The Rise Of Deutsch-Rap And Germany’s Marteria

– Marteria
Rock am Ring and Rock im Park are Germany’s biggest and most iconic festivals and among Europe’s largest. Promoted by Live Nation Germany, Switzerland, Austria (GSA) and MLK, which belongs to CTS Eventim, they attract some 90,000 people per day. They’re twin events, taking place on the same weekend with similar lineups – one at the Nürburgring race track in the west of the country, the other in Nuremberg in the south. In 2017, German rapper Marteria played both. Within seven hours.
Rock am Ring had to cancel part of its program on June 2 because of a possible terrorist threat; the audience had to be evacuated, artists were trapped backstage for hours. Among them was Marteria, all set to go on stage.
He and his band were heartbroken. It was supposed to be the opening of his 2017 festival marathon. It wasn’t possible to simply reschedule for the next day, as they were to headline Sputnik Springbreak on June 3.
Marteria was determined not to let his fans down, however, and together with Rock am Ring’s organizers made it happen. Having barely recovered from the previous night’s show at Sputnik, he hopped on a private jet and arrived at Rock am Ring in time for a late-Sunday afternoon “60-minute power-set of awesomeness,” as he euphorically announced. When Marteria stepped on stage that day, the audience went nuts.
He smashed the show, hopped in a car, covered some 400 kilometers to Rock im Park in a dash, and basically went straight on stage again. All he had left to say on his socials the following morning was: “One of the craziest days ever. One love.”
For almost a decade now, the German rap genre has been enjoying that love. After almost sinking into obscurity in the first half of the millennium in terms of mainstream relevance, hip-hop has since taken over the country with the rise of YouTube in the second half. 

– 2 Live Crew
Last year’s most streamed artists in Germany: RAF Camora and Bonez MC
This is no coincidence: rappers in Deutschland never received any popular media coverage – a few radio-friendly exceptions aside. Instead, they took to the internet, as soon as it started offering possibilities to market oneself. It took a while for the genre to become a live force outside of a few dedicated hip-hop festivals such as Splash! or Openair Frauenfeld, which, today, attract some 30,000 and 50,000 people per day, respectively.
According to the latest figures of German industry trade body BVMI from 2016, hip-hop in general accounts for 9.8 percent or some €156 million ($192 million) of the country’s total recorded music revenues (€1.59 billion/$1.9 billion). The figure’s up from 8.6 percent in 2015, and 3.6 percent in 2014. Hip-hop was the third-most important genre behind rock and pop, and even outsold the country’s popular Schlager genre (catchy instrumentals and cheesy lyrics). The figures include the impact of international rap artists, but a significant part is made up of German rap acts, according to a BVMI spokesperson, who also said that, while 2017’s figures haven’t been released yet, the trend continued upward.
Germany is still a very physical market. In 2016, 62.1 percent of revenues were generated with physical sales (including 54 percent CD sales and 4.4 percent vinyl). German rappers play a huge role in that, as they are selling physical product en masse. Their loyal fan base, which is carefully fostered on YouTube, is eager to get its hands on vinyl, CDs, shirts and artwork, all of which makes for a neat box set. Box sets, in turn, count more than regular album sales on the German charts.
Since the audience for German rap is fairly young, the genre also dominates streaming. Granted, the most-streamed artist in Germany in 2017 was Ed Sheeran – where in the world wasn’t he? But he was followed by three German rappers on positions two to four: RAF Camora, BonezMC, and Kollegah.
Marteria is another prime example. Since releasing his major debut Zum Glück in die Zukunft (“Luckily into the Future”) in 2010, the 35-year old has entered the country’s Top 10 with every album. His 2012 EP Lila Wolken (“Purple Clouds”) dominated the streaming charts for weeks. When he released the follow-up Zum Glück in die Zukunft II in 2014, he broke the German record for album streams in the first week.
For his latest album, Roswell (2017), the rapper took direct marketing to another level: he drove through different cities in Germany and invited fans into his van, to play them the new record and upload the footage onto YouTube. (The album went to No. 2, but only because he was up against the country’s national treasure and most-popular act of the last decade, Helene Fischer, that week.) At press time, Roswell stood at 46.3 million streams on Spotify.
Long before becoming a YouTube sensation, however, the Rostock native had built a reputation as a beast on stage. Marteria told Pollstar that “making records is great fun, after all, that’s where the music is created. But going on tour, being on the road with your friends – and being able to directly feel the energy and feedback of the people! That’s overwhelming. No matter how big the arena!”
According to his booking agent, Michael Sand of Four Artists Booking, “It is not that hard to make a nice video; being amazing live is.” Which is the reason Sand’s main A&R tool remains the live show, no matter how many online hits an artist has amassed. “It’s not that you can’t earn a lot money with popular YouTube videos today, I just believe that you have got to be great live if you want to succeed in the long run. That’s not a given in many cases.”
