THE ONE-STOP AGENCY FOR MUSICIANS
A deejay, a singer and a guitar player … even as a band the Music Commission from Mannheim would present an interesting cross-over project. But Steffen Baumann, Beril Yilmam and Pascal König don’t share the stage. As a one-stop agency for musicians, they orchestrate the sound of Mannheim – the UNESCO City of Music.
What are your priorities at the moment?
Steffen Baumann: There’s a lot going on over here! The 2018 festival season is about to take off. Anyone in touch with the UNESCO City of Music Mannheim knows: there is a lot in stock! Things will get started with Time Warp on April 7th, at the Mannheim Maimarkt. Two weeks later things stay electronic with the Jetztmusik Festival. Alex, Patrick and Dennis have some really interesting events planned to look forward to! The second edition of the Hafenfestival finishes off April, all around the Musikpark. Cosmopop has put together a really cool line-up, including Sven Väth, Loco Dice and over 30 other acts. After this comes the Maifeld Derby by Timo Kumpf, which will also host bookings from Bandsupport Mannheim, including Cinemagraph and Luna & Lewis. This is, of course, a real treat for us! 2018 is going to be loud and in-your-face – just like Mannheim.
The Musikpark start-up center and the Music Business Cluster Management have been around for quite some time now. The Music Commission was founded in 2017. Why the new arrangement?
Steffen Baumann: When we opened Musikpark there were no start-up centers in Mannheim. This was the place for everything music-related. It was the beginning of a success story: By now there are eight start-up centers in Mannheim, four of which are focused on the creative sector. We take care of music – the other guys split up the remaining various kinds of creative work. In 2017 the time had come to restructure the music sector. Up until then everyone had been doing their thing on their own. There was the Musikpark, the Music Business Cluster Management, the office for music and pop culture at the cultural department of the city, and also the whole UNESCO City of Music thing, which Rainer Kern manages. We were all touring the country under the same flag, so we found it crucial to bring everyone together, under the roof of the Music Commission. By today we are a one-stop agency, with the mission to bring a more bottom-up approach to music business development, rather than the top-down way things are often handled.
Beril Yilmam: Since we have united under one roof, we are all on the same page. As a special representative for music and pop culture I am in charge of developing formats to support young artists. This was already an important focus of my predecessors Markus Sprengler and Sebastian Dresel. I am also responsible for supporting event organizers, ranging from the Maifeld Derby to the Jetztmusik Festival. These are projects that are financed through funding by the cultural council of the city. By now we have become the central contact point, be it for the development of young artists, or business start-ups.
Pascal König: In 2017 I took over from Matthias Rauch, who is now in charge of cultural city development. We closely cooperate on projects in the area of cross-cluster, which is a really interesting interdisciplinary topic.
So the Music Commission is bringing together, what belongs together?
Steffen: For sure! Thanks to Beril we are now closely working together with Sabine Schirra, who manages the cultural council.
Pascal: Indeed! Just look at 2017: We had more things going on than ever!
Beril: I’m truly thankful for the way we have brought everyone together. Within our fields of work things really relate one another.
What is 2018 going to mean for the development of young artists?
Beril: For example we rent out band busses at really fair rates. The demand is huge. It is a very well received initiative. We also help with securing rehearsal spaces, which are very rare in Mannheim at the moment. We create platforms for creative exchange. we want to make creative potential seen, so it can be effectively supported.
Steffen: There were times when you had accomplished something as band, if you were still around after five years. By connecting the development of young artists with the start-up world, we have achieved a high level of professionalism amongst newcomers. Young artist will now receive coaching to assure they know how to get into business and to be able to live from their work. we aim to create synergetic effects, so artists can rent a studio and also produce an album. Today we closely monitor new talents and try to keep them connected to the scene in Mannheim.
What role does the Popakademie play?
Steffen: We have always worked very closely together. For years we have shared slots during conventions such as Popkomm or the Musikmesse. Aside from that we share a stage at the Reeperbahnfestival, with our “Meet the Mannheimers” evening program. Another link is the co-working space we collectively manage with the Popakademie in the Musikpark. This has been a place for students to develop seed-projects. By the way, it was in this co-working space that Timo Kumpf created and planned the Maifeld-Derby. By now though he has outgrown the Musikpark with his great success. Something rather new is the fact that we have taken over the issue of start-ups, over at the Popakademie. Through this we are closely connected to the students there, which in return has generated great growth potential for the cooperation. Frank Zumbruch, who manages the Creative Commission, forms a further link between the institutions, as he also lectures at the Popakademie.
Beril: As an alumni of the Popakademie I feel very connected in any case. Our target group aren’t just the students though, but all musicians in general.
What issues are most relevant to you right now?
