PopKomm 2005 - Business as Usual

Martin Dittus · 2005-09-22 · a new world, commentary, conferences, intellectual property, pop culture · write a comment

Last week a friend invited me to visit the Popkomm, using the press pass of a colleague. Who am I to refuse a free invitation? Having never been at the Popkomm, I was curious to see what it actually was like.

Another friend had already warned me that the general attraction was to meet business partners and potential clients, and that it wasn't really a place to experience new forms of culture, or a place where a lot of new bands got signed -- so my expectations were rather low. And still I was surprised by what you find there -- it really is all about the business. Old Media business, that is. Yeah the Internet is omnipresent, but not the way you might expect.

Random observations:

Commercial vs. Noncommercial Markets

I have now heard of the Gema-Creative Commons incompatibility from three unrelated sources, one of which is the Creative Commons Germany FAQ itself. The gist is that German artists have to decide between two positions that are artificially separated: do they want to be a commercial artist, which means taking part in the commercial media jungle to promote their art, and using the Gema's services to collect money gained from airplay; or do they want to use Creative Commons licenses to promote their art, and do all the rest themselves. There is no in-between.

It is clear that the second option is more attractive to younger artists who still have to build up some public awareness; as soon as there is money involved, protagonists start losing interests in Creative Commons licenses, and start to rely on Old Economy methods to make sure they get their paycheck. The general consensus seems that because of this, even independent labels of rather moderate sizes are not really interested in CC licenses.

But I've now met several artists who are starting to question this artificial segregation of markets, and some react by quitting their Gema membership status; but Gema contracts take two years to expire, which smells even more like a weird attempt at content lock-in.

The basic problem is that this artificial segregation of markets (commercial vs. noncommercial) is here to stay; the noncommercial side of business doesn't really have a lobby that could weaken the artificial limitations of their means of participation in the market. If you don't have the money, you don't have the voice.


This serves as a nice analogy to the role of the Popkomm in the German and global music market: it's there for the business-side of things, and nothing else. We attended some panels that sounded interesting at first, claiming to discuss new methods of content promotion and self-management, but which in the end were just discussing methods to improve a major label's business while decreasing their liabilities towards the artist. I took notes during the panels, and I'll post them later.

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