"Die Fantastischen Vier", teh first hip-hop band to perform "song-speech" in German
"Die Fantastischen Vier", teh first hip-hop band to perform "song-speech" in German  
Photo:  Carsten Klick
Rock and pop music have been the most popular genres across all age groups for decades - live and on record. Peter Wicke names the latest developments and describes features of the infrastructure.

Pop, rock, hip-hop, rap, soul, techno, dance, Schlager, commercial folk, brass band, chanson and all their many hybrids and sub-genres occupy a place of central importance in Germany’s musical life. Such names as Helene Fischer, Max Giesinger, Tokio Hotel, Die Toten Hosen, Rammstein, Bushido and Paul Kalkbrenner have been common parlance in Germany, and not only there. For decades rock and pop music have been the undisputed top genres in standard surveys, no matter what the age group, lending a special musical touch to everyday lives in every stratum of society (see also Karl-Heinz Reuband’s essay ‘Preferences and Publics’).

Popular music, in all its many wide-ranging genres, is also an outstanding field for personal self-expression – a factor easily overlooked, given its omnipresence in the media. For every musical career in the media there are literally hundreds of recreational musicians from all age groups who satisfy their creative needs by making music on their own, with greater or lesser ambition. They give popular music those deep roots in daily life without which it would be unthinkable even in the context of the professional music industry. Furthermore, notwithstanding the preponderance of the media, popular music is a cultural terrain still dominated by live performance. This is not merely because only a tiny fraction of the musical activities in this field find their way into the media. Rather, it is because taking part in active music-making, and plunging into the network of social relations that arise from musical performance (and nowhere else), is one of popular music’s defining functional elements.

The ‘scene’, with its characteristic local infrastructure of venues and music-related activities, plus the more or less permanent social groups, fan clubs and recreation al cliques associated with it, forms an arena of constantly growing importance for the acquisition of social skills and the expression of social identity and individuality. Viewed in this light, it is an odd anomaly that as the media ineluctably strengthen their hold on music with streaming services such as Spotify, music-on-demand and mobile music, live music continues to gain in importance, even counteracting the media by re-incorporating such cultural practices as DJing into live contexts. Yet this anomaly is part and parcel of the music’s essence. Germany’s musical life, too, reflects it in contradictory growth trends, allowing live music to undergo a boom (as witness the mushrooming of new festivals) while streaming and download platforms make the entire world of music available on the internet with a click of the mouse. Indeed, the internet as a whole has become a key factor in the way we deal with music; it is now available in 93 per cent of German households, including 33.2 million broadband connections. Even so, the National Association of the Event Industry (Bundesverband der Veranstaltungswirtschaft) determined that €3.7 billion were spent on concert visits in 2016, with a market segment of 30 per cent (€1.1 billion) going to concerts of such popular genres as rock, pop, hard rock, heavy metal, hip-hop and rap. In that same year total revenues from the sale of sound recordings (both physical and digital) amounted to nearly €1.8 billion, including royalties and synchronisation rights. [1]

Figure 1
Educational Facilities for Pop, Rock and Jazz
Topography: Educational Facilities for Pop, Rock and Jazz
View map

