How to organize the most successful party
Everyone, really everyone, looks online first
But Berlin has also changed: Today it is not only the music and lifestyle that lure those in their early 20s behind the mixing consoles, but also the prospect of glamor and money.
The ox tour of night life has four stages, to describe it terribly simplified: First you play for little money in the wake of well-known DJs, often the first, mostly empty hours of a party. Then you organize your own parties, form alliances, try to make a name for yourself as a collective. Then you need a booker who negotiates the fees with the clubs and parties and organizes the trips, so to speak: an agent who thinks carefully about who he works for and who doesn't. Because the bookers are paid on a percentage basis.
And only when you are so well established as an artist that you publish your own albums and want to step into the wider public, you need a successful PR agency like Tailored, who knows the media landscape and can develop a strategy for how you are, if necessary presented on social media.
Because everyone, really everyone in this business first looks online if they want to know what a DJ stands for, which sound, which niche. But also if you want to know whether a DJ is worth his fee. "The promoters of the clubs and parties now look very carefully at how many followers a DJ has on Instagram, Facebook or Soundcloud," says Gansera. "The question is what your name is worth," says Taylor. "How many people come to this party just to see you play?"
"Strictly no GHB. And leave your camera here"
So: please count once. It's Easter Monday, shortly after 2 p.m. and between the bar and the large dance floor of the Griessmühle on the Neukölln shipping canal, right next to the Estrel, there is a wall of sweat, grass and stale air. Outside, club-goers prancing in to the bar first of all, in the second, lighter room, where there are drinks as well as lasagna (4 euros), hot dogs (2.50 euros) and bananas (1 euros), they first sit out between wooden pallets two discarded Trabis and arrive. On the other side of the canal are container ships and the so-called Chicken Center, a restaurant wholesale market. A mixture of Dutch, English, Hebrew and Berliners hangs above the garden. "So many people at that time is abnormal, dude!" A woman in her early 20s with a crop top and white Fila platform sneakers screams at her friends.
Roughly 300 to 400 people dance in the large room of the Griessmühle, just as many hang around the bar or sit by the canal. "We are not alone" is the name of the party series that Ellen Allien's label BPitch is organizing here. The entrance fee is 15 euros, and you can quickly calculate what that means financially. Apparat also hung up at night, part of the electro supergroup Moderat and also solo one of the great pop stars of electronic music in Berlin, so the queues were long, very long. But now in the afternoon, the club is only slowly filling up again, the bouncers are a bit more generous, even Danish tourists who really want to see Berlin's nightlife live are allowed in. Two hints from the bouncer: "Read our rules: Strictly no GHB. And leave your camera here." The Dane agrees with relief. No liquid ecstasy is a problem. He's allowed in. His money too.
Inside, in this sauna after an infusion of beer and sweat, Ellen Allien is dancing behind the mixer. Allien doesn't just dance, she dances, dances, dances, stretches her arms up, hits the sky three times in a cycle, weighs herself, counts, puts her hands back to the ceiling and pulls the bass down. The oldest trick of the night, but, as almost always, it works great: Everyone here is waiting, moving a little nervously, instantly tactless, thrown back on themselves. Allien crosses her arms behind her head, now she is playing film music, strings, so-called surfaces, she directs the room, the spherical roar. Raises your fist. Then the bass finally starts again. "Great, man!" yells a guy in a t-shirt that says "I would bottom you so hard".
Ellen Allien knows the success and its shadow like probably few in this city - if only because hardly anyone is here for so long without having disappeared into the insignificance. At the beginning of the 2000s, Allien was, as she herself puts it, "a Berlin export hit" back when, as she put it, "the world understood that Berliners could hang up and celebrate." And Allien was right at the front, "Stadtkind" and "Berlinette" were the names of the two albums with which she shaped the sound of the city at the time: dry, but prancing, driving, but melodious, techno, who understood how pop works.
