Hamburg To More Than Fill Popkomm Gap

Although the city of Hamburg is unashamedly trying to exploit the gap in the conference calendar created by the cancellation of Popkomm, there’s every indication the northern German city is achieving its longer-term objective of creating a rival event with an identity of its own.

Hamburg Marketing, the publicly funded body tasked with attracting visitors to the city, was already in talks with the organisers of the Reeperbahn Festival about setting up a conference.

They just saw the scrapping of the Berlin event as a chance to fast-track their plans, an opportunity they might have been foolish to ignore.

If the Hamburg move is successful, then it may throw a different light on Popkomm’s decision to abort the 2009 gathering. It may also cast a shadow on its chances of returning in 2010.

At the time, Popkomm director Katja Gross dismissed the idea of another conference filling the gap on the grounds that it would probably experience the same problems as Popkomm.

That could be the case, particularly as the recession may lead to some smaller companies being conservative about sending delegates, but Hamburg – with its determined marketers and its much-hyped rock heritage – looks to be pulling out all the stops.

In a bid to make the conference informative and entertaining, Reeperbahn Campus (Sept. 24-26) has already rustled up such speakers as Carl Leighton-Pope, whose opening address will pretty well guarantee delegates start the three days with smiles on their faces.

Also speaking will be Eurosonic-Noorderslag creative director Peter Smidt, whose annual bash in Groningen, Holland, is Europe’s most popular live music business gathering and becoming a blueprint for those that have come since.

Smidt is on a panel discussing the “The Evolution of Music Festivals,” which also includes local Hamburg promoter Folkert Koopmans, whose FKP Scorpio has a major share of five of Germany’s best-known outdoors.

They’ll be joined by Reeperbahn Festival managing director Alexander Schulz, Linnéa E. Svensson from Norway’s Øya Festival and David Pichilingi, director of the U.K.’s annual Soundcity event in Liverpool.

At a time when finding new topics must be getting difficult, Reeperbahn Campus looks to have made every effort to ensure the discussions will at least be entertaining.

In a panel based on how best to incubate the stars of tomorrow, Leighton-Pope will be joined by Esther Rieger, who works for her father Peter’s Cologne-based promoting company and also heads Riegerous Artist Management.

The session will also have Robert Jessett of U.K. pop act Morton Valence, which finances its CDs from cash raised from private investors, and Sparkle Street UK founder Gary McClarnan. His background includes being director and chairman of the Music Managers Forum’s new strategies committee.

As the combined festival and conference will likely attract a posse of European music business writers, a Music & Media panel discussing the challenge from social networks, blog sites and user-generated content should pull a crowd with several vested interests.

A more sobering debate for the journalists may be the one about how these recessionary times and the subsequent downturn in advertising are making it harder to finance editorial content.

Unlike Berlin and Popkomm, the Hamburg festival and conference area is all within easy walking distance. So far there are 150 bands to see in 20 venues situated in and around the Reeperbahn.

The lineup, which looks even stronger than previous Reeperbahn bills, includes Biffy Clyro, Dananananaykroyd, Deichkind, Dinosaur Jr., Editors, Oh No Ono, Reverend And The Makers and Seasick Steve.