HÖR: Berlin’s Favorite Radio Rave
"It makes you feel alive."
This profile was originally was originally published as a part of Société de 032c in 032c Issue 41, Summer 2022.
Is Berlin’s fastest rising star a neon-lit bathroom in Kreuzberg? Contrary to popular belief, the 12-square-meter space that hosts the DJ booth and radio station HÖR is not, in fact, a repurposed toilet. Its founders, Charly and Ori , tiled the room themselves in the summer of 2019, transforming a raw space on the edge of Volkspark Hasenheide into the most recognizable Berlin venue in cyberspace. “Managing, booking, graphic design, social media, station shifts – for three years, we did it all.”
Six out of seven days a week, six different DJs play a 55-minute set in the HÖR booth between 4pm and 10pm. The sets are recorded with a fixed fisheye camera and uploaded to HÖR’s YouTube, then promoted via Instagram and Facebook – where HÖR has amassed 476K, 310K, and 105K followers, respectively. They have now broadcasted over 4,000 shows and hosted more than 2,500 individual artists. Their Fordist approach to content production has helped make the image of HÖR – or rather, of a DJ behind the decks in the “bathroom” – almost inescapable online, and the platform’s impact on the electronic music scene and the world of streaming is equally conspicuous.
The booth’s back story is a bit of a Berlin legend. Charly and Ori, a DJ and production duo from Tel Aviv, stumbled upon the perfect derelict location for their passion project while vacationing in Berlin – and they ended up staying ever since. “We wanted to create a community space where music enthusiasts could connect with the artists they love,” they say. Their hope was to create an open place for electronic music aficionados to convene, bringing a record-store–type feel to the streaming era. But when the first wave of Covid-19 hit Germany in 2020, their station transformed into a digital life raft for a dissolved community. “We felt so much responsibility to fill the void,” they explain.
The pair spent the next two years running HÖR around the clock, providing thousands of out-of-work DJs and producers a chance to perform and connect with audiences once again. With venues shuttered and gatherings banned, HÖR became the city’s hottest venue, and playing a set there became a professional rite of passage for both emerging and established artists.
HÖR’s setup was designed to be the electronic music world’s equivalent of a blank canvas, with each 55-minute-long segment functioning “like an artist ID card” within the broader industry. “The format and scene are intentionally repetitive,” they say. “We want people to focus on the music and the performance, and nothing else.” The purity and simplicity of their approach is precisely what differentiates HÖR from the streaming giant Boiler Room, whose entertainment value comes from the chaos of the crowd as much as it does the music.
While the closure of nightlife venues expedited HÖR’s ascension, its popularity and industry value is clearly not contingent on lockdown conditions. With a team now 11 people strong, HÖR has had a transformative 2022. This year, they have unveiled a series of streaming partnerships and hosted stages at major European festivals, such as MELT. Capitalizing on its name recognition and synonymity with the best of the Berlin underground, HÖR has also branched into the fashion sphere, releasing collaborations with Crocs and Highsnobiety.
Last month, they unveiled their biggest project to date: a brand new website. Their million monthly viewers will still be able to stream their content for free at www.hoer.live, but those willing to pay just 3.99 a month will gain access to new features, such as track identification, a moderated and troll-free comment section, an easy-to-use library, and a personal area to save their favorite tracks and sets.
HÖR may be expanding its network of collaborators, but at the heart of the operation is a remarkable business partnership between two friends. “The key to success is trust. You have to understand what each of you does best and respect those professional boundaries,” they say. When asked if the bigger team will allow them to finally slow down, Charly and Ori laugh. “We are in a highway state of mind. Once you’re there, it’s very difficult to get out of it – because it makes you feel alive."