Markus Graf, Vice President of BV POP © pop:rlp
Backstage PRO: What do you see as Germany’s strengths for promoting newcomers to popular music?
Mark Graf: One of the strengths of promoting newcomers is that it exists. It is essentially supported by regional and local pop promotion institutions and initiatives, each of which does important and important work in its respective region. Most of these institutions come together under the aegis of the Federal Association for Folk Music (BV POP eV).
Backstage PRO: Where do you see the weaknesses?
Mark Graf: A weakness of newcomer financing is the often precarious monetary endowment of financing institutions. There is currently a wide variety and heterogeneity of pop funding institutions in this segment: there are professional actors, but there are also institutions that keep their heads above water thanks to the annual funding of projects or which are even supported only by voluntary work.
Backstage PRO: What are the consequences?
Mark Graf: Of course, this situation has an impact on the target group, the newcomers. Unfortunately, it makes a difference which region artists and bands are based in and whether there is a good funding structure there. Here, as the Federal Association of Folk Music, we want to advise, change and improve.
Better support artists
Backstage PRO: What is the Federal Association of Popular Music?
Mark Graf: The Federal Association for Popular Music is a registered non-profit association that forms a competence network for pop music and pop culture with its members. We share a common interest in further developing pop funding in Germany and making it sustainable. We are particularly focused on better supporting artists, from young talents to various music networks and solo freelancers.
Backstage PRO: How to situate the Federal Association of Popular Music in the field of the promotion of new arrivals?
Mark Graf: The federal government is currently promoting newcomers through the Music Initiative, which is doing good and important work in this area. However, the Music Initiative supports artists who are already active in a business environment, ie who have entered into music industry partnerships with a label or publisher.
As the Federal Association of Popular Music, we start a little earlier in our promotion of young talent. On the one hand through our “Pop to Go” support program, which is part of the field of cultural education and is aimed at the very young target group, on the other hand through our network of skills as contact and advice center and now courses with our new pop exchange.
Backstage PRO: How did the idea of creating a national scholarship for newcomers to popular music come about?
Mark Graf: During the corona pandemic, it became apparent to us early on what devastating effects the lockdown would have on the entire newcomer sector. For a long time, not only public appearances were prohibited, but in some federal states in the amateur and semi-professional sphere even trial operation. To revive the scene, it takes a colossal effort, including financial. We then clarified the situation of newcomers during interviews with the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media and were finally able to bring this program to life.
Backstage PRO: What are the goals of the Pop scholarship?
Mark Graf: The fellowship is intended to allow fellows to free themselves for creative work and creative concepts. In addition, we have established close involvement of regional pop funding institutions in the scholarship program. As part of the pop scholarship, all scholarship recipients have the opportunity to access free advice from pop funding institutions. This applies both to application advice and to the implementation and treatment phase. Networking the scene has been a big concern for us from the start.
Backstage PRO: How is it that the Federal Association of Popular Music manages and distributes the scholarship funds to newcomers?
Mark Graf: There are several reasons for this. On the one hand, we have the expertise in this area. The segment of newcomers is the playground on which we evolve in complete safety and on which we know how to find our bearings. Our membership consists largely of regional pop funding institutions. Therefore, geographically speaking, we can reach the entire Federal Republic.
On the other hand, with “Pop To Go”, we are already supervising a very large federal project within the framework of the “Culture Makes Strong – Alliances for Education” program, in which we manage approximately 2 million euros of funding for educational projects for underprivileged children and young people. We therefore have a wealth of experience in the allocation of public funds in these dimensions and are able to quickly adapt our administrative territory to new requirements. This convinced the BKM to provide us with the funds for the pop scholarship.
Backstage PRO: What role do the funding institutions of the Länder play in the allocation of funds?
Mark Graf: A very important role. The funding institutions of the federal states are a key partner in the implementation of the pop scholarship and an essential factor in our communication strategy. They also support us in the selection of the jurors for the scholarship program and, thanks to their expertise, are responsible for advising the scholarship holders on the application, the implementation of the project and the management of the project.
Artistic development as a goal
Backstage PRO: What kind of artists and what projects should be funded?
Mark Graf: Newcomers to the field of popular music who have already introduced their own musical works to the public are to be promoted. However, they must not have released more than two albums and have taken the path to professionalization by 2017 at the latest. We also address graduates of the pop sectors of the promotions 2019-2021.
Backstage PRO: What are the content requirements for funding?
Mark Graf: We would like to support projects that show and expect a clear individual artistic development. This can be the expansion of the repertoire, the development of new works, new programs or concert formats or the further development of your own brand.
Skilled Greyhound Procedure
Backstage PRO: How are the juries that decide on funding made up?
Mark Graf: Our regional partners, who support us in the implementation of the pop scholarship, propose jurors, and we, as the Federal Association of Popular Music, appoint them. Our goal is to make the jury as diverse and heterogeneous as possible. In addition to a balanced gender distribution, there should also be music industry experts and, of course, professional pop musicians in addition to representatives from the pop promotion field.
Backstage PRO: What should artists and musicians consider when applying?
Mark Graf: The application procedure is a qualified procedure called “first come, first served”. This means that in addition to an eligible and meaningful project description, the timing of the application also plays a role. We recommend that you read the FAQ on our website www.pop-stipendium.de as soon as possible and subscribe to the newsletter in order to receive information about the exact start of the application.
In addition, our nine regional partners are available for individual application advice. The application phase will start on June 10, but registration is already possible.
Stimulus for the next generation
Backstage PRO: Funds for the $5 million program come from the Culture Restart Fund. Should the program continue when the money runs out?
Mark Graf: Yes, the funds come from the federal government’s Culture Reboot program. Of course, we hope that such a program will continue in a sustainable and needs-based manner. We will certainly also have talks on this topic, because we fear that the effects of the corona pandemic will occupy us for a long time. And it doesn’t matter what happens when we have another wave in the fall/winter.
Backstage PRO: What are your personal hopes for the Newcomer Scholarship?
Mark Graf: I hope for important and lasting impulses for the younger generation, who should use the pop scholarship to further develop their own artistic identity and make it more sustainable. But the extensive networking of regional and local pop funding institutions, i.e. our members, with newcomers is also very important to me personally. We look forward to the pop funding institutions getting to know many great new artists who haven’t been on their radar yet and I hope the two parties will enter into a regular exchange.
Backstage PRO: Thank you very much for the conversation.
→ You can find more information about the Pop Scholarship here.