Telekom Electronic Beats

Resolutions 2020: Advance Your Artistry With These Music Resources

A definitive guide to all the free DJ and producer initiatives in Berlin and beyond.

Words by Hubert Spangler
Published on January 16, 2020 14:41 Berlin Time

Looks like the new 2020 you has finally committed to leaving behind the socially encoded path to become an artist. A creative career is a nebulous quest that, unfortunately, comes with no roadmap. But rest assured that countless like-minded people have been in similar vulnerable positions and have started their new life phases from scratch.

Expanding your network and mastering the mechanisms of self-marketing in a one man mission can quickly overshadow your actual creative practice, turning it all into a daunting mammoth task. Fortunately, newcomers can take part in the abundance of initiatives that pass on expertise and show the right way forward–without incurring any costs. 

A fresh new decade means the hustle intensifies. So if you’ve bravely made it through the process of booking your one-way ticket to Berlin for that burgeoning music career, minimizing your personal inventory, and saying goodbye to your loved ones, and, if your physical well-being is being stabilized in the short term with a part-time job and a shoddy two month sublet, the following programs are worth a look.

Amplify Berlin – An open call to ambitious artists in the electronic music continuum

During this month-long residency, two newcomers are supervised by an established industry mentor. In the past, Laurel Halo, Amnesia Scanner, and Robert Lippok have helped trainees produce a piece of music and develop a live set. Located in Mitte’s ACUD MACHT NEU, participants are granted access to the in-house production studio and concert room to prepare and rehearse for their final performance. Their work will also be played out on a Reboot.fm radio show hosted by the mentees. This year, the itinerary includes another exciting element: the team behind Amplify will curate a floor at CTM Festival 2020 (January 24 – February 2), where the program alumnus Xin, Grinderteeth, and Max Dahlhaus are set to perform. 

This makes for a major opportunity for trainees to showcase their final work in front of a savvy, attentive audience, as well as relevant media.

Musicboard – Berlin’s central hub for funding community initiatives and residencies abroad

This Berlin-based institution strengthens the city’s fertile music culture through financially supporting festivals and new DIY platforms dedicated to boosting emerging talent. They define those eligible as “musicians that have done their first steps of a professional career,” and restrict their applicant demographic to people who live and work in Berlin. 

Next to allocating state grants to local festivals like last year’s experimental noiseLAB, Radical Sounds Latin America, and non-profit initiatives like Easterndaze x Berlin, the Board also gives money to artists who plan to professionalize their music careers. They can, for instance, use the funds to record an album, produce a music video, or set up a tour. 

For 2020, the Board offers opportunities abroad, including a 6-week stay in the birthplace of techno, Detroit, where the selected artist would work in facilities once home to Underground Resistance. Berlin-based musicians who “stand out through an exceeding creative output and professional work ethic” are eligible for the individual funding and residencies. Two years ago, the Board supported 701 promising acts; a handful of talent have since been awarded with artist residences in the USA, India, and Brazil.

SHAPE Platform – For Pan-European sonic pioneers innovating their craft

Five years ago, an alliance of 16 significant festivals and art centres, including notable participants CTM, Unsound, and the Biennale Némo, created the SHAPE platform to support aspiring creatives who are particularly interested in audible innovation and interdisciplinary exchange. After an annual open call, 48 talents are selected to participate in a series of workshops and expert lectures. In the past, artists such as Varg2TM, Sentimental Rave, Toxe, and Peder Mannerfelt have passed through its program. Hint: many SHAPE graduates find themselves on the booking fasttrack to some of the most cutting edge stages in Europe. 

After School Hustle – Orientation, inspiration, and training for teenage talent

Through its agenda of free workshops, After School Hustle puts Gen Zers in touch with professionals from countless disciplines who not only pass on their knowledge, but also make for potential role models. Their aim is to orient teenagers towards their post-degree careers. In the past, courses offered have ranged from entrepreneurship to creative writing. Over 300 participants have passed through After School Hustle, and adolescents who are contemplating getting involved in music can sign up for hands-on DJing workshops, lessons in music production, and music journalism. One enterprising alumni of the DJing program went on to initiate After School Radio: a monthly broadcast on CCTV Radio exclusively showcasing young gun talent.

VUT Mentoring – Industry bootcamp for women, trans, and non-binary folk

Short for “Verband Unabhaengiger Musikunternehmer*innen e.V.” (or “Association Of Independent music entrepreneurs” in English), the VUT has set up a mentoring program for emerging women, trans, and non-binary talent who want to gain a foothold in the music industry. 

Within the framework of this program, those chosen are brought together with experienced industry experts from the label and publishing sectors, as well as professionals in promotion, booking, and distribution. The guiding principle is to let these underrepresented individuals have a long-term impact on the industry by boosting them up to founding and management positions. 

The program’s mission focuses on sustainable growth and covers the entire administrative and functional side of music with individual appointments between mentee and mentor, group meetings, workshops, and panels within a four-month curriculum.

