Orlando's House of Blues, Washington D.C.'s 9:30 Club Top 25 Hottest Clubs in North America

concert crowd

The club business, says HOB's CEO, "is healthy because there’s considerable volume going through it." Behold, Billboard's list of small-ish venues that pack in the crowds.

What makes a good venue a great club? The sound system is key, obviously, but so are the sight lines, the lights, a decent dressing room and the attitude of the staff. These days, club owners have to look far beyond having a quality beer selection to compete for prime bookings. At the same time, bands, who are increasingly making a living on the road and have better access to audiences through social media and the web, and their representatives can be a bit more choosy.

For an assessment of the 2012 club scene, Billboard has compiled a list of the venues that pack in the crowds night after night. Holding the top spot: Orlando's 2,100-capacity House of Blues, mere steps from Florida's Disney World. One of nine HOB franchise venues to make the Top 25 list (eight in the Top 10), it draws some 375,000 club-goers in a year.

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Not far behind is Washington D.C.'s revered 9:30 Club, which has hosted everyone from the Ramones to X to the Beastie Boys, along with local punk acts like Fugazi. With a maximum capacity of 1,200, it brought in a staggering 280,448 attendees in 2011. Says owner Seth Hurwitz: "Think about why you like any business. It’s when you get a sense that the people there are happy and care about doing the best they can to make their place the best they can.”

Still, the club business is “very tough" these days," adds House of Blues CEO Ron Bension. "It's tough for the bands and the operators." But there are bright spots. "It’s healthy because there’s considerable volume going through it," he says.

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To that end, chains like Harrah's and the Knitting Factory performed well but not necessarily only in big cities. Venues based in Boise, Idaho, Spokane, Wash. and Bossier City, La. also made Billboard's Top 25 Hottest Clubs in North America and Los Angeles doesn't show up until No. 5.

See the full list below: 

1. House of Blues (Orlando, Fla.)
2. 9:30 Club (Washington, D.C.)
3. House of Blues (Dallas)
4. House of Blues (Chicago)
5. House of Blues (Los Angeles)
6. House of Blues (Houston)
7. House of Blues (Anaheim, Calif.)
8. House of Blues (Las Vegas)
9. House of Blues (New Orleans)
10. Stubb's Bar-B-Q (Austin)
11. Club Nokia (Los Angeles)
12. The Joint (Las Vegas)
13. Stage AE (Pittsburgh)
14. Glass Cactus (Grapevine, Texas)
15. House of Blues (Atlantic City, N.J.)
16. Harrah's Cherokee (Cherokee, N.C.)
17. Knitting Factory (Spokane, Wash.)
18. Harrah's Stir Concert Cove (Council Bluffs, Iowa)
19. Knitting Factory (Boise, Idaho)
20. Knitting Factory (Brooklyn)
21. La Zona Rosa (Austin)
22. Knitting Factory (Reno, Nev.)
23. Harrah's Horseshow Riverdome (Bossier City, La.)
24. Park West (Chicago)
25. Hard Rock Love (Edmonton, Alberta)

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