(Pop Up 2010: Leipzig Becomes Music Independents' Fallback Position
The capital of Germany's federal state of Saxony will again become "the place one can see the whole world in one"
Bach? Wagner? Schumann? Mendelssohn? Yes, all of these classical composers were once "there". On May 7-8, 2010, the capital of Germany's federal state of Saxony will again become "the place one can see the whole world in one" (quoting German philosopher Gotthold Ephraim Lessing). This time it's about the world of German independent music, building on the debris of the old music industry. MusicDish caught up with (Pop Up trade fair's Matthias Puppe to talk about it.
Looking at your website, we find that the focus on live performances is clearly innovation. When organizing such a trade fair in Germany, is it like you are being "forced" into offering diversity when not trying to cover mainstream music and, in addition, trying to bank on competitive admission fees and rental space?
Matthias Puppe: Right from the start, (Pop Up has been organized by the Pop Universell e.V. association, which operates strictly through volunteers. Specifically, there is a team of 20 people who dedicate their free time to prep-work and programming the content of this trade fair for a year. With the trade fair actually coming to fruition, there are another 70-80 hands involved in setting up and breaking down, checking admission to the venue, being the most-friendly security worldwide or carrying monitors around as stagehands. Basically, voluntary work saves a lot of money, which means we don't have to add any additional costs for our (expert) audience to pay. Further, all artists, bands and speakers have to be eager to attend (Pop Up, as we are not able to lure them into it with high fees. However, all those attending know we really kneel into it, and are not in it just for our own good, but want to organize a great event for everybody involved for everybody's benefit - even if it "only" boils down to a great weekend in Leipzig.
What is your booking policy? Do you prefer to liaise with booking agents and artist managements, or with the artists directly? What has your experience been when working with local acts that bring their own fan base to the (Pop Up events? Can acts from North America, Asia or other European countries also find a new fan base at (Pop Up events in Germany?
Matthias Puppe: There is no preferred booking strategy, except that we have to love it and it has to be affordable. We put the focus on new music and would like to surprise our audience with things they have not been exposed to before - in Leipzig - and which will not too easily slip their minds again. We’re not as concerned with the manner in which things transpire – whether it happens because of our well-informed booking team pursuing their own ideas, bands introducing themselves, or via offers by labels and agents. As long as our "budgeting fairy" Jana does not suffer a stroke, we have a pretty wide leeway. Of course, we are also trying to reflect the local Leipzig music scene in our programming - Pop Universell e.V. has taken up the fight to also show the music business what is available in our hometown.
What are the main challenges you are facing when booking acts from overseas, particularly from outside the European Economic Area?
Matthias Puppe: There is always one big challenge: Funding a band's way into Leipzig. Great ideas sometimes fail due to travel expenses.
There is no question about your regulars being open to new developments in the arts. What are the avenues of "customer retention" you consider most favorable for promoting your events (regular newsletters, postings/presence on social networking sites like Facebook etc., text messaging campaigns, vouchers, meet-and-greet events for artists and fans, etc.)?
Matthias Puppe: The best strategy for customer retention is creating a great event. Of course, we know that our trade fair suffers setbacks when it comes to big deals, if only because of how it developed in an area remote from the so-called major music business. Or, let's put it this way: If a potential exhibitor is keen on meeting the minister for cultural affairs at the trade fair or striking a five-year-deal with a ring tone giant from the Far East, then he will be utterly disappointed. However, on the other hand, (Pop Up means that there are no smoke-and-mirrors as each exhibitor is given the same priority. You are mingling with creators who may not have a business plan at their fingertips, but do have a lot of ideas and fancies. You can’t reach those people by deploying voucher or text messaging campaigns. However, we are in favor of newsletters and working the social scene.
What are the advantages of networking with other trade fair organizers/event promoters and clubs (locally and/or worldwide)?
Matthias Puppe: Networking is one of the cornerstones of (Pop Up, even if it might not always be easy to maintain. When we started 9 years ago, the trade fair was a collective effort by various promoters and clubs in Leipzig who then all became involved. Without this structure, (Pop Up would not have been possible in the beginning. Later, partners like VUT (Association of Independent Phonogram Producers in Germany) and music magazine De:Bug teamed up with us on the content side of things. For example, last year we had an exchange program organized with c/o-Pop (another regional music business trade fair in Germany). To make a long story short: Networking is a major concern, but networking is what (Pop Up is all about.
How could (Pop Up act as a platform for acts outside the European Economic Area? Do you think that such acts may consider Pop-Up as key to entering the German market in terms of booking, PR, etc.? Could participating in Pop-Up even be considered making sensible in terms of entering the Germany/Switzerland/Austria market?
Matthias Puppe: It depends on what the respective band or artist wants to achieve. (Pop Up is certainly not a train stop on a short-cut route to Rock am Ring (a major German festival) or Sony's casting couch. We are more about having the reps of small- and medium-sized music businesses meet (also known as the independent scene), or, the way we would put it: the creative part of the music business. This, of course, includes lots of booking agents, labels, web portals, magazines, campus radios and, last, but not least: music fans. (Pop Up is especially acclaimed in this, let's say, segment, and is used as a platform for communication and presentation. However, we cannot promise that any band will have booked-up European tours after performing at the trade fair. Wearing the copywriter's hat, I would put it this way (tongue-in-cheek): People gather at (Pop Up whose ideas will be paying for other people's big cars in the future.
What are the benefits to participating artists/managements/booking agents/labels, etc. who work with (Pop Up?
Matthias Puppe: (Pop Up is a place where people from all over Germany and neighboring countries meet to put the focus on music and not on compatibility with target groups or possible rewards. You will meet the part of the music business and audience who will, sometimes against all reason, move any mountain for artists. Personally speaking, I can't imagine a better (expert) audience for music. For creators, (Pop Up is predominantly a platform for meet-and-greet, sharing views and networking. This has grown in importance particularly with the implosion of business structures over the past years. Taking this further, intensive discussion at (Pop Up is supposed to tackle the questions of our time within the business, weigh arguments and, as a best-case scenario, present ways to move ahead. The latter is a particular focus of the trade fair organization team so that, with a lot of effort, high-quality expert panels can be offered – appealing to all exhibitors.
How is (Pop Up focusing on the local scene in the federal state of Saxony? Are there any quotas or conditions issued by supporters/sponsors?
Matthias Puppe: There is no quota with (Pop Up. Still, as mentioned above, we have also taken up the fight to presenting a high-quality local and regional scene to the music industry.
Could we describe (Pop-Up as a kind of Central European South-By-South-West?
Matthias Puppe: Let's put it this way: South-By-South-West is a wonderful festival and can be seen as a role model in a lot of ways.
Picture reference: All pictures © Klaus Nauber/Leipzig (Pop Up., Leipzig/Germany