Pop and Politics: Brussels Perspectives | A Q&A with Niklas Nienaß

Just thirty years young and with a recently completed master’s degree in good governance with a thesis on international space law and a member of the European Parliament since 2019: Niklas Nienaß (fourth person from the right, bottom row) is a German member of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, representing among others,  his party in Brussels in several parliamentary committees within the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy as well as The Committee on Culture and Education. He is furthermore one of the co-founders of the Cultural Creators Friendship Group (CCFG), an informal cross-political and supranational network of 28 MEPs.


Nienaß could be described as being a progressive politician. However, like many full-time politicians, he has a professional background as a lawyer. This is certainly an advantage considering that the daily business of parliamentarians is basically the development and creation of laws.

In reference to the current political situation and with particular regard to the recent past, the mainly less subsidized part of the music sector has learned its political lessons. Having discovered how relevant and to a certain extent how helpful the political consideration for this part of the creative industries is.

Nonetheless, it has to be mentioned, that there are other parts of the cultural sector which have for a long time benefitted from the awareness and consideration of politicians and governments, something that popular culture and music can still only dream of. On the other hand, prior to the COVID pandemic, the pop culture sector was widely financially self-sufficient. In other words, the art form of pop culture and music, which is mainly aimed at a younger audience, is more used to paying for their cultural preferences themselves.

This is a little different however when you consider that other cultural sectors, such as classical music, theatre, museums and even film, both politically and financially wise,  have more fans than the pop music sector. Perhaps the answer is driven by the average age in politics and that, unlike other industries, younger people do not invest so much in lobbying.

ESNS-Exchange asked Niklas Nienaß his advice on how the European music sector can be considered as equally as the film sector; the political agenda of CCFG and his perceptions and the impact of external investments by Anglo-Saxon, Saudi Arabia and Asian investment firms within the business segments of music publishing and live music:

A CCFG delegation recently visited the Cannes Film Festival. More than 50 percent of the budget for Creative Europe is dedicated to the support of the film and audiovisual sector. What can the music sector learn from the film sector in order to obtain similar well-structured support schemes?

Niklas NIENASS in the EP in Brussels
Copyright European Union

First off, despite the parallels of the two sectors, one can’t really compare the AV one with the music sector in this regard. Music, different from movies, has a strong live component and is partly dependant on physical and group events. With regards to support schemes, the MEDIA sub-programme of Creative Europe is more than three decades old (founded in 1990) and MEDIA an established brand which helps the AV sector a lot. It could be interesting for the music sector to strive for a dedicated MUSIC sub-programme in the next Creative Europe from 2028 rather than staying part of the CULTURE sub-programme. But we have already achieved quite something for the music sector in the current Creative Europe programme, a stronger focus on music. There is also an increasingly good representation of the sector, which is very important in order to bring about change. And yet, there is still more potential for the European music sector to speak with an even more united voice.

The music sector, like other cultural branches, is still in turmoil. In fact it looks like the live music sector in particular is facing longer lasting problems in the near future. What kind of political considerations currently matters within CCFG that might be of benefit also for this part of the creative industries?

CCFG – Logo

The live music sector is one of those hit the hardest by the pandemic, for many reasons. The CCFG has taken several initiatives to improve the situation (improving several files by tabling amendments, e.g. RRF, Covid-19 impact; written questions to Commission, open letters e.g. on social protection schemes). However, one has to consider that the Commission or national Member States are in charge of re-shaping and supporting the cultural branches.  The CCFG seeks to impact EU legislation mostly with regards to long-term effects. And our doors are always open for representatives of the (live) music sector, events and panels to network and raise awareness.

Investment companies are currently enabling and financing major deals within the business segments of music publishing and live music. These are mostly Anglo-Saxon funds but to a lower extent as well, wealthy power players from the Arabic and Asian world who are significantly changing the landscape of ownership in the music sector. One of the consequences is the drain of financial gains out of the European music markets towards non-European based investors. Are you concerned about such developments and how is the CCFG tackling this issue?
Culture is way too important for our whole society to let investment companies play games with it. Financial interest should never be the sole or main interest and driving force behind the music business. This might be a naive approach, but that’s what I’m deeply convinced of and what we should all be fighting for. In the end and from a creative perspective, it seemingly doesn’t matter where the investment companies come from, but as a convinced pro-European I have to say that it should also be in our political interest as the EU to keep control over our cultural & creative industries. And to keep the rights of European cultural works in Europe. The impact of what with we can do with the CCFG in this specific field of investments is relatively limited, but in the context of our fight for a diverse European cultural ecosystem it is definitely a development that we’re concerned about and we’ll keep on observing it.

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