Despite the growing use of the media, active music-making, whether in its conventional form or in new forms based on software programs and recording equipment (virtual music-making with computeraided sound processing modules and DJing), continues to play a large role in every category of popular music. Yet the creative, cultural and social activities connected with these popular music forms, as well as the infrastructure that supports them and the web of institutions that condition them, are difficult to grasp. The reasons have to do with their evolutionary dynamism, their tightly interlocking nexus of glob al, regional and local processes, and their marked fragmentation into more or less independent subsystems, scenes, socio-cultural milieus, fan groups and musical subcultures. The potential that lurks in this area of music, whether cultural, artistic, social or economic, has hardly been tapped. As a result, the false impression has arisen that popular music largely proceeds as portrayed in the media, with everything else being a negligible and derivative by-product. Yet every week the urban magazines of Germany’s large cities alone advertise hundreds of musical events mounted by professional, semi-professional and non-professional musicians, by DJs and sound artists. According to the most recent figures, [2] more than 10,000 professional performers were active in the field of rock and pop music, as well as 725 DJs, not to mention a multitude of amateurs who make up a fundamental part of the activities in this sector. True, popular music has been covered with a dense network of professional bodies, from the German Association of Rock & Pop Musicians (Deutscher Rock & Pop Musikerverband) to the various statewide rock organisations grouped beneath the National Working Group of Rock Music Initiatives (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Musikinitiativen B.A. Rock) to the National Popular Music Association (Bundesverband Popularmusik). But owing to the peculiarities of this area of music, their membership figures do not allow us to determine the number of musicians who are actually active. The differences between musical categories, regions and localities are too great, as is the percentage of amateur musicians who are not organised at all, but are nonetheless too numerous to be treated as a negligible quantity.

Subsidy and training

Given its social and cultural relevance, popular music has become a permanent fixture in the public subsidisation of Germany’s culture. There exists a wide range of funding programmes and projects on the federal, state and municipal levels that specifically target musicians working in this area. Particularly worthy of mention is Initiative Musik, a centralised funding body with several programmes designed to support young talent and infrastructural measures. [3] No less important are the professional associations that have arisen in recent decades, such as Bavaria’s Popular Culture Association (Verband für Popkultur), the statewide rock working groups in Lower Saxony (LAG Rock) and Rhineland-Palatinate (LAG Rock & Pop), RockCity in Hamburg, the Baden-Württemberg Pop Offices (Popbüros), the Berlin Music Pool and the Berlin Musicboard. All of them bundle their funding and networking activities beneath the umbrella of the National Popular Music Association, and all of them focus their efforts on behalf of young talent and amateur musicians with appropriate training programmes. Among other initiatives, these associations hold competitions and award prizes, such as the German Rock & Pop Prize, awarded annually by the German Association of Rock & Pop Musicians in conjunction with the German Pop Foundation (Deutsche Popstiftung). The state music councils are also actively involved in this area with special funding projects. One example is the popNRW Project, initiated by the state music council of North Rhine-Westphalia and aimed specifically at young talent. The German Music Council has transferred its masterclass model from classical music to the world of pop music in PopCamp, thereby launching a special vehicle for the promotion of excellence.

The importance of this area of music in public funding has left a mark not least on a great many educational programmes. Owing to the large percentage of recreational musicians, ‘learning by doing’ remains a central means of acquir ing musical knowledge and skills. Nonetheless, in recent years the range of options for training and further education in this field has constantly expanded and now covers the entire country at a remarkably high level. Thus, 26 German universities and musical institutes of higher learning (Musikhochschulen) offer relevant educational programmes, as do some 30 other training, postgraduate and advanced education facilities, music academies and vocational schools (see Fig. 1). According to the Association of German Music Schools (Verband deutscher Musikschulen, or VdM), more than three-quarters of the 930 public music schools in its membership offer instruction in rock and pop music. There also exist alternative programmes outside the standard educational system, some privately financed, others publicly subsidised or entirely situated in the public sector. We need only mention the Jazz & Pop School (Darmstadt), the Frankfurt Musikwerkstatt, and the German Pop Academy (Akademie Deutsche POP), with 14 sites in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. One facility that is perhaps unique in the world is the Baden-Württemberg Pop Academy, which opened its doors in 2003. It offers bachelor degrees in music business, pop music design and world music as well as master’s degrees in popular music and ‘music and creative industries’, all of which are specially aligned on these professional fields. Since then it has been enlarged to include a complex bundle of continuing education courses. 

