Can Data Explain Famed Berghain Club’s Success?

    Who are the DJs gracing Berlin's most storied nightclub?

    Credit: Bart van Poll -

    Everybody wants to get into Berghain, Berlin’s famously exclusive nightclub. The linchpin of Germany’s dynamic techno scene, it’s far from uncommon to see endless queues of shivering ravers awaiting judgement in subzero weather as Sunday night bleeds into Monday morning.

    Housed in the environs of an abandoned power plant in an industrial former East German district, the foreboding structure has sheltered the world’s most coveted techno DJs and the Berlin rumor mill’s most deviant sexual exploits.

    In addition to its unorthodox hours (often a full 24 hours, Friday straight through Monday) and esteemed roster of house DJs, Berghain stands out for its militant focus on authentic techno and heartlessly arbitrary entrance policy. As a result, the nightclub’s repute invites steady hordes of electronic music insomniacs only to turn half away—without explanation. So covert is this door policy that self-styled whistleblowers continually push variations of howto guides, offering tips on dress and demeanor for when finally reaching the door—usually to disappointing effect.

    But amid the fumes of mystery and conjecture, Berghain has laid the foundation for a robust techno scene in Berlin that invites envy worldwide. And in a world suffering no shortage of electronic music, that’s no small feat. It’s enough to make one wonder how exactly such success is achieved.

    Fortunately, musician and software developer Olle Holmberg (pka Moon Wheel) is using data to begin cracking the code.

    With Berghain as his study sample, Holmberg developed a JavaScript app to crawl the DJ (view the spreadsheet here) booking history on Berghain’s website from late-2009 to present. Using the resulting data, CDM‘s Peter Kirn neatly laid out a list of the top 25 most frequent Berghain appearances in descending order.

    As Kirn points out, this analysis is far from comprehensive and the app could surely be improved upon. For example, Holmberg’s data is restricted strictly to performers listed on the Berghain website, which doesn’t account for surprise appearances and guest DJ sets—which are fairly common occurrences. But it does offer an interesting resource in studying the correlation between DJ popularity and residency at Berghain while presenting a (again, incomplete) numerical story about the techno scene that largely sprung from the club.

    Another interesting story told by the data is how the historic building complex has managed to extend their tentacles into electronic music spheres that diverge from techno. From the spreadsheet, you can also observe Berghain’s side-venues (Panorama Bar, xxx-floor) and private events catering to differing electronic subgenres and measure how they’ve grown under the Berghain rubric.

    You can view Kirn’s DJ list (compiled from Holmberg’s data) below[h/t cdm]: