Q&A With Bjørn Pfarr

‘Lord of the Bands’, and master mind of 592 concerts by 412 artists in 51 venues at Hamburg’s Reeperbahn Festival. Bjørn Pfarr, along with colleagues Arianne Mohr, Ciara George-Lynch and Max Domma, coordinates and curates one of the biggest European showcase festivals. The recent edition took place on September 18.-21, attracting 50.000 festival goers and 5.900 professionals from 52 countries. Reeperbahn also booked 25 ETEP-artists, ranking second on the ETEP Festival Chart.

Over twelve years Reeperbahn Festival has become one of the leading events on the calendar of annual international music conventions. Reeperbahn also features a massive conference agenda for international industry delegates plus various award shows such as the Helga Festival-Awards, the Anchor-Award, an award for music journalism and V.U.T-Indie Awards.

Besides all this the Festival is one of the cooperation partners for the Music Move Europe Talent Awards, presented by the European Commission which highlights new European border breaking acts.

ETEP.nl asked Pfarr about the current booking preferences for Reeperbahn Festival as well as the European music community’s changing market settings, which actually appeared to speed up this year.

ETEP.nl: What kind of talent-trends were important for this year’s edition of Reeperbahn Festival?

Bjørn Pfarr: For 2019 genre wise we had a slight focus on acts which we call ‘global’. In the past some of these acts were labelled ‘world music’. Also acts from the wide genre of country music featured more prominently in our line up. Plus we still represent more and more contemporary / neo classic acts as well as German rap artists

ETEP.nl: When looking forwards to this year’s overall festival season, do you foresee any new developments or changes that will affect this part of the music sector?

Bjørn Pfarr: I didn’t get the feeling this year that, especially the big open air festivals, had sensible changes in their line up’s but actually I do expect this for next year.

ETEP.nl: Germany apparently is a big music market. Please let us know your recommendations as to what new artists from abroad should consider when aiming to play in Germany?

Bjørn Pfarr: Tough question but I would still suggest being well prepared and not to try to play at our festival or other tastemaker events too early, as competition is high and there is so much talent that festival bookers will not book you again in following years even when those artists may need these shows even more if there is a buzz and product out that needs to be promoted.

ETEP.nl: How do you discover new artists that matter for Reeperbahn Festival?

Bjørn Pfarr: We have a massive network. Due to the fact that we are not a showcase Festival we are in contact with all the big agents, promoters, managers, label people and others regarding big acts as well as newcomers. And of course we try to see as many acts live before we book them, especially at ESNL and The Great Escape. But also at SXSW and very small (newcomer) festivals.

ETEP.nl: Reeperbahn Festival participates in ETEP. Which other EU-funded programmes does Reeperbahn Festival benefit from and how are these represented at Reeperbahn Festival?

Bjørn Pfarr: Well, for example we are now lead partner for KEYCHANGE – an initiative and movement of festivals and music organizations that promotes gender parity. The declared goal of Keychange is to trigger a global debate which will lead to sustainable change in the music landscape. Additionally Reeperbahn Festival in collaboration with Eurosonic Noorderslag provides the stage for the announcement of the nominees of the Music Moves Europe Talent Awards.

ETEP.nl: Are you concerned that the market concentration and consolidation within the market sectors of festivals and agencies is speeding up?

Bjørn Pfarr: Hard to answer as we can see both. More and more concentration but at the same time some small and fantastic boutique festivals and independently run agencies pop up and do a fantastic jobs. And people like what they do and love to attend such festivals and shows.

ETEP.nl: Which other festivals impressed you this year and which ones did you attend, or perhaps still intend to go to?

Bjørn Pfarr: Unfortunately due to a very busy work as well as private schedule I had no time to attend other Festivals this year apart from ESNS and TGE in Brighton

Text: Manfred Tari