Foto: Wacken Open Air
Wacken Open Air  
Photo:  ICS Festival Service GmbH


Another important indicator for the value attached to popular music in the cultural subsidies of Germany’s states and municipalities is the huge number of festivals now existing in every category of popular music, most of which receive financial support at a municipal level. This development has reached vast proportions over the last 20 years. According to the National Association of the Event Industry, Germany’s music festivals, including those with classical music, had total revenues amounting to some €401.5 million in 2017, an increase of some 19 per cent within the space of four years. As a major factor in the economy, they thus rival pop concerts, which earned some €1.1 billion in revenue in 2017. [4] The importance of festivals runs through all age groups and leads to record attendance figures year after year after year. In 2017, for example, more than 40 per cent of Germans above the age of 14 claimed to be highly interested in attending concerts of rock and pop music, or almost 73 per cent in the case of 14- to 19-year-olds (see Fig. 1 in the essay ‘Preferences and Publics’).

According to an estimate from the Hessian State Statistical Office, Germany witnessed roughly 32 million visits to music festivals of every sort in 2015.5 The spectrum ranges from nationwide events, some of which have been in existence for decades, such as the ‘Rock am Ring’ Festival on the Nürburgring motorsport complex (since 1985), Wacken Open Air in Schleswig-Holstein (since 1990), Schlagermove in Hamburg (since 1997), Melt! in Ferropolis near Gräfenhainichen (since 1999 after two false starts) and Schlagerhammer in Berlin (since 2016), not to mention the many regional and local festivals that have taken a firm hold in Germany’s musical life.

Figure 2
Socio-demographic overview of music buyers by repertoire segment
Figure: Socio-demographic overview of music buyers by repertoire segment
View full statistic

The music market

Turning to those who buy music, we notice that the male population clearly predominates: nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) are male, or even 76 and 73 per cent, respectively, in the categories of rock and dance music. Four out of ten people who purchase pop music (41 per cent) are women, and slightly more (46 per cent) when it comes to Schlager (see Fig. 2). Although there are considerable differences by age group, as might by expected, it is striking that those over 50 now represent the largest percentage in practically every category with their expenditures on music. This corresponds to the demographic changes in German society as a whole. The only exception is the category of dance music.

Physical recordings are still a leading medium for the presentation and communication of professional and semi-professional popular music, even though 46.6 per cent of Germany’s music industry revenue has now shifted to digital distribution in the form of music downloads and audio streams. The annual figures from the Federal Music Industry Association (Bundesverband Musikindustrie) amounted to €1.59 billion in 2017, including 70 million purchased physical recordings, 63 million paid music downloads and 56.4 billion music streams. [6] This represents nearly 8 per cent of the international music market. Of the 282,000 physical pop and classical albums available on the German market in 2017, 204,000 fell into the category of rock and pop music, including some 16,000 new releases (see Fig. 3). 

Figure 3
Overall offerings and new releases of pop and classical recordings
Figure: Overall offerings and new releases of pop and classical recordings
View full statistic

Apart from insignificant deviations, the shares of repertoire categories vis-à-vis the total revenue of the music market have remained fairly constant over the last decade, as in previous years (see Fig. 4). This suggests that the genres of popular music are embedded in socio-cultural substrata that change at best from one generation to the next. In other words, we are dealing with firmly rooted cultural value systems and their associated patterns of functional utilisation that sustain this music. Still, by reflecting consumer behaviour rather than genres in the music market, the categories conceal the fact that, in recent years, the process of musical and stylistic differentiation has proceeded by leaps and bounds, especially in the major forms of this sector: pop, rock, hip-hop, rap and dance. The socio-musical processes, fan cultures, stylistic forms and music scenes, however intricately they may interweave, are becoming more and more fragmented. The term ‘mass culture’ has long lost its meaning in this field, apart from a few stars shining in the heavens of the pop universe, but even they are becoming increasingly ephemeral.

