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Berlin Music Week

Susanne Dickel / kbmSeptember 3, 2014

Up-and-coming music stars are performing on the streets of the German capital. Berlin Music Week hopes to draw music lovers and industry insiders in a city oversaturated with talent.

Bjork at Berlin Music Week 2013, Copyright: Stephan Flad
Headliner Bjork took to the stage at last year's Berlin Music WeekImage: Stephan Flad

Berlin's legendary Berghain club is famous for techno parties that last all weekend. But the German capital - also the birth place of the Love Parade - is capable of more than just electronic music. From indie rock to deutschrap, music of every genre can be heard on any day of the week.

The annual Berlin Music Week, taking place this year from September 3-7, brings together all the players of the Berlin music scene, whether they come dressed in suits or hoodies.

At first glance, the program appears chaotic. Along with a conferences for industry insiders, there are a number of festivals scattered throughout the city. In addition, partners hold events of their own that don't seem to have much to do with music - like the Long Night of Startups, for example.

"Even we lose the overview," admits Berlin Music Week director Björn Döring with a laugh.

Newcomers sing in the streets

But the ecclectic approach to the festival has to do with the city itself. "It's a real challenge to do something different from what's already going on in Berlin," says Döring.

Sebastian Lind at Berlin Music Week 2013, Copyright:: Berlin Music Week
First We Take Berlin is a platform for newcomers like Sebastian Lind (pictured 2013)Image: Berlin Music Week

A few bigger names are on the lineup for the weekend, like K.I.Z., Woodkid and Moderat. However, it's promising newcomers that are in the limelight. At the First We Take the Streets event, little known bands play outdoors around the East Side Gallery, an artistically decorated portion of the Berlin Wall; as part of First We Take Berlin, the music is moved indoors to some 150 participating clubs.

Berlin Music Week organizers largely rely on its partners, booking agencies and the Melt! Festival. The artists on deck come from all over the world - like Guy One from Ghana and Norma Jean Martine from New York.

Döring is expecting more than 25,000 fans - more than last year - but hopes they won't just turn up for the big names. "We're counting on the visitors' curiosity," he says. "And there's no financial risk."

The street music is free, and tickets to First We Take Berlin cost just 22 euros ($29). Those who are on the fence about whether to go or not can listen to music samples from the artists beforehand on the festival app.

No longer a festival for its own sake

While Berlin Music Week models its approach on huge successful festivals like Eurosonic in Groningen, the Netherlands, or SXSW in Texas, US, he admits, "We're newcomers." There's room to grow for the festival, now in its fifth year.

Berlin Music Week 2013, Tempelhof field, Copyright: Stephan Flad
Some 20,000 fans came together last year at the site of the former Tempelhof AirportImage: Stephan Flad

"The biggest competition is the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg," says Döring. The Reeperbahn Festival takes places this year from September 17-20.

Berlin Music Week began as the Popkomm festival in Cologne, but moved to the German capital in 2004. However, it immediately became evident that the event wasn't profitable. Music producer Tim Renner called it "a celebration of itself."

"But it was still important for people in the industry to meet," explains Döring. "That now happens around the festival. Berlin Music Week in its current form was born in 2010.

Narrow but 'cozy'

Entitled "Word!," the conference program is designed to attract off-stage industry experts, from startup entrepreneurs to label managers. Döring is expecting some 3,000 guests at the planned podium discussions and workshops.

Mo Loschelder, a Berlin-based DJ who also runs her own booking agency, is planning to attend the conference. "I was there last year, and it was surprisingly good. There were exciting panels and discussions with experts," she says.

Berlin Music Week conference 2013, Copyright: Berlin Music Week
Streaming and crowdfunding are some of the issues industry insiders will discussImage: Berlin Music Week

She's not expecting any surprises this year, however. "The topics are being discussed everywhere; it's the same stuff."

Loschelder says the event isn't particularly international - but that's not necessarily a disadvantage. "It's very Berlin-specific, and the formats are straightforward. The Berlin network is attractive, and when an event just gets too big, it doesn't work here."

The DJ adds, "Its like the Berlin club scene. Things are pretty cozy here."