Popkomm Bullish About Re-Launch

Popkomm’s claiming its re-launch was so successful the event has “reclaimed its place as the leading platform for the music and entertainment industry.”

If that’s the case, it’s indicative of how much that industry has shrunk in the last decade. About 7,500 people visited the 470 stands at the two-day trade fair this year. In 2001, when the annual showcase, trade fair and conference was still being held in Cologne, the organisers were bemoaning a 3 percent drop in the number of visitors from 17,441 to 16,992.

That year it also suffered a 10 percent drop in the number of companies buying trade stands, which fell from 924 to 838. In other words, the German music industry’s international platform is roughly half the size it was 10 years ago.

Popkomm’s decline has shadowed the decline of the recorded music market as its agenda meant that was also its major target market.

Over the years it’s made various attempts to embrace the live music business, to the point that this year it almost became part of Berlin Music Week and Berlin Festival. But it’s never come close to attracting enough delegates from that sector to compensate for what it was losing on the recorded music side.

Gatherings that are naturally more live music-oriented, including Lonon’s ILMC and Eurosonic-Noorderslag in The Netherlands, have grown over during that time.

Last year’s Popkomm was canceled following lukewarm ticket sales, but dates have already been announced for 2011.

However, it also set dates for 2009 before the gig was pulled. Popkomm doesn’t make public the number of delegates that pay to attend.

Popkomm also appears to have benefited from the shift to the city’s Tempelhof Airport, where it’s snuggled in next to Berlin Music Week and Berlin Festival.

Stefan Michalk, managing director of the Bundesverband Musikindustrie, the German equivalent of the BPI, said the move to Tempelhof means Popkomm is “ready to take off in the years to come.”

Popkomm managing director Dr. Ralf Kleinhenz acknowledged the city had “impressively demonstrated its potential as a creative venue” by making Popkomm “the nucleus of Berlin Music Week.”

The German capital appears to have effectively rolled three events into one to make a bid to stage the country’s premier music business gathering.

Also at Tempelhof Sept. 10-11 was Berlin Festival, where Melt Festival chief Stefan Lehmkuhl booked a lineup that included Editors, Fatboy Slim, LCD Soundsystem, Blood Red Shoes and Gang Of Four.

Over the course of the three events spanning six days, there wasn’t a shortage of known acts playing Berlin.

Many in the German live music industry believe that having three or four cities vying to produce such a major national platform will more likely result in the country – the world’s fourth-largest music market – ending up with three or four minor ones.

The theory will next be put to the test at Hamburg’s Reeperbahn Festival and Campus Sept. 23-25, which last year added the conference to fill the gap in the market left by the cancellation of Popkomm.

Both events have plenty of support from their local authorities, while both mayors apparently see an appearance at their events as a way of showing their support for their city’s cultural programmes.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit was at the opening of Popkomm and Hamburg Mayor Ole von Beust is expected to show at the start of Reeperbahn.

The live music side of the Hamburg event is one of its strongest parts, with local promoters Karsten Jahnke, Alexander Schulz of Inferno Events, and FKP Scorpio chief Folkert Koopmans all helping to source the talent.

Some German music industry analysts say Hamburg’s first objective on the way to coming out on top of Berlin in the international stakes is to bolster the conference section.

This year’s lineup of speakers and panelists includes a keynote from Sire Records founder Seymour Stein, Eurosonic-Noorderslag creative director Peter Smidt, internationally known songwriter Donovan, and German crowd safety expert Chrissy Uerlings.

The curious booking is Bundesverband Musikindustrie chairman Dieter Gorny. Apart from heading up the German music companies’ association, he’s also the founder of Popkomm and many believe he was behind last year’s edition being scrapped.
Other speakers include Jens Michow, whose IDKV promoters’ organisation celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

The promoters taking to the platform include new Live Nation Germany chief Johannes Wessels and Carlos Fleischmann of Creative Talent.