Steffen: The tenant structure is always interesting here in the Musikpark. Not long ago Danny Fresh moved in. He’s an alumni of the Popakademie himself and many might know him through his daily news-rap on Big FM. His wife Laura Bellon and him have set up a studio here. She is also an exceptional artist, who one might know as a background singer on the TV show “Sing meinen Song”, or through her work with Gregor Meyle. And a big thing at the moment is, of course, the Guitar Summit, which Pascal has put together.
Pascal: The whole thing was originally planned as a guitar festival, but over the course of the three-year preparational phase, things developed a own dynamic. In the end it became the biggest guitar convention in Europe – in its first year. In future the Rosengarten in Mannheim will remain the place for guitar enthusiasts from all over the world to meet, over the course of three days in September. Since I was sixteen guitars have been my expertise. At first as an instrument, and later as a profession. I worked for years selling guitars for Session Music in Walldorf, and have been doing this freelance since 2013. There are guitars today, which are seen more as collector’s pieces and works of art. This presents an interface between the music and art scene.
And speaking of guitars … we can see some here in Steffens office. But you’re known best as a DJ.
Steffen: When I was a kid, I learned to play guitar and drums – but I’m not great at either. Meanwhile I hardly play out anymore; maybe five times a year. With our boss Christian Sommer on guitar and mic, Frank Zumbruch on Bass and Marc Zimmer, of Mafinex, on second guitar, we are “Diebe der Liebe”. This is a passion-project for the carnival festivities in Mannheim – a matter of honor as a former carnival prince. Normally though I feel at home behind a turntable or on the radio. My heart is in electronic music, so I am naturally excited to play at Time Warp, or the Hafenfestival mentioned above. In my privat life I don’t listen to much techno anymore. When in the car I’m usually tuned to SWR2 – I love classic music … and a touch of culture never hurt anyone.
Beril, Pascal, what about you? Do you still make music?
Beril: Sure. But not as much anymore. In another life I worked as a studio and live singer for several different formations. I even got into German Pop for a while and worked as a singer for Semino Rossi. I went on tour with him right after finishing university – over 50 concerts. It was a great experience, but when I got the offer to work here, I was on board right away. I have a master’s degree in cultural and media management and have always been interested in the way things are run behind stage. Semino still get’s in touch when he’s in the area, which is nice.
Pascal: I rarely find the time anymore to play the guitar. In the 90s I played for Laith Al Deen, but at some point in life you have to decide on which side of things you feel the best. In our office jobs today we will often see the great benefit we can bring to things, through our years on-stage. We know what musicians need from first hand experience.
Steffen: One of the best parts of our job is the fact that our boss, Christian Sommer, has got our backs if we feel the longing to get back on stage. In 2010 I was offered a one-week residency in the „Space“ club, on Ibiza. This is the dream for any electronic DJ. It’s almost impossible to fit those two jobs into one life, but Christian did what he could to make it work. “Of course you going to do it, don’t worry about it”, was all he said to me. So for two years over summer, once a week I would leave the office around 3:30 PM, drove to Frankfurt to reach my flight to Ibiza at 6 PM. Once I got there I would shower and get to the club. After two or three hours of sleep I’d be back off to Frankfurt via Mallorca. And less than 24 hours later I was back at my desk in the Musikpark. This schedule ran from the opening in May, through till closing in October. To have a boss that supports something like this is really special. I’ll never forget what he did for me.
What are the plans for the future of the Music Commission? What’s the plan?
Steffen: There are ideas, visions and concepts floating around all the time. Though space-wise we are pushing the limits here in the Musikpark. we are working to capacity here, while at the same time the demand for office, studio and rehearsal space is increasing. New start-ups are popping up and established ones are further growing. Michael Herberger of the “Söhne Mannheims” is currently developing a visionary concept for a music and media park in the Benjamin Franklin Village. We are closely connected and are supporting the project with our fifteen-year experience in the Musikpark. Things look good for a future which carries the spirit of the Music Commission on to the conversion areas of the city. The demand is there and we are on board to take the next step into the future. Sometime I‘d love to see young musicians and start-up teams interact there with the professional musicians Michael Herberger is planning on. It would be an exciting new intersection, a platform for an inspiring exchange between professional musicians and new talents, a place where things can happen. It would really enrich Mannheim as the UNESCO City of Music even further.
Beril: I’m looking forward to the events, workshops, music video shoots and photo shoots surrounding the issue of band support. Yet again this year, six up-and-coming bands will perform in front of 15,000 people in the Ehrenhof, as part of the annual Schlossfest in Mannheim. And we will again be part the Reeperbahnfestival, under the “Meet The Mannheimers” banner. And the best part is that I’m no longer solo, but have my trusted band members Steffen, Pascal and Jasmin, who I can count on 100%. That’s what the Music Commission Mannheim is all about!
Interview: Andreas Stanita / LA.MAG
Photos: Alessio Troncone, Daniel Wentzel, Daniel Lukac, Simon & Paul, Time Warp