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Making A Living In The Berlin House and Techno Scenes

It’s no secret that Berlin is largely regarded as the DJ capital of the world – a world where DJ-based nightlife flourishes without the holiday expense and overblown glitz of destinations like Ibiza and Las Vegas. But what can the rest of the world learn from the behavior and business of the DJs, producers, and audiences who make up this successful scene? Guest writer and sociologist Jan-Michael Kühn explores Berlin’s underground behaviors from a very academic lens in today’s article.

Header Photo Credit: Carolin Saage

Where Did Berlin’s Scene Come From?

Electronic Dance Music emerged in the USA—but it found a place to dwell and thrive in late 1980s Berlin. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Detroit’s aesthetically radical prototype mixed with the disused industrial spaces and dirty basements of East Berlin to define what we understand as club culture today. For many, Berlin’s techno scene is a benchmark for club-music culture. Numerous producers and DJs relocate to Berlin for the scene, and many techno fans travel to the city just to take in its world-renowned nightlife. No other city offers so many clubs, event organizers, and labels. New trends arise and are absorbed—and often ignored and laughed at: Techno in Berlin doesn’t necessarily define itself through innovation, but rather through distinctive and discerning taste.

Since emerging out of a cocktail of subcultural crowds, the work and business of techno and house music in the city has developed into an economic sector, a scene economy of its own. For some, spinning and producing tracks and throwing parties continue to be a hobby; but for many others, these pastimes and passions have turned into a form of gainful employment and a professional career.

Countless clubs (like Berghain, Watergate, Golden Gate, and Ritter Butzke)  labels, agencies (for booking, promotion, and/or management), business firms (both vinyl and digital music production), media (scene zines, blogs, online forums), and distributors have cropped up around the musical practices of DJing, music-production, and event-promotion, providing the scene with its own infrastructure and economic supply chain.

Berlin, Capital City Of The Underground

Ben Klock playing at Boiler Room Berlin

One word keeps on popping up in conversation with the people that make up the local scene economy: underground. Although in everyday life nobody seems able to define this term precisely, you find it in use everywhere in this scene—especially where musical aesthetics come into play. Regardless of whether it’s about the music itself, the DJ’s abilities, the party or the location, “I prefer something more underground” is always the refrain. One of my interviewees, a label owner, put it succinctly:

“Berlin isn’t Lady Gaga or Paul van Dyk; this is the capital city of the underground.” 

To put it very simply, this underground has four dimensions: modes of production, subcultural distinctions, internal hierarchies, and modes of consumption.

First, Berlin’s house and techno scene economies have particular ways of producing music that are remarkably different from how the commercial music industry operates. Second, these modes of production and the aesthetics of this musical subculture are symbolically differentiated from “mainstream” music production (thus also securing their survival) through opposition to concepts like “commercialization,” “selling out,” and “the masses.” Third, hierarchies develop within and between underground milieus, often implicitly based on social class, wealth, and other forms of privilege. Fourth, these scenes promote modes of listening and dancing that differ from what one associates with pop songs, concerts, and mainstream discotheques.

Techno For Techno’s Sake 

Pierre Bourdieu (Wikipedia)

In his research on art appreciation, French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu noticed a trend towards two poles with opposing cultural logics.

  • The “autonomous pole” defined itself by its cultural orientation, in which the furthering of art itself took highest priority over any political, moral, or economic interest: art for art’s sake, as the saying goes.
  • The other pole had a commercial orientation, treating art as just another form of commerce like any other, in which art is produced based on its marketability.

Each pole had its way of making value and profiting from it, but they are also in tension with each other.

This tension exists in electronic dance music: on the “autonomous” side you find scene-based dance music with roots in Detroit, New York, and Chicago, along with the club/open-air party culture of Berlin; on the other side you find mass-produced and profit-driven “dance pop,” which readily absorbs any style that promises to increase record sales. Both poles have very different definitions of success, as well as sharply divergent aesthetics and modes of production.

Making Music to Get By: Subcultural Music Scenes 

Producing in a Berlin home studio

Music scenes are entities in which people can freely assemble and form communities around the aesthetics of a particular music culture.

For techno and house music scenes, involvement starts with a random visit to a club or first listening to recorded DJ sets. A few will become passionate about the music and the clubbing experience, visiting clubs and other events with increasing regularity. Although this participation may be rather passive at first, it quickly becomes more active. Many will begin to seek out certain sub-genres, follow certain DJs, develop expert knowledge about the scene, its clubs, do’s and don’ts, local artists, and so on.