Figure 4
Percentage of repertoire segments in overall turnover of physical sound recordings and digital music products
Figure: Percentage of repertoire segments in overall turnover of physical sound recordings and digital music products
View full statistic

Even if the consumer behaviour expressed in record industry figures cannot be mapped one-to-one onto musical and cultural behaviour as a whole, the basic proportions they display among the categories approximately mirror the overall ratios in the music industry. After all, sound recordings, like musical events, have an uncontested central place in the economy; and ultimately the selling of records is clearly, if indirectly, connected with all other activities in this field. This raises an especially interesting question: what is the share of Germany’s own national repertoire in the sales patterns on the sound recording market? The question has decisive repercussions for the social situation of the musicians, composers and songwriters actively involved. Moreover, given the economic importance and mag netism of the sound recording market, it also has consequences for the event industry. Since 1995 the annual reports from the Federal Music Industry Association no longer distinguish between national and international repertoires in their turnover figures. However, the percentage of German products in the ‘charts’, i.e. the weekly listings of top-selling recordings, downloads and audio streams compiled for the German Music Industry Association by the Consumer Research Society (Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung, or GfK), is listed even though they prima facie exclude all releases and types of music aimed at specialist audiences. Even so, the relative presence of German products in the charts is a clear indicator of the ratios as a whole (see Fig. 5).

Foto: The rapper Samy Deluxe at the c/o pop Festival (2018)
The rapper Samy Deluxe at the c/o pop Festival (2018)  
Photo:  Christian Faustus

Not only has the percentage of German releases in album format (LPs) nearly dou bled over the last 15 years, compared to the 1990s Germany’s musical development has again managed to attain a leading position in the music market. Its proportion of LP productions in the charts was 17.9 per cent in 1991 and 23.2 per cent in 1999. Equally remarkable is the fact that seven of the ten most successful albums of 2017 were German-language releases. In any event, it is striking that, in Germany’s production, rap and hip-hop in particular, as well as a new fascination for Schlager, have long lifted German lyrics out of their former wallflower existence. A different picture emerges when we consider singles. This is related to digital forms of distribution: international products dominate the music downloads and audio streams, not least owing to the curated playlists of multi-national streaming services.

All in all, the media distribution of music has undergone a massive change in recent years owing to the skyrocketing percentage of digital dissemination. The number of audio streams alone has multiplied almost by a factor of ten in the last five years to 56.4 billion, and more than doubled in the last two. As a result, physical sound recordings (CD or vinyl) only account for 16 per cent of music consumption, whereas digital forms of distribution dominate with nearly 57 per cent. Only terrestrial radio has maintained its place over the years at a stable 27 per cent. Online radio, in contrast, has likewise witnessed sharp growth rates, from a good 6 per cent in 2016 to more than 10 per cent in 2017. [7]

Figure 5
Percentage of national and international LP releases in top 100 charts
Figure: Percentage of national and international LP releases in top 100 charts
View full statistic

Radio and television

In Germany, radio continues to play a crucial role in the communication of music, with pride of place in popularity clearly going to the popular music genres. More than 250 private and over 70 public radio stations, each with a music proportion of 70 per cent or more (depending on programme format), directly impact Germany’s musical evolution by shaping habits of listening. Not least of all, both radio and television are major pillars of Germany’s music business, thanks to the licensing fees they pay to the collecting societies GEMA and GVL, as we know from the most recent annual reports. GEMA, for example, took in some €239 million in its ‘broadcast’ category in 2017, an increase of roughly €4.5 million over the previous year. And GVL indicated income amounting to a good €83 million in 2016 from ‘broadcast remuneration radio and TV’, nearly €1.5 million more than in 2015. [8] Yet the purely instrumental use of music on ad-financed private radio broadcasters is not unproblematical, for the music programmes, being formatted for a particular target group, demand a sizeable counterweight in other forms of music dissemination lest the evolutionary dynamic and generic diversity suffer from radio’s juggernaut pull.

