Berlin’s Clubs Raise $400,000 Through Livestreams

About Blank
Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images
– About Blank
An alternative techno club in Friedrichshain, Berlin – one of 50-plus clubs taking part in United we Stream

The German capital of Berlin is famed for one of the most vibrant underground club scenes in the world. 
In Berlin, underground still means spaces, where people can express themselves uncompromisingly, without having to worry about anything the standardized outside world might think of them.
Underground, however, also means that most of these clubs are in such a tight financial situation that they wouldn’t last a week without events.
Germany’s shutdown of public life resulting from the fear of Covid-19 has brought this vibrant scene to a complete standstill. To absorb at least some of the damage, the city’s clubs launched a digital club, March 18.
Berlin’s Clubcommission, in conjuncture with several media partners, have since been streaming 100 hours worth of live DJ sets, live music and live performances from around 100 artists online for free, asking for donations in order to help with the clubs’ liquidity.
At press time, the so-called United We Stream initiative had raised more than €370,000 ($402,000). What is more, Berlin’s senate just decided to make €30 million ($32.6 million) available for private businesses working in the cultural sectors – any business employing more than 10 people and turning over less than €10 million per year. The money will be handed out as a grant, not a credit, which would have done more harm than good to a sector made up largely of not-for-profit businesses.
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.

“We’re in a good mood, as this money can really help us,” Lutz Leichsenring, the press coordinator of Clubcommission told Pollstar. “The donations still come in handy, as it allows us to take care of hardship cases and clubs that are still employing mini-jobbers, who aren’t being taken into consideration at the moment.” Many of Berlin’s clubs employ mini-jobbers, which is a form of marginal employment that’s currently not covered by any rescue package the German government has come up with.

Since it’s not just Berlin’s nightlife that has been crippled by the restrictions of people’s basic right to gather in public, the initiators of United We Stream decided to include international clubs from around ten cities and regions in Germany, Europe and the rest of the world. 
They all received their own United We Stream branded websites to launch their own streams and local funding campaigns. The self-proclaimed “largest digital club in the world” features Shelter (Amsterdam), Grelle Forelle (Vienna), Übel&Gefährlich (Hamburg), Harry Klein (Munich), Destillery (Leipzig), The Warehouse Project (Manchester) and Friedas Pier (Stuttgart). So far, 50 clubs are participating, more are to be added.
Talks, discussions, film screenings are also part of the streaming program, in order not to forget other pressing issues the world is facing at the moment, like the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe. €35,000 of the money raised through United We Stream already went to Seenotrettung, a charity dedicated to rescuing refugees that often end up in distress at sea on their perilous journeys.
“We wanted to send a message that we haven’t forgotten about the refugees in this time of crisis,” said Leichsenring, “and that we as a club scene want to display the kind of social responsibility society should also be displaying.”
The entire team needed to pull of the streams, the program coordination and social media communication includes some 100 volunteers in 15 different work groups. “People, who’ve never met in their lives, suddenly work closely together via digital media and means of communication. It’s quite unique,” Leichsenring continued.
Clubs will be among the last businesses allowed to open again, Leichsenring is sure about that. “The virus spreads particularly well in clubs, where many people are gathered in one spot, dancing, touching each other, and maybe roam from club to club at night,” he explained.
It chimes with the expectations of the German and European festival scene. Talking to promoters, they believe that live events will have to wait the longest for restrictions to lift, seeing that they gather the largest amounts of people in one place. 
Germany is also one of several European countries that have written into law that the live events industry may issue vouchers instead of ticket refunds in case of cancellations due to the virus. It will help with the immediate cash liquidity of Germany’s promoters. Vouchers remain valid until the end of 2021. In case the voucher remains unredeemed, the ticket has to be refunded.