Some scenesters start to DJ, throw parties, launch music labels, build scene-related businesses, or simply find work at clubs, labels, and agencies. At this point, they’ve begun to combine their passion for a certain aesthetic with commercial interests. This might remain a hobby for some, but this soon becomes a profession and a business for others. Nonetheless, this business orientation usually is limited by the cultural values and institutions of the music scene.

Notably, these producers don’t start making whatever musical style is most profitable at the moment. They consciously miss opportunities to make more money, because the feelings of enjoyment and freedom they get from their favorite music is more important to them. They see “earning a living” as being able to get by instead of pure profit-maximization. That is, they reconcile their professional and economic interests with their desire for self-determination and artistic freedom by aiming for financial survival and social security. For them, money exists to make their lives and their artistic activities possible, not the other way around.

The small-business structure of many of the scene’s entrepreneurs encourages this logic, since it places fewer practical constraints on an individual than a large organization with numerous employees. Also, coworkers at clubs and labels usually share their passion for this music, and so there is often an intimate, “family” atmosphere in these organizations. As a result of all of these factors, underground music scenes develop economies where personal aesthetics, individualist ethos, and alternative economic goals go hand-in-hand.

By contrast, major music labels (and larger “indie” labels) operate very differently: music is first and foremost a business, and the decision-makers at these labels aim to sell as many recordings as possible to the widest possible audience, regardless of what that music is. Their high costs make it necessary for them to focus only on music with “mass appeal.”

Rough translation: "You played David Guetta at your house party, you loser."

“That’s Too Commercial For Me”

Stemming from a deep and personal investment in their music, many scene members maintain very exclusive and anti-mainstream views. Nowadays culture has a tendency to overflow its boundaries, and so does subculture. As “mainstream” EDM has become increasingly popular and successful, many scene insiders have felt the need to openly reject this trend as “fake” or “inappropriate.” This rejection entails aesthetic and social exclusions, such as refusing to book DJs who play music associated with this trend or trying to exclude clubbers that would be into this kind of music.

These exclusive subcultural orientations have become a way to make sense of the cultural landscape, drawing boundaries around “our” aesthetics and “our” modes of production. It’s a form of resistance to mainstream culture that is primarily rooted in aesthetics, rather than class or counterculture. In most cases, these subcultural distinctions are a reaction to the perceived corruption of “culture” or “art” by monetary interests, exemplified by large-scale music events and personified by multinational media conglomerates and their “lifestyle marketing.”

Familiar Atmospheres vs. The Masses

Soju Bar: an intimate-but-popular after-hours venue in Berlin

Another way that scene members differentiate themselves from the teeming masses is by their preference for the familiar (in the sense of “intimate”).This term describes the warm, intimate atmosphere that one typically finds at events with between 100 and 1500 people, in which attendees have a heightened sense of personal connection with others.

Within underground club scenes, there is a strong preference to be among other clubbers that share certain characteristics (like shared interests, but also shared social background – class, age, education, etc), are long-time participants in the scene, and who have a lot of overlap in their social networks. Mainstream discotheques and mass street festivals stand in as counter-examples of “familiar” club scenes: random and undefined masses of humanity, young and old, dancing to the popular products of the music industry, taken from the “best of the 70s, 80s, and 90s” charts of radio and television.

Too Young, Too Old, Too Many Hipsters, Too Working-Class

Berlin hipsters (photo: Germany.info)

Berlin scenesters  go on enthusiastically about how little social inequalities matter to the scene, but various studies have shown the opposite: age, gender, ethnicity, various other groupings have a fundamental impact on music scenes. Moreover, there are correlations between the “cultural capital” one inherits from parents (and accumulates through a lifetime of education) and one’s choice of preference for music clubs or discotheques, including how one dresses and grooms oneself. In short: people with a higher level of education tend to visit more private, smaller, and more familiar locations like music clubs, whereas people with less education are more likely to attend open festivals and parades.

This has a direct impact on the economy of Berlin’s house and techno scenes. Party promoters, for example, will first organize parties according to their tastes, personal interests, and social backgrounds. The promoter strives to attract a certain crowd with a certain demographic makeup that is attractive to the promoters but also other clientele. Over time, this develops into a series of parties associated with a particular image—and the composition of the crowd is a very important part of that image. Maintaining and developing this crowd becomes essential to financial success, as clubbers will stop attending if they feel that the crowd has somehow gotten “worse” or “random.”

