Interview with Detlef Schwarte (Director Reeperbahn Festival) & Alexander Schulz (General Manager Reeperbahn Festival)
What exactly is the ‘Reeperbahn Festival’ and how did it come into excistence?
Detlef Schwarte: Reeperbahn Festival today is the largest urban Festival for new international music in Germany presenting around 350 solo artists and bands from all over the world. And at the same time Reeperbahn Festival is one of the three most important meeting points for the international music industry in Europe. This year we will still expand the Festival´s horizon and include panels and performances which deal with other digital creative industry fields like mobile, games, maker-scene and media. We expect nearly 3.000 delegates from 35 nations to come to Hamburg this year. Besides this Reeperbahn Festival will again offer a massive arts programme including readings, exhibitions, guided tours or film screenings and the 8th edition of Flatstock Europe, the largest rock poster convention on the continent. All this will make Reeperbahn Festival the central european hotspot for international talents, trends and trade.
Alexander Schulz: But honestly this was not really what we had in mind when we started the Festival. I visited the SXSW Festival in Austin back in the year 2000 and came back with the idea that this kind of Festival – and it is just the music part we are talking about – could work perfectly in our hometown Hamburg, too. Because there is no other place in Germany like Hamburg St. Pauli and the Reeperbahn which is the central strip of this part of town. Two handful of music halls and theatres, dozens of clubs, hundreds of bars – a 24/7 entertainment playground right at our doorstep. It took some years to convince the city, the club owners and the media of the idea. But in 2006 we booked the clubs, invited bands and started Reeperbahn Festival which was at this time half invention and half adventure. And it´s still like this, believe me!
The festival flourished in the past years – what is the main factor for this great success?
Alexander Schulz: The chance – and maybe the prevision – to develop the Festival step by step is the one reason for its success. When one element was doing alright we were able to add the next without changing the Festival´s general character. When the music Festival was – after a three years time – accepted and counted 20.000 visitors we opened the Reeperbahn Festival Campus as business-to-business section with a conference and networking services for the music and live entertainment industry. And now in 2013 we invite representatives of other digital creative industries for the first time to experience Reeperbahn Festival and a programme that is larger and more diverse than ever.
And all this still takes place at Reeperbahn – same venues, same atmosphere, but more input and fun. So the Reeperbahn itself surely is another reason for the Festival´s success.
And the third reason is that we are happy to have partners who believed in the concept of Reeperbahn Festival from the first day as there are the City of Hamburg, the Northern German Radio (NDR) or Warner Music.
What are the plans for Reeperbahn Festival Campus 2013, what can we expect?
Detlef Schwarte: In the scope of the conference we will cover a much wider selections of topics than before. Dave Stewart will hold one of our keynotes. He is a music world star but also a successful multi media entrepreneur and will talk about where in the business money still can be found. Nobody should miss that! Another keynote comes from Cornelia Funke, one of the world´s most widely read authors who sold more than 40 Million books. She won´t talk about traditional writing or publishing, but how she transfers her literary ideas into the digital world by means of a revolutionary application. So music crosses media crosses technology with the aim to get a better understanding of how ideas – or call it content – get alive and visible in the digital world. And how to do trade with it successfully.
Besides this Reeperbahn Festival Campus offers a number of matchmaking sessions where international delegates can meet with the german industry. We have around 20 international showcases from e.g. Canada, Netherlands, Switzerland or Israel and from companies like Warner Music, Believe Digital or Audiolith. Dozens of parties, internal meetings or shows as the legendary “Ray´s Reeperbahn Revue” with Ray Cokes complete the Campus programme 2013.
Why is it an absolute must for every professional to attend the festival?
Detlef Schwarte: Reeperbahn Festival is an event unique in Europe concerning its setting, programme and atmosphere. This is what we hear from our guests and probably this mix is the reason for that every year more and more people – fans and professionals – attend. From our perspective another advantage is that Reeperbahn Festival is big enough to meet a lot of people from the German and the international side of the industry. And it is still small enough to meet them a second or third time during the days of the Festival. And this is what finally counts – good new contacts. That is what makes Reeperbahn Festival the best gateway to the German and European market.
How do you want the Reeperbahn Festival to develop? What are your future plans? How could the Festival look like in 2020?
Alexander Schulz: We are convinced that we offer a modern type of meeting plattform for the music- and the digital industry already. Nowadays their deals are no more made along big boothes under the neon-lights in large exhibitions-halls. And public-visitors do not wish to only listen to world-famous live-acts some hundred meters away on a large stage. They like to pick music-cherries live, like they do every day on the internet, as well as the professionals do.
As we are aware of the fact that the event’s success among both, public- and business-visitors, is based on its compact and familiar music-atmosphere, Reeperbahn Festival cannot be enlarged in the future just by adding big venues, but only by adding another festival-day, while keeping the daily venue-capacity on this year’s level.
We have the plan to spread the brand year round and through different channels. We already started publishing an album-series of Reeperbahn Festival recordings on iTunes, we are presenting and supporting international artists’ tours in Germany, about 80 shows of this years Reeperbahn Festival will be recorded and broadcast through German public radio and TV and the European Broadcast Union, for example We are thinking of different other possibilities to spread the brand in the near future.
In 2020 Reeperbahn Festival should be established as a brand which is recommending good music in both worlds – the virtual as well as the real (live-)world. Sticking to that concept, the event will stay thrilling for public-visitors as well as for professionals.
Interviewed by Sara Shirazi