Meet the team: Reeperbahn Festival

If you want to know how the music business works in Germany, you want to be at Reeperbahn.

The annual festival pops up in Hamburg every 12 months – taking place this year from September 21-14, with performances from the likes of Bishop Nehru, Blossoms, Craig David, Deap Vally, Gang Of Four, Gold Panda, Jagwar Ma, Sturgill Simpson, Villagers and Wild Beasts.

Alongside this diverse line-up runs a daytime conference, delving into the music industry’s biggest modern-day issues, as well as offering wise advice to those working across publishing, labels, live, sync and more.

The Independent Echo caught up with the team behind Reeperbahn to ask what makes them tick – and what they want to achieve with the event in future…


Alex Schulz, CEO

* What’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to you at Reeperbahn? 

That´s pretty easy to answer: It was in 2013, when we had an afternoon show at Schmidt Theater with a band called Deine Freunde, who are doing German HipHop for kids.

I went there with my son, who was then six years old. Not only has this been one of the very few concerts in all the years I have been able to see from start to finish, but also the coming together of family and festival in the nicest possible way sure made this a very special moment for me.

 

* What does Reeperbahn mean to you and why are you proud to work there? 

Looking back on the development of Reeperbahn Festival from the initial idea during SXSW in the year 2000 to the first edition in 2006 and to see the standing of the festival today really means a lot to me and showed me that a vision indeed can become reality, if you work hard for it – and never forget to listen and learn, too.

Reeperbahn Festival is such a big part of my life that it almost feels like my third, soon to be eleven-year-old kid, to me.

 

* What do you hope to achieve at Reeperbahn in the future?

I would like to see it developing even further to become the No.1 place in Europe for musical, cultural and economical discourses, where new musical and cultural trends will be visible first, where new economical developments in the music – or digital business are presented first and where everybody interested in new music or from the music and digital industries will look first to discover new talents, new trends and new business models.


Bjørn Pfarr, Head of Music Programme

* What’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to you at Reeperbahn?

The coolest thing ever was and will ever be stepping into one of our venues and to see a perfect setting with everything in its proper place.

That means: a band being on stage in time in a packed venue. Happy people, a great sound, proper lighting and, of course, great vibes between the act and audience and no big queue in front of the venue.

 

* What does Reeperbahn mean to you and why are you proud to work there?

The achievement of building up and establishing the festival since the very beginning to where it is today makes me happy and proud. Especially as the first edition wasn’t a great success.

 

* What do you hope to achieve at Reeperbahn in the future?

I hope it will still be going strong in terms of booking: To present our unique mixture of the hottest up and coming talent as well as more established and exciting bigger names in hopefully even more extraordinary and unique venues in my hometown Hamburg.


Detlef Schwarte, Reeperbahn Festival Conference

* What’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to you at Reeperbahn?

I think it was in 2009 or 2010 when I was able to see a few concerts during one night at Reeperbahn Festival and realized that the audience in Hamburg is – without depreciating other audiences – really special.

I have attended a large number of urban club festivals, showcase events and music conferences, but nowhere else I experienced the people as enthusiastic, interested and well prepared as at Reeperbahn. And it´s a very cool feeling when you realize that your event has a exceptionally cool audience.

 

* What does Reeperbahn mean to you and why are you proud to work there?

I don´t know if proud is the best word, but of course it´s exciting to see how an event like the Reeperbahn Festival develops during a decade, gains reputation and serves as meeting point for more and more people who love music – no matter if music fans or music professionals.

Another aspect is that Reeperbahn Festival is a project shouldered by two independent and rather small companies, and I think, you can feel that the Festival is organized by a team that firstly works for the cause and not for the business results.

 

* What do you hope to achieve at Reeperbahn in the future?

I hope that we can find a good middle way between growth and authenticity.


Evelyn Sieber, Head of Showcase Programme

* What’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to you at Reeperbahn?

Some years ago, we had a secret gig from New Model Army (yes, old news but didn’t we all dance to 51st State at some point…). On my way there I decided to use my fancy powers with my head-of-festival-pass and escort the biggest fan waiting outside.

Getting there, the place looked deserted from the outside and inside there were about 50 people, half of them probably still not having an idea who it was on stage. Secret can be too secret sometimes, but I loved it!

 

* What does Reeperbahn mean to you and why are you proud to work there?

At the risk of sounding cheesy, it means second family to me. It’s bizarre how everyone gets on with each other, we like spending time together, no choleric/weird egos around etc. Spooky at times!

What makes me proud is that we stay true to who we are. We are a bunch of idealistic honest people, working in the reality of a commercial company, trying to do the best for the bands and our partners. And of course it’s great what we achieved, given the time that we are around.

Remembering only a few years ago how many times I had to explain who Reeperbahn Festival is and what we do. These conversations have gotten really rare these days.

 

* What do you hope to achieve at Reeperbahn in the future?

Many things, both professionally and personally. Mainly working on the quality of our content, as we don’t want to just grow bigger and bigger for growing´s sake – until we might implode.

Being in charge of Reeperbahn Festival on Tour of course there are several territories I have in mind where we could raise the awareness of our brand.

Personally, seeing my now 4-year old daughter on stage with her (Rockabilly) Band one day…


Christina Schäfers, Head of Arts Programme

* What’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to you at Reeperbahn Festival?

Oh, there are not too many cool things going on here – kidding! 😉

Of course there are a lot of exciting things with regards to content, that shall be mentioned here. I love those inspiring moments, when new ideas are breaking through and forming an unaccustomed way of thinking or perception.

But at least –for sure– it’s all about the people. When you find a crew-member or artist, a journalist or visitor in the middle of his or her mission through the festival and his or her eyes are sparkling with joy – those are the most touching moments.

The coolest thing at Reeperbahn Festival is, that there are tons of cool things.

 

* What does Reeperbahn Festival mean to you and why are you proud to work there?

I’m pleased to daily meet and work with intelligent, creative, humorously and splendid people, who are challenging and supporting me in equal parts. To create the Arts Programme for the Reeperbahn Festival is likewise stimulating, forwarding, pulsating, laborious, encouraging, juicy and elaborate. Every day seems to be a once in a lifetime experience.

 

* What do you hope to achieve at Reeperbahn Festival in the future?

I try to think and rethink about the ideas of ethics and aesthetics – in our commercialized society with fluiding abuttals of values and virtues, it’s always a thin line between art(s) and ornamentation. I really hope to achieve spaces and places for strong statements finding their eligibility in the world of lightly consumptional pop-culture.