People will very often refer to certain groups of people, complaining that the crowd has become “too working class,” too “hipster,” “too many students,” and so on. In order to preserve the party’s “brand,” a doorperson becomes an economic necessity, in order to ensure the appropriate mix of people inside the club. Explicit exclusions based on supposed social-structural characteristics are hard to detect. And so, this “underground atmosphere” emerges out of a vague form of exclusivity, where some people can’t get in for elusive reasons. At the same time, the almost magic feeling of being “chosen” grants those who get in a sense of personal validation and belonging.

Producing Tracks, Mixing Sets

One final aspect that merits attention here is the relevance of the scene’s own cultural forms and practices. These play an important role in sustaining underground, subcultural identities.

Techno and house music differ in many ways from other styles of popular music. Instead of songs by bands or songwriters, designed to be played on the radio, TV, concert halls and mainstream discos, underground music producers create tracks that are intended to be seamlessly mixed by DJs into their sets, played in music clubs over high-capacity sound systems. This track-based unique mode of performance, listening, and dancing places the club in the center of this music scene and has historically differentiated itself from song-based popular music.

Jan-Michael Kühn is a doctoral candidate in sociology (Technical University Berlin), currently writing his dissertation on the scene-economy of the Berlin techno scene. He also DJs as DJ Fresh Meat in Berlin’s nightclubs and manages the Blog, Berlin Mitte Institut for Better Electronic Music. Translation by Luis-Manuel Garcia. 

  • TinyKurtRussell

    Seems like an incredibly douchebaggy scene. wow.

  • Stuart long

    Hi there
    Shit that man knows what he’s going
    On about ,the trouble is that music
    Can go up its own arse dependent
    On what type of drugs are taken ?And do
    these clubs have enough beautiful
    Girls attend weekly! Let’s face it women are a big factor for a clubs
    Succes! When I dj the girls love my sound .x

  • Daniel Jones

    Last summer, I was in Berlin and had one of the most amazing nights of my life. My ex-girlfriend and I went to Suicide Circus (which was in Friedrichshain or Kreuzberg, if I am not mistaken) with a couple of random English guys we met at the hostel that knew the place. The door guy was friendly, the music was amazing (a lot of deep house and tech house played by four or five DJs over the course of the night), and above all, the people were amazing. Every time I turned around, I was talking to a total stranger, whether they were Berliners, Germans, Swiss, Ukrainian, American, you name it. People were talking, dancing, drinking, just having fun standing under the open sky enjoying the evening without pretension. I have never seen so many people with diverse backgrounds so relaxed and having so much fun together. I wish there more places in the US like that. There certainly aren’t many where I am (Richmond, Virginia). People are too cliquish here. Every night out should be like that one.

  • Andreas Kruhne

    TB: Speichern Sie die Honigbiene!

  • I have been in Berlin twice and got the same feeling…

  • Bear

    Do DJ/Drummer Duo’s exist in the Berlin music scene?

  • chris

    i not agree with Berlin as Hotspot for underground music.

  • chris

    i not agree with Berlin as Hotspot for underground music.

  • MN

    Was in Berlin last year for a month. Went to pretty much every “big club” (Berhain, Weekend, Paloma) at least twice and some cool “underground” parties.

    Overall it has a great club scene compared to most all cities but I was a little bit disappointed in: 1) the amount of drug use, 2) the “minimal” trend for “underground” music.

    If you’re not using drugs, the 4 hour sets of clicking drum beats that some of the more self-involved DJs spin can be pretty tiresome.

    Great crowds though… just wish they went to enjoy joyful music in an uninhibited state.

  • chris

    Do most people make an everyday living DJ’ing out there?
    boston wedding dj

  • chris

    what are some of the more popular clubs that showcase the best DJ’s in Germany?

    boston wedding dj

  • Dion Mavath

    Berlin underground music rooks

  • runkiphon

    haha – “electronic dance music emerged in the us” – hahaha – what about kalle stockhausen, schorschi moroder, kraftwerk, huh? forget about those cats? – do your research, kiddo – before coming across like a pretentious o-so academically founded hipster. detroit didn’t even start before the early 80ies. electronic music is electronic afterall – the idea of the “machine” is fundamentally german…..

