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Jens Schwan Q&A


-Hi Jens, how are you?

- Fine Thanks. After this long Corona year I feel, despite my age, the urge for open airs and club nights. All books have been read, all series have been watched... and the belly fat has to go away again.



-Talk us through the beginnings of The Clubmap. Why and when did you decide to launch your web magazine?

- That was in 2007. A friend asked me if I wanted to join his English-language city guide. I didn't think it was that exciting for me so I proposed to design a printed folding map of the Berlin’s club scene. At that time there was nothing comparable. Our target were the international young tourists in all the new hostels. The clubs in Berlin were always complaining about EasyJet tourists, but it wasn’t a secret that a quarter of the turnover was generated by them. So The Clubmap was born. The ‘the’ in front of the name was a reminiscence of all the indie garage bands of that time like The Hives, The Strokes, The White Stripes and The Vines. We made it to ten issues in total and even produced the maps also for other cities like Hamburg. Later I became the editorial director of a big start-up and worked every day until late at night, even on weekends. The Clubmap was dead. But then, in 2011, I had again enough time and also the skills to put the project online. The market for printed products was already collapsing at that time. Meanwhile, I had taken over another team in the start-up, where I learned a lot about SEO. I was ready to both create content and build an online magazine in such a way that it would get the best rankings on Google. Online you could find a lot but not concentrated and prepared for a readership. Much of it was often outdated or banal texts without the really important informations. So I started to write. And wrote. And wrote. Until today.



-What does The Clubmap have in common and what makes it different from the other webzines present in the Berlin’s area?

- The Clubmap is focused purely on the Berlin’s club scene. Listings and guides already existed before but the editorial preparation was not concrete enough. I built the magazine the way I would want it if I were visiting another city and wanted to get those informations. So I divided it up by genre, by district, and gave a personal assessment of the locations. In addition, I was involved in the Techno scene since 1992, so I’m enough experienced to write useful informations for the users.


 
 
 

-How did your magazine evolve since the foundation, in terms of contents?

Ten years of work and over 5000 articles and 800 pages of relevant content ensures that over 80% of the traffic for The Clubmap comes from organic reaches and direct access, so it is independent of social networks. YAY! The special thing about us is that we totally Ads free. No Google Ads, no pop up banners. It is also forbidden to the promoters to highlight their events through payment options. We are now a platform for all cultural-related topics. The original concept of a club guide from 2007 has been massively expanded over the fourteen years. The magazine features label interviews, art exhibitions, event calendars, a bar guide, concert reviews, opinion pieces and a street art photo archive. Additionally, a club and event guide for eleven other cities. The Clubmap is well connected in the Berlin club scene and also co-owner of the Zug der Liebe & OpenAir. Our database served as the basis for the Klubkataster e of the Musicboard Berlin. We provided editorial support for United We Stream and developed the ‘Inside the Clubs’ series. We are also co-initiators of Kulturoase Lichtenberg, which created a safe open space for open air promoters in 2020.

 
 

-How have you seen the Berlin’s club scene evolving in the past years? We know it’s quite a complex subject so feel free to answer in full.

