Popkomm 2010 In Doubt

Reports from Germany suggest next year’s Popkomm is in doubt unless the music industry and the city of Berlin start seeing eye to eye over the event.

The city is behind the showcase conference returning for next year, but BVMI chief exec Dieter Gorny says it will come up short of being the international event the German music industry merits. Popkomm didn’t happen this year and was “postponed.”

“The plans do not show that the people in charge have an international event relevant to the market in mind,” Gorny said.

Gorny, who heads Germany’s major music industry association, believes the Popkomm being planned, which would be part of a Berlin Music week, will be no more than a local affair such as Hamburg’s Reeperbahn Festival and the C/O Pop event in Cologne.

This year’s Popkomm delegate numbers, which aren’t officially released, were reportedly about 50 percent down on 2008 when the event was pulled.

Many believe that Gorny, who owned the majority of Popkomm until selling his 51 percent stake to Viva Media before the 2003 gathering, was behind the decision to cancel.

Although he no longer owns a large slice of the gathering, his position at the head of the BVMI (Bundesverband Musikindustrie) means he has an influence on how much the German industry will support it.

He believes a real Popkomm will happen only if Berlin creates an event that signals it’s an international music capital. He was also reportedly unhappy that the BVMI has no involvement in the Berlin Music Week, which will be the umbrella event of Popkomm.

Gornay’s views may fuel the argument – often coming from those who felt Popkomm shouldn’t have been canceled – that Germany gave up on its international music conference and the likely replacement will be a handful of regional ones.

Some feel that Hamburg holds the country’s best chance of creating an international event. It’s where the city’s marketing department and some of the disaffected Popkomm staff created a conference around the annual Reeperbahn Festival (Sept. 24-26).

Hamburg Marketing’s media chief Guido Neumann has already announced that the city is already looking forward to the fifth Reeperbahn Festival and the second Reeperbahn Campus conference, and confirmed the 2010 dates will be Sept. 23-25.

Popkomm is now owned and run by Messe Berlin GmbH, having moved to the city in 2004. Berlin has claims to being the country’s music capital as well as its state capital. Since the fall of the wall and the reunification of the country, Sony Music (formerly in Cologne) and Universal Music (formerly in Hamburg) have moved there. MTV Germany left Munich for Berlin five years ago.

In addition to the industry’s global players, the city has about 150 smaller- and medium-sized labels engaged in music production.
In the five years before Popkomm moved to Berlin, the number of music businesses operating in the city rose by almost 20 percent.

DEAG chief Peter Schwenkow, who founded and built his company in Berlin, greeted the new arrivals by comparing the city with New York, claiming that both cities are multilingual, international melting pots of culture and have been since the “golden age of the ’20s.”

“Everybody knew it was going to happen sooner or later. Berlin is by far the most happening and changing metropolis in Europe,” Martin Rabitz of Berlin-based Trinity Veranstaltungs and Promotion told Pollstar at the time of Popkomm’s arrival.

Hamburg also has good claims to be the best city for hosting Germany’s major international conference and showcase. The Reeperbahn Festival that Alexander Schultz and Hamburg-based promoters including Karsten Jahnke and Folkert Koopmans put together this year far outstripped any lineup Popkomm has produced.

The city also has the added advantage of being like Groningen, where Eurosonic-Noorderslag – the Dutch blueprint for international showcase festivals – is staged. All the venues are within easy walking distance of each other.

It’s all within the world’s most famous red light district, or the “the genital zone” or the “the sinful mile,” as the locals call it. The distance between three of the major venues on Spielbundenplatz – Schmidts Tivoli, The Docks and Molotov – can be measured in steps.

If Popkomm needs more sponsorship it might try the Berlin cab drivers as moving from venue to venue can often involve car journeys.

There have also been unconfirmed stories saying Munich and Frankfurt are also considering creating major international music conferences.