This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Detlef Schwarte, co-founder, The Reeperbahn Festival; and managing dir., The Reeperbahn Conference.
Grown from Hamburg’s thriving music scene, the Reeperbahn Festival & Conference, Sept.19-22, is an integral element of the international music world.
A event unique, due to its setting, and programming, some 4,700 professional visitors are expected to attend the Reeperbahn Conference, and over 40,000 visitors for the Reeperbahn Festival.
Since its launch in 2006 by co-founders Alexander Schulz and Detlef Schwarte, the Reeperbahn Festival & Conference has become one of Europe’s primary B2B platforms for the global music and digital industries with more than 900 events, including: 600 concerts, and showcases in over 90 local venues.
Among acts being featured this year are Hot Chip, Black Foxxes, Stereo Honey, Swedish Death Candy, WhoMadeWho, Bear’s Den, Ibeyi and Lewis Capaldi, Estrons, Shacke One, Kid Simius, Liniker e os Caramelows, Alexis Taylor, Anna Burch, Theo Lawrence & The Hearts, Lysistrata, Malena Zavala, the Ninth Wave, and Zach Said.
Under Schwarte’s deft hand there will 300 programming items available for the conference including networking meetings, panels, workshops,and awards, as well as top-line speakers dealing with issues relevant to the music industry, and its submarkets, the digital economy, recorded music, live entertainment, and music publishing.
While the Reeperbahn Festival started in 2006, the conference and networking aspect of the event didn’t kick in until 2009 when the festival was attracting 20,000 visitors.
Yes, we started with the festival in 2006, and in 2009 we started with seminars and other things. First, we called it Reeperbahn Campus, and then we changed the name, but it is still the same thing. The name change was just to make it easier to understand. Giving it a name that most of the other (music industry) conferences use so it’s easier for people to understand what is going on.
You expect about 4,700 professional visitors to attend the Reeperbahn Conference? With over 40,000 visitors for the Reeperbahn Festival with 600 concerts over four days.
Those are the figures from 2017.
From 57 countries this year?
The largest delegation to the Reeperbahn Festival and Conference has come from the UK followed by Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Finland? And in 2017, for the first time, there have been delegations from Mexico and South Korea?
Do many North Americans attend?
Oh yeah. Between 50 and 100 people from the U.S. normally. From year to year, these numbers are growing. It (the festival/conference) is very constant so from year to year we have larger delegations from the neighboring counties of Germany. Traditionally, there’s a big delegation from Canada, and the U.S. is the next big continental delegation.
For the Reeperbahn Conference, there are how many events?
The Conference consists of at least 300 program items. These items also include the networking connections; the matchmaking sessions, and the showcases. So we have more or less 150 conference sessions. We have panels of talks, presentations, keynote speakers, workshops. So 150 events of all kind.
What is the focal country this year?
[The French music export agency Le Bureau Export has been a staunch partner of the Reeperbahn Festival from the first year. Says Marc Thonon, CEO Le Bureau Export: “In 2006, at the very first edition of Reeperbahn Festival, Le Bureau Export was one of the first export offices to partner up with the event. Over the past 12 years, this partnership has made possible numerous showcases, networking events and conferences where the artistic variety of music made in France has had the chance to shine through.”]
Have you fully set the speakers and programs for the conference this year?
Now we are in the hot phase, and we will announcing speakers and topics, and the countries that go along with the partnerships every two weeks. So it will be a very busy summer. It’s the same every year.
Amongst the first speakers announced were Peter Schwenkow (CEO, DEAG); Hans-Holger Albrecht (CEO, Deezer); and Carl Leighton-Pope (Managing Director, The Leighton-Pope Organisation).
Carl Leighton-Pope was the first speaker of the conference in 2009.
This year is the 10th edition of the conference and Carl will speak about how the industry changed in the past 10 years. I expect it to be very entertaining.
[Also announced are: Jean-Noel Tronc (CEO, Sacem); Jackie Willard (Senior VP, Marketing – International, Live Nation); Mathew Daniel (VP International, NetEase Cloud Music); Tina Funk (GM, Vevo); Milena Fessmann (Managing Director, Cinesong); Christopher Mazur (Manager Marketing Music Clearance, Netflix); Scarlett Li (CEO, CMC Holdings/Zebra Media; Forbes/ Billboard journalist Cherie Hu; and the senior officer of GEMA, Harald Heker.]
How did you get to be co-founder of the Reeperbahn Festival?
