Club Futures is an international laboratory with the aim of developing new perspectives for the club and cultural scene.
It is undeniable that club-going is a significant cultural practice of our time and Berlin has earned a reputation as a pioneer of related experiments and developments.
A group of visionaries and networkers is initiating an ideation and concept development project, inviting the clubbing and cultural scene to participate. In addition to developing innovative ideas and concepts, the program aims to initiate collaborations between clubs, cultural professionals, the creative and tech industries, as well as science and art, in order to foster sustainable and inclusive clubbing practices. Representatives from the Berlin and international clubbing scene meet with experts, visionaries, and creatives from various fields in a series of workshops and events.
The program addresses the multifaceted dimensions of club culture and examines the future of clubs as spatial-architectural venues, as cultural producers, and as service providers.
However, the focus is not on the increasingly widespread “status quo” of clubs as commercial venues. Rather, the aim is to examine the ongoing transformation of the clubbing world and to develop new perspectives beyond the reactivation programs called for in the wake of the Corona situation. How can club culture, in a similar way to the trends that characterized Berlin in the 90s, benefit from experimental, local, social, and, in part, non-commercial influences?
The collapse of the traditional business models of our clubs caused by the pandemic seems to have triggered new collaborations with the cultural scene, with visual and the performing arts. Additionally, we are witnessing the acceleration of technological developments such as concert streaming as well as the provision of other digital forms of formerly in-person entertainment and live performances.
With the global reach of digital club offer across different time zones, clubbing is emancipating itself from the night. Bicycles are being repurposed as PAs and sound machines, and parties are taking place outside of venues in parks, on the outskirts of cities, or even outside of physical space, in the virtual realm.
All of this can be understood as an extension of classic clubbing practices. The idea of a club experience that goes beyond music and dancing, outside the club walls, outside the night, even outside the city, raises the question: if clubs, as we knew them, are a thing of the past, where and how will new constellations with other cultural fields develop?
Through its exploratory, creative, and experimental approach, the Club Futures program unfolds gradually, over a series of sequential and interlocking workshops and events. Following this approach, the program addresses relevant aspects and dimensions of club culture and sheds new light on upcoming challenges.
With digital transformation having the potential to be a most impactful game-changer in the future of clubbing, as well as of the event and entertainment industry at large, the program first dives into and explores the potential of hybrid (combined physical and media, onsite and online) formats. Such explorations on Hybrid Clubbing, relying on the insights from tech-pilots, innovators, and pioneers, lead to speculating on possible Club Cultures, with new models that open up new perspectives for venues and the communities associated with them. This then expands beyond the direct clubbing scene, involving players from culture, tourism and the hospitality sector as well as from urban governance, forming synergies, fostering new collaborations and innovative, sustainable models towards a Club Fu-Tourism.
The results of each phase of the project serve as a basis and input for the subsequent program elements. As the project grows and expands its field of inquiry, broader constellations of actors are brought into the process through different event formats. An important concern of the program is to make the methods and results emerging from Berlin freely available and to invite the international cultural scene to further develop these future scenarios and to implement them into corresponding experiments.
The three progressive workshops and participatory event formats are briefly outlined below:
The ubiquity and acceleration of the digital, and the associated transformation of physical spaces and experiences, are among the most obvious consequences of the current pandemic. Digital formats will continue to evolve, even as lockdown and restrictions are lifted. How is clubbing going to accommodate the digital spaces and networks that have been the lifebuoy of social life for several months, blooming and unfolding next to physical spaces of cohabitation and encounter?
It is not only about whether we are happy with a mostly online social life. More importantly, it is a matter of designing meaningful sociocultural interactions in a way that ensures the longed-for spontaneity, richness, and integrative power even in hybrid (combined – physical and digital) formats. In this hybridization of the club cosmos lies the opportunity to address aspects of accessibility and inclusion on multiple dimensions.
The program explores innovative tech solutions such as wearables, gaming environments, and VR and XR applications that are becoming relevant for clubbing, and speculates on future hybrid (combined physical and digital) clubbing experiences.
Considering the primal characteristics of club culture (movement, state of trance, sex, and playfulness, etc.) that existed way before the digital revolution or even venues, it is important to address how to preserve these urges and motivations while introducing new concepts. Can technologies help reach “augmented” aesthetics and perceptions, creating unique atmospheres and enhancing immersive experiences?
