20-somethings.

DJ Lady Bunny’s been spinning in the clubs of New York for 25 years. She says that demographic has always been a target for bar and club owners.

LADY BUNNY: Because they’re sexy, and for that reason their allure to lascivious older people like myself, no I mean oh! That slipped out!

But you can’t rely on cheap drink specials alone to attract that younger crowd. And ironically, just playing the latest hits won’t do the trick either.

“EMPIRE STATE OF MIND:” Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York…

Sean LaFleur and Dan Flugger of DJNYC says you gotta go retro. He spins at bars, clubs and corporate parties. He says just as companies use familiar images to sell clothes or cereal, DJs have to give people something that brings out this reaction.

SEAN LAFLEUR: People are going “Oh my God! I can’t believe I haven’t heard this. Oh, did I buy this? Oh God.”

And what LaFleur’s seeing now is going to make you feel really old. What used to be retro, the hits of the 80s…

“SUNGLASSES AT NIGHT:” I wear my sunglasses at night, so I can so I can…

Are going the way of parachute pants.

Here’s Dan Flugger of DJNYC.

DAN FLUGGER: It was retro, it seemed like for 15 years. And then in the past four years or so, we’ve moved into playing more other stuff.

And by other stuff, he’s talking about the hits of the 90s.

LAFLEUR: In 2005, if you were playing the Spice Girls, you’d get probably laughed out of the gig. But now, people love it.

“WANNABE:” Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want, so tell me what you want, what you really really want…

Lady Bunny has been playing this song lately, too. She says those coveted 20-somethings just love it.

BUNNY: And as much as a DJ likes to educate, and show stuff that they know that the general public might know, because it’s not Top 40, a DJ with an empty dance floor is a DJ with an empty bank account.

Lady Bunny knows the drill. She’s seen retro change several times over the years.

BUNNY: Every era has their own retro. In the 70s, there was a big 50s craze with “Happy Days.” The 80s ushered in a 60s revival.

And the 90s, she says, brought back danceable disco beats from the 70s, like in this oft-forgotten hit by Soul II Soul…

“Back To Life (However Do You Want Me):” However do you want me, however do you need me, how, however do you want me…

So what do the 20-somethings think?

KAYLA OBERLIN: I get really psyched. Cause that was my music, like that was the first music that I could lay claim to as like, oh, this is like ours. My friends and I listen to this.

That’s Kayla Oberlin in Manhattan’s hipster-filled East Village.

Here’s Jarred Jeter.

JARRED JETER: I’m like, wow, this is really familiar, yeah. Oh man, I remember we had a high school dance to this, and I didn’t dance. And so when you hear it again, you’re like all right maybe this is my chance.

Which is not to say he likes 90s music. But there’s just something about a familiar tune that’s, pardon my now-dated reference, simply irresistible.

And it seems to be keeping the New York club scene liquid.

In New York, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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