Marteria has always wrapped his lyrics in a musical package that crosses genres. He has cited Public Enemy and Run DMC as influences, but also Björk, Pearl Jam, Kraftwerk, and Fatboy Slim.
– Marteria
All eyez on me: Marteria controls his crowd in Berlin
Last summer, Marteria was on the bill of some of Europe’s largest and most iconic festivals, all part of an enormous tour accompanying Roswell. He played Sziget in Hungary, which attracts some 500,000 people from across Europe over one week in August. Other major festivals included Austria’s FM4 Frequency Festival, SonneMondSterne, one of Europe’s major festivals for electronic music, as well as Chiemsee Summer, where his 2017 festival run ended.
This year, Hurricane/Southside, another legendary German twin festival, and Summerjam, which has successfully transformed from a straight-up reggae festival to one for popular music over the past years, are part of Marteria’s tour schedule.
He headlined the 20th anniversary of Splash!, Europe’s tradition-rich hip-hop festival, which takes place on the Ferropolis peninsula in eastern Germany July 8. The rapper says he’s been to 19 Splash! editions so far. He has long since taken to addressing the festival’s audience as “family.”
The festival’s creative director, Julian Gupta, says the demand for German rap explains why Splash! has been increasing its capacity incrementally year after year. Ticket demand would allow for a much more substantial increase. However, there is simply no more physical space on Ferropolis to grow. “Our location is part of the festival’s identity. As long as we’re able to pay the artists’ fees with our current capacity, it wouldn’t be wise to move to someplace bigger, and sacrifice some of our identity to demand,” Gupta said.
Marteria also played Openair Frauenfeld (OAF) in Switzerland on July 6, Europe’s largest urban music festival, which was acquired by Live Nation in July. The festival has always placed great emphasis on booking a healthy dose of German-speaking artists. Of the 51 acts that played the festival each year between 2016 and 2018, the number of German-speaking acts fluctuated between 15 and 21.
OAF producer René Götz of First Event AG tells Pollstar, “The fact that we have been selling stronger and actually selling out earlier every year over the past three editions certainly also has to do with the strength of the genre, but also with the strong level of identification and fan satisfaction with the organization and experience we offer.”
Some believe hip-hop is taking over the continent. “Urban music in all its varieties has developed into the most dominant musical genre of our time, making OAF an extremely attractive event and brand to partner with,” Andre Lieberberg, president of Live Nation GSA, said, “although the main reason for us entering into a partnership with the festival was because of its flawless organization and the fact that it is run by absolute professionals. Our decision to acquire a majority of OAF was indeed motivated both by the fact that it makes us a more well-rounded promoter in the Swiss market as well as by the impressive success both the festival as such and the genre it presents currently enjoy.”
He said domestic rap and urban music are “in our focus and we put an emphasis on working with more acts in the genre and establishing new platforms for these artists,” adding, “we don’t feel that there is a saturation already apparent, with new artists coming on to the scene almost daily. This trend won’t come to a standstill in the foreseeable future as far as we can judge.”
When Marteria started working with Sand back in 2008, he mostly played club shows with 300-500 capacities. “In 2009, hip-hop was still on the ground, and nobody in Germany was interested in booking the genre. But I was persistent and managed to secure a couple of festivals, where he delivered insane performances,” Sand recalls. “Even then people appreciated his live energy, which led to an exponentiation in demand. Booking got easier, and then he released Zum Glück in die Zukunft. This catapulted his touring business to new heights, and he started selling out 600- to 1,500-capacity venues.”
His commercial breakthrough came with “Lila Wolken” in 2012, which amassed 37.5 million YouTube views. “From then on, it became easy. He started to get better time slots. Ticket sales for his tours multiplied. He’d arrived in the mainstream,” Sand explains.
It was the right song at the right time. After releasing his follow-up in 2014, Marteria was able to fill Berlin’s Max-Schmeling-Halle and Nuremberg’s Arena Nürnberger Versicherung, both of which hold some 10,000 spectators.
The 2014-15 GSA tour accompanying the album sold some 180,000 tickets. Ticket sales for the current “Roswell” tour are projected to reach between 200,000 and 210,000 by the time it closes in Magdeburg, March 24. “It is a jump up,” says Sand, “but we’ve reached a level where you can only improve by so much.”
Marteria’s largest show to date has been his Dec. 2 show at Cologne’s Lanxess Arena in front of almost 15,000 people. But those figures will be dwarfed when the Berlin transplant returns to his hometown of Rostock. The city’s Ostseestadion, a stadium, holds some 30,000 people, and Marteria is to play in front of a sold-out crowd Sept. 1. Sand hasn’t yet worked out what to make of it. “Maybe it’s the start of something bigger, but we’re not at that stage yet. You should never say never.”