Julia Wartmann: The Best Funding Opportunities for Musicians in Germany
Everything you need to know about economic and cultural funding for musicians in Germany.
Sources of funding for musicians can look very different. Julia Wartmann is a professional in this field and in this interview she tells us about the different aspects of musician funding in Germany. Julia is a qualified music scholar and media manager and since 2015 has been head of the non-profit European newcomers network “Local Heroes”. She is also an ace among applicants for funding applications in the field of culture/music. She basically has them for breakfast. We talked to Julia about various funding opportunities for musicians. Since there is a wide variety of important options, we have split them all into three parts: in this first part, the focus is on monetary (material) support for artists in Germany. Parts two and three will focus on Local Heroes and talent contests.
If we have learned one thing in our interview with Julia, it is that there are pots of gold for everyone. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Let’s start with part one!
Julia, what types of support are there for musicians in Germany?
Quite a lot. It is important to know that there is public funding, private funding and a mixture of the two, namely the intermediary funding. All have different amounts of money and different reasons why they help musicians.
- Public funding is essentially 100% funded from taxpayers and the type of funding differs at federal, state and local government level.
- Federal funding operates on a nationwide basis, such as with Initiative Musik. This means that all musicians, no matter in which part of Germany they live, can apply for funding.
- In terms of state funding, it is different for musicians in the respective states. Here, the musicians must have a connection to the state in which they are asking for money (usually it is their state of residence). This means that a musician in Rhineland-Palatinate can only ask for funding in Rhineland-Palatinate, and not in Bavaria.
- Finally, there is local government funding. We are talking here about cities or districts. They are always very closely connected with the place of residence.
As a general rule, private funding will receive no public money but is financed through donations, volunteer work, member contributions, etc… They set out their way of working independently. The large private funding institutions operate independently of state borders. Examples of private funding institutions are the Udo Lindenberg Foundation and the Panikpreis, which is awarded every two years, or the Deutsche Rockmusik Foundation and the Wacken Foundation.
Intermediary funding combines the two worlds of public and private funding. The institutions receive public grants, but must also raise their own money, e.g. through sales, donations, sponsorships, etc. Lotto-Toto is a good example of this – as is the Berlin-based Musicboard.
In your opinion, what funding source is the most accessible for musicians?
Initiative Musik is definitely the most well-known. All pop musicians can apply for it, no matter where they come from in Germany. As a federal entity, it distinguishes itself from the state and local government levels solely due to geographical independence. A little less known, but also very
interesting for musicians, are the GEMA and GVL foundations. As in-house foundations of performance societies, they deal with popular music as well as classical music.
Initiative Musik was founded in 2007 in Berlin with the exclusive aim of supporting pop music and commercial music. This support is urgently needed, because this is frankly still quite a novelty in Germany. Initiative Musik started with a budget of just 2 million. In 2019 it was 13 million. Nevertheless, that is a rather modest amount, considering how much better supported classical music is in Germany. Initiative Musik only helps financially and not creatively. So there are no consultations on music culture, or any contacts that can help you as a musician. The money for the funding comes from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media.
However, Initiative Musik is primarily an economic fund, not a purely cultural fund. Only the music industry is supported, whereas the individual development of a newcomer is not, as is the case with other funds. Musicians who apply need to have a certain relevance. Ideally, even across national and international borders. In the past, the requirements that a newcomer needed to apply for funding were very strict. Today, “only” sales and a couple of cleanly produced files are needed. But it will be very much appreciated, if you already have a label and/or management. The good thing is also that the jury, which ultimately distributes the funds, is external. These are people who are shaping the zeitgeist; this is already a great advantage if you are applying to a political institution. The online form is quite extensive, but at the same time I do understand that you are being “gifted” a lot of money, so it is good and important to know where the money will go. In addition, Initiative Musik has the largest budget in comparison to the other donors.
Initiative Musik has packages you as a musician can put together: artist funding, short tour funding and currently the aid program for musicians. Of particular interest is artist funding, within which there are three focal points: album production, marketing measures, such as booklet, artwork, music video, photos, etc. and the third focal point and logical step would be the financing of a tour. In other words, everything. That would be a package. But if it’s not a record you need to fund, but a tour with dates abroad, you can apply for funding for a short tour.
My big “but” with Initiative Musik is that only 40% of the application amount is funded. The musician has to fund the other 60% them-self – which is a pain when you consider that almost all companies that work with an artist earn more than the artist does. See Spotify and Co. This is wrong. For the sake of the art form, I hope that Initiative Musik can switch it round. So 60% funding, 40% your own input – after all, the average amount applied for is between 20,000 and 40,000 euros. I personally also think there is not much room to learn, since they merely reject an artist, but do not explain why they have not awarded the funding.
In terms of funding, how important is it for a musician, which state they live in?
