After 23 years, Popkomm, Berlin's annual music fair has closed its doors. But now, with the city of Berlin launching Berlin Music Week this Sept. and the success of Hamburg's Reeperbahn Festival in the same month, many in the industry may not even notice Popkomm's demise.
Several music business execs welcomed the end of Popkomm and spoke highly of Reeperbahn. Music publisher Prof. Dr. Rolf Budde, a member of the supervisory board of GEMA, said that, "Popkomm was already dead before it moved from Cologne to Berlin in 2004 because by then the music business was already having structural problems. The industry does not have the money anymore to book large booths. Today you only want to meet and see interesting bands. The Berlin Music Week is exactly the right thing." He also added that he thinks Berlin Music Week "can compete with MIDEM."
Hille Hillekamp, owner of the music publishing company Grand H in Hamburg agrees. "Popkomm had always tried to be MIDEM in Cannes, but never made it." Meanwhile, Hillekamp says, the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg had established itself as the conference for the German music businesses.
Popkomm was, in fact, canceled in 2009 due to lack of attendees. When it started back up in 2010 it was not very successful. In 2006, Popkomm had 870 exhibitors from 55 countries presenting; in 2011 there were only 400 exhibitors and 5,000 visitors with many attendees from countries that financed their trips with government funds.
Bernd Hocke, general manager of the independent record company Edel in Hamburg, concurred with his colleagues' assessment. "The concept of Popkomm was too broad and superficial to overcome," he said. "As a platform you have to be more specific."
With a financial investment of an estimated one million euros ($1.2 million) by the city of Berlin, the German government hopes Berlin Music Week can secure Berlin's international reputation as Germany's music capital. And with the support of Berlin's entertainment business (including Universal Music), music publishing companies, independent labels, radio and TV stations, more than 40 clubs and over 80 bands, the confab may just do that. The Killers, Sigur Rós, Franz Ferdiand and Paul Kalkbrenner will be playing at the old Tempelhof airport. And on Sept. 9, a New Music Award will be awarded by German radio stations. And a new program with the title "Word On Sound" and talent workshops are planned.
"If you want to know what the world is talking about tomorrow," said Björn Döring, project manager for Berlin Music Week, "you have to come to Berlin."
Competing with Berlin Music Week is the aforementioned Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg (Sept. 20-22), which began 2006. This year 260 concerts will take place in over 40 locations. Last year over 20,000 visitors attended with 210 acts coming in from 25 countries.
This year's festival will feature a Southeast Asian showcase, a Danish music night and artists from Israel, Italy and Canada (including Japandroids). The Warner Music Night will feature .fun. Ben Challis of the UK's Glastonbury Festival will give the keynote address on market concentration of the music and live business.
"The interest, especially of international partners to present their artists at the Reeperbahn festival has never been that big," said Detlef Schwarte, Head of Reeperbahn Festival Campus. "For the international music business the festival is a gateway to the German and even the international music market."
Someone like Mario Rossori, CEO of the indie label Poppate in Vienna explains his rationale for which conference he'll attend. "Today you have small labels that also do management and booking and have certain expectations. Among them are new ways of marketing and networking. Therefore Popkomm is out and the Reeperbahn Festival is in. Apart from Midem 2013 all other trade-fairs are in a testing mode."
But others see more choice in the German music conferences. "A fascinating regional concentration of business events is taking place at a more local networking level and music is playing a big role," said Dr. Florian Drücke, managing director of the association of the German music industries (BVMI) in Berlin. "The good old trade-fair will have a hard time in the future."
Musikmesse in Frankfurt am Main is the world's biggest international fair for musical instruments, live entertainment equipment, sheet music, music production, marketing and panels and has been for nearly 30 years. In 2012, the event had 1,512 exhibitors from 51 countries -- up from 2011 with 1,504 exhibitors from 50 countries. Musikmesse 2013 is scheduled for April 10-13.
The international music festival c/o pop took place June 20- 24 June this year in Cologne, offering its visitors five days of live entertainment with over 20 venues and more than 50 shows from more than 15 countries. This year the fair attracted 30,000. The C'n'B -Creative & Business Convention with new talent panels which operated under the c/o pop umbrella had over 1,000 international visitors from 25 countries.
Philip Ginthör, CEO of Sony Music GSA in Munich doubts the need in the market for these general more established platforms and explained why his company created their own event: "It's important we not just rely on proven content at these communication and business-platforms. That's why Sony established its own event under the title "Laut" in Munich, which is in its fifth year and has become an ideal platform for meeting partners and artists."