    • Electronic dance music, as we know it knowadays – dance music, djs, tracks, clubs – emerged in the 60s/70s in new york clubs as a dj practice and become later called disco. Moroder came after this, and Stockhausen and Kraftwerk wasn’t dance music. Kraftwerk however, was used by these early disco and hiphop djs and implemented into their eclectic music mixes.

      • Correct Disco and Non-Motown R&B were much more accepted in Europe as a whole than in America we’re there was always a Midwestern/Bible Belt White Male cultural backlash to Disco because if its gay& multicultural roots. I just don’t say this many historians do as well.

    • And “electronic” music btw is a lot older than Stockhausen and Kraftwerk, for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theremin

    • Old Grey Cat

      Very wrong. And ridiculous. Where are the frankish P Henry and P Schaeffer in your teutonic history? Luigi Russolo gets the boot back to Italy?

      Well, it doesn’t matter, since the formation of house and techno are WELL documented by now! With cosmopolitan influences, they were uniquely — and clearly — American in their formation, with a quick adoption into Europe.

      Kiddo.

  • Dano Williams

    Expectation. I think the DJs play so much variety there’s a niche for everyone.

    • This is also correct, I was watching DW and they spoke with some DJ’s that play 80’s and 90’s music to a decent crowd every night of the week. There also clubs that play rock and all sorts of sh*t, it is a great scene.

  • DJ_ForcedHand

    This and 1000 times this! If people around the globe dropped their stigmas about “Who gets to listen to *THEIR* music”, the world would be a better place.

  • CLS

    The comments are all over the place not sure what to accept as the truth of what it’s actually like haha but I think I definitely want to check out I think it would be perfect considering my taste in electronic music.cool article

  • Great article. I’d love to see more like this on DJTT. Keep it up!!!

  • tetrix

    I really enjoyed this article, its both intelligent but easy to understand. It explains the current trend in culture without being to childish or getting into to much detail.

    Im currently trying to encourage the artistic style of musics in clubs in my country as the nights are either aimed at commerical dance music or “Im to cool to like other music types” crowds. I wish my country had a more underground scene that wasnt splashed with drink promos and has played all night long.

    • Where is this? Much of the world is pushed by glizzy drink promos, its just how it is. More “underground” places are for hard core people when most discos are considered not only places to enjoy music but meet the opposite sex.

      Undergrounds tend to be super dark/minimal lighting as well and I’ve never like that.

      • tetrix

        I live in Northern Ireland, UK. Im 19 and i heard that it used to have a good club scene but besides that its pretty lame.

        I would pay top dollar weekly to go to a dark room with minimal lighting and a good sound system for hours on end. its like a drug

  • Koray Özdo?an

    berliners are so fucking liberal thats why clubbing scene is so cool.. btw they havent got a problem with tourists know how to clubbing.. No offence but no single bouncer wants curious tourists in their clubs at berlin except watergate or tresor :p

  • Interesting discussion here so far. If anybody has questions on the article, I am happy to answer them. Also, useful comments and criticism are welcome 🙂

    • Mad Zach

      hey I just got to Berlin, will be here for a while. haven’t made it out to any clubs but hit me up if you want to link up

      best,

      MZ

    • Old Grey Cat

      Fresh Meat, are you Jan-Michael Kuhn?

      Are you using Hebdige in your social analysis, at all?

      I know you’re writing for a non-academic audience here, but some parts of the article seem vague, like the commercial versus autonomous section. The “real” vs “fake” debate is one that has raged since the beginning of man; I find that it’s really easy to slip into generalisms in this kind of discussion.

      Great to see people working this angle from academia. In the US, music schools have their heads up their asses and wouldn’t touch this with a 10-foot xlr cable.

      • Hello “Old Grey Cat”,

        Yes, thats me. For obvious reasons I could not go more into detail in this article, thats probably the reason why it sounds very general. Hebdige is part of the theoretical chapter on subculture / scenes, but I am not using him explicitly for analysis. I find the combination of scene theory (Hitzler, Muggleton, Bennett) and distinction/cultural fields (Thornton, Bourdieu) more appropriate for my field.

        • Oldgreycat

          Awesome! New authors for me…

          Are you doing any musical analysis, as well? (sets or tracks, etc)

          Are you into Jonathan Sterne, Jaques Attali, Walter Benjamin?

          Using any ethnographic approaches, as well?

          • I combine ethnography with interviews, but not really doing musical analysis. For my diploma thesis I researched how producers make music in homerecording studios and this involved understanding music production as forms of knowledge. Which then makes it a sociological understanding of music structures, not from the perspective of musicology.

