Trade Show in Germany
Trade Show in Germany. Stefanie Sudek-Mensch Getty

Popkomm - The Basics:

  • What: Popkomm, an annual music industry trade show and festival
  • When: Dates vary by year, but Popkomm is usually in late September or early October
  • Where: Berlin, Germany
  • Cost: Depends on when you register and what parts of the trade show you will be taking part in, but tickets fall between 150 EUR and 300 EUR​

A Brief History of Popkomm:

Popkomm tends to be one of the lesser known music trade shows, but it has been going strong since 1989.

In that time, the trade show has moved around Germany a few times - it started in Dusseldorf, then moved to Cologne and finally landed for good in Berlin (rumor has it that the move to Berlin was not entirely desired by the Popkomm group but that the major labels centered in the city demanded it be moved, or they would refuse to attend).

Since its inception, Popkomm has had three components - The Congress, The Trade Show and The Festival.

Popkomm Congress:

The Popkomm Congress is designed to be a forum for discussing and debating issues facing the music industry. The format is set up so that there is a roundtable discussion between music industry experts on a certain topic, and then the floor is opened up for a questions and answer session with audience members. The Congress is where music industry newcomers can pick up some tips and tricks and everyone can get a feel for new directions the business is taking.

Popkomm Trade Show:

This part of Popkomm resembles many other music trade shows. Within the convention center, companies set up booths to sell their products and to solicit new contacts. Those without a display booth wander the venue to see who is there, try to get meetings with distributors, labels and such and strike up new business deals.

The trade show is mainly for networking, and you'll find business partners from different countries who rarely get to see each other face to face meeting up, band handing out demos, labels handing out samplers and so on.

Popkomm Festival:

The festival part of Popkomm is where the music takes place. The Popkomm organization selects a group of bands every year to take part in showcases promoted by the Popkomm group, and labels often have their own showcases as well. The gigs are scattered throughout Berlin, with the Popkomm organization deciding who plays where, when and with whom.

Applying for Popkomm:

Popkomm only accepts applications from bands online via Sonicbids. Bands coming from greater than 1000 km from Berlin may be eligible to receive a travel stipend, although not all will receive it. Eligibility is granted at the discretion of the Popkomm staff.

Should You Go to Popkomm?:

Popkomm is a bit of a strange music trade show. Its popularity has risen and fallen many times throughout its existence. In recent years, it went through a period of being important to the European music industry, but not such a big deal for the rest of world. The tide seems to be changing again, with more people from outside of Europe traveling to the trade show.

One reason that is changing is the price. Popkomm is every bit as polished and professional as Midem, but attendance is a fraction of the price. It may not offer the same cache as SXSW, but Popkomm generally puts together a very strong bill of bands - again, for mere pennies compared to the cost of attending SXSW. Although exchange rate factors may come into play for some, as far as music trade shows go, Popkomm is extremely reasonably priced, and you get you good value for money.

Popkomm is also a friendly place for independent bands. They put together showcases of music that the staff loves rather than focusing solely on the big names. That means if your music catches their ear, you could find yourself in front of some major music industry door-openers, no matter how much buzz you have created for yourself at home.

A Popkomm application is one that is well worth filing for any band.

As a band without a showcase or as a small, cash-strapped, non-European indie label, should you go? Probably not. While European-based labels, in particular, might find it worth the risk, when the money is tight, attending Popkomm should not be a priority - the chance of a payoff is just too small. If the money is not an issue, however, Popkomm can be a good stepping stone into the European music market.