The news struck us like lightning: GEMA, the German performing right society for music, recently announced a new accounting system to become effective by 2013 which will ruin many clubs by horrendous increase in charges. Yesterday, a crowd of music lovers gathered for a rally to stop this proposal. We paid it a visit.
Members of GEMA held festivities at Frannz Club after a formal meeting at Maritim Hotel. Protestors gathered on Schönhauser Allee to let music and words express their anger. The message was clear: to stop the madness that puts Berlin’s unique club scene at risk. According to the protestors, the announced new accounting system will cause tremendous disparities between smaller and bigger venues, pressing the latter ones to either shut down or raise prizes by enormous extents. Fee raises by up to 1200 per cent were expected; average change would be an increase to the fourfold. Factors such as the venues’ size and opening times would influence the difficult computations. One of the rally’s speakers did the calculations for Berghain, claiming that the club would have to pay 300.000€ – tenfold its current fee for the performing right society. Doubled admission charges, drinks for ten Euros and more – such and even worse consequences were feared, causing the people to go on the streets and protest against the intended accounting changes.
Approximately one thousand people showed up to express their clamour. Some seized the situation and did what they do best: dance to the booming sound of the three floats that accompanied the rally. At the end of the day, we wondered why there were so few, given the fact that Berlin’s ever so popular club scene would be heavily affected by GEMA’s plans. As one of the speakers stated, this city’s only source of capital is its rich culture attracting millions of tourists from all over the world. Deprived of its famous clubs, this source could run dry and would essentially put Berlin in a financial wasteland.
However, according to official calculations, many venues would actually benefit from the planned changes. Critics quashed this objection to be highly distortive since many clubs would not open for only five hours or less. Though the new accounting system is surely not on par Berlin’s club reality, smaller venues might actually turn to advantage. If that’s the case and the controversial changes come into effect, Berlin might see smaller clubs spring up like mushrooms and illicit venues to pop up at will.
In any case, one thing is for sure: If the new accounting system becomes effective by 2013, the club scene will change heavily.