In addition, the program addresses broader general questions, such as the relationship between physical experience and digital identity. It questions, for example, the extent to which physical clubbing experiences are becoming essential means to the digital identity-building of younger generations.
*How is digitization changing club culture, and how can it be a radical drive to rethink clubbing as an adaptable, multifaceted cultural practice?
*And how does the future of clubbing look like, or sound and feel like?
Club Futures reflects on and elicits responses from different clubbing (sub-)cultures, exploring clubbing (business) models and their long-term adaptability and sustainability.
With globalization and mass tourism, many clubs have reflected the wider trend, increasingly to the international mainstream event culture, reaching out to a less and less specified audience whilst expanding and diversifying performances genres and styles. Accelerated by the pandemic-induced crisis, economically powerful (global) players expand and progressively establish themselves in previously local markets, inaugurating clubbing franchising and integrating locally owned clubs into chains of the entertainment industry.
Club Futures discusses these given trends and changes in the industry and also speculates on the chances of a more specialized, context-specific, genre-committed approach to clubbing as opposed to the mainstream of the entertainment industry. More specifically, an innovative integration of hybrid (combining physical venues and digital reach) elements into the clubbing experience has the potential to support clubs’ individual cultural flair.
As a far-reaching, long-tail type of effect of digitalization, clubs could regain genre specificity and character, developing their scene back by building up commitment to artists. Teaming up with diversified crews, strengthening identities deeply rooted in sub-culture and repurposing the “authenticity” of the club experience could all be part of a wider expansive strategy. Such a strategy could also accommodate the integration with broader fields, such as “hybrid” exhibitions, cultural products and services, wellness and lifestyle consulting.
Considering the future of the clubbing experience, how are future clubs going to combine wellbeing, safety and health of club-goers, developing new clubbing concepts, such as “Health Clubs” or “Fitness Clubs”, addressing the needs of an aging population of clubbing golden-agers.
The future of clubbing also needs to be alert to and aware of clubs’ ecological footprint, pushing forward-looking, genuinely progressive thinking about the sustainability of venues and events.
More broadly, still, the current challenges have confirmed that the clubbing world needs to revisit and radically adapt revenue models, for instance by considering crowdsourcing and blockchain technology to create self-sufficient businesses which are sustainable in the long run.
Addressing the multiple dimensions of clubs as spatial-architectural venues, as content creators, and as service providers, the program investigates and speculates on possible new models for clubbing.
*How are the different clubbing (sub)cultures reacting to the current situation?
*How can clubbing business models be rethought to guarantee long-term adaptability and sustainability?
Based on the previous two elements, the third part of the program stretches further into the future of clubbing as interconnected to the tourism and hospitality sectors and to urban development.
With tourism and travel being rethought and readjusted after the pandemic, the program speculates on new hybrid models, connecting clubbing to hospitality and tourism. Addressing physical mobility prompted by international club culture in connection to other industries, it reaches out to a broader business ecosystem to identify possible new collaborations, fostering innovative, future-proof practices.
Considering the interactions between clubbing and cities and regions, the program also engages with urban governance. Here, the project turns to issues of urban development, asking how the existence of club culture is affected by increasing gentrification – or how the need to decentralize tourist destinations coincides with the spatial marginalization (e.g. push to the urban margins) of club culture?
What happens to the urban fabric if club culture moves to the periphery? How would this reformulate the spatial cultural hierarchies of the city center and the suburbs? And how does clubbing affect perceptions of urban beauty, safety, wealth in specific spaces? How will it, in the future?
And as we see the city fabric being heavily affected by the current crisis, with urban voids encroaching and venues closing permanently, how can cultural practices reappropriate the newly freed up spaces, contributing to urban reactivation?
How can the concept of pop-up, autonomous, and independent clubbing venues echoing the early ‘90s Berlin be made current and adaptive? What could the role of the municipality be in helping the clubbing culture flourish, shape up and thrive? In what capacity could the municipality be involved, and how?
*How can future clubbing be a driver for a low-impact, ecologically-minded future tourism?
*And how can fu–tourism support sustainable urban development?
Let’s reinvent the way we party! It is a cultural, social, and political challenge – not only for Berlin. The clubs of the future – the future to the clubs!
Club Futures is an international experimental lab to beam clubbing into the future.
Club to the Future!