At the same time, this breakdown of music programmes on private and public radio reveals a considerable imbalance vis-à-vis the comparatively large share of the German repertoire on the sound recording market. In 2017, for example, the radio charts compiled by the MusicTrace monitoring service listed only about 10 per cent German products among the 100 most frequently played titles on public and private radio. [9] The far less drastic disproportion of international music products in the past even prompted a hearing and a plenary debate in Germany’s Parliament on ‘The Self-Imposed Obligation of Public-Law and Private Broadcasters to Promote the Diversity of Pop and Rock Music in Germany’ (2004). [10] Even so, and despite an online petition for ‘More German Music on Radio’ launched in 2014, this subject is de facto no longer an issue: the percentages of German music are no longer even displayed in the broadcasters’ standard statistics. Given the competition that radio and television have been receiving from the (now unprecedentedly powerful) internet, quite different questions arise if the traditional media wish to stand up to this competition. In addition to audio streaming on the broadcasters’ online platforms, content on the internet is provided mainly via globally active streaming services such as Spotify or YouTube, which not only permit a thoroughly individualised use of music but have made the question of national quotas in programme contents patently obsolete.

The winner of Germany's preliminary round for the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest: Michael Schulte
The winner of Germany's preliminary round for the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest: Michael Schulte  
Photo:  Rolf Klatt  /  NDR

In television, too, this development has recently led to a sharp change in the position of music. True, there are a few successful formats: the Eurovision Song Contest is the most frequently viewed music broadcast in the world with more than 200 million viewers, and also achieves top ratings on German television (33.3 per cent with 8.21 million viewers in 2018). But the percentage of music broadcasts in the overall television schedules, apart from the special-interest music channels, has dropped significantly over the last ten years. In 2017 it amounted to less than 0.1 per cent of the First Channel of Germany’s ARD broadcasting association, even though no distinction was made between classical music and pop. [11] This corresponds to the viewers’ relatively low interest in such television broadcasts. To be sure, Schlager and folk music in particular have maintained their place in the schedules with such live broadcasts as ‘Fest der Volksmusik’ (Festival of folk music) and ‘Das Große Schlagerfest’ (The big Schlager festival). But music has a marginal position in television's overall output, despite such programmes as the RTL format ‘Deutschland sucht den Superstar’ (Germany’s Got Talent), which revolve entirely around music. The percentage of music broadcasts in 2017 among the five largest television broadcasters ARD, ZDF, RTL, SAT.1 and ProSieben barely amounted to 0.9 per cent. [12] These figures, being related exclusively to music programmes, do not of course consider the fact that virtually everything on television, from advertising spots to motion pictures, is accompanied by music. Film scores and advertis ing music are not only major genres in popular music, they also draw musically and stylistically on current trends in the overall offerings, thereby mag nifying their cultural impact.

The digital distribution of music on the internet has likewise left clear traces on special-interest music channels. VIVA, launched in 1993 and once highly successful as Germany’s music broadcaster whose programming centred on pop, rock, rap and hip-hop, ended operations permanently in 2018 when its viewer ratings had sunk beneath the measurable limit. MTV Germany, Germany’s version of MTV: Music Tele vision, has again been viewable on free TV since December 2017 after the channel switched to pay TV on Sky in 2011. But since 2015 it no longer has an independent German programme, but merely screens the programme of MTV Switzerland with German advertising slots. Even so, this special-interest channel, which originated in the United States in the early 1980s and once exclusively broadcast music videos in rotation, stopped being a genuine music channel long ago, mutating instead into a sort of full programme for young viewers with an emphasis on reality TV and comedy. The centre of the music playlists falls on such specials as ‘MTV Rockzone’, ‘MTV Music Special’ and ‘MTV Top 100’, of which the latter was broadcast jointly with VIVA until April 2018 and included selected music videos from the official German charts. Today the broadcaster no longer sets its own highlights. In contrast, Deutsche Musik Fernsehen, which emerged from the digital music broadcaster Volksmusik.TV in 2011, has been able to establish itself quite successfully with a programme of German-language music, principally Schlager and folk music. The same applies to TV internet streams such as Deluxe Music, which have sought out a target group above the age of 25 with a pro gramme oriented on music genres and consisting of music videos with emphases on the 1980s and 1990s. Yet YouTube, with its billions of videos and its growth rate of 500 hours per minute (including 5 per cent devoted to music), [13] is an unbeatable competitor for the 13- to 19-year-old age group, whose affinity for new forms of music and openmindedness toward new trends make them of paramount importance in popular music. Music videos are far and away the favourite of YouTube users in Germany, too, where 53 per cent of the users view them regularly at least several times a week. [14]