Without the club/Techno scene Berlin would be just like any other city, because it’s mainly the ‘electronic music’ clubs that have put Berlin in the pole position as a party metropolis; although this word doesn’t really reflect what it’s all about. Similar to the ‘discotheque’ that became ‘club’, the term ‘party metropolis’ is definitely contemporary. These entities which create the club culture, the creative economy, open air collectives, night managers and hybrids like music bars and galleries, are not just about partying but a peculiar attitude to life that has defined and made this city so attractive since the 90s. One can certainly argue here that, in addition to the clubs, it’s mainly the festivals that are the vehicle of a generational change. Young people in particular demand more for what they pay, without restrictions or political superstructure. Clubs are no longer seen as protected zones. Youngsters want to use their phones on the dancefloor so photo bans are seen as nerdy and stupid, therefore ignored. Like in the mid 90s and early 2000s, they are increasingly moving in the direction of mainstream. The underground has been discovered so superficial and shallow contents now flood the market and Techno has progressively became more pop. On a positive note, however, line-ups and general orientation of the Berlin club scene do not adapt. This culture of DIY is well integrated in our DNA. It is a bulwark against the arbitrariness of an anti-mainstream culture and serves as the preservation of youth cultures and promotes a feeling of togetherness which is incredibly strong. Unfortunately the clubs are not able to pool themselves enough strongly. They have an unbelievable power as a unit. It is a bit like Europe. Other cities would be happy if they had as many clubs as the only neighbourhood of Friedrichshain, but that’s not really much for Berlin. We have more than three million inhabitants and (breathe a sigh of relief) more than 31 million tourist’s ‘overnight stays’ in 2017. Berlin is now taking care of its music scene: there is the club commission (which also helps out when there are problems with fire protection), the music board (which distributes five million Euros for music projects every year), the Berlin Music Commission which has a power over politics and other industries. Nevertheless, we have to watch almost inactively how this city becomes more and more like London. A club like the Golden Gate would not be possible in the inner city. Watergate has already been able to feel the first effects of an absurd greed for rent increases, because businesses do not fall under environmental protection. Our clubs are our second home, even if the bouncer is a dick, your mobile phone gets stolen or we get upset about elitist bartenders. Bur when one of our clubs is endangered, we ALWAYS get up and support it. The fact is that club culture have become a marketing factor that has also an economic value for the Senate. Club closures make the news far more than they did in the nineties, but that's only because it's harder for clubs today to find some spaces where annoyed neighbours won't bother. Club culture promotes gentrification > promotes tourism > promotes housing shortages = demands new ways of looking at things because this wonderful/beautiful/awesome thing called Techno is thirty years old and we’re no longer dancing in the ruins of a defunct state, we’re dancing in capitalism and it ain’t just fucking the club culture of the city, it's fucking the whole world. So when we get up and protest, with our 300 clubs, be sure that we make our voices heard! This discussion about clubs as cultural venues has been going on for some time. Since November 2020 the clubs became cultural places and no longer only entertainment ones. This was decided by the House of Representatives. In the event of possible noise conflicts with the neighbourhood, clubs as cultural establishments may now have more advantages than before. They also pay a reduced tax rate. Basically the city has helped Berlin's club culture a lot! To what extent the ‘culture’ label is relevant for the majority of guests, is another matter. Berlin's club culture had to evolve to contribute to Berlin's culture. This trend is young and much of it has only happened in the last five years. The clubs have morphed from dark basements into huge venues for festivals, art projects, theatres and a thousand other things that have always been there marginally, but now are impacting the everyday life. I call it the Bar 25/Berghain effect. Media use these keywords for reach so subculture becomes a clickbait. In parallel, there was a kind of political awakening in the wake of the refugee crisis and the rise of the AfD (Wikipedia: Alternative for Germany is a German nationalist and right-wing populist political party, known for its opposition to the European Union and immigration). Hesitant at first, from 2018 more and more clubs came out of neutral obscurity and took a stand and that mobilised many people. That was accordingly reflected in demonstrations on the street. So what does all this contribute to? It creates an incredible number of exciting projects, people and locations and is now also strongly involved in social issues, which is very special!



-One of Clubmap’s main interests is to report what goes on in the music scene; how did the pandemic affect your workflow? Tell us a bit about how challenging it’s been to reinvent your contents.

Oh good question. Actually it was a big help to me to have all the new releases in my inbox, because without clubs they always provided new content during the pandemic. They were almost a symbol that it still goes on, besides the many live streams. I also had much more time for artists and label interviews, which was also due to the fact that I worked part-time from March 2020 to May 2021. I also had the feeling that many artists took advantage of the lockdown to sit down and finally produce. There was really a lot of new stuff coming out.

 
 

-Do you reckon is important, in this day and age, to establish some solid connections with record labels, clubs owners and in general people of the industry to keep your magazine up to date and to produce fresh contents for your followers?

Basically you can make a magazine like this without any contacts. Most of the fresh content comes from the event promoters, because they want their parties in the calendar. The clubs in Berlin are either extremely communicative and provide pictures and dates of their own accord, or they refuse any press for marketing reasons, in order to appear mysterious. But this is more the case with the younger people who want to try to ‘protect’ an elitist allure of secrecy (popular in the 90s) that they have never experienced themselves. I do this magazine in order to discover or introduce new locations myself again and again, because I love to acknowledge that something new is being created somewhere. With the labels it's very simple: I'm a DJ and I'm happy about good music. I don't really profit from it because I play vinyl in the club but the great new productions (open air) are always digital. Nobody drags their Technics 1210 to the park :-). And of course I like to read everything about clubs and music. It's always refreshing when you have well written reviews at the start, because that directly affects you as an editor and also develops your style. You should never make the mistake of just shoveling the delivered content onto your magazine without reading it. In all this, you have to remember that my magazine is a hobby. I also have to find the time for it besides my real job.

