Back in 2006, Detlef Schwarte and Alexander Schulz, Co-founded the Reeperbahn festival, with an aim to present the best new international pop acts to the European audience. The music festival, annually held in Hamburg, Germany, witnessed around 200 acts performing in 20 venues for 8000 visitors. Over the course of its 13 editions, the Reeperbahn festival has diversified by including a music business conference for the attendees. The music festival in 2009, organized a conference parallel to the normal concert program.
Globally music business conferences have become the nodal point for the music industry. A place for different stakeholders of the music business to network and create newer opportunities for their growth.
Music Plus spoke to Detlef Schwartze, to gain insights on the importance of a music business conference.
What are the pre-requisites of a successful music conference?
The program, people and perspectives. The professional offer and supporting program must be so attractive that the right people come to your event. Then others will follow. The coming together of people and their networking creates something new from which one profits as an individual participant, but also as an industry. Our task is to initiate, control and renew this cycle.
Why is it vital for music business professionals and companies to be a part of music conferences?
My view is that conferences serve as platforms, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises to link up and organize themselves. Thereby countering the growing market power of individual large market participants.
Working in networks is becoming more important and also easier in the course of digitalization. Those who do not make use of these music conferences as platforms and meeting places are depriving themselves of opportunities.
How does an organizer co-ordinate and ensure smooth functioning?
The challenge is to create a mixture of familiar processes and proven content on the one hand and new impulses, the reflection of current artistic and economic developments on the other.
Of course, the size of the event also brings with it certain organizational tasks. But they are not in the foreground. Because there are many larger festivals in terms of the number of visitors. But hardly any other festival has so many different program points and target groups that have to be served.
What should be the selection criteria for the speakers, panelists and also the topics for discussions or workshops?
For the music industry, a conference should also be entertaining and inspiring. It should not just talk about numbers and discuss laws. Our sessions are particularly well attended, providing up-to-date knowledge on the use of digital tools and social media channels.
Basically, I believe that the assessments, tastes, ways of working and consumer habits of the very young generation of people who are moving up the ladder and who want to work professionally with music must find their way more strongly into our conferences. The industry is changing very fast. We will not be able to afford not to receive the input of the very young.
How can the governments be supportive and aid the organizers and the attendees of music conferences?
In my opinion, public funding for an event like ours is justified. Because our event strengthens the music industry in Germany in many ways and many artists and companies profit from it. Conferences play a vital role in the development of the creative industries and their clusters. This helps in the creation of locational advantages on a regional or international level. It should be obvious that politics and administration must have an interest in this.
‘Reeperbahn Festival’ is a gateway to the European and German music markets, any plans to move to other destinations?
The activities at SXSW in Austin, Texas, in March and the Reeperbahn Festival New York Edition in June have been part of the annual program for some time now.
It is about promoting cooperation between German and European artists and artists from the respective destinations and enabling the co-organisation of new networks between music industry players.
As the main European music platform for international and trans-cultural exchange, Reeperbahn Festival is the best stakeholder to create these synergies between Europe and other territories. That´s why the German Federal Foreign Office is supporting these activities that take us in the coming months to Accra and Los Angeles and again to Nashville, Beijing, and New York.
Please share your views about the Indian music market. Are there any possibilities of it figuring as a ‘focal country’ in the future at the Reeperbahn festival?
Having India as Focal Country would be great. This year we have Australia, which has a long tradition in regard to western popular music. But the potential for artists and the music industry today is, of course, mainly to be found in the emerging music markets. It is no secret that India is one of the biggest and most interesting future markets here. I believe that the situation is comparable to that of China. There is an extremely large number of people for whom it will become more normal in the next few years to explore music from other sources or also cultures. There are enormous opportunities here for artists and music companies on both sides – the western music world and the emerging markets.
More than 45,000 visitors, amongst them 5,000 delegates, 900 events, and 600 international artists are expected to attend or perform at the 2019 edition of the festival.