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Culture

Berlin’s Music Magnet Attracts Popkomm

The decision to move the world’s biggest music trade fair from its home in Cologne to Berlin is just the latest in a series of media and entertainment relocations to the German capital from around the country.

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Bands, like Surferosa from Norway, will be performing at Popkomm in Berlin from 2004.

What has Berlin got that other German cities haven’t? For one thing, Berlin has more and more of the things many other German cities used to have. After being a city divided and a Cold War island, modern Berlin is becoming a magnet for those areas of German industry traditionally situated in other parts of the country.

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and Germany became a reunified country, the Cold War capital of Bonn lost most of its governmental buildings and embassies to the re-established center of power. Since then, the number of business sectors, events and company headquarters moving to Berlin has gradually increased.

The latest city to give up one of its crown jewels is Cologne. Widely recognised as one of the most important media and entertainment centers in Germany, Cologne has been the home of the world's biggest music trade fair, Popkomm, since it moved down the Rhine river from its first home in Düsseldorf in 1989. But now, after 14 years in Cologne, Popkomm is turning its back on its traditional venue at the Köln Messe conference center and is heading for the bright lights of Berlin. The 2003 event will be the last held in Cologne before its debut in Berlin next year.

Moving to save Popkomm

“We did not reach this decision lightly, but this was the only way we could secure the future of Popkomm.” Dieter Gorny, manager of Viva Media said on Thursday in Cologne. A contract was signed between the Viva group, one of the main sponsors and organizers of the event, and the trade fair company, Messe Berlin, on Tuesday.

Sony Center Berlin

The Sony Center in Berlin.

Each year, the August trade fair attracts some 800 exhibitors from around the world and presents between 400 and 500 bands from more than 27 countries at the RingFest concert program which attracts an average annual audience of two million fans over the three days. But in recent years, the number of visitors to the trade fair has dropped drastically. Last year, less than 15,000 people experienced the showcases and seminars which make up the fair held beside the Rhine. It is hoped that the relocation to the capital will boost the flagging attendance figures and benefit Berlin’s standing in the music industry even further.

The latest relocation

“Popkomm strengthens Berlin's profile as Germany's music capital and as a trade fair location,” said head of Berlin's senate economic department Harald Wolf in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Speculation about a possible move to the capital had been ripe since a number of music and entertainment companies chose to call Berlin their new home.

Love Parade in Berlin Straße des 17. Juni

Love Parade, Berlin.

Germany's capital city is already home to the German subsidiaries of giant music and entertainment companies Universal and Sony, who have expanded their Berlin office with the independent label, Berlin-Records. Media mammoth Universal was originally based in Hamburg which until recently was the hub of Germany’s €2 billion ($2.3 billion) music industry – the fourth largest in the world.

Hamburg relinquishes music center

By 2000, the most recent year for which figures are available, 430 companies of the music industry called Berlin its home. The German branch of Sony Corporation's Sony Music was the first big player to move, arriving in summer 2000 from Hamburg. Offices of BMG Entertainment, a division of Bertelsmann AG, followed soon after. Now, more than 50 percent of the German music industry is based in Berlin, according to the Media Office Berlin-Brandenburg.

Other industry re-locations include the ECHO German record prize which moved to the capital from Hamburg where important national organisations such as the Federal Association of the Recording Industry, the German Phono-Akademie and the German group of the IFPI, the international record industry association, remain.

Attractive cultural climate

The attraction of Berlin may be attributed to the city’s speed of modernisation since reunification and the number of vacant buildings still available but it is more likely to be the attractive cultural climate. Berlin is already the home of the world famous Love Parade, the coulurful Carnival of Culture, musical festival Fête de la Musique -not to forget its thriving creative subculture.

Ironically, the music industry benefits from the city's high unemployment rate which consistently hangs around 17 percent. The depressed economy has led to low rents -- bad for the real-estate market but great for the music clubs and venues that have sprung up around the city and contribute to its attraction.

"Berlin is the cheapest metropolis; its internal flair and young creative potential give the location an unmistakable advantage," concluded a study by the German Institute for Economic Research.



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