On 22nd and 23rd September I helped out at the Reeperbahn Festival Conference, playing my part as a stage host in the Theater Schmidt. The conference is an adjunct to the 10-year-old Reeperbahn Festival, a music festival that happens in Hamburg’s famous red-light district which is also the site of many music clubs. The festival-conference combo is modelled on South By South West and is a meeting place for music-industry people from around the world.
Being a stage host means standing on stage at the beginning and end of each event, welcoming the speakers, announcing house-keeping information such as wi-fi passwords and other information, thanking the speakers at the end, and generally holding the ring if moderators are late, not present or whatever. A bit of banter doesn’t harm either to warm people up. When the role was introduced at the Reeperbahn Festival, it was inspired by the stage hosts at the Social Media Week and I think I can take the credit for playing that role for the first time in Kultwerk West during the first Social Media Week that I was involved in.
I helped out in 2014, so this time I was better able to follow the content of the panels – although I’m not directly involved in the music industry. Largely, the topics deal with in the Schmidt Theater (Saal) where I was were about the effect of digital technology on the music industry. This year, compared with 2014, it felt like the participants were more forward-looking: in 2014 I remember more scepticism, the flag-bearer for which was Herbert Grönemeyer who compared users of services like Spotify to restaurant visitors expecting a flat-rate for all restaurants in the city.
As well as the usual panel reflecting on the current and upcoming festival seasons (again moderated by Greg Parmley with charm and dry humour), there were panels on machine intelligence (e.g. Google Muze, an experimental fashion project), virtual reality and its implications for music production, and more. A very enjoyable session was called “Help The Aged” but was a humorous and insightful, anecdote-filled primer on the history of the music industry with some reflection on diversity in the music industry over time. Finally, there was the presentation of the Büro für Offensivkultur – the bureau for proactive culture – a kind of rapid-reaction force to mobilise musicians at the drop of a hat for protests against acts of far-right extremism as they happen.
It’s always nice to be part of the Reeperbahn Festival Conference and see who comes through the door. It’s an interesting insight into the music industry and usually there are several famous people (e.g. Smudo of Die Fantastischen Vier) or people who have done famous things (e.g. Simon Napier-Bell who penned “You don’t have to say you love me”).