MusicDish e-Journal - December 13, 2018
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New WOMEX General Director: Gerald Seligman
By Mi2N
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WOMEX announces a major restructuring and the first directorial change in ten years. Christoph Borkowsky will be stepping down as day-to-day director of WOMEX to work more closely with his two other companies, Piranha Musik and Piranha Events. While he will still maintain an active oversight, Gerald Seligman will be assuming the new role of WOMEX general director.

"When I took over from WOMEX Founding Director Ben Mandelson in 1997," says Christoph Borkowsky, "I was the lucky guy who could just ride the wave of an emerging event. Ten years later we see the soundtrack of globalization still becoming more important by the day, and WOMEX changing from nomad to settler, from event to institution, from single woman to mother of offsprings. This means that the overall conditions for WOMEX have become much more complex as well."

Regarding the new environment, Christoph added, "Each football team needs a new coach from time to time, WOMEX as well. I'm most happy that Gerald is taking over. He's got the right skills, experience -- and respect in the community that the job requires. But I think he is in for a much harder ride than I had a decade ago. Both the whole operation itself as well as the surrounding field for WOMEX are more challenging now."

Gerald Seligman came to WOMEX in January 2006 after over 20 years in the music business. He began his career as a journalist and radio programmer based in New York, before turning to freelance production. After moving to Brazil in 1990, he worked first for Polygram (now Universal), then EMI, which soon moved him to London to take over international direction of its 43-country strategic marketing division.

While there he created Hemisphere, the well-respected world music label that saw over 2 million sales during his tenure. As a Grammy-nominated producer and compiler, he has delivered over 120 CDs and is a frequent international conference speaker and consultant.

"I was involved with WOMEX from its second year," says Gerald, "always attending, chairing countless conference sessions, I was on its first jury, I've even travelled for WOMEX. WOMEX is unique in the world of music trade fairs and the only one I know of that grew organically from a community itself. It wasn't imposed from outside by a company wanting to fill a commercial niche. There was a need and Christoph and his indispensable partner Ben Mandelson stepped up to fill it, providing the kind of vision and guidance that only insiders could," Gerald says. "It's an honour to take over WOMEX direction, if a bit intimidating in terms of continuing their good work."

Having suffered through seven reorganizations in his ten years in the majors, he emphasises the need for continuity, not radical change. "A new director brings new ideas, of course, but he should always tread carefully," he says. "WOMEX grew from 250 to 2,500 delegates in only a dozen years. It's remarkable how much foresight Christoph and Ben had when they developed the overall WOMEX philosophy and structure, amazing how durable it was."

But a new director will inevitably have new ideas about how an event and company can adapt to a changing marketplace. And the challenges that come with adapting to WOMEX's growth mean special effort has to be expended to stay true to the event's original aims. "There is always room for some evolution. One area of special interest will be in working more closely with our local production partners to assure that we raise overall standards and maintain them." And it is in the area of new features and new partnerships that Gerald plans the most innovation.

"If you've looked at our new Offspring projects, you'll see that we're working to forge new partnerships throughout the world. We get so many requests to co-sponsor events and even to move WOMEX to new regions of the world. But the best solution is to find the right partners and develop new events jointly. Our first was PORTO MUSICAL in Recife, Brazil, and it was so successful that the Brazilian Ministry of Culture under Gilberto Gil entered into the partnership after only two editions to vastly expand it.

"We're now developing ideas for possible events in the Caribbean, in Africa and the Asian market. There's so much potential here. Plus we're also working on the creation of a WOMEX Foundation and some actual projects other than events, as in the digital archiving project DISMARC, an African digital market study with Norway's Artspages, and so much more besides." Many of these can be read about on the WOMEX website soon and in the 2006 WOMEX Guide.

As part of a general restructuring, WOMEX announces other additions and changes. Evelyn Bardow is now director of Production & Special Projects and will be working with Gerald on WOMEX Offspring projects. To complete the team, Christine Semba, WOMEX's tireless director of Content & Programmes, will be joined by Alex Walter as Content & Programmes manager. Software Engineer Alexander Vipach now works fulltime with WOMEX IT Director Stephan Siedler, and Anna Pötzsch, Media & Communications manager, will be taking a maternity leave in Feburary with Nisha Anders replacing her temporarily for the months to come.


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