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Live music in Germany – part 3: Thinking outside the box

Key figures from Germany’s thriving live music industry tell Richard Morgan how they’re beating the sluggish economic recovery.

In part two of this three-part feature, more heavyweights from Germany’s live scene spoke to Richard Morgan about the the decline of corporate events, the rise of German live comedy and the passion of the country’s music fans. Onto part three…

Thinking outside the box
Since money became scarcer and times harder, firms in every industry and in every country have had to innovate, adapt and evolve to stay afloat. This is also true of the live music industry in Germany. As well as new ideas, products and ways of working, this has led to closer collaboration between various firms.

It seems obvious that a manufacturer would ask performing artists how their equipment is functioning in a genuine live setting, but these days everyone seems happy to impart their expert knowledge to other links in their business chain. The result, of course, should be that everybody benefits.

This is something HK Audio’s Andreas Marx is very familiar with. “During the engineering process for new products, we do field tests with selected artists,” he says, “and we also work closely together with our rental companies all over the world and include them in our development process, because they can help tell us what the market needs.”

As the boss of a rental company, Thomas Adapoe realises the benefits of cooperating with manufacturers. “Good business relationships correspond with our basic philosophy in business,” he says. “We also have a strong interest in getting closer to manufacturers, so we can sometimes influence the development of equipment.”

It’s the same situation for POOLgroup’s Tim Humpe. “Being a reliable partner to artists, management and providing professional service and infrastructure for individual budgets is the most important thing,” he says. “Everybody can buy brand new gear, but then have to find out how to use it and how to provide frequent quality servicing. We know because we’ve owned almost every piece of gear in the last 36 years. Experience is still one thing you cannot buy!”

For their part, Sennheiser work closely with rental firms, engineers and artists. Thomas Holz says: “We are working very closely with them – it’s important to be an integral part of the music industry business. You need to be present in a production, for example; you need to listen to the engineers and artists, and solve problems if there are any. You need to be there so that people can talk to you.” He smiles. “When I started this job, I used to get a crew pass. Now I get a lot more VIP passes!”

One of satis&fy’s impending plans, meanwhile, is to connect directly with up-and-coming artists. “One of our commitments for the future is to help new bands with state-of-the-art equipment and service,” says Nico Ubenauf. “We are hoping to create a win-win situation by promoting and helping bands very early on their journey to – hopefully! – fame. By providing additional services to young and upcoming bands, we may play a small role in accelerating their success, and maybe that won’t be forgotten later.”

To be continued…
Although the future of the live music industry, then, will be a collaborative effort, it will also require innovation from everyone if it wishes to remain in a strong position in the face of external competition. Wolfgang Garçon’s mission for united-b is “to implement a new form of distribution, working hand-in-hand and acting as an extension of the manufacturer… With united-b we feel confident that we are handling the most innovative pro audio products of our time. Our goal is to convince the German market to invest in forward-looking products today.”

Thomas Adapoe’s objectives are to consolidate, establish and grow adapoe’s business throughout Germany and Europe. “During the last 10 years, we have found [ourselves in] quite a successful position in, for example, the music festival and touring business,” he says. “In the future, we will [futher] establish this position on the German market, and also partly on the European market.”

POOLgroup and Tim Humpe are thinking along similar lines. “We are working on controlled growth,” Tim says, “but in every market segment. We serve the touring and entertainment business as well as corporate, public and a lot of political events. It is important for us to have solid ground to stand on – with more than one leg…”

Thomas Holz’s next big Sennheiser challenge is more technical. “In the area of wireless microphones, we are currently at the beginning of a technology switchover from analogue to digital, like we had with mixing desks and amplifiers before,” he says. “I assume that this changeover will take five to seven years, and I will be happy to accompany this changeover and help my customers during this transition phase.”

As a manufacturer, HK Audio is always looking to create the latest, greatest piece of new concert kit. “In all PA categories, the trend is increasingly for easy transportation and quick setup without degradation of the performance,” says Andreas Marx. “HK Audio is currently developing solutions to master that challenge [and] be on top of the game.”

Bosch also has many new developments on the horizon. “The research and development of new platform technologies will be very important for our coming products,” says Juergen Langhorst. “The next generation of speakers, amplifiers and system sound solutions will benefit from the large investments Bosch has already made and makes continuously.”

As well as becoming more environmentally conscious, Nico Ubenauf and satis&fy’s plans include developing their ‘One-Stop Solution’ business model, which supplies sound, lighting, AV, staging and set solutions all from one source – and the small matter of staying “one of Europe’s premium suppliers, and to become more well known internationally.” He adds: “We will continue to invest in innovative products. Beside our strong and successful connections with L-ACOUSTICS and d&b, we have just signed an agreement with Nexo to cooperate stronger in the future.”

Working together, the German live music industry seems to be steadily winning the war against the recession. We’ll see you at Oktoberfest!