It’s day one of Berlin Music Week. You’ve got your wristband, you’ve got your coffee, you’ve got your smokes and sunglasses. You put on your best rock n roll outfit, tuck those earplugs into your pocket “just in case” and lay out that program like it’s a road map to untold riches, because it is. The only drawback: you can’t bend space and time (yet). You have to choose, and that’s the hardest part. Showcase? Panel discussion? Kick-off night? DJ set?
Maybe it’s time for philosophically debating the “why” of “why” Berlin needs a music week. There are already film festivals, gallery weekend, and two fashion weeks. Berlin needs a music week like a fish needs water because Berlin is the most creative city in Europe. A magnet for artists of all disciplines, the last twenty years have seen it become a cultural capital like no other. Since the fall of the Berlin wall, an explosion of creativity has left Berlin brimming with all art forms, and there’s needs to be a music week to sort it all out. Between the wide range of nationalities, languages and cultures, there is a lot to hear and experience. People from all over the world with different cultures and backgrounds come over the sea and cross over the mountains to get a taste of the never-ending fun park that is Berlin. The week does all your dirty work: books bands, plans events and sets up lots of opportunities many components of the music industry to work together and network.
Naturally, we know Berlin has established itself as the epicenter for electronic music, and for that reason, we need a music week to expand and highlight the genres that can get kicked to the sidelines by Berlin’s love of the DJ.
Berlin is the actual center of the European music industry. Most companies from the music industry (labels, public relations firms, management companies and so forth) are based in Berlin or at the very least have a presence here. Some are based in Hamburg, too. The German music market is one of the biggest in Europe: Germany is one of the most important markets for musicians, bands, artists, labels, publishers, etc., and the two key cities are Berlin and Hamburg. Both cities have huge advantages, yet they differ a little bit in detail. Berlin’s current strengths are low-prices and available space. And of course the high creative density mentioned earlier. If you want to be successful in the German music market (as a company) you should be in Hamburg or Berlin. Especially for start-ups, Berlin is the option that is easier to manage, since it is much cheaper (for now). Remember that Berlin and Hamburg are atypical German cities: both are very international and creative melting pots. It is not just the cities themselves bring advantages, but the fact that you can easily meet people from the same field for a coffee or a drink. Not just locals, but also international artist are based here.
Another special thing about Berlin (that locals may cringe at): you can easily survive without really having to learn German. Just fumble along with a few German phrases and you will rarely have problems. You could not say this about any other German city. Additionally, Berlin Music Week takes place in a city that is easy and cheap to travel to, and around. You there’s plenty of places to stay, if you are on a low-budget you can maybe crash at a couch or check in to a hostel. It`s also possible to rent apartments. Public transport is great since the whole network is easy to understand and also runs frequently in weekdays, and all night long during weekends. Don’t worry about parking your car.
It should be noted that this year’s Berlin Music Week sees one single booking agency curating the majority of the bands. This has led to some other agencies putting on their own version of a music week (what would a festival be without the anti-contingent? It certainly keeps things interesting.) This all at a festival that aims to show the diversity of music and of the music industry companies of a city like Berlin. Somehow this doesn’t showcase the unity of Berlin’s music industry at all. We will have to see how this year’s line-up plays out, taking place in early September.
Berlin Music Week is not just about live music, it is also a conference. Previous years discussions and panels have been to help network, to showcase the artist on a particular companies roster or to discuss important topics related to the music industry. Word! is the conference program (not to be confused with musical part, called Sound!) where topics like diversity in the music industry, the role music in key events like the Arab Spring, the state of music journalism in the era of social media, and so on. Also during these days the VUT will host the VUT Indie Days and the VUT Indie Awards. So it’s not just tired legs and ringing ears and mild hangovers: Berlin Music Week is networking free-for-all, a chance for companies to polish up their gems and put them on display. Now you just need to prioritize: what do you want to focus on, at your Berlin Music Week?
article by Kika Jonsson, Robert Helbig & Ida Marie Tangeras