Max Domma: Music programmer for Reeperbahn Festival (Photo by Rika Anscheit)

Only few days left until we take off for the infamous REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL in Hamburg. Since we are longtime friends of the REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL, we already informed you that we’ll expand our partnership this year. Meaning that we will not only attend and report as you all expect us to. But we will also host our very own evening and stage this year. But enough of the bragging.

We see it as part of our agenda to highlight the way festivals like these are organized in order to make transparent how they work and how, maybe, there is a way for upcoming artists to get to play stages at the REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL. Over the course of the last years we were lucky to have some insightful chats with the festival founder Alexander Schulz in 2013, 2014 and 2015. But the REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL, of course, is much more than just one person.

So, as we were keen to learn a bit more about all the fine persons being involved in the organisation, we decided that it’s about time to shed some light on one of the most vital parts of a festival: the booking. Ladies and gentlemen, get to know Max Domma, the festival’s music programmer and learn a bit more about the way the REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL is able to maintain the excellent and exciting line-up year after year.

Could you briefly introduce yourself to our readership: Who you are, what you do, how long you’ve been doing it for the REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL?

My name is Max Domma, working for Reeperbahn Festival since 2014 and I am the music programmer for approx 300 shows in 35 venues in and around Hamburg St. Pauli.

What are your personal highlights of this year’s line-up?

My personal highlight is that we managed to confirm four shows at the St. Michael Church, one of the biggest cathedrals in Germany and Hamburg most famous landmark. After last year’s very impressive show of WILLIAM FITZSIMMONS we’re honored to present SOPHIA, VILLAGERS, BOY and JAKE ISAAC in one of the most exciting venues of our festival.

How is the booking process for a festival like the REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL structured – f.e.: When do you start?

We start very early, sometimes right now for next year. But most of the creative work will be done between november and may and we’re scheduling the programme after until September.

300 slots mean a hell of a workload in programming and communicating, so that’s also a big part of what we do. We get thousands of proposals from all over the world and any kind of genre all over the year. Which is a great thing – we’re very happy that people trust us and believe in the profits of playing REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL. We have a very generous and interested audience.

”Reeperbahn Festival is not a showcase festival’

Are there other showcase festivals you use for inspiration?

It is very important for us to say: we’re not a showcase festival. The public shows I mentioned above are booked for our regular audience. We’ll make sure that each festival ticket holder will get entrance to the show – no matter if he’s a professional delegate or simply a music lover. This is why we’re following very strict guideslines in booking and programming all those acts. Beside the public festival we have a very strong structure for showcasing partners, who bring their talents to REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL and build the ‘showcase festival’ as part of our overall structure consisting of a clubfestival, a conference for the digital industries and music showcases.

How do you find the right mixture between settled and bigger names and still rather unknown artists? A personal feeling?

First of all we need to fill our capacities with the best acts for each club. This is how we make sure the venues won’t be too crowded or empty.

We’re working with capacities from 80 up to 2.000 and this is why we need many bigger names and a lot of smaller acts. It is a very exciting thing to choose between thousands of international unknown newcomer acts and bigger names – which obviously are much harder to confirm but badly needed.

Is there also something like a certain quota for unsigned artists you have to book? And how do you approach those artists if there’s no management etc.?

No, we’re not able to check most of these backgrounds but it is very important that all acts we book do have built a first structure in Germany.

Without structure there won’t be enough attention during our festival to be able to build some remarkable draw.

Most of the international acts coming to us have confirmed their first label partners in different territories and will search for different representants in different parts of the world.

Reeperbahn Festival 2014, Mojo, Kwabs

Photo by Nina Zimmermann

What do you think does a band has to have in order to be booked by you?

Innovation is one of the key features we’re looking for. And of course we’re looking for artist that have attention in Germany – in the end we need to sell our tickets and want to garantuee ‘sold out’ shows. But basically we need to like the music and go on from there…

If you could advise a young band that’s aiming to play at REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL – what kind of promotion and business assistance should they consider and what’s maybe not that important anymore?

The timing need to be right for both sides: there’s no sense in playing Reeperbahn Festival if no one knows about you.

Built your structure, record yor music and get in touch with potential partners (live promoters, labels, publishers) – if the music is good, you don’t need more than a couple of good recordings and convincing partners talking to the right people. Don’t spend too much time on promotion assets and things that are hardly related to your music. Sounds easy but it’s not and we know that.

What’s been your greatest personal achievement in those years you’ve booked artists for REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL?

It’s team work, and bringing 400 acts (including showcase acts) on our stages each year is a big achievment for all of us – feels very good and I hope it’s working out well this year…


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