I was working with my partner Alexander (Schulz) in 2000. When he came back that year from SXSW (the South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas) he told me about this idea. He was mainly working on it and trying to convince partners in the city, and then we started it together in 2006 with the Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion company, a promoter here in Hamburg. They are still part of the festival.
Someone labeled the early years of the Reeperbahn Festival as “half adventure, half invention.”
What had you and Alexander previously been working on?
Our history started in a youth center in 1990 or 1991 in East Hamburg, organizing concerts together in a small venue for 150 people or so. It was called JUZ Reinbek, a communal institution for younger people. Then he started his own business. A record label that turned into an agency. At this point in 2000 I joined him, and in 2006 we decided to promote a festival.
With its handful of music halls and theatres, dozens of clubs, and hundreds of bars. Hamburg is a natural location for both the festival and the conference. Where else but in Hamburg in the streets around the Reeperbahn?
[Hamburg is the world’s third largest musical location, following London and New York. Its appeal as a music city dates back to the 17th century. it was in 1678 that Europe’s first public opera house opened there on the Gänsemarkt. Over the years, its diverse sub-scenes, and relationships between local concert organizers, institutions, and music networks have fostered a rich musical culture.]
Yes, yes. We don’t complain. There are many other events in Europe like The Great Escape in Brighton, Eurosonic Noorderslag in Groningen or the MaMA in Paris that take place in very specific, and very special surroundings and neighborhoods. These events are still manageable and characterized by their nice settings and unique venues. Like in Pigalle in Paris, the historic center in Groningen, or the lively old town in Brighton. They are all about the same but Hamburg is, perhaps, a little bit more special because we have a long tradition of music in the harbor district, and there is still the spirit of the Beatles. You can feel it a little bit here and there. It is a good story, and this is how the Reeperbahn Festival started by telling the story of the ‘60s, and the pop music history of the city. And we are happy that we can still involve so many people from Hamburg as partners, starting with the venues, and local companies, but also the theatres and other places that are happy to be part of the festival. So it’s a really good vibe. We are also very happy that we have had strong support from the city of Hamburg from the first year…
As well as Northern German Radio.
Yes, Northern German Radio was a partner the first year. Also the bigger industry associations like the German IFPI (BVMI), the association of German promoters (bdv), as well as the music publishers (DMV), and companies like Warner Music Germany. They didn’t move to Berlin (after the Berlin Wall came down Nov. 9, 1989). They stayed in Hamburg, and they were supportive. And not at least the city of Hamburg itself is strongly supporting the festival since the early days. So it was a great group of stakeholders and partners who supported the festival from the first year. A bit later we got additional financial support also from the federal government commissioner for culture and the media. We are really happy and thankful that no partner has left, and that from year to year there are more joining.
Emphasizing the musical roots of Hamburg this year is author, record producer, and movie actor Klaus Voormann, the designer of the Beatles’ “Revolver” album cover, opening his exhibition “It All Started in Hamburg” that will show a variety of his graphic creations. His association with the Beatles dates back to their time in Hamburg in the early 1960s. Hard to believe he just turned 80.
The advantage that Hamburg has it that it is a very lively city, and throughout all of the years there have been a number of certain cultural common grounds here, and that was influenced by some left-wing groups taking houses in the harbor district for years. Then we had the so-called Hamburg School, a new kind of pop music that is very successful and that influenced German music. After the Berlin Wall came down, many multinational companies moved to Berlin in the ‘90s and the early 2000s. It was a bit hard for Hamburg, but the city recovered. Now there’s is a new opera house (the magnificent $900 million Elbphilharmonie Hamburg Opera House that opened in 2017) which is a very strong symbol for the city, and for the approach of the city to support music. I think that it (support) is still growing and getting better from year to year, and I am happy to be part of it.
The conference significantly expanded in 2013 to cover a much wider selection of topics. Each year there have been further expansions though at a slower pace.
We try to develop the event from year to year. We try to see what might be the next step that makes sense to the delegates, to the general audience, and to our partners. Of course, when we learned that the music conference was pretty well accepted we added topics from the digital and the technology sectors. This is still something that is still developing. We are still in this process that we try to involve more partners, more delegates, and more topics from this part of the industry.
Once again the conference is teaming up with the NEXT Conference taking place September 20th and 21st with about 1,500 delegates from the digital world. NEXT delegates will have free access to the Reeperbahn Festival & Conference program, and priority access to the public program.
