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Interview with TOBIAS DANNAPPEL, managing director for the Eastern Europe Music Convention (EEMC) - Apr 4, 2005

“Russia has 144 million inhabitants in 300 big cities… the market will soon explode”,

picture … says Tobias Dannappel, Managing Director for Eastern Europe Music Convention (EEMC), which is the first music industry convention for Eastern Europe, a growing market with a population larger than the USA. EEMC takes place in St. Petersburg, Russia, on the 16th and 17th of June, and will work as a contact hub between artists, labels, distributors, producers, managers and booking agencies for the Eastern European market.

EEMC will provide free translator service and special connection areas, where you can go directly and say, “I’m a manager from Germany, with three artists”, and then be directed to the right people.

When did you come up with the idea to start a music industry convention in Eastern Europe?

We came up with the idea two and a half years ago, working with our partner company in St Petersburg. EEMC is similar to Western conventions like Popkomm and Midem.

What kind of people will be going to the event?

All kinds of companies are represented: record labels, distributors, publishers, booking agencies, TV- and radio-stations. We’ve got registrations from all corners of the world; 50% of the exhibitors are from Western Europe. People we’ve spoken to say that this kind of conference has been eagerly awaited for years. People are happy; we have far more registrations than we expected.

Who does EEMC benefit, and in what way?

First of all we’ve got a slogan that says: ‘Get connected!’ We are trying to decrease the gap between the Eastern and Western territories in Europe. The purpose is to create possibilities of finding new connections and distributors for markets which are very big but aren’t yet discovered by Western companies. EEMC is a trade fair where you can make contacts for your future business in Europe.

Who would you say should exhibit at the event, and who should only participate?

If you have a record label and want to present something, you should book a stand. If you just want to make connections you can walk around as a participant, and meet people. Even DJs, booking agencies and some artists are going there as participants. But for regular business you should book a stand, because the prices are very low. Check prices.

We advise people who want to attend to hurry, because the fair takes place at a time when a lot of tourists visit St Petersburg. If you wait too long there might be problems with booking flights and hotels. You also have to get a VISA, which normally takes around three weeks. So there’s a little planning involved.

What kind of showcases will there be at the event?

We’re arranging eight label parties, and we’re still negotiating with different companies from all over the world. Exactly who will be attending the label parties is due to be announced within the next 14 days. We’re talking to German labels like Airbase-media and Gigolo Records, but we’re also in discussions with some bigger companies.

The label-parties will be held every day after the convention, in the evenings. We will have one classical concert, which is sponsored by The Government of St Petersburg and The Cultural Ministry of Russia. There are also R&B-parties, electro-parties and techno-events as well.

What’s the best way for an artist, songwriter or producer to promote his songs at EEMC?

I think you would go with your catalogue and songs, and go from stand to stand in our meeting areas. We will have a special connection area, where you can go and say what you’re looking for, like “I need to have a good publishing partner in Russia, what should I do?” And then someone will show you the right person.

Some visitors to EEMC will probably have few contacts in Eastern Europe. How easy will it be to just walk up to someone and make contact?

You will get access to a database on our website from which all the bookings have been made. With it you will be able to check which companies are from which country, and what they are doing. At the convention you will also get a special EEMC-guide; a handbook which you can use to walk around and to make connections with people at the stands.

What language is spoken at the event?

The main language is English, but we will have translators who speak German, English and Russian. So if there is a problem with correspondence you can just catch a translator. It’s a free service.

Why did you choose St. Petersburg as the location for the event?

Moscow is not as West-oriented as St Petersburg, which is very close to Helsinki, Finland. It takes just 2,5 hours to get there from Germany or France. The city is very beautiful, and the convention takes place during the “white nights”, so we will have 24 hours daylight, which also is an attractive factor.

Have you noticed a change in the music climate in Eastern Europe over the last 5 to 10 years?