 
Schermata 2021-06-08 alle 20.02.12
 
 

-How’s a normal day at The Clubmap’s newsroom? How does your desk look like?

Hahahah… I always tell my son to write down appointments and tasks in his Google calendar and use his smartphone. And I have also tried various tools. Slack, Trello, Asana, Excel lists.... but the truth is: in the end, I'm still sitting in front of a wall full of post-its and have a writing pad next to me. The result is that my ‘digital’ magazine is totally ‘analoguely’ organised. As I said, The Clubmap is a hobby. I spend one hour before and two hours after my main job working for it. If there are big changes in the layout, which actually happen once a year, it increases a few weeks to four hours a day and weekends.

 
 
 
 

-Any future project you want to share with us?

The next Zug der Liebe is coming up at 28.08.2021. It’s number six now and hopefully everything will work with police and city authority. I’ll try to make The Clubmap freely accessible to the entire Berlin cultural scene. All cultural professionals should have the opportunity to enter their event dates free of charge. To make my idea come true I need a full-time developer, resources and a funding to cover the costs. I’ve already started to look for it and made personal logins available to various music agencies so that they can publish interviews and releases themselves. Since not everyone has the Wordpress skills to create something like this, I want to simplify the editing screen for everyone.


 
 
 

-Do you reckon is important, in this day and age, to establish some solid connections with record labels, clubs owners and in general people of the industry to keep your magazine up to date and to produce fresh contents for your followers?

Basically you can make a magazine like this without any contacts. Most of the fresh content comes from the event promoters, because they want their parties in the calendar. The clubs in Berlin are either extremely communicative and provide pictures and dates of their own accord, or they refuse any press for marketing reasons, in order to appear mysterious. But this is more the case with the younger people who want to try to ‘protect’ an elitist allure of secrecy (popular in the 90s) that they have never experienced themselves. I do this magazine in order to discover or introduce new locations myself again and again, because I love to acknowledge that something new is being created somewhere. With the labels it's very simple: I'm a DJ and I'm happy about good music. I don't really profit from it because I play vinyl in the club but the great new productions (open air) are always digital. Nobody drags their Technics 1210 to the park :-). And of course I like to read everything about clubs and music. It's always refreshing when you have well written reviews at the start, because that directly affects you as an editor and also develops your style. You should never make the mistake of just shoveling the delivered content onto your magazine without reading it. In all this, you have to remember that my magazine is a hobby. I also have to find the time for it besides my real job.

 
Schermata 2021-06-08 alle 20.02.12
 
 

-How’s a normal day at The Clubmap’s newsroom? How does your desk look like?

Hahahah… I always tell my son to write down appointments and tasks in his Google calendar and use his smartphone. And I have also tried various tools. Slack, Trello, Asana, Excel lists.... but the truth is: in the end, I'm still sitting in front of a wall full of post-its and have a writing pad next to me. The result is that my ‘digital’ magazine is totally ‘analoguely’ organised. As I said, The Clubmap is a hobby. I spend one hour before and two hours after my main job working for it. If there are big changes in the layout, which actually happen once a year, it increases a few weeks to four hours a day and weekends.

 
 
 
 

-Any future project you want to share with us?

The next Zug der Liebe is coming up at 28.08.2021. It’s number six now and hopefully everything will work with police and city authority. I’ll try to make The Clubmap freely accessible to the entire Berlin cultural scene. All cultural professionals should have the opportunity to enter their event dates free of charge. To make my idea come true I need a full-time developer, resources and a funding to cover the costs. I’ve already started to look for it and made personal logins available to various music agencies so that they can publish interviews and releases themselves. Since not everyone has the Wordpress skills to create something like this, I want to simplify the editing screen for everyone.


 

Giuseppe D'Alessandro

Illustrator / Editor