Pop and business: only jubilant singing left

In its tenth year, the Reeperbahn Festival has become a hotspot for creative entrepreneurs. Hamburg’s music scene falls by the wayside.

Hotspot for creative entrepreneurs at Spielbudenplatz. Photo: dpa

There they have taken pains to adapt linguistically to the wickedly creative neighborhood flair: "hot business tête-à-têtes in our lovemobiles" promised the makers of the company founder casting show "[email protected]" at the Reeperbahn Festival. Sounds weird as a single voice, but it fits in well with the chorus of cheers around the club festival, which is now ten years old.

Next door, at Schmidts Tivoli, trend researchers and "digital movers and shakers" met at the digital business conference "Next," which is now also docking with the Reeperbahn Festival: a "business meeting place with creative potential" and a "platform for cultural passions," trills Sabine Richter from the board of the organizing Faktor 3 AG. Next" founder Matthias Schrader is also delighted with the "fantastic, creative environment. Hamburg is thus "finally becoming the hotspot of the music and digital scene in Europe.

In the field of tension

It is the declared aim of the "Reeperbahnfestival" format, which was once conceived purely as a music event, that the creative business now rushes to the club festival, which is indeed equipped with a fine sense for all the "Next Big Things. From now on, says Detlef Schwarte, head of the music industry platform "Reeperbahn Festival Conference," the festival is to develop "even more strongly into a comprehensive creative festival in the area of tension between business innovation and pop culture.

The bass to the jubilant song about the tête-à-tête of business and pop culture is provided by a study on the importance of the music industry published on Wednesday in the run-up to the festival: music event tourists leave 2.3 million euros in Hamburg every year.

Critical voices à la "Not In Our Name, Marke Hamburg!" – the campaign that years ago loudly resisted being harnessed to the city marketing cart as the "creative class" – are drowned out by the unanimous chorus of jubilation. Or incorporated with a gentle pat on the back, as Schorsch Kamerun reports from the cultural authorities’ "ideas festival" around the planned Olympic cultural program: His "No, I don’t want to just go along with it" was only heard as a very important voice in the polyphony.

Yesterday’s grumblers

For people who want to play along at the front, the warning against the instrumentalization of music and art for neoliberal "city branding" only sounds like the cawing of yesterday’s grumblers. But where city marketing lions roar "creativity" so loudly, where economic sectors are stylized as "scenes" – and thus en passant the term once grounded in "countercultures" or at least "subcultures" is disposed of with relish – the supposedly primordial creative potential to which such talk refers is relegated to the cheap seats.

Culture that wants to be more than just an ornament for image campaigns, but part of a city that sees itself as a community, must be allowed to do more than just pick up the crumbs that fall from the table on which the draught horses have eaten their fill. Otherwise, it will starve, and the song of jubilation will quickly become a requiem.

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