            The authors you just named are not part of my analysis though.

          • OGC

            Very cool. Thanks.

      • And thank you for your comment 🙂

      • Your going to the wrong school….

  • Complekx

    The Berlin techno scene is NOT underground.
    All the big dj’s come and play here and not for the sake of techno but for the sake of money and producing bigger crap than the night before.
    Underground has become one of those words just like techno wich is cool to give to your scene like minimal and techhouse is techno and underground all of a sudden

  • ZainO

    this is a great article…more like this plz

  • asp

    Cool article, wouldn’t expect something like this on djtt.

    I’m an American, but have learned German in school since I was 12 (sort of relevant), and got to study in Berlin last year. Here are some of my thoughts as a German-speaking-House/Techno-enthusiast-American.

    Sorry in advance for Rambling:

    Unfortunately, I think Berlin nightlife kind of suffers due to its own popularity. Go to any semi-popular club on a Friday or Saturday night and you’re almost sure to see a 45 minute or longer queue without guaranteed entry at the end of it.

    Besides Berghain, I would say that the exclusivity of a lot of these clubs isn’t necessarily intentional. On the contrary, I’d argue that clubbing in Berlin is way more democratic than, say, Manhattan, where at a lot of places you’ll be accepted/denied based on the price of your watch and shoes. It’s just that these clubs can’t possibly let everyone in, so they have to come up with a door policy, which is alway going to be arbitrary/unfair.

    Usually Germans and Berliners are given preference; the idea is that these people are more likely to patronize the club more often and during the week if they feel like they’re welcome. So yes, clubs are exclusive to a degree, but just because they want it to be comfortable and fun for everyone who does get in. I’ve heard stories of places like Fabric getting way too crowded that you couldn’t even move inside; I guess Berlin clubs take a different approach because people really do dance in them.

    To be blunt, if you are with a group larger than 3 or 4 and you don’t speak at least a little German, your chances are not so good. Tourists get a bad rap for being loud, rowdy, obnoxious, etc. Of course most tourists probably aren’t like this, and Germans can be just as bad, but that’s the stereotype. I talked to countless Germans who literally told me they were surprised I was American because I wasn’t an utter idiot.

    Regarding scene pretentiousness, I personally did not encounter this, but it sounds like simple in group/out group bias which happens with basically any group/scene. Besides, in Berlin the underground is so popular it basically is mainstream (to me at least), it’s just not marketed/presented as such.

    Finally, I’ll say that Berlin nightlife really is something special. I’m generally not the kind of person that likes going out every weekend, but Berlin had me wanting to go out even during the week! It’s a really vibrant city, and people who go clubbing are enthusiastic about it. Berlin clubs aren’t just places with a bar and a dance floor, they are places people can go to just hangout for the night (or longer). The spirit of community and camaraderie in these places is something I just haven’t seen elsewhere. This is why I think Berlin clubs are held in such high esteem and often imitated but never duplicated in other places.

    • bendoe

      As a Berlin native i guess i kinda know this scene well enough and in my opinion this sums it up quite well. I see that there can be problems to tourists or people living here short time due to having issues in language or the way of living. You kinda need to know your places, days and venues which makes it hard to find the right party for the mood sometimes. Still it’s quite some free and cheap place we have here but more and more “investors” coming raping the shit out of this city and as a matter of fact clubs and bars closing and rents raising into dimesions no one here could possibly have thought of.

  • Jamari

    This was an interesting read. Perhaps in the future DJTT could have contributing writers do such a thing for other regions and/or genres. It may be an alternate means of peaking the interest of readers like myself that aren’t normally exposed to such. For example, the flavor of house that I grew up on is more aligned with NJ/NYC in the late 80’s-90’s (anyone remember the brief hip-house sound?) whereas recently an associate has been putting me onto Liquid DNB and Dark Tech.
    Thanks to the author

  • Nicky Myers

    I went to Berlin over the Easter holiday earlier this year with a group of friends (all guys). We go out often in London as a group to see our favourite DJs play at places like XOYO, Corsica Studios, Fabric, Cable (before it closed) and all the warehouse parties. We were really excited about Berlin, having heard about the famed clubs with amazing parties that go on non-stop all weekend, such as Watergate, Berghain, Wilde Renate, der Visionaire etc. We’d heard it was tough to get in places, and often long queues, but we really didn’t expect to struggle as much as we did and found it very frustrating to be turned away from almost everywhere. Some nights we tried 5 or 6 places before we found somewhere we could get in. And even then, we had to sneak in in pairs. It just made me thankful how much more relaxed the door policies are in London.

