The Tuesday morning panel “Music Scenes in Berlin” gathers Berlin’s most genre-bending party and festival promoters challenging the capital’s electronic music scene.
Daniela Seitz, curator of 3hd festival and the arty underground movement Creamcake, Aziz Sarr, who has been organising Afrobeats and Afrohouse events since 2011, Tim Ligtenberg, who runs Hip Hop parties at Berlin-based club St. Georg and is one of the organisers of the cloud rap concert and festival series Temp Affairs, Melissa Perales, one of the curators of the discovery-underground music event Torstraßen Festival, who also runs her own concert series at Schokoladen, a music venue and music collective in Berlin Mitte, and Jan Rohlf, co-founder, artist director and head of communication of the internationally known experimental and electronic music festival CTM.
The Berlin Senate’s cultural department supports the cultural scene with approximately 400 million Euros a year. About 95% of that budget is spent on theatres, operas and other permanently supported cultural institutions with only 5% of the money going to the independent scene. Jan Rohlf believes this unequal distribution can be understood as a relic from a time when the distinction between E- and U-Music (serious and entertainment music) used to have a bigger impact, but it is obviously still in effect until today. This division has been challenged in various ways during the last twenty years. Despite the comparably small funding, there are many venues and parties that were able to establish themselves and build up a reputation without having to close down compared to other cities such as London or Paris.
Vibe is the most important thing
Goethe Institute takes a closer look and asks the panelists what advice they would give to aspiring promoters. In the studio of Acud Macht Neu, Daniela Seitz brings a dose of realism: “Don’t think you are going to be successful in the first shows. In fact, there’s a great chance that you will not make money for a while. But I think it’s definitely about your idea and the demand for it. Try to be as unique as possible, try to find your own style and approach to the artists and then, try to make it special.” The sometimes slow pace and chaotic image of Berlin has its advantages, or so it seems to Berlin-based Dutch promoter Tim Ligtenberg: “Berlin is less of a hustle city, but therefore there’s a lot of space and opportunity for doing your own thing within Hip Hop and broader club music genres. My advice to promoters would be: really build your own community, less focus on hype, big names and line-ups. Vibe is the most important thing.” Seitz agrees on creating a positive vibe which needs a certain space: “Always chose the venue that fits your night. If you have a smaller show, don’t book the biggest venue, because it’s not creating a good atmosphere. Take a spot that fits the aesthetics of your event. Think about all the barriers which could stop people from coming, but also don’t overthink it. Just focus on your vision and work hard.” Melissa Perales stresses personal interests: ”Before I book bands, I have to feel it, or else it doesn’t make sense – no matter what.”
Target your audience, and be social-media proficient
Most participants want to know how to make an event successful in order to at least break even. “It sounds quite obvious, but especially if you go more into a niche and you want to reach a certain target group it’s good to know how to reach those people. Once you know how to advertise and target your group, it helps a lot. Nowadays, young promoters have different social media tools which weren’t as important when I started. So, target your audience, know about social media, because with flyers and posters you will not get far”, Aziz Sarr explains.
We don’t really like to work with the industry
Many artists reach out to promoters on their own which can be a smart thing to do. Tim Ligtenberg says: “Try to find out who is putting on shows, and which shows seem to be open to international acts. And then, reach out personally on Facebook, Instagram or write an email. This is how I often book people. Artists ask me quite often: 'Hey, I am coming to Berlin this weekend and I am looking for gigs, do you have one?' I hate booking agencies. It’s always easier to reach out straight to us. Me personally, I am really flexible, because I have a weekly night. If something fits musically, I always try to make it work.”
There’s distrust towards the music industry, Daniela Seitz explains: “We have a lot of fun working with new artists and not dealing with agencies telling us something we don’t really care about. So the creation of something based on the business side is not really something we support. We don’t really like to work with this industry. That’s why we are more dedicated to the art world, because it’s the space which allows for more experimentation and hopefully more support from funders.”
It is about getting further and I think you waste a lot of time when you randomly do things without a strategy
Since many young people do bookings themselves, the question is: How should they approach a promoter? Melissa Perales gives maybe the best advice to artists, managers and aspiring booking agents: “First of all, you should not do anything without thinking about it. You need to do research to know who you are contacting, why are you contacting them and what you want to get out of it. I get so many emails, but the ones I actually respond to, click on the links and watch the videos, are the ones that somehow feel like they are talking to me and refer to the things I do – even if it’s in a hyperlink way, even if they don’t know me, and even if they just found out about my concerts. At least they’ve looked at what I was doing and thought they’d fit in there. They somehow showed that they didn’t randomly find my contact. In my experience, whether it’s a label, an agency or whoever you are contacting, we appreciate that someone takes the time to make a strategy, to think about what they are doing, who they are contacting, and why they are doing it. It is about getting somewhere, and I think you waste a lot of time when you randomly do things without a strategy. When you are like: 'I’ll throw everything out, I’ve got a list of numbers and addresses and bomb everybody with my 20 page booklet', it makes no sense. You will be depressed, you will not get a response. Safe yourself some troubles, do the research and think about where you want to be.”