Popkomm a victim of 50% drop in attendance

New concept will be presented for next year's conference

BERLIN -- Organizers of the Popkomm music fair and conference in Berlin have admitted that an anticipated 50% fall in attendance meant the 2009 event, due to take place Sept. 16-18, was no longer viable this year.

Failure by the German government to tackle Internet piracy was also a singled out as a deep-rooted problem that contributed to the cancellation.

Billboard.biz exclusively revealed Friday morning that the event was being canceled.

Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Katja Gross, director Popkomm, said that kind of 50% fall in delegates would not have been satisfactory for exhibitors. In 2008, the total attendance fell 20% to 14,000. Gross didn't give any figures for exhibitor sales in 2009.

At the end of the summer a new concept will be presented for 2010, when it will be staged in the summer. Gross also pointed out that Popkomm should be more of a convention and music event and that selling exhibition space should not be the main priority any more.

The chairman of the association of the German music industry in Berlin, Dieter Gorny, underlined that the music associations including the association of independent music companies in Berlin are determined to save the brand Popkomm for the German music business. Gorny also explained that in the future the politicians should be encourage to support the future activity of Popkomm, though he did not commit himself to demands for government funding.

"Together with Popkomm GmbH, we will develop a new overall concept for 2010, which will reflect the radically changed conditions in the music industry, and which opens up viable future prospects for Popkomm," Gorny said. "The current situation is, however, also partly the result of continued inaction by the politicians, who still fail to recognise the seriousness of the situation regarding the dominant topic in the sector: Internet piracy. If action isn't taken soon here, all of the industry's efforts will be in vain."

The new concept will have a stronger focus on the networking aspects and the conference. The general public will also be involved more, via public events with popular appeal.

Peter James, member of the board VUT, said that for the future it would be important to include the strong structural change of the business in the concept.

Managing director of BWMI Stefan Michalk added: "There is a clear commitment of our industry for the brand Popkomm."

The organization Messe Berlin, which moved Popkomm from Cologne to Berlin in 2003, failed to stage the event this year even though it offered lounges for far lower costs and also changed the venue.

Politicians who were asked for a comment on Friday about financing Popkomm with tax monies were skeptical. They pointed out that the funding agency "Initiative Musik" (Initiative Music) already gets millions for the music business and their campaigns. A decision will not be made before the beginning of next year. Germany has general elections on Sept. 27.

Bernd Hocke, general manager of the indie edel AG in Hamburg, said the decline in numbers was only part of the problem. "This kind of forum just does not pay off any more," he said. "It is a well-known joke that for years no real serious deals have been made at Popkomm. Let's see whether we will be able to put a modern, innovative and slim concept in (place for) 2010."

Benedikt Lokes, director corporate communications Warner Music Central Europe, in Hamburg, added: "We regret the postponement of Popkomm. But it is not astonishing because of the music piracy that is not being stopped and that is tolerated by the politicians. Small and medium-sized companies cannot afford a participation at the fair any more."

Prof. Rolf Budde, music publisher and member of the supervisory board of GEMA in Berlin, was also disappointed. "Much to my regret I learned that this year's Popkomm will not take place," he said. "I am very sorry for the great engagement. Otherwise I understand that the situation in the music business does not allow to let Popkomm happen this year in a way that the visitors would be satisfied."