Definitely. At the moment the market is opening up, but the structures are still very difficult. The biggest problem we’ve seen in the last years is that the gap between the Eastern and the Western countries is increasing. People from the Russian entertainment industry were coming to Western trade fairs and saying: “We would like to arrange a license-deal, but the Russian market is very difficult - there’s no CD-market at all, we’ve got so much piracy… let’s do a label deal for 1000 Euros”. And then they’d sell the catalogue for a million Euros, because the market is enormous. They work as brokers. We know there’s a big structure problem, but we’re now trying to make it more open, to make it clear.

In what way is the music climate in Eastern Europe different to the rest of the world?

Russia has 144 million inhabitants in 300 big cities. There is a huge market for mobile-phones in Russia; everyone has one, because it takes 3-4 months to get a regular phone installed. There is also a big market for ring tones. And people are very hungry; they want to see acts, new artists and concerts. Everyone that comes to Russia with new artists is very happy. As I see it, the market will soon explode.

Are there any figures on the growth of the music industry in Eastern Europe?

I don’t know the current sales, because there are no statistics at the moment. The problem is that there are no charts in Russia yet. These are subjects we are focusing on, not only for Russia but for other Eastern European markets as well, such as Poland, Latvia and Slovenia. We are trying to build a new structure.

How do you make the most money on music there; touring, ring tones, record sales, downloads, cassettes?

I think you make money from everything as a whole. You can easily make distribution connections and publishing or sub-publishing deals. But you can also direct your business towards new media and artist promotion.

Do you have any figures on the growth of the music industry in Eastern Europe?

I don’t know the current sales, because there are no statistics at the moment. The problem is that there are no charts in Russia yet. These are subjects we are focusing on, not only for Russia but for other Eastern European markets as well, such as Polonia, Latvia and Slovenia. We are trying to build a new structure there.

What is the best way to get educated about the Eastern European market?

I think a good opportunity is to attend the EEMC, because sharing information is the major reason that we are doing this convention. Most of the websites of Russian companies don’t have information in English, so this will be a good occasion to meet people, to make contacts with radio-shows, and to study business.

When approaching the Eastern European music industry, how important is it to understand the differences between the different countries?

There is a discrepancy in cultural rhythm, but the best way to overcome that is to finalize your business there. You’ve got to learn to know the people. I don’t think they are as different to us as people think. There can be different perspectives in viewing things, but the Japanese and the Chinese markets are also different. People are universals in Tokyo too. But this will work in the future. We are trying to import the European system into the market.

In what ways are music consumers in the East different to the ones in the West?

There are no major differences, except that West European consumers have more money. But the consumer is nearly always the same; there are CD-shops, clubs, and kids are downloading ring tones.

In what ways do you think this fair will be similar, or different, to Midem and Popkomm?

We’re trying to create opportunities for joint ventures between companies. There will be areas for distribution and management, where you can go directly and say, “I’m a manager from Germany, with three artists”, and then be directed to the right people. We’re also arranging panels around the fair, and conferences, of which the biggest will be about piracy.

Looking to the future, we’re trying to change the present situation of piracy in Eastern European countries through legal systems. There will be lawyers from all over the world participating in panels in which the German and U.K. system of copyrights will be discussed.

How did you market your event?

We started with a stand at Midem, and we went around with a promotion team. We’ve also done a lot of press work; we have media-offices both in Russia and Germany. We produce regular newsletters, we’ve also done co-operations with magazines in Germany, and we’ve published articles worldwide.

What is your background in the music industry?

I’ve run a record-label, Schallpark, for the last ten years. Five years ago we started to focus on the Eastern market. We realized the potential, saw the difficulties, and decided to employ people from Russia. So now we have Russian employees here in Germany, who both speak Russian and German.

Which experience has been valuable to you whilst organizing EEMC?

We’re expecting to run this convention every year, and to make it grow. Besides China and India, Eastern Europe is the only growth market; especially in the music and entertainment industry.

What would be the perfect scenario for you in June?

A full convention, with many companies making many connections. To decrease the gap between Eastern and Western Europe.

What are your plans for the future?

When the convention is over, we will sit down together and evaluate it, and start to make plans for next year. And hope that EEMC will grow as one of the leading music conventions in the world.

Interviewed by Anders Hellquist

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