We are doing that in collaboration with the NEXT Conference since 2015. The NEXT calls itself “knowledge festival”, where you get to explore the complexities of the digital era through multidisciplinary perspectives. We are also collaborating with the VUT, the German Association of Independent Music, in making their Indie Days as part of the Reeperbahn Festival, including the VIA Awards. We keep trying to get more and more partners, and we are happy that most of them stick with us.
In 2017, the conference featured a Music Movie Contest with an award. Will film be a greater component of the conference going forward?
Yes, we are working on it. There won’t be the same contest as last year, but we are working on having more content from the film and TV side and working with partners from that sector.
Beyond the festival and the conference are there plans to expand the Reeperbahn Festival and Conference brand? There’s Festival Recordings and presentations of international artist tours throughout Germany during the year. What else are you looking at to evolve the brand?
To be honest, we have never had a specific strategy to develop the brand. We just moved with the stream in a way and tried to listen cautiously to what people were saying about the event, and listen to the feedback that we got as Reeperbahn was developing successfully. It still has great numbers from year to year. Many of these things, like the Echo Edition in Berlin, the Reeperbahn Festival Showcase in New York, the ANCHOR Award (for the most promising emerging talent) we do now. We opened a new area at the festival in a large square close to the Reeperbahn last year to offer spaces for art and a larger activation tent. Year to year we try to develop the Reeperbahn Festival’s content and services. We look at what is possible, and some years we ask for a specific new budget, and sometimes we are happy to find it, and get funding. Sometimes it’s hard. But I think that this is how we will be for the next few years. That we do smaller steps year to year. The other thing that is still on the agenda is to include more partners from the tech side of the business, and from the creative industry sectors. It is still a challenge, but it is necessary because the industry is changing, and the tech side is getting more and more important. I think that these things will happen.
What intriguing about the Reeperbahn Festival and Conference is that the event is big enough to meet people, but also small enough to foster B2B (business-to-business transactions). If you go to SXSW today, you may not meet up with a new contact more than once.
To be honest, in the last one or two years there have been a few complaints about the Reeperbahn Festival and the Conference becoming too big. Honestly, I prefer events that are a bit smaller, and where you don’t have to run around the whole day to get a glimpse of what is going on. But, if you are well prepared, if you know what you want to achieve, the Reeperbahn Festival has a lot to offer with the people that are there, and with the connections and opportunities come into play. Without this number of people, the opportunities would be much more limited. So it’s a real quandary. We have to have so many people coming, and our task is to keep the atmosphere and the services on a very high level and make everybody feel comfortable for two, three or four days of the event.
You must study other festival/conferences in order to stay distinct. There are more and more of these festival/conferences globally, and many have a similar approach and strategy.
It is very interesting to see these kinds of festivals with conferences rise in every single country in Europe. I think that now in Europe we have 25 or 35 festivals which are also presenting artists from the (home) country, as well as some international artists, and who also have a conference. I think that it is a kind of symbol for the new music industry because 20 years ago there had been about three events of this kind. Eurosonic Noorderslag was already there for the live part of the business, and Popkomm and MIDEM were the meeting places for the recorded industry, and for music publishers. This has totally has changed. It is interesting to see that with an industry that in a way collapsed, and has tried to find itself again by meeting each other, by building up new connections.
The music industry in Germany, it has been researched, consists of more than 12,000 companies, and 90% of these companies are small companies with five or fewer staff members and with less than €2 million turnover. So we see that the music industry is a big industry (globally), but it is, on the other hand, a small industry. It consists of mainly of very small companies. For these companies, it is still important to have (contact) networks, and you can establish a network by visiting these conferences.
UK conferences, starting first with Manchester In the City, and then followed by Sound City in Liverpool, showed young entrepreneurs in Northern England they didn’t have to go to London to work in the music business. With technology, you are never more than a nanosecond away from anyone in the world anymore. So there’s little reason anymore for young entrepreneurs, managers, labels, digital businesses or whatever to move elsewhere.
What I have learned is that most of these conferences have found a niché. Not every conference can be as big as some of the major conferences. There’s a limited number of people working on an international level in this industry, but they (local conferences) can find their own profile. They are important for their own country, and for their own region, or territory. In Germany, for example, we have the c/o pop convention in Cologne, and there’s Pop-Kultur in Berlin. It’s hardly about competition with these two events for us. I think that the industry needs a lot of these events, and really each one has its own specific purpose.
