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Universal Inside 2022 Celebrates EDM Acts, Solid Growth During ‘Challenging Times’

In Berlin, Universal Germany showcases its roster of dance artists and touts the overall resilience of the music business.

BERLIN — For months, the dance clubs Berlin is known for have been re-opening and reinvigorating a city known around the world for its dynamic nightlife. And after two years of virtual events, Universal Music Germany restarted its Universal Inside annual conference on Sept. 15 as an in-person event at the club Spindler & Klatt, with a lineup of DJs that included Afrojack, Felix Jaehn, Fortella, Toby Romeo and Topic. 

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Every fall, Universal Inside offers the major label a chance to showcase its biggest acts and fourth-quarter releases, and, because of the company’s dominant market share in Germany, assess the general health of the music market. So the event started with a presentation by Frank Briegmann, chairman & CEO of Universal Music Central Europe and Deutsche Grammophon, about how the German recording business hasn’t been slowed down by either the pandemic or the war in Ukraine, which has caused a spike in inflation and energy prices.

So far this year, the German business has grown 5.5% by revenue over the same period in 2021.  

“The demand for music remains unchanged and our industry is resilient even in economic challenging times,” Briegmann said in front of an audience of 1,200 industry executives, retail partners and others.

Briegmann also covered some of the trends in the German market, where most revenue came from CDs well into the iTunes era but is now dominated by streaming. That creates both challenges and opportunities, he said, since the sheer amount of music available online makes marketing harder in some ways but the rise of digital tools makes it easier in others. One asset Universal has is its international reach, he said, which lets the company market around the world such acts as metal band Rammstein, singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi (signed out of Universal’s Berlin office) and the Dutch DJ Afrojack. 

Afrojack and Frank Briegmann work the tables at the Universal Inside event in Berlin. Julia Schoirer / Universal Music

Although the German music business is now primarily digital, the company also does a better business with box sets there than in most markets. Briegmann mentioned Universal’s upcoming reissue of Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion albums, and talked about the success of “super deluxe” releases like last year’s reissue of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Briegmann also mentioned the company’s success helping artists extend their brands into other areas, like popular German rapper Capital Bra’s successful “Gangsterella” frozen pizza brand. (This reporter found the pizza itself very good.)  

“We aim to help artists make more out of their music and their brand,” he said.

After Briegmann spoke, attendees went outside to eat and drink along the Spree, where some reconnected after a time when many big events were either cancelled or reduced in capacity. Then the DJs started spinning. Felix Jaehn received three gold records and a platinum record, and Toby Romeo got a gold record, and both them, Topic Fortella and finally Afrojack performed – a celebratory reminder of how music will again bring people together.