Clubbing In The Time Of COVID-19: Berlin Clubs Are Closed, So DJs Are Livestreaming People are dancing at home to livestreamed sets. "I think this is probably the most difficult time since World War II," says Lutz Leichsenring of the Berlin Club Commission. "Everything is shut down."
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Clubbing In The Time Of COVID-19: Berlin Clubs Are Closed, So DJs Are Livestreaming

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Clubbing In The Time Of COVID-19: Berlin Clubs Are Closed, So DJs Are Livestreaming

Clubbing In The Time Of COVID-19: Berlin Clubs Are Closed, So DJs Are Livestreaming

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Berlin's nightclubs have typically brought in around $1.6 billion a year for the city. The pandemic is pushing dozens of clubs towards bankruptcy, but the clubs may have a solution. As NPR's Rob Schmitz reports, they're now bringing the clubbing to you.

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ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Wearing a black baseball cap, black shirt and black pants, DJ Tommy Four Seven bobs his head to the beat as his hands move over the turntables like a nimble chef juggling four scorching frying pans at once. He looks lost in his own musical world. And that's probably a good thing because Tommy Four Seven's audio gear is set up in a white-tiled room facing a window overlooking an empty Berlin street at midnight in the middle of a global pandemic.

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SCHMITZ: Tommy Four Seven doesn't seem bothered by this. That's because he's being streamed to thousands of homes where Berlin's clubbers are doing something they likely never imagined they'd resort to, dancing alone at home. This is clubbing in the time of COVID-19.

TOMMY FOUR SEVEN: If you're a DJ like me that - I kind of react from the crowd. I like to read the crowd and look into their eyes and kind of bounce and vibe off them. It's very strange just to be isolated, DJing to a camera.

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SCHMITZ: But for how odd it seems, DJs, promoters and club owners in Berlin are adjusting to the times. Each night at 7 o'clock, they offer the free clubbing service United We Stream. They call it the world's largest virtual club. After just two weeks, the site attracted 5 million viewers from across the world and nearly half a million dollars' worth of donations. Lutz Leichsenring, co-founder of Berlin's Club Commission, says 30% of travelers to Berlin come for the nightlife. And COVID-19 put a stop to it all.

LUTZ LEICHSENRING: I think this is probably the most difficult time since World War II, to be honest. Everything is shut down. There is - there are 9,000 people who are directly employed in clubs - are without work right now.

SCHMITZ: That includes DJs like Tommy Four Seven, who prefers to stick with his professional name.

TOMMY FOUR SEVEN: When the news came out and I just had two months of gigs canceled, it was a huge shock. And I just laid on the sofa. I couldn't really focus on anything creative.

SCHMITZ: But now he and other DJs are back in their booths, playing their sets for virtual clubbers around the world.

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SCHMITZ: Berlin clubber Lars Schott (ph) loves United We Stream. He watches it a few times a week. He says ever since Germany restricted public gatherings, he's been pretty lonely.

LARS SCHOTT: In Germany, there's a law that it's only allowed to go out with your family. And here in Berlin, the problem is 50% of all people have no family.

SCHMITZ: So he watches United We Stream with his other single friends in other cities over the video messaging platform Zoom.

SCHOTT: I share my experience with other friends, for example, in Frankfurt or in Hamburg. And they have the same music on. We drink beer together and chat via Zoom.

SCHMITZ: And sometimes, when the conditions are right, they even dance alone in their respective empty rooms.

SCHOTT: But dancing is only working if you are drunken. We are here in Germany. And to be honest, it's not our culture to dance in front of Zoom, but if after two or three hours.

SCHMITZ: And if he's had even more drinks, then Lars Schott will close his eyes, focus on the music and manage to put the quarantine and the loneliness out of his mind.

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SCHMITZ: He'll pretend he's back at his favorite crowded Berlin club with all his friends.

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SCHMITZ: And he will dance as if this virus never existed.

Rob Schmitz, NPR News, Berlin.

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