United We Stream: Berlin’s Clubs Continue Party Online

Watergate Berlin
Carsten Koall/Getty Images
– Watergate Berlin
A riverside club with two floors, panoramic windows and a floating terrace overlooking the Oberbaum Bridge and Universal Music.

Berlin’s vibrant underground club scene has come to a complete standstill. To absorb at least some of the damage COVID-19 has had on their businesses, the city’s clubs have launched a digital club, in conjuncture with several media partners, that will be streamed online.
With the whole world quarantined, the press conference announcing the United We Stream initiative took place onaline. Here’s the lowdown.
Starting tomorrow, March 18, every day from 7 p.m. are stream of live DJ sets, live music and live performances will be available on www.unitedwestream.berlin. 
The stream will change venue every day, and the program so far is nothing short of what you would expect at a regular club night. First up is the iconic Watergate, which welcomes Monika Kruse, Claptone, Mathew Jonson. 
Kater Blau on the banks of the river Spree in Berlin.
AXEL SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images
– Kater Blau on the banks of the river Spree in Berlin.

Other participating venues include the Tresor, Kater Blau, Salon Zur Wilden Renate, Sisyphos and many more. As things stand, they will program content until mid-April. 

Aside from live music, topical panel discussions, keynotes and presentations taking place in the capital over the coming weeks will be made available online as well.
Lutz Leichsenring, the media spokesperson of Clubcommission, said emphasized, “We don’t want to encourage people to have parties at home. We want to present club culture in people’s living rooms.”
Media partners include French TV station arte concerts, radioeins, Alex TV, RBB, FluxFM, Berlin label SUOL and live streaming production company ifbbw. 
Berlin’s Clubcommission has 250 members representing between 80% and 90% of the clubs in Germany’s capital. Leichsenring said Berlin’s club owners were dealing with an “unreal situation. We live from bringing people together in safe spaces. Now it seems like these safe spaces aren’t as safe as we thought.”
He quickly focused on the positive though, and explained how the network built by Clubcommission over the past 20 years has paid off in the current crisis. 
The commission is in touch with political decision makers to demand a €10 million rescue package for Berlin’s clubs, but “because we don’t want to wait for politics to take concrete measures, we launched out own campaign,” Leichsenring explained.
The entire United We Stream initiative has been organized decentrally via 20 different WhatsApp groups, each specialized in different lines of work, he continued. One group, for instance, counted more than 100 club promoters, who were engaging in a calm, professional discussion.
“Panic and hectic won’t get us anywhere,” Leichsenring said.
United We Stream
– United We Stream
Clubcommission has partnered with media to stream club shows and discussions around Covid-19 online

The goal of United We Stream is to inspire people to make donations on betterplace.org. The money will end up in one pot and be distributed according to a ratio that still needs to be worked out.

Seeing that Clubcommission is a founding partner of the nationwide operating LiveKomm, Leichsenring said it was fair to assume that other club associations in Germany would look too Berlin for inspiration on how to deal with the Coronavirus crisis.
The commission is connected worldwide, as well. Leichsenring pointed towards Nighttime.org, a platform collecting best practices from all over the world to see how other cities are dealing with the situation.
It remains to be seen how effective United We Stream is going to be. As Leichsenring explained, a club like Watergate has operating costs of some €120,000 per month. To compensate losses of that size, a lot of money will have to be raised.
Leichsenring recalled the last time in history Germany faced a curfew, which was right after World War II. Even that curfew was less strict, at least allowing businesses to operate until 9 p.m. 
According to Leichsenring, the situation club owners were currently facing was worse. “At the moment we’re all unemployed,” he said, adding, “this is an event that has hit this city and its culture very hard.”
Many clubs have already filed for bankruptcy, in order to avoid becoming guilty of failure to file for insolvency in due time.
What makes the situation extra difficult is that there are several landlords in the city that would love nothing more than to evict a club from their property, Leichsenring explained, adding that if clubs failed to meet their financial obligations, it would obviously offer those landlords grounds for doing so.