Reeperbahn CEO Alexander Schulz Talks International Appeal of Festival

Daniel Reinhardt/picture alliance via Getty Images
The logo of the Reeperbahn Festival is seen at Spielbudenplatz public square in in Hamburg, Germany on Sept. 22, 2016. 

HAMBURG — Global music companies both large and small are increasingly viewing the just-wrapped Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg as an important platform, said festival CEO Alexander Schulz in an interview with Billboard this week. Additionally, Schulz said that 38% of the 5,900 professional visitors of this year’s event were not from Germany, reinforcing its growing international appeal. "The event has long since ceased to be attractive only to buyers and sellers from Germany," he said. "A great number of entrepreneurs from other continents, in particular from the US and Canada, visit Reeperbahn Festival to do business with market participants from all over Europe."

Schulz said that the festival’s evolving professional-to-visitor structure pretty much reflects the current situation in the music sector as a whole. "Many companies show a change in how they perceive their business fields," he said. "For example, nowadays there are no new music publishers that do not attempt to support some of their authors also as performers. And traditional publishing houses, such as Budde Music, have also ceased being a mere catalogue business and have extended their portfolio. Reeperbahn Festival offers conditions not only to deal with catalogues, rosters, etc. theoretically, but also to present some artists live, that means promoting new products."

He added, "In my view, after everything I have seen, the essential difference in the structure of professional visitors of the Reeperbahn Festival is not so much in the size of their enterprises or their place of operation but in the mix of sub-markets. Reeperbahn Festival is not limited to the segments publishing and recorded music, but it is a platform for all sub-markets within the eco-system music, in particular for the prospering segment of live entertainment."

Schulz described Reeperbahn as being structured like a film festival in that it presents art to both professionals and the public simultaneously. "For four years we have been staging our international talent contest Anchor Award with a prominent jury around Tony Visconti, which, in its logic, follows the competitions of large film festivals," he said. "Jade Bird, last year's winner, is a good example; she developed very well internationally afterwards."

Reeperbahn Festival is rated by the federal government as an important international marketplace for music and is subsidized in the same way as the Berlinale is for film or the Frankfurt Bookfair is for literature. Since 2019, the subsidy total has amounted to roughly 5 million euros.

Schulz has over 40 employees working on the event all year round. The turnover volume is about 9 million euro. "Of course, we want to improve and, apart from further enterprises from the US, [attract] more companies from other continents such as Africa, South America and Asia," he added. "Our spin-offs in Ghana and China are certainly not bad for us. The country partnership is very useful, as well. This year, it was Australia, and we expect a constantly increasing number of registered companies from this country in the years to come."

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