The “sonic sociologist”

It can often to be interesting to see how people describe sociology in the non-academic realm. How about a “sonic sociologist“?

DJ Ms Thang is a relative “novelty’’ (her word) in the nightlife business: a sought-after female DJ who can get a room pumping whether she’s spinning for 20-something club kids or a ballroom full of gala-goers. Those skills, as well as her runway-model good looks (she’s sometimes been booked on those alone, she acknowledges), make it clear that “I can hold my own with the boys,’’ she added slyly.

To those who groove or merely toe-tap to the selected beats she puts out, the allure is in her perceptive crowd-reading, and her soulful style, a melange of genres…

“You’re like a sociologist,’’ she said, in her case, one in stilettos, jeans, and lace fingerless gloves. On a Tuesday night at Minibar, the sonic sociologist spins some mellow tracks for a reserved sampling of clubgoers. She starts with the Revenge Rework of Marvin Gaye’s “Heavy Love Affair.’’

It would be interesting to read a study as to how DJs develop these people-watching and perception skills. Similar to some other culture industry insiders, would DJs describe their abilities as “intuition” or “innate abilities”? If so, I suspect a sociologist might find that DJs acquire and develop these skills as they get more opportunities and hone their craft.

How to get into clubs (the key: status)

Status is a topic that fascinate sociologists – who is labeled high status, why do they develop this, and how do they use it? A new study in Qualitative Sociology looks at what people are more likely to get into clubs:

Bring a woman — preferably many — if you want to get past the velvet rope.

That’s the advice of professor Lauren Rivera, who spent six months as a coat-check girl and in other low-level positions at an uber-exclusive club in Manhattan. The jobs were a cover for her academic work, on the bouncers of the club and the decisions they make. That account was just published in the journal Qualitative Sociology. It’s pretty much a how-to for making it beyond the velvet rope.

“I study status,” Rivera, an assistant professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, tells AOL News, “and I had a question. And the question I had was, How do people evaluate the worth of others in these unconstrained situations?'”…

Rivera began by flitting around the club, trying to steal looks at the bouncers in action. But a few shifts into her stay, she set up as a coat-check girl, which gave her an almost unencumbered look at the bouncers and who they were admitting. Later, she interviewed them all, delving deeper for the why of their judgments. “The interviews were actually more fruitful than the process itself,” Rivera tells AOL News.

Here’s what she found. Bouncers, first and foremost, let in the people they’ve let in before. “Generally, the most important thing is to be recognized,” she says, i.e. a star. If you’re not a star, it’s important to be a regular — maybe a friend of the star who goes to the club often, even when the star is, say, filming a movie in Antigua.

That still leaves the rest of us. How do we get in?

“Bring women,” Rivera says. “Women get in because the more women there are, the more men will spend money on them.” So if you’re a man, it matters less what you wear than who’s on your arm — or, preferably, arms. And if you’re a woman, never come alone. Always come during a massive girls night out.

After that, pinning down who’s admitted gets tricky and idiosyncratic.

Very interesting work. The bouncers had to develop methods for letting people in or keeping them out. The bouncers may appear to have an “instinct” about this but in reality, they develop and follow rules that they believe lead to a more successful club. While the above factors would increase the likelihood of getting into the club (being a regular, bringing women, being famous), there were also factors that would decrease your status in the eyes of bouncers: being an American black or Hispanic man.

Also, this research method of participant observation allowed Rivera to dig deep into the workings of the club. Without the initial observations from the inside of the club as an employee plus the interviews at the end where she could then ask the bouncers about their decision-making, the study would not have been so complete.