Unfortunately very important. Musicians from Bavaria, Hamburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate or Berlin, have much better prospects of being well-funded at the state level than musicians in other states. In my job as applicant for the Local Heroes annual budget, I always see that our state, Saxony-Anhalt, has far too little money for pop music. This is due to the fact that the states define their pop funding very differently. Culture is also a matter for the states, which is why the Federal government can’t always jump in.
The current leader for pop funding is Berlin. Berlin residents can consider themselves very lucky as they have Musicboard Berlin. They have a great reputation and a successful artists’ fund. With six different funding programs, they support both musicians as well as music projects taking place in Berlin. In addition to getting money for album production etc., you can also get good advice from
them. Frankly, something that has been underestimated for a long time. In addition, they have put on the pop culture festival for the past six years, which covers all areas.
The second state I should highlight is North Rhine-Westphalia. Since 2012, popNRW has supported promising talent from the state with the aim of strengthening the music scene. Every year they award the “popNRW” prize of 10,000 euro. This prize means moolah and more importantly: contacts! A plan is forged in conjunction with the artist so that the money can be spent wisely. All with the help of professionals.
In Hamburg, Rockcity Hamburg is an important contact and in Bavaria, the Association for Pop Culture in Bavaria (VPBy) is important too. The latter receives public funding from the Bavarian State Ministry for Science and Art, which provides them with an annual budget of 480,000 euros (as of 2018). Then of course there are the “Popbüros” of Baden-Württemberg. Rhineland-Palatinate also started funding pop in 2019. “pop rlp”, which has been around since last year, provides funding and consultation.
So we have ticked the federal and state level. Now we come to local government funding. What can you tell us about that?
In terms of financing, local government certainly brings up the rear. Funding at this level only comes when a city or a district has money lying around. These are called funding pools and are always refilled for a year. The problem is that many musicians do not know about them. Take, for example, Tokio Hotel. If, before their breakthrough, they had gone to the City of Magdeburg, the local government in this case, and said: “We have 30 shows in the summer and need a tour bus and posters”, they may well have been funded by the municipality. By the way, that may have actually happened, I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that there was a funding pool for musicians in Magdeburg which no one knew of, ergo, there were no applications and the pool was dissolved due to lack of interest.
Firstly what’s important is which employee do you turn to and secondly, how much lead time do you have. Of course, the wheels of bureaucracy grind slower. Therefore, you have to give local government a little time, but it can come good in the end. What I mean by that is that I urge all musicians to grab the phone and ring the cultural office of your city or your district. You just have to be proactive. Unfortunately, they don’t come to you.
Musicians must not forget the added value for the local area: every area wants also look good to the outside world. To put it bluntly, they want something from you. Jan Delay ‘belongs’ to Hamburg like Seeed does to Berlin. Both sides will always benefit. The problem is when no-one enquires, the local governments don’t think any musician needs their money and they reduce the budget for the funding pools in the next year. Cities and local governments always respond to their citizens.
Why are you more a fan of creative funding than of economic funding?
The philosophy behind the funding makes all the difference for me. One provides funds because they want to make money, while the other is a cultural mindset, which is part of a social character. It is about cultural heritage: a perception as a country at home and abroad. We define and shape our society in the arts. So also in music. The organisation where I work is called Aktion Musik / Local Heroes e.V., and it has a socio-cultural core. It is not primarily about economy. We provide youth cultural funding. We support young people, without wanting to make money. Support in the way of free or cheap rehearsal rooms, performance opportunities, training and sharpening the senses. To start off with, it is not normally so much about money – and anyone in the music industry who only concentrates on the money, will certainly find it difficult. The musicians get from us everything they need to learn, in addition to a solid foundation for costing.
Why do you differentiate between economic and cultural funding?
By its very nature, culture has no economic mandate. The fact that culture has become an economic factor is a big slice of luck. In truth, it is a very young industry, referred to as the cultural and creative industry. It has only existed since 2007/2008.
This economic area has 11 sub-markets. In addition to music, there is also the book market, design, games or movies. This cultural and creative industry we work in is considered from an economic point of view as just as important as the automotive industry or the chemical industry. This is important for understanding and for your own ego. With this young history we are still considered to be in our infancy. That being said, we have more than 100 years under our belt, if we only look at pop history.
And let’s be honest, many products work thanks to music. This creates tremendous tax income, for example, through concert revenue. Consider, for example, who earns money when people go to concerts: food businesses, travel businesses, etc… Pop is cultural heritage. It is what is heard. Pop music is one of the most popular hobbies ever. And that is why it is important that we understand pop music, on the one hand, as an economic factor, but on the other hand also solely as something that is fun, that brings us as a nation to life and forms identities. That is why in speeches I make a distinction: Are we talking about the music business? Or are we talking about the cultural and social funding of music?