Eurosonic Noorderslag, Sound City, and The Great Escape—to use some examples—are largely centered on emerging artists and have smaller footprints, perhaps, globally. The Reeperbahn Festival seems to be more far-reaching with global representation including this year, WhoMadeWho from Denmark, Hot Chip from the UK, the Brazilian combo Liniker e os Caramelows, and the Berlin-based rapper Shacke One who emerged from Berlin’s public transport and street scene.
The Reeperbahn Festival and Conference has a broad global musical and business scope?
Yes, definitely. The Reeperbahn Festival is traditionally a bit more concentrated on the live side of the business, and with the Reeperbahn Conference we have publishers as well as the recorded, and the live sides being represented. And we are very much both European-focused, and globally focused. We try to achieve this by bringing in more partners from other countries.
Germany is the third largest music market in the world. Some 80 cities with over 100,000 inhabitants; more than 1,300 annual festivals; and hundreds of music venues in every city. Moreover, there are no content quotas by which radio stations in Germany have to play a certain number of native music. At the same time, the German music retail is fairly strong with such chains as Saturn, and Media Markt, together with over 700 outlets. That’s a retail music market to be admired.
There was a Canadian study in 2014 (prepared by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Music and the Arts and Canadian Music Week) that mentioned those big cities, and it’s an interesting point. Even new to me. That is very special. Every time that I am speaking about the German music market, I mention this number because it shows that it is really different from other countries.
[The 2014 Canadian report on the German music market can be read at: http://www.omdc.on.ca/Assets/Research/Research+Reports/The+music+market+in+Germany.pdf.]
Germany’s music market is somewhat undervalued within the music industry.
Yes. If you look at the leading markets everybody understands that the U.S. is the biggest market. Then the second biggest market is Japan which is strange because you hardly hear music from Japan in other countries. So it’s a very closed market, and they definitely seem to mostly listen to their own music. Then number three (globally) is Germany, but it’s eye-to-eye with the UK. Of course, the UK has the long tradition of popular conventional music, but Germany has the stronger economy. This is the main reason for the strength of (music in) Germany. It’s because people can afford to buy music physically and digitally, and can buy concert tickets. It’s a big population of 82 million in the middle of Europe.
German music buyers are also older. The average music buyer being, in an industry stat I saw, 46-years-old. That isn’t found elsewhere
Yeah, but on the other hand, what does the future look like if you have a market that is so old? Then it is a very interesting question of what will it be in 10 or 20 years? Now with streaming, the audience is getting younger and younger. For the live music sector it might get a bit more difficult. That´s why many promoters are trying to establish new forms of festivals, but younger people do other things in their spare time. The big festivals are struggling. We will see how the entertainment sector will change in the next few years.
Some German acts are younger like Shacke One, and Azet. I’m familiar with Christin Stark, Gregor McEwan, Anna Trümner, and Kontra K. Of course, I also know about rap star Marteria.
Marteria is nearly 40 I think.
And most people know (singer/TV presenter) Helene Fischer who has nothing to do with new progressive popular music on an international level. There are a lot of smaller artists that are successful to a certain extent but really big artists there are so few from Germany. Rammstein, and Kraftwerk might come to your mind first, and these are dinosaurs. And, maybe, the Scorpions. They are touring now, but they are over 60. It is not too easy to find new artists from Germany who can break out of the market.
The last German singer to make a mark in Canada was Herbert Grönemeyer. He opened for Tom Cochrane in Canada in the late ‘80s. English audiences would know him from his role in the 1981 film “Das Boot.”
He was a speaker last year at the conference. He tried to be successful overseas. He also did a tour in the U.S. but I don’t think that it was very successful as far as I know. I don’t think that he gained a real lasting audience in the market.
For the second year, the Reeperbahn Festival, in conjunction with A2IM Indie Week, will present German and international artists seeking access to the North American market. The Reeperbahn Festival NYC Edition delegation, including labels, management companies, distributors, conventions, and export offices, will be attending A2IM Indie Week presented by SoundExchange (June 18-21), and SyncSummit New York (June 22-23).
The objective obviously is to give delegates an opportunity to make targeted contacts in the U.S. market, and, through participation in the many panels, workshops, and one-to-one meetings, to gain concrete insights into the particular conditions of the world’s largest music market, and set in motion new business deals and partnerships.
Such overseas activity spurs further interest in the Reeperbahn Festival and Conference?
