Berghain, by the numbers: data on the relentless Berlin techno club

In the era of fake news and big data for corporations, there’s an obvious antidote: getting actual data for yourself.

So, it’s a given that too many words have been spilt over Berlin’s Berghain. But in trying to portray the club’s hype or mystique, I notice that there’s not often much discussion of its consistency. And to understand how techno and in a broader sense electronic music and the various fashions about it are projected into the world, understanding that consistency is key. If a club is repeatedly pushing out long queues every Saturday and Sunday night (yes, Sunday), and if that is having the influence that Berghain does on bookings elsewhere, on musical aesthetics, and even on how people dress, then part of what you’re actually describing is consistency. These are all measures of repetition.

So, what are the actual numbers? Musician and developer Olle Holmberg aka Moon Wheel is a geek and coder as well as a musician. So, curiosity evidently led him to write a JavaScript app to crawl Berghain’s Website – from late 2009 to present.

You can check out that Google Doc. And of course someone could write a better script – or even try to do other analyses on other clubs.
Berghain — all sets 2009-2017 (data from berghain.de events pages) [berghain.de]

This isn’t revealing any secrets in the club. Quite the contrary: it’s taking public-facing information, and separating the reality from people’s perception.

Now, I’m not one to just say “hey, let’s post a story on Berghain to see if it works as clickbait.” I actually find the results interesting. One thing that particularly struck me about Berghain regulars was their tendency to swoon “oh my God, the lineup this weekend is amazing” – then go on to describe the residents playing on the program.

More analysis will require more work, but we can at least pull up the artists who play most often (and they do so by such a large margin that even minor bugs in the crawling/scripting won’t make so much difference).

The top 25 listings in the Berghain program (from end of 2009, with some minor glitches possible as the program is crawled as plain text):

1. Boris 99
2. Sammy Dee 88
3. Norman Nodge 86
4. Zip 85g
5. Marcel Dettmann 80
6. Fiedel 76
7. Ben Klock 75
8. nd_baumecker 73
9. Marcel Fengler 71
10. Len Faki 70
11. Steffi 68
12. Ryan Elliott 65
13. Tama Sumo 63
14. Nick Höppner 62
15. Margaret Dygas 58
16. Soundstream 49
17. Virginia 49
18. Answer Code Request 45
19. Dinky 42
20. Gerd Janson 41
21. Efdemin 40
22. Function 38
23. Kobosil 37
24. DVS1 35
25. Oliver Deutschmann 35

Major disclaimer: this is incomplete data. The opening years of the club are missing. Artists wanting to share their anniversary dates or more complete data or stories, of course, you’re welcome to.

Second major disclaimer: This is listing data, not booking data. Ostgut has more accurate information, in that they’ll have information on who actually played (for instance, when someone jumps in, which happens a lot), unlisted guests, and the liking.

Third major disclaimer:

Because of those issues, in fact, the ranking above is almost certainly incorrect, though the names that appear are still the correct names. (nd_baumecker most likely played more than Boris, for instance.)

There’s still some information, though – if it’s not a totally complete snapshot, it’s still a big snapshot. Olle tells CDM that at least one or two people who have seen the numbers have already expressed interest in doing analysis on gender and measures of diversity.

I can at least eyeball these 25. In case you’re wondering, five out of those top twenty five are female, so we’re far from any gender parity even in one of the world’s more progressive big venues. (20% is well above the going average, though, and it’s relevant that women are part of what define Berghain’s sound via these residencies.) The top of the list is also overwhelmingly white, although it’s also fairly German. (That says something about residents versus guests, of course – and about who is settling into Berlin for the long term. It’s not exclusively German. Dinky is from Santiago, Chile. DVS1 was born in Leningrad, USSR, but grew up in the USA. Boris cut his teeth in the scene with none other than Larry Levan in New York’s Paradise Garage.)

They’re also all there for a reason. The reason for the German representation is also a story about how the music scene in the country has grown up since the 90s, with many of these residents having made their mark in the labels and parties that helped define the scene since the fall of the Wall, whether Sammy Dee and the Perlon label or Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann and the homegrown Ostgut label. These artists are German, but they tend to come from smaller towns in both east and west parts of the country.

Speaking of consistency and longevity and day jobs, Norman Nodge is even a lawyer.

So if there’s nothing surprising here, what is here is a metric of what is successfully unsurprising. (That also applies to the value many of these names have in booking. See also the Ostgut booking operation, who hilariously warn that they won’t offer table reservations. That’s hilarious because I’m sure someone is regularly writing and asking. I wonder where people imagine the tables are.)

