Germany's Reeperbahn Festival Is Still On: Here Are the Changes Being Made

The logo of the Reeperbahn Festival is seen at Spielbudenplatz public square in in Hamburg, Germany on Sept. 22, 2016.
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. 

Face masks and fewer venues and events will greet Reeperbahn Festival-goers in Hamburg later this summer. Organizers of the annual event — being held Sept. 16-19 — announced significant changes as it attempts to adhere to government guidance while still pulling off a safe and secure in-person gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We consider it important to attempt this go-ahead," remarked festival CEO Alexander Schulz, "as it will serve as an illustrative and practical example of how to possibly address some of the fundamental questions with which the cultural industry… are currently confronted [with] and will probably continue to be confronted with for a long time to come."

Organizers said that instead of hosting between 8-15,000 visitors per day as in previous years, this year's daily cap will be 4,200 people, including up to 1,600 industry visitors. The usual figure of nearly 90 venues will be reduced to around 30 clubs, theatres and open-air venues. And instead of up to five concerts per evening at each location, an average of about three will take place, as venues are expected to be completely cleared, ventilated and disinfected after each concert before the audience to the subsequent show can be admitted.

On the business end, the number of panel sessions reserved for industry visitors has been halved, and given the change in logistics and safety measures, visitors should expect possible delays.

Schulz said that the panel program is comprised of about 100 items and will focus on a whole range of issues and challenges related to the pandemic that are currently confronting music culture and the music business as a whole. Networking and showcase events will also take place on a smaller scale. Given travel limitations, the usual international character of the festival will have a much more European flair this year, he noted.

In addition to numerous measures to comply with social distancing, the festival will also require face masks to be worn in many locations. In order to trace possible infection chains, it will also be necessary to record the whereabouts of all visitors, though it's unclear how that will be enforced.

"We have to accept that the culture sector and industry linked to it are likely to suffer from the constraints associated with the pandemic for a very long time to come," said Schulz. "This is why the aim must now be to try out what is possible, taking into consideration the current regulatory restrictions. Since our festival has not been classified as a major event and is therefore not affected by the ban on events in place [until November], we now have the chance, in a setting that is at least somewhat economically protected, to explore…. what is and what isn't reasonably feasible, especially in terms of atmosphere and aesthetics. It will be a very special Reeperbahn Festival this year: open-air and virtual, yet noticeably more compact and with a line-up dominated by artists from Germany and Europe as well as by the discourse on culture (and the culture industry) and its role in times of crisis."

All ticket holders who do not wish to retain their tickets for 2020 can have it pushed to the 2021 edition, or cancel it completely.