Yes, it is a two-sided thing. The New York edition of Reeperbahn is a separate project funded by the Ministry for Culture and Media. It is to support the German industry to create contacts in North America. And, of course, it is also a kind of promotional tool for the festival in the U.S. market. We are lucky that we have this budget to bring Germans to Indie Week, and to support the international relations between German and American music people. It is a side effect of Reeperbahn being a bit more popular on this (U.S.) market.
In February, the Reeperbahn Festival was co-signatory of a letter to Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, supporting a doubling of the cultural budget in 2020. There are plans afoot, as we both know, for the music sector to implement for the first time its own funding program similar to that for the film industry. Interestingly, the finance departments of the major EU states have supported that.
Yes, but there are very few officials who have commented on this. For example, Hamburg’s former mayor (and longtime SPD politician) Olaf Scholz, who was appointed Germany’s new finance minister (in March), I’m sure he did not yet announce any specific opinion on this.
Still, you must welcome, as an opening gamut, such initiatives as the European Commission’s “Music Moves Europe” pilot project, which provides funding for the music industry, and emphasizes how the networking of the local and international music scene can ideally work. It noted that Europe generates €25 billion Euros from music per year. Members of the European Commission were at the conference last year and presented some of their findings.
Yes, the “Music Moves Europe” initiative is based on several meetings in Brussels where stakeholders from all parts of the music industry have been involved in identifying the common and most important needs for action. So, of course, we on the entire music sector of Europe is looking very cautiously on what is happening. Everybody is hoping that there will be more funding because the entire budget the European Commission (currently) provides the music sector is very small compared to other creative sectors. It not the same as the film sector, for example. The mid-term goal is to achieve that the music sector will be provided with the same amount, the same budget as the film sector. We will see if this can be achieved.
One of the topics that arose at a recent Berlin panel discussion was the question of how European does the German music industry already think today; and for which objectives is political support needed at the European level. It was also discussed how the German music industry can participate in EU support programs in the future, and what can be done on a political level. So how European does Germany think in terms of music?
That panel was at the Reeperbahn Festival Echo edition in Berlin, but I couldn’t attend because I was in Ramallah at the Palestinian Music Expo. So the question was: How can Germany think European and in the an European way, and does the industry know how to handle the instruments–the tools–and will it be able to stand for the (European) demands for the industry here in Germany? It was an interesting panel, especially the German politician (Dr. Christian Ehler, initiator and co-chair of the Intergroup “Culture and Creative Industries in Europe” ), who was finally saying, “Make absurd demands.” So we learn that it is important to claim European demands openly and very direct to the Commission, and to the Parliament to be able to receive more funding or better support.
Still many of the European countries are distinct and not easily accessible to artists from countries nearby. Europeans remain strongly attached to their own national cultures.
A 2012 report by Emmanuel Legrand, commissioned by the European Music Office and Eurosonic Noorderslag, emphasized the problems of artists from one European country playing in another European country. The report indicated that Europe as a music market is a one-language (English) region, plus local languages—a factor that tends to favor Anglo repertoire
As a result, It’s easier for an English-speaking North American act to play throughout Europe than an act from Germany or France.
Yes, of course. It is still the case that many laws are still different, but there are some things, for example, the copyright information that has to be done jointly and on a European level. Other things, like some tax regulations for some programs of the like economy, there are some role models, maybe in the Netherlands, France, and in Germany. We have to explain and try to roll out these probative role models to the rest of the continent to be competitive with what is happening in Asia and North America.
The role of the European trade body IMPALA has been pivotal over the years in curbing numerous corporate initiatives that might have harmed the independent label sector in Europe. When Warners, for example, acquired the Parlophone Label Group, which included the original U.K. Chrysalis catalog—assets Universal Music were forced to sell by competition regulators after its purchase of the EMI in 2012–WMG committed to return the revenue equivalent of 25% to 33% of Parlophone’s total sales in WMG assets to the independent sector to buy, license or distribute in return for IMPALA not opposing its Parlophone deal in Europe.
More recently, IMPALA has called for the European Union to probe the deal Sony Corp has made to significantly increase its stake in EMI Music Publishing.
As the association of the European independent music association, IMPALA has the role, and the position to claim these things, and to address these points and, maybe, to resist in a way. What is good to see is that with these kinds of associations (including Merlin) also is that the independent sector is getting more and more important because of the majors, of course, they lost a lot of territory and revenue. I think that the indie associations on a national or international level they have become more powerful, and they are more and more are getting louder from year to year, and I think that this is a good thing.
