Public Possession is a many-sided enterprise: in addition to being the name of the DJ duo from Munich-based Marvin Schuhmann and Valentino Betz, it’s also a record store, label, catering service and a hub for clothing, flyer and book design. In fact, when Schuhmann and Betz came up with the name Public Possession in 2007, they already knew that it would serve as an umbrella for all of the future creative enterprises that they would launch together.
Whatever they put their name on often comes in high quality limited editions—even if it means that they might not make any money. “We clearly aren’t numbers guys,” Betz puts it with a smile. “But if we, let’s say, make a small run of t-shirts, we look for quality materials first and then see if it makes sense financially.”
Be it for their DJ sets, the eclectic records they release from artists like Bell-Towers, Mr.Tophat or Obalski, or the ever-changing interior of their shop, Public Possession is a boutique in the best sense of the word, comfortably operating on the fringes of house and techno’s hyped corners.
Despite their humble beginnings, the duo can count Running Back’s Gerd Janson or L.I.E.S.’s Ron Morelli among their fans and friends. The former journalist-turned-jetsetting-DJ even contributed to their new book, Public Possession – Katalog 001, that came out earlier this year. As the title suggests, it’s a collection of the flyers and graphic works that Schumann and Betz have completed for their parties and in-store sessions over the years.
The entrepreneurs sat down with us to reflect back on their new book and the five years in which Public Possession has risen from a local project to a household name in the international music scene.
“We started as a DJ team 12 years ago. First in bars, then in a now-defunct club here in Munich, called Erste Liga. We had a residency there for two years and played there every Friday. The label and the record shop basically just evolved from our DJing together. There was never a clearly thought-out plan.
While working on our new book, we found a piece of paper from years ago on which we once wrote down what we planned to do and how we imagined we could make it happen. That was our business plan, so to speak. At that point, we decided that Public Possession should be the name for all our projects. We didn’t know back then exactly what these projects would entail, but we wanted our widespread interests to be reflected in everything we took on.
When we started the label, we only had three releases ready. That was it. We didn’t have any more music waiting to be released, neither did we have a plan on how to continue. But still we decided to launch the label and the record shop. When we decided to open the record store, it was clear that there should also be a label within it that had the same name. We were on the road so much as DJs, so we had a lot of contacts. Everything else came together very quickly. We’ve since published 28 releases on the main label and 10 on the sister label. A lot has happened in over the years.
When we opened the storefront, there was only one record shop in Munich that sold electronic music, called Optimal. Everyone else – Resonanz, Play Records – had closed. Optimal is legendary, and their assortment is very broad. Right from the start, we intended to specialize and sell things that were otherwise not really available in Munich or at that location. The community character was—and is—extremely important to us. For the first three or four years, almost every weekend we had an in-store session with DJs from Munich or DJs who were in town, often as guests of our new residency at a little Blitz!-affiliated club called Charlie. That contributed to the growth of our store a lot.
Over the years, the way we approached the music selection developed quite a bit. When we opened, we were totally naïve and didn’t know how the business worked. We ordered records endlessly. Suddenly everything was full with backstock that wasn’t so easy to sell off. We became more careful after that and approached quantity and choice in a way that worked better for us and our customers. We gradually became more and more selective, but nevertheless quite diverse. The guys who started working at our shop now help us a great deal to continue that approach.
The idea of patiently building something over a long period of time is deeply rooted in everything we do. The whole fast-paced, trend-following approach is not our thing. We hope that comes across. You could say that we’re constantly working towards something, but there’s no peak. It’s more of a steady build. This is only possible if you have a certain continuity.
After all, we’re still a two-man company. The first four years, we were open six days a week. And we were still travelling a lot as DJs. At some point, that didn’t work anymore, so for a while we restricted the opening times to weekdays. The in-store sessions have suffered a bit as a result. But for a couple of months now, we’ve had some more support and are just starting to build it up again. Soon there will be more in-store sessions. That was and is an important part of the shop for us. We’ve had some amazing DJs here. From Young Marco to Ron Morelli and Seth Troxler. Those are just some of the big names. Even more important are all the DJs from Munich who have played here regularly and brought their friends.
We now have more work with the label and we also do all kinds of graphics jobs. We just published our second book, which is the result of five years of Public Possession. What took the most time was cataloging our whole flyer archive and putting it into a system. Ultimately, we decided on a chronological order. It’s all of the original flyers that we scanned.
Until recently, the whole store was full of these A-4 flyers. For years we often had two events per week. A lot of flyers have come together in this book. They all have this copy shop style because it was quick and cheap. In the end, we worked on the book for three months. Now we’re on tour with it, so to speak. Previously, the book presentations were mainly held in a gallery context. Here in Munich, we plastered an entire wall at the Art Foundation Federkiel with our flyers. For ADE, we’ll pick up on the in-store session idea at Redlight Radio and adapt it there, but before that we’ll stop in London at the Carhartt Shop A stop in Berlin is planned for end of November.
For fun, we put a page for Public Possession Catering online. Shopkeepers saw that and seriously asked us if we would ever start catering events. So that’s what we did. We only did that a few times, but PP is open to doing things in all directions. It’s a broad bracket within which we can be wild creatively.”
Published August 20, 2018.