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Reeperbahn Festival and their full circle moment

20 March 2024, 16:00

For Alexander Schulz, the founder of Hamburg based Reeperbahn Festival, returning each year to SXSW in Austin Texas is more than just another industry event - it’s a return to where it all started.

Schulz first came to Austin almost 25 years ago as the owner of a small record label and was inspired enough to go back to Hamburg and set up his own event – but his idea took six years to come to fruition. “I was so inspired by the high quality of the music that you could find here compared to my country and the rest of continental Europe - and that the quality was across multiple genres," Schulz says. "Everyone accepted everyone’s music. It was so inspiring.”

Schulz had in mind a certain district in Hamburg where he felt such an undertaking could thrive: “The infrastructure was already there and that’s what’s kept me working on the idea until we started the event in 2006.”

The first year was, as with many festivals taking their baby steps, a financial challenge – but three years later, Reeperbahn was breaking even and the event’s offering widened to include the music industry – and specifically those working in live music. “At that time everything was changing,” Schulz explains, “and most of the income for an artist and their management was moving away from recorded music to the live side.” They added further strands to the festival for publishing and the event began to take its place in the industry calendar. “Back them, it wasn’t an established thing to mix the public audiences with industry audiences,” Schulz explains. “But these two audience are equally important for our event and very different jurors on music."


Reeperbahn's reputation has spread far and wide – it remains one of the world's most vibrant and loved gatherings for both fans and industry to discover new music in a space that invites discovery and exchange. Their approach to curation has both a local and international focus and the festival has returned to SXSW over the past years as a stage host. Last week they delivered a line up at the Shangri-La venue in Austin that gave guests a teaser of what’s to come at the September event over in Hamburg. Stella Rose – daughter of Depeche Mode front man Dave Gahan – played music from her new record coming this spring. Irish singer-songwriter (and Lana Del Rey collaborator) Holly Macve was also a standout and has a close connection to the festival as a winner of its very own ANCHOR music prize. The award has been presented to up-and-coming musicians as part of Reeperbahn Festival since 2016 and is aimed at guiding both fans and music industry professionals in their search for the best new music – and a springboard for all competitors to an international career.

For this year’s SXSW, Reeperbahn’s showcase was also bolstered by a unique networking event, delivered with their own music industry network Hamburg Music and the global Keychange movement. For the very first time in Austin, they brought together the likes of the American Association of Independent Music, the Canadian Independent Music Association and the UK’s own Association of Independent Music for an afternoon of matchmaking. It was an event that gave industry folk the opportunity to meet potential business partners from the USA, Canada and UK face-to-face with a view to entering new relevant markets.


“It was a success,” Schulz tells me, “and we’ll continue this not only at SXSW but also in Hamburg in September and we are also thinking about returning to New York with our spin-off, which we did until 2019. Our role is connecting international music people. Yes, we are based in Germany but we know it’s extremely important, especially for midsize companies in continental Europe, to get in contact with the largest market here in the US."

As for the future of Reeperbahn, it's about tiny changes that build on the event's incredible success. "It's not getting easier to bring international bands to your event - both with fees and availability. But there's no "big bang" ambition - our aim is just to keep establishing the festival more and more each year as the marketplace for transcontinental business as well as for other continents. We should expand more activities into the Asian markets as well as Africa, and South America."

Reeperbahn Festival runs from 18-21 September. Find out more at

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