In October last year we got the news about a German high economic court establishing that techno is music. Now everyone reading this will be thinking “This is something evident…”. But this ruling is as important as the fact that Berghain has been equated with Berlin’s Konzerthaus (the legendary concert hall for classical music and opera) for tax purposes. Since that ruling, clubs where electronic and dance music is played (in Germany, the term “Techno” is used to include all genres of electronic music) will now pay the reduced VAT rate of 7% instead of the general rate of 19%, as had been the case until now.
A couple of years ago, Berlin received a grant of one million euros to reinforce the soundproofing of the clubs that needed it, to make it much easier for the city’s inhabitants to coexist with the club culture industry. The clubs received from fifty thousand to one hundred thousand euros, with the commitment to pay 10% to 20% of the total budget for the work.
At the time of Covid, Berlin announced Emergency Aid I and II, with total funds of around 130 million euros for small, medium and large culture-related businesses, museums, concert halls, nightclubs, for the self-employed, trying not to leave anyone uncovered. For 2021, the German government has announced the biggest budget increase in its history to support culture, which did get the go-ahead from Parliament in the first days of January.
In total, between federal and state support, there have been five different funds to help Berlin clubs survive the pandemic.
Despite all this, in October 2020 the weekly Der Spiegel published an extensive and in-depth analysis of the current situation entitled “If this is the future, good night!” In the written feature we could hear such authoritative voices as Dixon or Dimitri Hegemann, the founder of Tresor, envisioning a not very rosy future for an industry that leaves billions of euros in the city’s coffers thanks also to the clubber tourism that comes to Berlin’s electronic nights.
If these (justified) fears are proclaimed in Germany… How will we be in Spain?
But let’s look for another point of reference before returning home. In Germany, we might have expected such a supportive reaction from the governing authorities, but what about the UK, another of the great bastions of the European electronic scene?
In the UK, a fund of more than one and a half billion pounds was announced to support culture-related businesses. From a fifty-person theatre to online magazines, musicians, actors, operators… the coverage was expected to be quite complete and began with the release of a large part of the fund. But that’s where the controversy began. Resident Advisor, a website dedicated to electronic music, received £750,000 with the consequent public and industry discussion about the amount of money being given to the company. The controversy continued with the refusal of Printworks to receive such support. Broadwick Live, which apart from Printworks has a number of other clubs in London and Manchester on its payroll, did not receive support in the first instance, when, for example, Ministry of Sound was supported to the tune of almost £1 million.
With more or less controversy, what is certain is that the UK has taken some care of club culture and will continue to do so by the government until well into 2021.
In order to have a real approximation of what is happening in our country, we have the opinions of two professionals with an extensive professional career. Two of our MOAI PROs and, as they say in English, partners in crime, as they have also signed a number of releases together. They are none other than Ismael Rivas and Luis Bonias, veterans of the national and international booths.
All that has been said yesterday in the first part of our feature, with its faults and virtues, is almost paradisiacal compared to the situation in Spain. In April a fund of 75 million euros was announced for “culture”, there have been the ERTEs (furlough schemes), there has been aids from the Ministry of… Tourism! to pay rent for premises. There has been partial aid from local and regional governments, but there has not been a resounding and forceful plan like those mentioned above in Germany and the UK. And all this with the obvious discrimination that has always underpinned electronic music and club culture in Spain; a rock or indie musician is culture, a dj or an electronic producer seems not to be.
Luis Bonias points out: “Aid is insufficient and not very concrete. Those that have been given some aid have been given to any company and for the same reason, either cessation of activity or a turnover of less than 75%.But nothing to do with the activity we are involved in, which is always linked to the hotel, bar and catering industry… to be considered as culture is light years away”.
Ismael basically agrees with what Luis said earlier. “Our industry, or what’s left of it, especially DJs and electronic music producers, are completely forgotten by the government and institutions”.
When we asked Ismael and Luis why they believe that the national electronic music scene does not receive the same support in our country as it does in other countries, both gave us very interesting reasons that sometimes go unnoticed by the general public. Ismael’s explanation is as clear as it is devastating:
“Basically because we don’t have a strong record industry (in terms of electronic music, of course) like Germany, the UK, or the Netherlands, an industry with a constant presence in the media, the radio formula applied to electronic music, or specialized media, since in Spain there are fewer and with less importance and influence. The paradox is, on the contrary, we do have a large electronic music festival circuit, but it is seen as a summer phenomenon, more aimed at the hotel and catering industry and services in the months from June to September, and then it’s over. It is also true that the professionalization of the electronic music sector and the figure of the DJ has been very late in Spain, only four years ago that the figure of the DJ was finally recognized as a regulated profession through the intermediate vocational training, so the professional recognition of the DJ only came from the fame and recognition of fans and professionals in the sector, not by public opinion and the government and entities, and at no time is the figure of the DJ equated to that of the musician as in other European countries”.
It can be said louder, but I doubt it can be clearer.
Tomorrow we will bring the second and final part of this feature, with an interesting continuation where we will see if there is someone else to blame apart from the administrations.