Skip to main content

Reeperbahn Festival Returns After Two Lean Years 

The Hamburg conference kicks off Sept. 21 with a focus on the U.S. music market.

Reeperbahn Festival co-founder and managing director Alexander Schulz is just excited to “get back to normal.” The conference and concert festival, which kicks off Sept. 21 and traditionally brings as many as 50,000 people to the nightlife center of Hamburg, Germany, didn’t miss a year during the pandemic. But it drew only 8,000 people in 2020 and 25,000 last year. “The event took place,” Schulz says, “but it was really hard.” 

Business is looking up this year, though, with up to 40,000 consumers and 3,000 music executives expected. The festival will once again present the Anchor Award to the most promising new act, and this year, the focus country will be the U.S.

For the first time, Billboard will be a Reeperbahn media partner, presenting both a Sept. 23 panel about the U.S. music market — “Everything you need to know about the American music market but were afraid to ask” – as well as a Sept. 23 reception co-sponsored by the Music Business Association. (The panel will take place at the East Hotel Cinema on Simon von Utrecht Strasse 31; the reception is at Klubhaus St. Pauli, at Spielbundenplatz 21-22.) The panel – moderated by Billboard deputy editorial director Robert Levine, joined by colleagues R&B/hip-hop reporter Heran Mamo and music publishing reporter Kristin Robinson – will cover how the U.S. market differs from those in Europe in terms of business growth, genre popularity, touring logistics and music publishing payouts.


At Reeperbahn, like everywhere else, “normal” is a relative term. The effects of the pandemic linger, Schulz says, including in a touring market flooded with acts looking to make up for lost time but struggling to find enough production personnel. “Plus we have effects from the war,” Schulz says, including spiking energy costs in Europe, general inflation, and a sense that parts of Europe could face an energy crisis this winter. 

“The audience look at their budgets and no one knows what the winter is going to be like – prices for gas and electric could double,” Schulz says. “So in terms of spending money on culture, it’s the last thing people spend money on.” 

That reality will hang over this year’s conference, where 3,000 attendees can choose from 150 events at 11 venues, with 350 speakers. It will feature 11 “strands” of subject matter, including the concert business, recorded music, and publishing, but also political and social action and climate change. Speakers will include pianist Igor Levitt, producer and musician Daniel Lanois, and Russian punk-protest group Pussy Riot.

As always, the Reeperbahn Festival will also feature hundreds of live shows – 330, featuring 282 acts from 38 countries. Highlights include a Ukrainian reception and showcase, as well as performances from the German singer-songwriter Mine, the British art-pop singer Anna Calvi and the British R&B performer Joy Crookes. As befits an event with a U.S. focus, Reeperbahn will also host shows from American acts, including bassist and singer-songwriter Blu DeTiger, singer-songwriter Caroline Rose, soul singer Charlie Burg and others. 

On Sept. 24, the last night of the event, Reeperbahn will once again present the Anchor Award. Nominees include Cassia, the Haunted Youth, Vlure, Lime Garden, Ekkstacy, and Philine Sonny.