Their sound protects them from being absorbed
But the longer Allien talks about how little money you make in 2018 with the music itself and, above all, with streaming - and how much money you make with performances if, like Allien, you fly to Munich, Paris, Maastricht and Helsinki within a few days, as it is, To heat up for three hours in a rental car in the Pyrenees, to sleep for two hours and to hang up for three hours only to get back in the car immediately, the more condenses a picture of an industry in which the love for music and letting go is condensed Business, friendships, professional contacts and a tempting dandy lifestyle has sometimes turned into a backbreaking job in which excess and fun are not the only focus. And hard work and discipline in the background.
And there is a story that Ellen Allien does not tell. Namely like Paul Kalkbrenner, who previously published his music on her label BPitch, was asked by the director Hannes Stöhr at the time whether he wanted to play a DJ in his film "Berlin Calling" and write the soundtrack, which is only slightly amused in Berlin techno circles " Paule is making a film! " was whispered and Kalkbrenner finally sold out the Columbiahalle twice in 2008 and a total of 7,000 completely overdone Paul Kalkbrenner lookalikes and other strangely excited fans their idea of Berlin, this DJ lifestyle thing and the friendly, melodious sound of BPitch, Ellen Allien and Paul Kalkbrenner celebrated as if there were a teenage star on stage. Allien's albums have gotten darker and heavier since then. When Depeche Mode asks her, like last year, if she can do a remix for the band, the superstars also get a dark version of their song, deprived of almost every melody and song. The sound is also a protection: against the appropriation, against the mainstream, against the money.
On this Easter Monday, Ellen Allien will hang up for four hours in the Griessmühle, for four hours she will dance every second, be there, carry the audience through the afternoon, which is illuminated by the sparse red and blue light. And after your set you go a little bit through the clubs, in Berghain of course, in the safe, take a look, let yourself be seen, hear what your colleagues are playing, say hello here and there.
The fact that this business works is mainly due to three factors: to party experts like Cristobal and the tourists who come to Berlin by the tens of thousands every weekend because the selection of parties here is greater than anywhere else in the world. About the fact that everyone else also wants a piece of the Berlin legend and that is why hordes of Berlin DJs fly out into the world every weekend - the middle class to Zurich and Belgrade, the top earners to Sao Paolo and Beijing. And it's because of the dirt cheap admission prices, especially compared to London (where you can easily pay over 30 euros for admission) and Ibiza (where many clubs take admission from 70 euros). In Berlin it is seldom more than 15 euros. Because Berlin still has the underground spirit, says Ellen Allien. Because Berlin isn't just Nashville for techno and house, mockers say. But also the Ballermann.
The feeling obscures the business
In the past, right after the fall of the Wall, many clubs didn't even have a tax number. Today it seems as if you couldn't even start without a business plan. There used to be clubs for a year or two, then something new came along. Today, many clubs are limited liability companies with profit margins as high as six figures. A few buddies used to put on records. Today the bookings are highly professional negotiation marathons, at the end of which the top DJs know where they will be on New Year's Eve in April. Berlin, that is perhaps the punch line, is still not the place where big money is made. But the place where you have to assert yourself in order to get five-figure sums for an evening elsewhere, in Sao Paolo, Boston and Barcelona, but especially at the big techno festivals around the world in the summer.
It's a little bit like in professional football in this business: everyone actually knows how much money is involved and that the business is slowly but surely eating away at passion. But as long as the show is good and the passion is as good as real, that's not a problem. The Berlin brand works. The feeling obscures the business. Sarah Farina will soon be playing in Berghain.
Back to Cristobal. After two days and two nights, the party is over, Cristo and his friends have gone home to a friend, brunch, sobering up. Not a hard cut into reality, rather a smooth transition to a different pace. When it seems clearer again, Cristobal says: "I have to work tomorrow." He pushes his jaw back and forth. To finance his long-term party, Cristobal goes cleaning in offices and apartments. He pauses for a moment and says, "I'm mopping floors. I mean - fuck, I went to college." But the money has to come from somewhere.
All pictures in this article come from the series "Funpark" by the Berlin photographer Lisa Wassmann. Wassmann, who began her career as a party photographer, has been accompanying and observing Berlin's nightlife for over ten years. She works for “Spiegel”, “Zeit Magazin” and Stella McCartney, among others. “Funpark” will be exhibited for the first time at the Gallery Weekend (Bar 131, Chausseestrasse 131, Mitte).
Collaboration: Felix Denk
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