Like pretty much everything in Berlin, clubbing is getting more expensive. We could just pass this off as a simple fact of life – prices rise, that’s the way it is, suck it up. With clubbing, the impact is deeper. Door entry hikes start to price out the very people who built up the club culture in the first place. Clubs in Berlin are rightly lauded for their sense of community and the way they provide space for those who live more on the margins. When these people become unable to attend the parties they’ve arguably contributed to the success of, then we can say clubbing is facing a crisis.
For one weekend in September, Berghain increased its entry cost to €30, sparking outrage. It was only last year that the standard door price rose to €25. That’s in addition to the increase in prices for drinks and the cloak room. And it’s not just Berghain – the entry fees for many clubs have risen disproportionately to the average rise in wages throughout the city, with an average increase of 25% across all venues according to Tagesspiegel. Not so long ago, Berghain was a mere €15, and you wouldn’t pay more than €10 to get into Sisyphos.
There is even a German word for it, Klubsterben, which translates as the death of clubs
The factors for these price hikes are well reported. Minimum wages for staff have risen since the pandemic began, and the less said about energy costs the better. Rents are also increasing, and DJ fees are going through the roof. Add on other various expenses and you’ve got a very costly business to run.
The collective behind Mensch Meier recently announced they would be closing at the end of the year due to these rising costs. In an interview with Groove, a German online magazine for electronic music and club culture, Jenny P, the club’s public relations officer, stated that the Mensch Meier’s members and staff couldn’t even party at their own events, because they were too expensive. This was the last straw for the club and they decided to close.
It’s yet another sad chapter in the slow demise of clubbing in Berlin. The phenomenon is so pervasive that there is even a German word for it, Klubsterben, which translates as the death of clubs. This year, Anita Berber closed for similar reasons to Mensch Meier, and Fiese Remise will meet its end in November. But what’s the solution? Are high entry fees really the only way to keep a club open? At its core, clubbing is, or at least was, about community and creating safe spaces. Increased prices create social inequality, excluding many of the people who benefit the most from these spaces.
Not so long ago, Berghain was a mere €15, and you wouldn’t pay more than €10 to get into Sisyphos.
To find a better answer to this problem, we have to return to our roots. Yes, clubs need state support, but beyond that we need to start looking closer to home. Booking more local DJs than expensive international names can reduce a club’s overhead. Some of our favourite clubs were built upon having a strong roster of local, in-house residents. Smaller clubs and club nights are able to throw great parties with just Berlin-based DJs, so why don’t the bigger clubs use the same approach?
Some underground venues still manage to keep their door fees low. Oxi Berlin, for example, is operating on a donation-only basis for their in-house events, safe in the knowledge that having an affordable-for-all door price that brings in more regular clubbers is a better solution than having a higher ticket price but less people on the dancefloor. Community spirit is thin on the ground these days, and it’s better to club together than to push each other further apart