We spoke to four Berlin-based individuals who work across the music industry as DJs, promoters, club owners and artists to hear how coronavirus has affected them and how they are dealing with it.
A few months ago, no one in Europe would have thought that a distant viral outbreak would transform into one of the most widely reported pandemics in human history. Fast forward to April 2020 and cities the world over are struggling to contain the spread. This has inevitably lead to closures of any form of business deemed not to be an essential service. And we have certainly felt these measures more than most in the music industry. How has this affected life in Berlin, one of the busiest dance music cities in Europe? We’ve asked a few key music professionals inhabiting the city for their perspective.
There are no two ways about it, we all need to take active social distancing measures right now – not for us, but for the more vulnerable amongst us. Although this has certain implications, it has to be our priority right now. From a performance point of view – as far as I can see, everything looks to be cancelled until after the summer, and looking at the bigger picture, I wouldn’t be surprised if that goes on for much longer – some shows are already postponed until 2021.
I obviously hope things resume to some kind of “normality” earlier on, but it’s impossible to predict and I want to be prepared for the worst in order to keep expectations in check. However, it’s not all bad, and in fact, I’m making the most of this down time – I’ve finally had the chance to work on some new music, and finished a couple of pending remixes too. I’m still intending to keep a fairly regular release schedule on my label because I assume (or hope) people will still be buying records through this phase, as I know I will. I also firmly believe that some absence from clubs can enable us to come back with renewed positivity/energy.
Of course there’s been a lot of changes. For the DJ side of things, all my gigs for at least the next 6 months have been cancelled or postponed. I have been invited to play a few “Post-Corona” events but obviously I told them only if and when it is safe to do so not only for myself but for those attending. For now, I plan to focus a bit more on my music production side as well as getting to a few projects I have been putting off like updating my discographies and websites.
On the Neptune Mastering side of things, it’s really picked up! It’s tripled in fact. I’m guessing that it won’t slow down since many artists actually have time now to write more music. In future, who knows what will happen to the state of buying, selling, and the playing of music.
I think that any focus on what might happen in the long term will just be detrimental to one’s own mental state right now. Artists will still find ways to be creative and create music no matter how it’s played or what the financial outcomes are. That’s what makes us human. Money will come and go. People and integrity matter, now more than ever. Help each other. Focusing on the positives and personal growth is what will push us through these difficult times.
It’s not easy, firstly because my incomes represent between 50 and 70% of the money I earn every month. Fortunately, I work part-time in another company, so it helps a lot to have a regular pay at the end of the month but my contract is ending at the beginning of June and I am not sure if they will extend it.
The scary thing is that we don’t know when this complicated situation will end, and it’s hard to plan something. Moreover, it is good that the government gave us a grant, a comfortable amount that helps a lot, even if I am trying to use it wisely, until the re-calculation.
So my plan is to wait, to stay at home and to save money at the maximum until we have a visibility to plan again for the future. We have to be careful and patient.After this, we will need to find gigs among all the people who are in the same situation. It’s not easy, and very challenging.
Promoter: Kontaktor/Erica Synths
While COVID-19 has stripped us all of the previously known ways of experiencing art and music, the impact – especially the long term one, is yet to be comprehended. When it comes to promoting projects that focus on electronic music in Riga, Latvia – where Erica Synths operate – the environment is already much more irresolute than in most places.
Besides manufacturing electronic music instruments we actively promote different projects that rotate around showcasing forward-pushing electronic music. In May 2020 we had planned the third edition of live electronic music festival KONTAKTOR which – being an absolutely uncommercial project – we have now decided to cancel altogether with the return scheduled for 2021.
Not only had we curated an extensive program consisting of musicians, performers and artists that have played a key role in shaping the development of electronic sound, this year we were also invited to present KONTAKTOR showcase in Berlin’s club OHM as part of the Superbooth. Initially considering postponing the festival to a later date we came to the conclusion that the current situation is too unpredictable to operate in, until some kind of clarity and prospect are reached.
