Watergate Club Berlin
As anyone who’s ever been to Berlin knows, the city’s nightlife revolves largely around a string of popular nightclubs where techno beats and night owls pair up to dance the night away.
Now, this nightlife tradition faces serious threat as new music royalty payments come into force courtesy of Gema, Germany’s collection agency which represents 65,000 artists. The agency is reportedly making alterations to its fee structure which could cause huge upset among those who pay fees for performances and recorded music – such as nightclubs.
From January 1st next year, the agency plans to introduce a fee system based on the percentage of ticket prices and venue size, and will implement a 50 per cent surcharge for events that last more than five hours.
According to Gema, 60 per cent of venues will not see their payments increase but has also argued that venues such as nightclubs can afford to pay 10 per cent of the ticket price.
In response, club owners have argued that they will face annual payments that are five to ten times the rate they currently play, due to the fact that many of them remain open for more than 10 hours.
Berlin nightlife industry representative The Club Commission has stated that the current fee for an average-sized club stands at €28,000 ($34,000) a year, a charge which could rise to as much as €180,000 ($217,000) under Gema’s new fee structure.
"The clubs are fearful for their existence," spokesman for The Club Commission Lutz Leichsenring says
The news of the fee changes has sparked much objection throughout Berlin as 5,000 people gathered outside Gema’s summer party last week, protesting the news. A petition objecting to the changes has also been launched and has already received 200,000 signatures, while over 2,000 German clubs decided to show their distaste by halting the decks for five minutes in demonstration of their opposition to the new laws.
Although the German patent office is assessing the new fee structure, it has been reported that it could take at least a year for it to reach a decision on the legality of the structure. For many clubs, this could be far too late.
Popular night destination Berghain frequently stages events that last over 48 hours, and now admits that its upcoming New Years Eve event might well be its last. A similar fate is likely to be met by Watergate Club in Berlin, which will see its bill rise from €10,000 to €200,000.
"How is one supposed to operate as a free entrepreneur under these kinds of conditions?" Watergate Club boss Steffen Hacks said
There are fears that the closure of Berlin’s club will have a negative effect on the economy and the Berlin tourism industry, as more than 10,000 visitors come to the city every weekend to hit up Berlin’s famous nightclubs.
"It's dangerous not only for the clubs but for the whole of tourism, hotels, taxis, and whoever has something to do with the party industry," said
Ingo Damm, who runs regular trance nights at the KitKat Club. "It's definitely a disaster for Berlin."