NTS WIP – An opportunity to tap into a vast radio universe

NTS Radio has crystallized itself over the last few years as the most important source for linear music programming and cultural curation. Everything relevant in the international mainstream will sooner or later run through the station’s transmission lines, and NTS is aware of its international leverage. 

That’s why they teamed up with Carhartt to create NTS WIP as an all-round program for artist development, for which 6 musicians or bands are selected every year. Musicians and bands from all countries and musical backgrounds are eligible. Part of their offerings include extensive mentoring with industry experts, in-house support and promotion, accompanied by a radio slot, paid performance opportunities, and a solid package of production equipment, as well as access to decked out recording studios and clothing deals. 

No Shade – For aspiring women, trans, and non-binary-identifying DJs claiming their right to the spotlight

No Shade is a self-made collective of protagonists quickly rising in the Berlin club scene. The group of 13, consisting of club avant-garde female, trans, and non-binary members, has made it its mission to uplift underrepresented talent by equipping them with all the necessary DJ skills to shine in the limelight. The project aims to instill more diversity, more colour, and more queerness into the local club culture–by shaking up who’s playing behind the decks and what far-flung genres are blaring through the speakers. 

Not only does the intensive training offer mentees an understanding of the technical component of DJing, but it also offers a supportive community. No Shade regularly host parties with well-known acts, and two slots in the line-ups are always reserved for program alumni. Every graduate benefits from a valuable network in the party scene: if there’s a dancefloor where a No Shade member is spinning, rest assured that a cadre of supportive members aren’t too far behind. 

Éclat Crew – A fortnightly space dedicated to developing those production chops

The Éclat Crew understands how challenging it is for female, trans, and non-binary people to win in this male-dominated domain. 

To join the community all you need is a pure interest in music production–without ever having dabbled in the craft before. The crew offers a community of like-minded, knowledgeable artists who are happy to teach members of all experience levels in the fortnightly gatherings. Éclat challenges newcomers through production exercises and team collaborations, and does their utmost to make meetings as accessible as possible. Subsidised train tickets and taxi rides are integrated into their project structure in case members are concerned about their solo journey home.

Tech Talk – Get insight into your favourite artist’s work flow

Supported by Musicboard Berlin, the Tech Talk event series give musicians an opportunity to exchange their work flow and music best practices and, above all, learn directly from their musical idols. Hosted at Paloma Bar, respected heads such as KiNK, Shanti Celeste, and FJAAK lead intimate lectures on their setups and the way in which these rigs contribute to their sound. These six events are spread out over the course of a year. 

Spoon – Guidance through an open-deck DJ workspace for women, trans, and non-binary DJs.

Raw recruits and experienced women, trans, and non-binary DJs are offered a room to perfect their DJing in its purest form: on vinyl. Participants spend time on the open decks conditioning their muscle memories to the haptics of wax. The program leaves the trainees on their lonesome, with the open option to ask questions as they come up. They can count on the team of mentors including ://about blank resident Resom, dBs Music School teacher Jenifa Mayanja and Spoon founder Ena Lind for valuable feedback on their blends. 

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Even if none of the above residencies fit your personal requirements, don’t get discouraged. There are several ways to get involved–try cold-calling and getting a bit creative. 

Volunteer at a local radio station to immerse yourself in the scene

Ask the local community radio station for regular volunteer opportunities. For those in Berlin, try HÖR, Cashmere Radio, and the newly-formed CCTV Radio. There are always to-dos on the list at the station, and it’s usually run by staffers who always need a helping hand.

As a volunteer, you become a part of an intimate environment where the players of the local scene are performing day in and day out. Dubstep DJ duo Sicaria Sound show us how it’s done: at London’s now-shuttered Radar Radio, they both moved from volunteer to studio manager, and later landed a residency on Rinse FM. 

Intern at local venues to leverage on-hand tech resources

By simply cold emailing, it’s possible to secure an internship at a place like MONOM, the East Berlin venue known for its gargantuan 4D soundsystem. After being trained in the technical ins and outs, their past interns have been granted micro-residencies that enabled them to work alone on their own projects using the cutting-edge facilities and equipment. 

If you’ve had the opportunity to take advantage of one of these programs, think about passing on the knowledge you’ve gathered since your career kick-off to those who still have a completely blank slate ahead of them. Maybe even consider starting a training program on your own.

There are state- and EU-funded institutions that will provide your initiative with financial support. Creative Europe is the EU’s official overarching funding program for the audiovisual, cultural, and creative industry and has the capacity to grant 1.46 billion euros over a seven-year period. In the UK, the PRS Foundation provides open grant schemes to new music projects that benefit the community.

All the above listed programs are tangible ways to grow roots in the scene. But remember: in no way do these replace self initiative and ambition. You elevate yourself through your innovative ideas and contributions to the culture.

Hubert Spangler is a freelance writer based in Berlin. He runs the local station CCTV radio and the netlabel Overthinker Mob. Follow him on Instagram @Bloomfeld.