While KONTAKTOR is Erica Synths’ means of celebrating contemporary sonic phenomena via presentation of notable and influential musicians from across the world, Erica Synths Garage is another project that focuses on fresh talent introducing cutting-edge innovation in sound and live performance especially. This spring was supposed to see the launch of a new concept behind the series, however, even before the official government notice regarding social distancing, limits on public events and so on were in function, we voluntarily canceled the event strongly believing that to be the only responsible action.
When it comes to Erica Synths instruments and manufacturing processes, even though several of our Asia based part suppliers have been pressured to delay deliveries, fortunately, we have a steady stock of the necessary parts, therefore, we have not yet been severely impacted and continue to work as before. Synths are still being developed, assembled and shipped to their new owners world-wide so new sounds are created and yet unheard music is born.
Suicide Club: Club Owner
In the past 25 years since Suicide Club Berlin exists, it has seen some changes in Berlin club scene to which the club had to adapt. However, the immediate and massive consequences of the sudden club closures are unique to club, the employees, suppliers and artists. Because of the shortness of time it hit us unexpectedly and led the club aswell as the employees in a precarious situation.
Within the following days, our main task was to collect all available information about the political decisions and find out whether there is government support for companies and if so, which government funding options are suitable for the club and the involved stakeholders. We were especially in exchanges with our crew members to find out which options were available to everyone in order to be financially secured over the coming weeks and to reduce the fix costs of the club as long as it is closed. Therefore we had no choice but to quit some of our employees hoping to continue working with them as soon as the club can reopen again. For our remaining employees we had to apply short-time work.
Next to that, we apply to the company rescue grant the government provides. We are in communication with our landlord to find a fair solution for both sides and we are optimistic to find an agreement here.
Meanwhile, we published a crowdfunding campaign on startnext.com to generate additional financial support. On this platform we offer our supporters many different items such as club decoration, flowers or records for their donation. We fairly share the amount of donation with artists or promoters we are connected to if they offer their art as item. The proceeds of the crowdfunding are for now the only damage limitation we can be sure of to receive.
So it’s a critical existencial situation for us, but the most important thing is not to give up, stick together and support each other as best as possible. We will have to rethink our program aswell since the needs of our guests will have certainly changed after the crisis.
FURTHER COVID-19 HELP, ADVICE AND GUIDES
SURVIVAL TIPS FOR THOSE LIVING IN BERLIN
- Rental debts from the 1st April to 30th September can be legally deferred
- An unprecedented aid package has been rolled out nationally and locally. Although the Berlin grants have closed on 1st April, Federal grants are still available
- Arbeitslosengeld/ Sozialgeld, a form of unemployment benefit could be applied for in some cases
- The Infection Protection Law (Section 56) can be helpful in forced closure of a business place due to the pandemic
Further Covid 19 Information and Support
- https://criticalworkers.noblogs.org/post/2020/03/17/how-not-to-go-broke-during- covid-19/
- https://berlinstartupjobs.com/guide-working-in-berlin/how-to-claim-unemployment- benefits-in-berlin/
- https://www.skwschwarz.de/en/news/articles/detail-of-article/news/entschaedigung- und-staatliche-hilfen-muss-der-staat-fuer-corona-zahlen0/4/detail/News/
- https://www.redtapetranslation.com/how-not-to-go-broke-as-a-freelancer-in-germany- during-covid-19/
Understandably, Berlin’s club scene has faced one of its biggest challenges to date. Whilst there may be support in terms of loans, unfortunately, the grants given out by the government applied to business with less than ten employees. The club commission Berlin announced on 17th March that Berlin’s clubs would be coming together in a series of live streams to raise emergency aid for the disaster. A full setlist can be accessed on:
So far clubs About Blank, Suicide Club, Sisyphos, Anomalie Art Gallery and Maze have called for help publicly via crowdfunding campaigns. And there is great news on this side with About Blank having recently announced reaching its funding goal of 100K. You can pledge support below:
- https://www.leetchi.com/c/safe-the-maze SECTION 4