Popkomm Makes An Exhibition Of Itself

There are no figures to say whether Popkomm’s effort to woo the live music business is winning over more band managers, promoters and agents, but the exhibition part of this year’s gathering was such a success that it will be given more space in 2007.

Managing director Dr. Ralf Kleinhenz said the overall 2006 attendance was “stable” compared with the previous year, and the trade fair figures were up.

There were more than 800 exhibitors from 55 countries, with companies or music organizations from Italy, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Scotland and Slovenia taking space for the first time. Seventy percent of the exhibitors came from outside of Germany.

Brazil celebrated being Popkomm’s first non-European partner country by booking a 200- square-meter stand to accommodate the 40 music companies that were keen to attend.

Michel Nicolau, coordinator of “Música do Brasil,” the organisation that set up the visit, estimated that the companies would turn over US$150,000 during the fair and a further US$300,000 afterward.

As if to demonstrate the country has more to offer than an awful lot of coffee, 16 acts came over to play showcase gigs at Berlin venues including Club 23, Maschinenhaus and the Popkomm opening party at the Kesselhaus der Kulturbrauerei.

The conference-turned-festival-turned-trade fair enhanced its reputation as a place where deals get done as the U.K.’s Association of Independent Music (AIM) signed a licensing agreement with Bertelsmann subsidiary Arvato Mobile.

AIM has described it as a “landmark” deal. Arvato is one of Europe’s leading mobile entertainment providers, and the signing of a collective licensing agreement covering legal P2P file sharing will provide new revenue streams for the organisation’s member labels.

With Brazil as the partner country, it was appropriate that musician, songwriter and world music festival veteran Gilberto Gil – who also happens to be the country’s Minister of Culture – should be one of the conference’s keynote speakers.

He shared that honour with U.K. Live Music Forum chairman Feargal Sharkey, and both spent part of their speeches on the economic and sociocultural contribution of the creative industries to economies as a whole.

The heightened political interest in the music industry led to several German MPs showing their faces during the course of the three days. Culture Minister Bernd Neumann seized the chance to announce that he sees himself as “an advocate of artists and the creative industries” and pointed out that pop music is a sector nobody should underestimate.

Although the panel discussions were very much focused on the recorded music business, including discussions on copyright, downloads and the ongoing battle against piracy, the conference did honour and interview Montreux Jazz Festival founder Claude Nobs.

Popkomm director Katja Bittner described him as one of “the outstanding figures on the international music scene.”

The 30 clubs that hosted the evening entertainment – the festival side of Popkomm – clocked up a total of more than 70,000 admissions over the three days.

Next year’s Popkomm, its fourth time in Berlin, is scheduled for September 19-21.

– John Gammon