"Hüttenparty" on MDR Television, moderated by Florian Silbereisen in 2019
"Hüttenparty" on MDR Television in 2019  
Photo:  Peter Krivograd  /  MDR/ORF

For popular music, these structural changes in distribution mean that its production takes place in a national context where it receives a distinctive stamp, even when the songs are in English, the lingua franca of pop culture. On the other hand, its consumption is becoming increasingly global and individualised on the internet. The consequences are growing disproportions in the money flows connected with the production of music on the one hand and the consumption of music on the other.


The situation in Germany’s event landscape conveys a completely different picture. Notwithstanding the internet, for most musicians working in this sector, events are the main if not the sole vehicle for communicating their music. According to a ‘Music Business Study’ of 2015, the roughly 1,300 concert organisers active in the popular music sector achieved revenues of €1.6 billion in 2014, or €500 million more than the market for physical sound recordings and digital distribu tion. [15] Some 40 per cent of Germans over the age of 14 told a survey in 2017 that they were interested in attending events with rock and pop music, again more than in previous years. [16]

In 2017 there were roughly 500 music venues in Berlin alone, of which 20 per cent were discotheques, 65 per cent bars and pubs with music, and 15 per cent venues for larger events, in which 2,700 music events took place each month.17 Taking a closer look at the event industry, we notice a much greater frequency of those musical styles that appear neither on the sound recordings market nor on radio and television as a preference. Of the approximately 500 events with live music (excluding classical music and opera) listed in the Berlin cultural magazines Zitty and TIP in the last two weeks of June 2018, roughly 18 per cent fell in the category of so-called world music, ranging from tango to Brazilian, Cuban and African music all the way to klezmer, Balkan music and the dance music from the French Antilles known as zouk. A good third of these events are performed by musicians who are either German or living in Germany. To this must be added the musical subcultures of Germany’s immigrant communities, most notably Turkish hip-hop, which is performed in Turkish either by Turkish youths living in Germany or by Germans of Turkish extraction. Beginning in the 1990s, it has since developed into an internationally acclaimed genre in its own right. The events performed by DJs or DJanes in Berlin’s roughly 100 dance clubs point to a much higher share of this segment than the percentages on the sound recording market would have us believe. Even though we can assume a similar picture in every large German city (albeit not on the same scale), there has been no overview of musical events to the present day. A glimpse at the myriad summer festivals that proliferate in urban districts and towns all over the country, almost always with live music, would lead to further and probably quite substantial adjustments to this picture.


All in all, we face a many-layered picture dominated by four overlapping levels, which are in turn criss-crossed by highly complex subdivisions:

  • With nearly 63 million downloads and more than 56 billion music streams in 2017, the spread of music in disembodied digitalised form has eclipsed every other form of music dissemination. Here individualised forms of music use with individual or curated playlists have taken hold within a largely denation alised framework.
  • Nonetheless, physical recordings remain a central communication medium for all forms of popular music. They are still the point of departure for the chain of exploitation and dissemination, since new repertoire is initially generated via conventional recordings (CDs and recently again vinyl). The physical recording thus stands at the hub of the music market, even if it only represents slightly less than half of its revenue. With its commercial and cultural regularities, the music market is the level that interlocks most tightly with things happening in music on other levels. Behind the regularly documented market processes we find low-revenue but culturally relevant developments which may congeal into significant orders of magnitude on other levels, as can be seen in the position of world music or dance in the event industry. The number of small companies that primarily use the internet to market their highly specialised wares is steadily increasing, even though the turnover they obtain is statistically negligible compared to what is earned by the dominant players on the market. Germany’s Association of Independent Music Companies (Verband unabhängiger Musikunternehmen, formerly Verband unabhängiger Tonträgerunternehmen, Musikverlage und Musikproduzenten, VUT) currently represents some 1,300 small and medium-sized operations, but the actual number of market players is probably much higher, as the statistics do not include homebased companies or online turnover from small or minuscule firms based abroad. These trade channels play a not insignificant role for the countless styles of dance music, alternative genres from indie rock to new age, and naturally for the diverse genres of world music, if only because the demand for many of these products is so weak that they do not even crop up in the ordinary record trade. The greater the fragmentation into miscellaneous music scenes, the greater the importance of alternative trade channels. Techno, with its countless sub-categories from ambient to drum’n’bass and house to UK garage, is a good example. Specialised web portals with integrated online shops, internet radio, proprietary online charts and a broad array of information on music will probably become increasingly important here, as witness the role that the UKbased ‘Trust the DJ’ plays in the dance sector. [18]
  • The third level – radio and television – has ceded its formerly central posi tion in musical evolution to the internet. Broadcasters are now trying to recover this lost ground with their own online offerings, including in the music sector. Since they possess high economic relevance for authors and producers of music with their licensing fees, their vanishing shares of Germany’s music production and their disappearing music broadcasts (in the case of television) border on the calamitous.
  • Finally, the fourth level, local events, is the most difficult to grasp, both in its structure and its impact. Here a dizzying array of activities converge, ranging from big commercial events to urban street festivals or similar local happenings. It is on this level that the fragmentation of styles proceeds the fastest, for scenes and sub-scenes are constantly rising up and being reshuffled without necessarily leaving a mark on the other levels of musical activity – and if so, then only after a considerable time lag. True, media visibility forms part of success in pop music. But the large proportion of willingly or unwillingly semiprofessional or recreational musicians active on this level in particular (as well as the ‘members only’ policies of a good many dance clubs which are, and wish to remain, accessible only to the music’s active adherents) leads to idiosyncratic structures tied to the scene’s specific media.

In sum, the situation on this terrain of musical culture might best be captured in a paradox: the greater the complexity, the more potent the scene. Viewed in this light, Germany’s popular music scene is not badly off, apart from the continuing lack of institutionalised research in this area. The only exception is Freiburg University’s Centre for Popular Culture and Music (Zentrum für populäre Kultur und Musik), which emerged from the former Folk Song Archive in 2014. Other than that, ever since the disbanding of the Popular Music Research Centre at Humboldt University in Berlin in 2016, the field has been more or less handed over to a few sporadic graduate theses. This does scant justice to the social prominence and potency of this sector of Germany’s musical culture, as an international comparison will amply confirm.

About the author

Until his retirement in 2016, Peter Wicke was professor of the theory and history of popular music at the Institute of Musicology and Media Studies at Humboldt University in Berlin. He also headed the Popular Music Research Centre at that same university and served as an adjunct research professor in the Department of Music at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
Empty State Autorenbild