    Don’t get me wrong, we had a great time in Berlin and it’s an amazing city with such a fascinating history and I’d like to go back at some point to see and do more. But when it came to nightlife, we found Berliners to be overly obsessed with protecting their super cool image, and the clubbers seemed mainly to be pretentious self-important hipsters. We were told by many that promoters/doormen just flat out don’t let in foreigners/tourists and that Berliners hate tourists in general, despite tourism being such a vital part of Berlin’s economy (as Berlin is one of Germany’s poorest regions). The places that we did get in without any hassle, such as Tresor, accordingly had a much more relaxed feel inside where people were actually there enjoying the music and not to just there to be seen being part of the ‘scene’.

    I’m now more grateful to live in London where we have amazing DJs playing every weekend and many of the world’s best clubs. In London, unless you’re out in Mayfair/Soho (which is where all the smart/expensive clubs are that play David Guetta and Avicii), there is pretty much no door policy as long as you’re over 18 and not too intoxicated. Doormen don’t seem to care where you are from, what language you speak or what you are wearing (to an extent) or if you’re in a group of more than 2.

    In summary, in the future I’ll be avoiding Berlin for my partying fix.

    • Treberon

      Don’t get me wrong but your list Berghain,Watergate,WildeRenate and Club der Visionäre are the clubs where EVERYBODY wants to go (as they pop up first at RA) so it has absolutely nothing to do with being a foreigner and not getting in.. Why not choose any of the other 40 listings in RA… Maybe you also meet less hipsters there.. 😉

      • Nicky M

        That’s what we ended up doing and had a great time, but even so were down beat from being turned away from places we’d been getting excited about visiting for a long time before our trip. You’re missing my point though. The clubs we got turned away from were not at capacity and people behind us in the queues got let in. We were discriminated against for not being hipster enough or for not speaking German or whatever reason it was. People descend on clubs in London like Fabric from all over the
        World and all different backgrounds and I’ve never heard of or seen people getting turned away for unjustified reasons like preserving the ‘cool’ image of the crowd.

        • Anonymous

          The most fun part of the entire scene is hearing people moan about how they did not get in to places. Trust me, it’s not about “being hipster enough”.

          • So true. Hearing groups of people at Moar Park on Sunday saying “they didn’t even let e in and I was wearing…”. You need to be relaxed and ready to be turned away and go somewhere else. It happens to everyone at some point as the well-known clubs fill up quickly so can’t possibly let everyone in, even if you have travelled from Mars for your best mate’s stag doo.

        • Treberon

          Thats true, can be strange sometimes.. Living in Berlin and am German speaking.. But sometimes there is no reason but as living here i can see other spots quick.. As a tourist it can be hard if you waste your time getting inside a club..

          • Totally. Don’t get me wrong, I feel bad for them. It would suck to pay a bunch of $ for flights and acom to come here to go to all these clubs you have heard so much about only to wait in line for ages and then not get in. But, if you look a bit past Watergate (which is mostly tourists anyway) and go to some more unknown places (Chalet, Rosies, Morlox, Golden Gate, Loftus Hall, etc) you can find an amazing party most nights of the week. Tomorrow (Friday) fr example the are around 50 gigs listed on Resident Advisor… it’s like record shopping; you have to dig to fing the gems 🙂

    • bendoe

      Sorry to say that pal, but this may be just because you’re english. It probably sounds stupid but even in a lot of bars they won’t let in groups of more than 3 or 4 englishmen, because: They’re always just trouble, fighting etc.! I don’t think all the english fighting all the time or anything like that but a lot of places had a lot of problems with english or australians (mostly bachelor-partys as i heard) so they rather not letting them in at all. It’s pretty sad that just because some people can’t behave a lot of others have to suffer. No offence but i think it’s kind of a bad habit travelling in these huge groups all the time.

      • Nicky M

        It’s ok I’m over Berlin now. We’re off to Sonar next weekend. I’ve heard there are no ridiculous door policies in Barcelona, amazing electronic scence, beautiful beaches and gorgeous women. Berlin can have its shitty techno clubs and door policies X

        • jf

          you sound salty!

