Conquering Germany as an artist: ‘Then you really have something big’

Once a year, Hamburg’s illustrious Reeperbahn turns into an important place for the music industry. During the festival of the same name, which is held at the end of September, the red light district of the German port city is the battleground for hundreds of artists, all hoping for success in Germany.

Music industry coming together

Just like Eurosonic Noorderslag in Groningen, the Reeperbahn Festival is a showcase festival. This is where the music industry comes together to promote itself, discover new music and network.

Marcel Duzink, from management agency Phonic, traveled to Hamburg with two of the artists he represents: The Cool Quest and Blanks.

Arrows on German market

Both acts aiming their arrows at the German market. “On the basis of social media and streaming figures you can now very nicely read where your listeners are. If you see that you have a lot of fans in Germany, it makes sense to make a concrete plan for that,” explains Duzink.

Because before you can tour there and sell at least 150 tickets per venue, a few things have to happen. “Creating visibility at such showcase festivals is very useful.”

On the Reeperbahn there are bookers from music venues, agents, record companies, programmers of festivals and many other music professionals. They look closely at which artists are of interest to them.

Stand out in the jungle of new songs

A strong show on the Reeperbahn could just mean that a band is asked for a festival next summer. “It is now sowing time and later it will have to be harvested,” says Duzink.

A lot is happening behind the scenes or with a beer at the bar. New contacts are made and old ties are strengthened. “We will come along as a team to work on our German network during the festival.”

Networking with Spotify

“Take Spotify Germany, for example. If you want to be properly featured, you need their support,” explains Duzink. “It’s important to get into the playlists that are put together by their editors.”

A drink with someone from Spotify certainly wouldn’t hurt. “We have to make them aware that the artist is there. Every week a jungle of new songs comes out. You have to stand out in that, because there is enough quality. Succeeding as an artist starts with music, but is three quarters the right thing to do.” network.”

Because a showcase festival is seen as a promotion, the performances are unpaid. It is therefore an investment, but the artists are partly helped with travel and accommodation costs by Dutch Music Export (DME), an organization that aims to help Dutch music across the border.

Exporting Dutch culture

This is done with a budget from Buma Cultuur and a small amount of government money from the Performing Arts Fund. “Our task is to show the world that beautiful things are made in the field of culture in the Netherlands,” says Marcel Albers, director of DME.

There is also an economic side. “The Netherlands is a small country. As an entrepreneur – because that’s what you are as an artist – you can’t build a life if you don’t cross the border,” explains Albers.

On Reeperbahn, DME supports artists who have already taken their first steps and have a starting status in Germany. “We are not going to get artists under a pavement today and try to make them world famous,” said Albers.

In addition to the performance that the festival arranges, DME is also organizing a Dutch Impact Party on the Reeperbahn, where six acts will give an extra showcase. “We invite important contacts for that afternoon, who can help the artists further on their way,” says Albers.

Pay extra attention to technique

This year, the number of people who could enter a concert was limited due to the corona measures. And the networking dinner afterwards could not take place either. “We had to be much more picky about invitees, but the people who had to speak to each other did.”

For the artists themselves it is a matter of putting their best foot forward. “It’s different than when you play for fans and have a party with it. For example, I now pay extra attention to my technique,” says Ilse de Vries, bassist of The Cool Quest.

The singer of this band from Zwolle, Vincent Bergsma, also feels that pressure. “Of course you make something beautiful out of every show, but when you’re here, you really have to show what you’ve got.”

Blanks manages to get his hands in the air during his showcase. “Performing in front of a room full of fans or a room full of professionals makes a difference. The energy is very different. If you succeed in getting this audience enthusiastic, you have done well.”

The singer, who became known for his YouTube channel, will visit small venues with his sold-out European tour this fall and larger venues are planned for next year. Also with our Eastern neighbors. He already has one foot on German ground, but ‘we hope that after Reeperbahn there will be two’.

“If you are embraced as a Dutch artist in Germany, then you have really got something beautiful and big,” adds Duzink.

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