If you scroll through the raw data, you’ll see more of the untold story of Berghain as the larger complex of event spaces and programs. As the Website publishes not only the club’s best-known too floors, Panorama and the titular Berghain, but also Laboratory, Halle am Berghain, and Kantine am Berghain (the former canteen of the power station), including various special events, you’ll get all sorts of names. (Mine even pops up a couple of times through those weird loopholes, without even me having involved North Korean hackers.) In recent weeks, that also includes a more leftfield program at the club’s new Säule space.

But there’s a deeper message, and it’s one about consistency and repetition. Part of what allows us to get your attention in the press is to try to pass off something as new. But behind the scenes, the other thing that press, bookers, publicists, clubs are all doing is actually about priming you to see certain ideas and certain people as important. And that’s in fact about repetition – reinforcing name recognition and making ideas.

So there’s something to that Sunday ritual. For better or for worse, if you look at the top names here, these are really the foundation of this Berghain effect.

This is, of course, just one club, even if a vital one. I think while numbers don’t tell a whole story, it’s great to have some actual data and do some real research. (And the data can be thought of as a first step, not a last.) So I hope, as with female:pressure‘s analysis of gender on festival lineups, we continue to gather data and use more than just our own limited perception to understand music scenes.

Google Spreadsheet

Oh yeah, and if anyone wants to crowd-source fitness tracker data to see how much you’re dancing, let us know!

Updated: In 2010, the club itself published more accurate statistics.

Of course, this article is completely boring to the resident DJs and anyone working for the club, as they have the numbers.

Berghain also archives their programs – which are uncommon for clubland, filled with art and photos but also extensive curatorial commentary and even sometimes poetry and other tidbits.

On the 11th December 2010, they shared some of their own (far more accurate) in-house stats – at which point the total events (from DJs to concerts) had already numbered a whopping 4774.

http://berghain.de/media/flyer/pdf/berghain-flyer-2010-12.pdf

Based on those stats, Boris was again the winner – then having played his 101st set.
Marcel Dettmann: 84.
Ben Klock: 80.
Prosumer: 77.
Cassy: 73.

Those numbers also tel you the missing first years are really significant. (If I read them correctly, it also means Berghain is less about the resident frequency than it once was, which would make some sense. But without the actual data set, that’s just a guess.)

Full details from the program (written in the usual, rather charming way, so I’ll include it for German speakers):

Wie uns unser Inhouse- Statistiker mitteilt, gab es bis einschließlich dem 11. Dezember insgesamt 4774 Auftritte im ganzen Gebäude, einschließlich aller DJ-Gigs, Live-Acts und Konzerte. Soweit die allgemeine Auswertung, aber kommen wir zum heutigen Abend. Konkurrenzloser Spitzenreiter aller zu unserem Geburtstag spielenden DJs (und wir nehmen an, auch insgesamt) ist Boris. Er spielt heute sein 101. Set. Und zwar unten. Tataaa! Ihm dicht auf den Fersen sind Marcel Dettmann mit 84 und Ben Klock mit 80 Kanzelbesuchen. Gewissermaßen schon auf der Überholspur spielen die beiden heute ein back2back Set in der Panorama Bar. Prosumer, ebenfalls oben, kommt auf 77 Sets, Cassy auf 73. Jetzt rattern die Zahlen steil nach unten. Für sein erst 16. Set kehrt Disko zurück. Er hat sich aber auch wirklich rar gemacht. Das Fünfte sicher gerade sein lassen wird Robert Hood – und zwar mit einem House-Set in der Panorama Bar, Nummer 6 gibt‘s sogar gleich danach mit einem Techno-Set im Berghain. Die bisherigen Gigs von .tobias, Chez Damier und DVS1 kann man an zwar an zwei Händen abzählen, aber spätestens hier merkt nun auch der Letzte, dass Statistik nicht zum Feiern taugt. Feste feiern eben, wie sie kommen. So sind Art Department gar zum ersten Mal bei uns und Shed gibt unten die Live-Premiere seines straighten Equalized-Alias

Not directly related to this article, but in 2010 the program was really having a great year! See the poem lovingly tucked into this edition, “Another-Fucking Berghain-Artikel.” That one should make you laugh even if you don’t speak German:

http://berghain.de/media/flyer/pdf/berghain-flyer-2010-06.pdf

Hey, now this article avoided most of those cliches, though – this article does tick one of the boxes simply by existing. Oops. Apologies to Ostgut; I’ll stop procrastinating actually writing about the music. Writers. Sigh.

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