Is Berlin a Haven for Up-and-coming Techno Artists?
There are music lovers who've moved to Berlin just for the sake of the city’s amazing club scene. It’s estimated that about 3M people visited Berlin just for its clubs in 2018, bringing about 1.5B € into the city’s budget, according to a study by Berlin’s Club Commission.
We’ve checked more than 700 music events that took place in Berlin in September 2019, and 37% of those were categorized as Electronic. If we break that down even further: of all the Electronic events, 35% were Techno shows, while 41% were House. Still, to say that Berlin is the capital of Techno is no overstatement.
For a walkthrough of genres at Berlin’s hottest venues, read our Short Guide to Berlin Genre Hotspots.
With more than 700 events per month, Berlin offers numerous opportunities for resident and guest DJs. By the way, it’s also one of the friendliest cities for women DJs. It’s why artists from all over the world come to the German capital in the hopes of making it big. So, grab your gear, find a place in Friedrichshain, and earn a million!
It sounds great, but as usual, things are a bit more complicated. By virtue of being a mecca for Techno musicians and fans, Berlin is full of DJs. Quite a few clubs offer new talent gigs, but for an unknown artist, it’s even harder to get those because of the fierce competition. Luckily, the city is also known for hating social hierarchy, which means that people in the industry are fairly approachable. And as it’s really big on the underground scene, Berlin is rife with opportunities.
Berlin is cheaper than, for instance, London, with rooms in Friedrichshain going for as low as 350€ per month, so it’s convenient for an aspiring DJ to live there.
Sign on for Tresor’s New Faces
Tresor is one of the most famous clubs in Berlin, and luckily for all aspiring DJs, they throw New Faces parties – usually every Wednesday. The club has a label, and if they sign you on, you’re definitely on your way to success. Tresor is an abandoned thermal power station, so the surroundings are incredible, and it's famed for putting on some of the harshest Techno known to man. It has, however, also become very popular among the tourists, which is a thorn in a sides of Techno lovers.
://about blank’s Staub parties
://about blank has slowly made it to one of the most popular Berlin clubs. It hosts so-called Staub parties, which usually take place the last Saturday of every month and often feature lesser-known DJs. The lineup is never announced in advance, and that's a big part of the charm.
Make them sweat at Humboldthain’s Open Decks party
The club holds newcomer nights every Tuesday, called Open Decks. They're a great way for new talent to make an appearance. The club publishes calls for DJs on Facebook and its official page, so check them both regularly.
Work in a club like Ellen Allien did
Ellen Allien is a great example of how to succeed in the business. After the Wall fell, she started working at the Fischlabor club, opened by Dimitri Hegeman (he later opened Tresor). She met all the DJs on the scene and eventually started DJing herself. Now she’s one of the most sought-after DJs in the world and has her own label.
Make your way to the top through DJ bars
Quite a few DJs started working in bars, weddings, and private or corporate parties, before they made it into clubs. And there are plenty of bars in Berlin that offer such job opportunities. They're a great way to make connections with people in the business and test your material. Among the most popular DJ bars are Repeat, Twinpigs, Süss war Gestern, Klunkerkranich, Möbel Olfe, and Mein Haus Am See. All of these might hire a lesser-known DJ in the early hours of the day or late at night, so it’s worth a try.
Here you’ll find the most popular venues in Berlin!
Learn at Berghain
It’s probably the most famous place in the Techno world and the holy grail of venues for numerous DJs all over the world. Unfortunately, playing there as a novice is now virtually impossible. Those early days, when then-unknown DJs such as Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann were becoming stars at Berghain, are sadly over, but the legendary club can be the best teaching ground there is. World-famous Berlin DJ Peggy Gou has often said that she spent every weekend in Berghain, and that the music she heard there shaped her as a DJ. It’s a place where young DJs learn about the trade, meet people in the business, and start to network. You can meet a great deal of people who can help you there. Of course, first you have to get in. Here are some instructions that might come in handy.
Networking is the key, and you can start by registering and claiming your profile at Viberate.
Throw your own party
If you’re crafty enough and have the right connections, you can organize your own party. Gather a bunch of friends, call up a few other DJs who are also on the lookout for promotion, rent a club or some other acceptable venue, and hit the town with fliers. Remember, word of mouth is just as effective today as it was in the 1990s. Creating an event like that is a good way to get noticed, but you do need promotional skills and a great deal of legwork.
Don’t forget, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, abandoned power plants, bunkers, hangers and underground stations became temporary clubs, and plenty of those places are still vacant. After the fall of the Wall, young people felt liberated. Like legendary Berlin DJ Ellen Allien has said in numerous interviews, she felt like she was living in a cage until the wall came down.
The whole Berlin scene is built on parties and clubs that usually operated illegally, until most were shut down, but quite a few rose from the ashes and turned into legal businesses. Arguably, the entire Berlin Techno scene originated at these four clubs: UFO (now Tresor), which held illegal parties for more than three years before it was shut down in 1990, Der Bunker, which closed in 1997, E-Werk, now an all-purpose venue, and WMF, closed since 2010.
Illegal parties are still quite popular in Berlin, but to avoid fines, working on the up-and-up might be a better option. There are many venues that offer space for rent. Hiring them on weekdays, when business is slow, might get you a better price. If you can estimate the number of people coming, you can negotiate a good deal with the owner. For instance, if you expect a 100 people that will spend a total of 1,000€ (let's assume that’s more than the owner gets on that certain night), you might get the place for free or only pay the difference to the agreed price.
A tip: club owners will not look kindly on someone distributing fliers in front of their place, luring people to a different venue. A good number of doors might be closed to you that way.
Bottom line, is Berlin a haven for Techno artists?
The answer would have to be more yes than no. There are fantastic opportunities there for all Techno DJs. The genre is extremely popular, and the venues are legendary. There’s no better place to learn the trade. It’s also worth mentioning that Berlin isn’t keen on big names. It’s mostly focused on an underground scene, which means that virtually any unknown DJ can come there and become a star – in theory.
But because of all of the above, the competition is extremely harsh. To succeed, you have to be well-connected as well as talented. Most DJs never get past the bars, weddings and private parties, but those that make it in Berlin – well, the world is their oyster.
Cover photo: Alfred Twj (Unsplash)