Brightest Young Things Plans New York Expansion
If you can plot the history of Brightest Young Things by its parties, then last night's rather intimate soiree at the Gibson Guitar Showcase was a bit of an undersell: The website's leader, Svetlana Legetic, is stepping away from BYT's daily editorial operations, and here she was introducing her successors, Managing Editor Logan Donaldson and Assistant Editor Stephanie Breijo. For a website that helped shape much of the vaguely outre cultural-class nightlife in this city over the past few years—and then gave local scenesters a place to gab about it—that's a big deal.
2011 was Brightest Young Things' most successful year, and its first profitable one, Legetic says. But she isn't inching back from the operation's online presence to take advantage of the breathing room that comes with a bigger staff. (The site now has six full-time employees with benefits, plus two part-timers and an army of volunteer contributors, compared to three full-timers a year ago.) As far as bylines go, Legetic will still write the site's weekend events newsletter, and guide its more ambitious editorial projects. But a lot of her energy in the next few months will involve Brightest Young Things' more imperial ambitions. This summer, the site is expanding to New York.
The first BYTxNYC event is actually next Thursday at Le Poisson Rouge in Lower Manhattan: a showcase co-sponsored with Thievery Corporation's label, ESL Music, featuring The Funk Ark, Federico Aubele, Ursula 1000, and Chico Mann. The real coming-out is this summer, when Brightest Young Things will launch an events operation and a New York section of its website. In D.C., Brightest Young Things is able to put Corcoran staffers and Black Cat regulars in the same room, but in New York, those worlds don't overlap as significantly, Legetic says. So Brightest Young Things' big New York landing may come in the form of several large, varied events.
But: Can New York cool make room for, um, D.C. cool?
Certainly, there's no shortage of media, events planning, and sub-cultural goings-on in New York City. But after visiting recently—and meeting with labels, music venues, art galleries, hotels, brands she's worked with like vitaminwater and J. Crew—Legetic became convinced there's room for her website and its parties. "The goal isn’t to be this omnipresence in New York," she says. "We don’t have these very elaborate plans. This is how BYT is: 'Just pack your bag and go there.'"
The key, Legetic says, isn't filling one specific niche—like music or fashion or food—but providing a gateway for a cluster of them. "We're sitting in that neat spot of a curated lifestyle, not any one category," Legetic says. "We're going to go there and if you are interested in these things and you fit this taste level, you could maybe live your life on here.” (For what it's worth, I'd say New York sites like Impose and Brooklyn Vegan come close, but neither is what you'd call "omnipresent.")
What's the demo? Legetic says in D.C., the BYT constituency ranges from fresh-out-of-college to 35 or 36, is fairly well-educated, and is slightly more female than male. At this point, local detractors would drop the "H" word. Legetic says BYT's crowd is "interested and interesting." Whoever its fans are, the site has had more success selling them over the last year: Overhauled advertising packages (that have drawn dollars from more highbrow performing arts organizations), more events, and some consulting work helped push Brightest Young Things safely into the black.
"People think [the audience is] probably younger, but that’s probably because of the commenting audience, or the people that make for a good photo," Legetic says. "The people who pose for a photo with a glow stick in their mouth are probably 22, not 32.”