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Editor's column

Why the closure of Just Music marks the end of an era in Berlin

Just Music, once European's Largest Music Store, closed its doors back in March. What does this mean for music lovers?

Photo: Makar Artemev

As a teenager, I would often spend my squandered evenings and lunch breaks loitering around the local guitar shops in my hometown in the UK. I couldn’t play, but that didn’t stop me from picking one up, plugging it in, and strumming out some badly rehearsed Nirvana riffs. For many of us, whether it’s musicians playing in bands, DJs or enthusiasts experimenting with synths and keyboards, it’s these kinds of moments that kickstart the journey into making music – moments lost to time as highstreet music stores are slowly disappearing.

The latest shop to strum their last chord was Berlin’s JustMusic flagship store, which closed down at the end of March. Formerly located in the 100 year-old Elsnerhaus on Moritzplatz, with 7,000 square metres across five floors, JustMusic was Europe’s largest instrument shop, where you could buy and try out anything you needed. There were guitar centres, drum studios, and everything an electronic music producer could desire. It was the place to go to pick up new parts and just browse the huge selection of instruments and gear on offer. It was the unspoken pillar of Berlin’s music community, and it was more than just music.

It was the unspoken pillar of Berlin’s music community, and it was more than just music.

Founded in Berlin in 1977, JustMusic went on to open several branches across the country. Now, the company has revealed that it can no longer make the numbers add up, citing a lack of demand for high-cost musical products, rising inflation, the struggle to find experienced retail staff, and customers shifting to online giants with more attractive prices. (Just last year, the German online music retailer Thomann recorded €1.4 billion in revenue.) It’s for these reasons that in 2021, the company was forced to shut down its branches in Hamburg, Munich and Dortmund, and now, with the closure of the company’s flagship store in Berlin, the last remaining outpost of JustMusic after over 40 years of business.

Photo: Makar Artemev

As much as this is a loss to the high street, it will ultimately hurt aspiring musicians more. Few things are as inspiring as going in to play on new instruments; the touch, the feel, even the smell of new gear is spellbinding. The haptic experience in our modern world that is increasingly geared towards living online is priceless. You’ll never know whether you prefer Fender or Ibanez, fret or fretless, before you go and try them out. The same goes for drum machines, synths, keyboards, MIDI controllers, etc. Inspiration starts with experience. Without having the opportunity to physically play and get a feel for the music, many young musicians are going to miss out. Sales of guitars are dropping worldwide, and it’s easy to see why.

As the inner child in me rages over the loss of the things I found so precious, the older, more cantankerous me is wondering: where will I get my guitar strings and cables now?