German politicians tackle venue closures
Members of Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag, are calling for clubs and live music venues to be classified as cultural institutions, in a bid to avoid more grassroots venue closures.
The Die Linke (The Left) party and Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Alliance 90/The Greens), who hold 69 and 67 seats in the federal parliament respectively, have submitted reports to the Bundestag urging more protection for the country’s smaller venues.
“Clubs shape the culture and quality of life in cities,” reads the opening of the Left’s report, submitted in October. “They are spaces of cultural diversity and deserve special protection.”
The main demand from both groups is for clubs and live music venues to be recognised as ‘cultural institutions’, rather than ‘places of entertainment’ in the national building code. Such a classification would legally equate venues to concert halls, opera houses, theatres and cinemas, instead of to brothels, sex cinemas and betting shops, as is the case currently.
“In the building code, cultural institutions enjoy more opportunities to integrate into inner cities than entertainment venues,” explain the Left.
“In the building code, cultural institutions enjoy more opportunities to integrate into inner cities than entertainment venues”
The Greens offer the example of famous Berlin club Berghain (1,600-cap.) which won a court battle in 2016 to pay the 7% tax rate levied on cultural venues, rather than the 19% paid by places of entertainment.
The judgement swung in Berghain’s favour, “due to the artistic, concert-like and special creative nature of its programme”, states the Greens’ proposal, submitted earlier this month.
Each party stresses that club- and live music- culture is undervalued and undersupported by the government, with the Green party indicating that, although the club scene generates around €216 million per year in Berlin alone, the sector has “so far received little public funding”.
According to German promoters’ association BDKV, a large number of music venues have been forced to close in the past two years, as noise complaints from local residents drive non-renewals of rental agreements. Venues to have shut their doors include Rosis in Berlin, Dusseldorf’s Damenundherren, Scandale in Cottbus, Essen’s Essener Studio, Kleiner Donner in Hamburg and Munich’s MMA.
“More than ever before, we need these spaces, which act as musical venues for artists and at the same time as social meeting places”
To tackle closures, the parliamentary groups suggest the introduction of the ‘agent of change’ principle, like that in place in the UK and Australia which makes housing developers building new homes near venues responsible for addressing noise issues.
“We sincerely hope that, in retrospect, these two proposals will be the beginning of a bipartisan initiative at the federal level that will work for the benefit of existing and future music venues in Germany,” comments Axel Ballreich, chairman of LiveKomm (LiveMusikKommission).
“More than ever before, we need these spaces, which act as musical venues for artists and at the same time as social meeting places.”
Speaking to IQ in 2017, a LiveKomm spokesperson explained that lack of government support, threat of noise complaints and high taxation were paving the way for a “venue crisis”.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.