  • Ginkgo

    Interesting read. Im nt familiar with thes he Berlin scene myself, but it seemed to me that this article was more of a broad analysis of his w electronic music scenes operate than anything unique to Berlin.

  • Max One

    Im actually going Berlin this weekend. Im into (deep/jackin) house rather than techno… where should I go? 🙂

    • Anonymous

      Panorama bar, in the early morning.

    • Chalet on Friday will be dope. Party with some great local DJ’s.

    • Max One

      I went to Katerholzig on Friday… probably one of the best clubs ive ever been too. Proper House music, djs using vinyl and a xone 92. proper clubbing bidniz. 100% absolute must… very unpretentious just amazing music and incredible vibes

  • Love living in B.C. =D

  • Diogo Fukumoto

    Big and great Berlin.
    We are eternally grateful for the Berlin underground scene!

  • Ztronical

    I live in Seattle Washington USA.
    I have traveled with within the US quite a bit.
    The main thing I notice is the best clubs usually are small and have amazing sound. A perfect example is Seesound lounge Seattle. The focus in these clubs is always the progression and atmosphere.
    I do like some mainstream music of course. But the large clubs with no room and people who don’t even care about the music. Tend to have horrible acoustics anyway.
    In the end its all music and personal choice and how you like to enjoy socially.
    Personally I would be pissed to go to Berlin after my 15+ years of following electronic music which started on with Kmfdm and just plain techno. And have some club look at me and not let me in. In fact to promote an underground art as a free minded but exclude is just…..ironic.

    • I

      “In fact to promote an underground art as a free minded but exclude is just…..ironic.”

      !!!

  • Der Langhaarige

    As a German, I really don’t like the Berlin scene. Too boring and way too much in love with itself. They are unfortunately way more interested in proving how “cool & underground” they are, by playing boring minimal crap for “dancers” who spend the night with texting and showing off their new designer sunglasses instead of having fun.

    Actually, that goes for the whole German scene. I pretty much gave up on clubbing, unless I’m in a foreign country* or a DJ who I really love is playing in a club nearby. (Last time: Felix Da Housecat 2009 in Cologne)

    *In that regard I was surprised by Ibiza. I had to work there for a week two years ago and I expected it to be full of Swedish House Mafia sounds and clubs full of arrogant teenagers, but then you go to a club like SPACE and have Miss Kittin playing on one floor, James Zabiela rocking another one, followed by 2ManyDjs, with several other floors playing everything from minimal to Hip Hop. And everybody is there to dance and have fun and not to strike a cool pose and drink champagne!

    • Dan White

      Good to hear that Ibiza is surprisingly pleasant – what month did you go in?

      • Der Langhaarige

        Early July.

    • Constantin Laskowski

      Hey, berlin is not like that! im not from berlin but my sister lives there, the hipsterscene is based in friedrichshain, but of course its represented in all the other parts of berlin! ive been to quite a few clubs where you had to write your name down to be a part of the association and have a lovely night with lovely people. You just have to dig a bit deeper!

      • YesILiveHere

        Nope … if you would live in Berlin, you would know, that the hipster-scene is not concentrated at one special district of the city … and even if so it would be more the districts of Kreuzberg/Neukölln/Kreuzkölln, Mitte or Prenzlauer Berg. There is a proverb: “Wenn man keine Ahnung hat einfach mal die Fresse halten.” In english something like: if you ain’t got a clue, shut up … it’s more about the daily life behaviour of hipsters that bugs anyone, who don’t think, the life is only about clubbing and fashion. But maybe let’s return on the discussion over the subcultural topics of Berlin instead of freaking out on arguing about hipsters … god damn it.

    • As someone who lives inBerlin and has played and partied in a lot of countries around the world I have to 100% disagree with you.

      It is the most unpretensious club scene I have ever experienced. I don’t get the comment about drinking champagne… most people are drinking €3 beers (which would be €10 beers in Ibiza. This goes from underground clubs to well known ones like Panorama Bar / Bergain.

      There are clubs like that but they are not the norm and that is not what anyone should be experiencing in Berlin. It is an open and inviting scene.

      It can be difficult to get into clubs like Panorama or Watergate but you need to understand the situation. they are full after the first hour of opening. instead of letting everybody wait for hours they tell people no to keep the line moving and keep up moral. If they didn’t, you may wait 3 times as long and still not get in, so just go somewhere else. People seem to misunderstand this and take offense to it too much. If you are into electronic musc and can’t find an awesome party, with awesome people, in Berlin then the problem is with you, not the city.