As said before the music sector is a big industry consisting of mostly small enterprises that on the one hand are driving innovation and on the other hand preserve the spirit of passionate artist development. Centralization of market power beaconed by venture capital is a serious thread to the fragmented structure of the music industry. So, to keep music alive and to stimulate business you have to invest in the structure of small companies and you have to enable networks. That´s why the indie associations have become more relevant.
[IMPALA has reacted to the Sony/EMI deal by describing it as “a step too far.” The $2.3 billion agreement with the Mubadala Investment Company would give Sony a controlling stake. IMPALA argues that the move will face regulatory opposition According to Helen Smith, executive chair of IMPALA: “The European Commission will want to avoid reinforcing the Sony/Universal duopoly, the two-horse race which started in 2012 with the sale of EMI. This is a step too far, and I would expect to see an in-depth investigation in the EU and other key jurisdictions.”]
German music was in the news this past month because the board of Bundesverband Musikindustrie, the German music industry organization, decided to discontinue the annual Echo Music Prize in the wake of a controversy that erupted after rap artists Kollegah and Farid Bang, despite controversial themes and lyrics in their music, won an Echo last month. The Reeperbahn Festival had been doing an event—The Reeperbahn Festival Echo Edition–as a run-up to the annual awards. So what happens now?
The awards happened the week I was in Ramallah. The festival received an Echo Award (the “Partner of the Year,” award, and was honored for its achievements for the music industry in Germany). It is a strange situation for everyone. The awards had been criticized for many years, and I think that the reason why they decided to cancel the event is also because they had received a lot of criticism throughout the last year. What happened was just the latest edition of what was happening.
The Bundesverband Musikindustrie board determined that the Echo brand was so badly damaged that it needs to be rebooted.
Yes, but the brand was criticized by many music industry people here for many years. It was a difficult situation for the organizers. Of course, this was another story and I think it was just enough. Now we will see if they succeed in setting up a new thing. But it won’t be easy. I don’t think that it will do a lot of harm to the German music industry. We have had a lively discussion (over what has happened) which is important, and I think that it is a chance to start something new, and to involve the industry a bit more and differently. I’m curious to see what will be coming.
You have a degree in sociology from The University of Hamburg. You weren’t likely thinking of entering the music industry when you were a student.
No, no, but I was a playing in a few bands. Between 18 and 28, I was a musician, and I spent quite a bit of time doing concerts in northern Germany. I was a singer, and I played piano and keyboards.
Were either of the bands good?
One band was good, and another quite good. Fandango was one band, and This Age was the other, but you won’t find them anywhere. It was a pre-digital experience. We never did a record. With Fandango we played German punk rock, and I was the singer. This Age was a crossover band, and I played piano and synthesizer, and also did some singing. The crossover band was probably more skilled, but Fandango had more fans.
What did you learn about life from working in bands? Group dynamics are tricky.
It really is a complicated thing. If I would have known that they (other members) were using up so much time. If you realize that someone is not really with you in a band, then you should try to change things. Move out and start a new thing. It is really useless to hang around for months and years trying to find a way of working with people like that. I’m blaming myself for this. I waited, maybe, too long, and I did not go my own way at a certain point. Just stuck with a group of people, and in the end, it just didn’t work out.
Band democracy rarely works
Also, in the very beginning, you should define what you want to achieve. Do you just want to play for yourself, to enjoy yourself and have a good time or do you want to be successful? If you can’t find this shared joint point for everyone in the band, then you need to change things.
What defines success nowadays? It used to mean a lucrative recording and/or touring career. Now, it’s not as clear.
A good question. When I’m on a panel explaining to artists what they might expect from the Reeperbahn Festival or from the German market–because many musicians are interested in coming to Germany to be successful–l will say: “If you are a good musician, and you want to make a living from music as a professional musician then you have to be professional businesswise. Just playing the instrument in a very good way is not enough. The other, more than 50%, is the business. You need to accept that you need to do that. You need a good team which is, maybe, very expensive, and takes a lot of effort to attain or you train yourself businesswise.”
I think that this is getting more and more important because today young artists do have some unique opportunities. With the digital platforms and all of these other things, they can promote their music in a professional way now, and without renting a studio. But they still need to promote themselves as a business. It’s not only about their music.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-80. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide.”
He is the recipient of the 2013 Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, recognizing individuals who have made an impact on the Canadian music industry.