  1. See Bundesverband der Veranstaltungswirtschaft [National Asso ciation of the Event Industry], ed., Live Entertainment in Deutschland (Hamburg, 2018), pp. 6 and 12, and http://www.miz.org/downloads/statistik/118/118_Gesamtumsatz_Musikverkauf_Leistungsschutzrechte_ Synchronisation.pdf (accessed on 24 October 2018).
  2. Musikwirtschaft in Deutschland: Studie zur volkswirtschaftlichen Bedeutung von Musikunternehmen unter Berücksichtigung aller Teilsektoren und Ausstrahlungseffekte, ed. Bundesverband Musikindustrie et al (Berlin, 2015), p. 24, online at https://miz.org/de/media/500/download?attachment (accessed on 4 October 2018).
  3. Readers are referred to the subsidisation atlas of Initiative Musik at http://initiative-musik.de/projekte/foerderatlas.html (accessed on 24 October 2018). An overview of grants in the POP TO GO programme in all of Germany’s federal states is offered by the Sponsors Forum for Pop Culture and Popular Music in Germany (Forum der Popkultur- und Popularmusikförderer in Deutschland) at https://bvpop.de/pop/ (accessed on 24 October 2018).
  4. Live Entertainment in Deutschland (see note 1), p. 12.
  5. Statistische Ämter des Bundes und der Länder, ed., Musikfestivals und Musikfestspiele in Deutschland (Wiesbaden, 2017), p. 17. Of the 549 festivals consulted for this study, 328 cited special musical points of focus, more than half of which went to popular genres such as rock or pop. See ibid., p. 31.
  6. Bundesverband Musikindustrie, ed., Musikindustrie in Zahlen 2017 (Berlin, 2018).
  7. Information from Musikindustrie in Zahlen (see note 6), pp. 24ff.
  8. GEMA: Geschäftsbericht mit Transparenzbericht 2017, p. U3, online at https://gvl.de/sites/default/files/2021-05/gvlgeschaefts-transparenzbericht-2017.pdf (accessed on 15 August 2018); GVL: Transparenz- und Geschäftsbericht 2016, p. 8, online at https://gvl.de/sites/default/files/2021-05/gvltransparenz-undgeschaeftsbericht2016.pdf (accessed on 15 August 2018).
  9.  See http://www.radiocharts.com/html/annual_charts_de_main.htm (accessed on 15 July 2018).
  10. Deutscher Bundestag: Stenografischer Bericht, 149. Sitzung, 17. Dezember 2004, 14022A, online at https://dserver.bundestag.de/btp/15/15149.pdf (accessed on 24 October 2018).
  11. ARD Fernsehstatistik 2017 (Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv) (Frankfurt am Main, 2018). That the total number of programme minutes clearly exceeds the daily 24-hour broadcasting period is accounted for by the splitting of pre-prime-time programmes. See the essay ‘Music in Broadcasting’ in the present volume.
  12. Udo Michael Krüger: ‘Profile deutscher Fernsehprogramme – Tendenzen der Angebotsentwicklung zur Gesamt- und Hauptsendezeit’, Media-Perspektiven 4 (2018), pp. 176-98, esp. p. 178, online at https://www.ard-media.de/fileadmin/user_upload/media-perspektiven/pdf/2018/0418_Krueger.pdf (accessed on 15 August 2018).
  13. Information from Social Media Today: Mind-Blowing YouTube Stats, Facts and Figures for 2017 [Infographic] at https://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-business/mind-blowing-youtube-stats-facts-and-figures-2017-infographic (accessed on 24 October 2018).
  14. Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverbund Südwest, ed., JIM Studie 2017: Jugend, Information, (Multi-)Media (Stuttgart, 2017), p. 43
  15. Musikwirtschaft in Deutschland (see note 2), pp. 30 and 31; Musikindustrie in Zahlen 2014, ed. Bundesverband Musikindustrie (Hamburg, 2015), p. 9
  16. See the statistics for ‘Interest in attending rock and pop festivals or concerts’ (‘Interesse am Besuch von Rock- und Popfestivals bzw. Rock- und Popkonzerten’) (accessed on 24 October 2018).
  17. Lutz Leichsenring and Creative-Footprint.org: Creative Footprint Music: Measuring Live Music Space in Cities: Creative Footprint Overview + Methodology (2017), p. 13 at https://s3.amazonaws.com/creative-footprint.org/CFP-Overview-Methodology.pdf (accessed on 24 October 2018).
  18. See http://www.trustthedj.com.