      My $0.02 🙂

      Dilby

      • Der Langhaarige

        Oh, I totally agree with you about the prices! Ibiza is fun, but it’s the most expensive place I’ve ever been (Which is pretty much the main reason why I haven’t returned to there yet.).

        Also I’m of course sure that there are nice people, good clubs and even DJs who don’t spend three hours with playing the same click-click-click drumloop over and over while feeling completely awesome for being “underground” (How underground can someone who plays the main floor of a huge club in Germany’s capital be?), but over the years I really became bored with the German scene for all the reasons I stated and it happened to me first after spending a year in Berlin.

        Of course I can only speak for myself. If you and others enjoy it, that’s cool and I believe you. But I associate Berlin with cold, distanced sounds and people, that give me absolutely nothing. If I ever return to Berlin, I will gladly try my luck again, though. (It’s already been a few years, so maybe it got better)

        • Andreas

          A few years ago I was pissed off by the prevalance of boring Minimal as well. It has become much better now, I’m happy to report. I would say that, apart from some traditional places where they played very minimal stuff before it was called Minimal, and they still do, the standard sound is now called Tech-House. I like that one. I can dance to it. It has a bassline and some melodic snippets, while it’s still restrained enough that you don’t get tired (of it) after an hour or two of dancing.

      • themissinglinka

        Totally agree 100% with you!

        • I’ve often finding the experience of others when its negative is a reflection on themselves, a sort of rose colored glasses effect.

      • Pablo ‘Charlie’ Rodriguez

        dude are you still in Berlin?… Because I want to networkking with DJ, or do some msuic collaboration, let me know dude, please, by the way , I’m in Berlin, 🙂

    • themissinglinka

      This is a pretty ridiculous statement, likely you went to a couple parties at places with a name. There is a beautiful relaxed, inexpensive dance scene in Berlin. I write this after having lived in 5 cities all over the world. People come to Berlin to go out because it’s affordable and the music is great. I’m not sure when/where you went, but to compare Ibiza to Berlin? Berlin is a live working city, Ibiza is a clubbing resort. To have a scene like the one in Berlin functioning on a daily basis in a city, is incredible.

      • Keep it 100, there is always a scene that’s affordable and not for people looking to be seen. Frankly after having traveled quite a bit myself, if you want to be seen, go to the clubs with the big named DJ’s, pay 20-30Euro to get in and unless you got style and game, girls will ignore you without the proper aforementioned watch and shoes on.

        I recently (5/8/2013) went to an event in Mexico City with Freddie Le Grande and it was okay, Ticketmaster only sort of thing. I got in for free…

        I really don’t like those sorts of Underground, face and stare at the DJ all night. I like personal interaction and love women, so undergrounds are generally a turnoff.

        When I am not spinning myself, I chase women.

    • Pablo ‘Charlie’ Rodriguez

      well If you not from Berlin, that makes sense, even if you are german dude, I live in Berlin, I’m not german and I love it the ” Underground scene”

    • Parsa

      I bet u’re not German!

  • Working in the Berlin Techno Sscene – Theoretical Sketch of an Electronic Music Scene Economy

    http://www.academia.edu/2180348/Working_in_the_Berlin_Techno_Scene_Theoretical_Sketch_of_an_Electronic_Music_Scene_Economy_

    have a nice read.

    Hahaha, I’ve just realised that it’s the same author 🙂

    • Dan White

      Yep, same author, similar content, significantly more academic-style writing. We asked him to make it a bit more accessible for publication on DJTT : )

  • Marquee Mark

    awesome article, as if I didn’t already want to move to Germany!

    seems like the “scene” is pretty similar to here in the US all things considered. the familiar backlash of too commercial vs. underground rings true, as well as too hipster, especially in NYC

    • Dan White

      Too true. We’ve got some similar sentiments here in the Bay Area – I think it’s bound to happen anywhere with a large population of music makers and aficionados in a city with a major tourism draw..

    • Nothing like the scene in the US, it is 20 times bigger and has 100 times more freedom. I’m from the states and lived in LA for 8 years & NYC for 6 years. The scene in Berlin kills the scene in both Cali & NYC. There is no curfew here and you can drink on the streets, you can ride your bike between clubs, the parties can go on for 5 days and nobody cares, it’s incredible and blows any other scene I have ever experienced away!