Q’s With Reeperbahn Festival Founder & Managing Director Alexander Schulz

Alexander Schulz.
Fynn Freund
– Alexander Schulz.
Managing director of Reeperbahn Festival.

Reeperbahn Festival is Germany’s most important event for the music sector, and one of Europe’s main events for new talent and industry professionals. Organizers just announced 80 new names to the festival lineup, including this year’s ANCHOR judge Tom Odell (UK), songwriter Anna Leone (Sweden), and soul queen Joy Denalane (Germany).

The full timetable is now available on Reeperbahn Festival’s website. Conference speakers include Lyor Cohen (YouTube/Google), Ilona Jarabek (European venue association EVVC), Ioannis “Pana” Panagopoulos (Dreamhouse), Noura Labbani (Pateron), Pamela Schobess (Berlin Clubcommission), Beckie Sugden (ICM Partners), Stephan Thanscheidt (FKP Scorpio), and many more.

The 16th edition, Sept. 22-25, marks a significant step towards normality for founder and managing director Alexander Schulz. Pollstar reached out to Schulz to learn more. 

Like Alli Neumann last year, all artists will perform live from one of the many stages on Hamburg
Marvin Contessi
– Like Alli Neumann last year, all artists will perform live from one of the many stages on Hamburg

Pollstar: The world is reopening at different speeds. While the UK has lifted most restrictions on social gatherings, Germany has seen a second summer of canceled major events. Please describe your state of mind in the middle of 2021.

Alexander Schulz: Frustrating, especially when looking in and comparing with other countries and territories. Yes, we achieved the subsidies-program from the Federal Government, which came into effect from Sept. 1, for single events and touring larger than 2,000 capacity. It would cover up to 80% of the ticketing revenues. 
But I am afraid of losing parts of the music sector in the long run, employees, audience, new talents, technicians, for we are still far away from normal and will be. People are starting to turn away from our products for good, we lost nearly two years in building up the next audience generation, because they did not even have the [opportunity] to check out, what we are able to deliver in normal times.
What makes you optimistic, that the 16th edition of Reeperbahn Festival will mark a first step towards some form of normality, i.e., that your will be able to have more people on site than last year?
Oh yes, we will have a very noticeably increase the numbers and program items and audience this year. We expect 40% to 50% of our audience and program, including artists, speakers, etc., compared to the last regular edition in 2019. In 2020, we offered close to 20% of the concert program and no program for on-site professionals at all. 
Everything is returning on site this year in smaller numbers than before the pandemic, but it is going to happen live – matchmakings, networking, master classes, panel session with some additional speakers online.

Stephan Thanscheidt returns as speaker in 2021.
Robin Schmiedebach
– Stephan Thanscheidt returns as speaker in 2021.
He’s not got far from FKP’s Hamburg HQ.

Which program points would you like to highlight to the international audience?

The talk with Lyor Cohen, global head Of music for Youtube/Google. Our final Show, the ANCHOR 2021, with Emily Sandé, Tony Visconti, Tom Odell, Tayla Parx, and more on the jury, presenting this years most talented international newcomer. A session with Michael Krause, general manager for Spotify in Europe, and The Creative Gender Balance Concert: Ry-X and the Kaiser Quartett in the Elbphilharmonie.
How can the delegates not able to travel join the discussions?
We have learned a lot from last year’s event regarding producing and broadcasting from Reeperbahn Festival. We will be sticking to it and stream a huge number of sessions and concerts, but this year with a much broader audience on site simultaneously. 
Does the hybrid format also concern live performances, i.e., will you do a mixture of live gigs on site at Hamburg’s famous venues as well as live streams from artists who can’t make it?
All artists will be attending and perform live from the Reeperbahn this year. And we will additionally stream live from the Reeperbahn either through our own streaming production or in cooperation with our national public-media partners Arte and NDR. This also includes the showcases of the international Music Export Offices, who will be returning to Reeperbahn this year to present their most talented acts: Canada, Denmark, Italy, The Netherlands, France and many more.
What’s been the most challenging part of organizing this year’s Reeperbahn Festival? What’s been the most rewarding?
The most challenging part was, of course, explaining the design and concept under the covid restrictions of this year’s event to partners, customers, sponsors, etc. while not even knowing the design and restrictions and possibilities ourselves.
The most rewarding part was believing from the beginning of this year, that we will have the chance to do a big step back towards normality and knowing finally, as from now, that this is going to happen!
Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Get vaccinated! It’s the only reliable chance to save the live entertainment business.