1984 by George Orwell begins with, “It was a cold, bright April day, and the clocks struck thirteen.”
Techno ravers nights end the same way – dancers exit the club after a long night at one o’clock on a cold April day. Orwell then warned of a world cursed with surveillance. Today, techno dancers seek shelter from the same, one heart-pounding beat at a time.
To be clear, Techno as it is described is not the Calvin Harris or the Diplo you hear on the radio. Instead of being melodic, the techno sound sounds extremely mechanical, cold and emotionless. Techno lacks harmonies, predictable drops, stanzas, choruses and solos.
Techno tracks have no beginning or end. The bass drum stubbornly advances until the lights come on at 9 o’clock.
Not so long ago, techno was a fringe movement found only in the outposts of Detroit and Berlin. Today, you can experience the feel of techno in art installations in underground clubs and abandoned warehouses in nearly every major city. As such, Techno draws a crowd unlike the Calvin Harris types seen in Vegas.
To understand the influence of techno on anti-consumerism, you need to understand the new motivation for psychological freedom in the digital world. Techno has more power over consumers’ brains than their footwork, and that’s thanks to digital FOMO.
Just as Orwell predicted, the world is under heavy surveillance. However, Techno offers an extremely rare experience these days: freedom. Not only safe from data surveillance, but from the social comparison that plagues social media.
The consumer’s digital world is personalized through algorithms, hyper-intelligent facial recognition software and browser cookies. The above objective is to predict all the desires of the consumer – even before they feel a hint of desire. Yet somehow, the consumer personas are sitting in a server room far, far away.
Much of consumers’ willingness to give up data comes from their willingness to share and connect through social apps. And that comes from a very natural motivation: to belong and connect with other humans. And if consumers can’t use social apps, they’re missing out.
Fear of missing out, FOMO, appears in the brain. Instead of going to a party with your colleagues, you decide to visit your friends. Or you see your neighbors take another trip to wine country while another neighbor flexes a brand new Audi. You see how much fun everyone is having on Instagram and you feel disappointed that you missed.
FOMO is such a powerful force because consumers naturally engage in “what could have been” thinking in the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. Cognitive psychologists call this counterfactual thinking. You might like the burger you’re eating, but a small part of you still wonders if maybe you shouldn’t have ordered the steak instead. And when this type of thinking matches the social world, it quickly turns into FOMO. You might be enjoying your after-dinner stroll, but the minute you find out your friends have gone on a boat cruise without you? Suddenly, your sublime promenade no longer seems so great. Everything is fine until you compare it to what could have been.
It’s an all too common problem. So here’s a solution for some: Visit a tech bunker near you. Techno clubs let listeners hang out JOMO, the joy of missing out.
Although labeled as monotonous, minimal and non-melodic, techno is enjoyed by many – ravers and non-ravers alike. The culture around it provides an escape from the pitfalls of FOMO, digital glut, and social comparison.
Unlike Top 40 dancing, no standard dance style exists, which stifles the tendency for FOMO-based social comparisons. Likewise, the dress code is reverse to Vegas club standards. You will be refused entry if you try to wear dress shoes and fancy shirts. Cocktail dresses and heels are strictly prohibited. In addition, dark rooms with dizzying light effects make dressing even more unnecessary.
Oh, and the bottle service? No.
Clubs like Berghain, Berlin’s most secretive and hard-to-reach techno club, strictly enforce zero tolerance for photography by placing stickers on cameras. Blitz in Munich completely bans the use of smartphones. The key to remember is this: leave the virtual world with its likes and followers and discover the real world, where intimacy, belonging, novelty and great music are alive and well.
Techno can just as well be called Tech-NO!
The world of Techno is a world designed to be enjoyed without comparison: the music is up and the FOMO is down.
Even though today’s consumers are shaped to gamble on tastes by Instagramming their experiences, taking filtered selfies or live-tweeting, the sanctity of the smartphone-less, privacy-driven techno culture still lives up to its name.
In 2018, 280 Berlin clubs managed to raise over $1.6 billion in revenue. Over 3 million tourists, roughly the size of Berlin’s population, come for the bunkers alone.
With techno music as the top-selling genre on Beatport, an electronic dance music streaming service, and its cultural evolution (from a cult-like tribe to attracting millions of bunker-lovers), it’s also become a popular medium among brands to attract customers.
Many commercials are full of techno-infused music. For example, the Porsche commercial for the new Macan featured the heart-pounding beats of Dutch DJ and producer Bakermat. Travel search engine Kayak featured London DJ duo Eli & Fur. Car loan and leasing mobile app Fair used the rhythmic beats of Australian Alison Wonderland “Here 4 U” for its 2019 Super Bowl ad.
Brands are trying, but Techno isn’t the same in the mainstream. There are hardly any “stars” in techno. Many techno producers seem content with anonymity, even strive for it. The producers work together in different constellations, often changing their aliases and ensuring that hardly any photos and details about them are made public.
Through Techno, consumers can practice anti-consumerism and avoid the FOMO-fueled pressure of their daily lives. The data journey can stop at the entrance of the club. With Big Brother unable to watch their every move in the techno bunkers, you can bet modern-day Orwell would surely have some fantastic dance moves. See you at three o’clock!