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Germany's cultural scene

Music scene

Germany has a rich musical heritage and a vibrant contemporary music scene of impressive cultural diversity. In 2014, approximately 130,000 people were employed in musical professions and around 2 million people were active as lay musicians in various organisations (see Statistischer Bericht zur Kultursparte Musik 2016, the 2016 Statistical Report on the Music Sector in Germany on behalf of the Conference of the Ministers of Education and the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media- only available in German). In addition, a large number of people work in the music sector in new professional, artistic and organisational forms and structures that have emerged in recent years as a result of digitisation and globalisation and are only partially covered by the statistics.    

In order to approach the music sector as the largest cultural sector in Germany, it is necessary to consider its recent political history: When the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in 1949, the German Constitution established the cultural sovereignty of the federal states and municipalities (Article 30 GG). The federal government has (almost) no authority in the cultural sector, since only those institutions and measures may be funded that ensure "national representation" and are "significant on a national level". This special form of cultural federalism also applies to the music sector with its enorous complexity, heterogeneity, dynamics and size. It is often difficult for outsiders to understand.

The music sector is divided into different sections. There are various models according to which a structure can be defined. These subdivisions depend in turn on their respective political, social, economic and artistic interests.

Subsections of the music sector are therefore presented briefly below based on various models.



First, according to the federal structure, a distinction must be made between the music sector that falls under the mandate of the federal government in terms of cultural policy, the music scenes in the 16 federal states and the music scenes in the more than 11,000 municipalities. The German Music Information Centre of the German Music Council (MIZ) provides extensive data on this federal music scene in Germany on its online platform (also as a book): Musikatlas Deutschland.

Despite the extensive data in the MIZ Musikatlas, some areas remain "below the radar" because they are not, or only marginally, integrated into existing cultural-political structures. This includes, for example, the music of cultural minorities (other than the four autochthonous minorities recognized in Germany), since they are difficult to grasp with regard to their numbers and from a stylistic perspective; the music of groups of new social movements or alternative movements that are not organised into music associations and are very dynamic (e.g. the music of refugees, the music of people of colour). Transnational areas of music, where neither the residency status nor the national affiliation of the actors is clearly defined, also cannot be captured by the MIZ or other public institutions.

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The Federal Statistical Office, on the other hand, uses a 3-sector model for the cultural and creative industries. This divides the music sector according to its funding structure: publicly funded music sector, intermediary music sector and private music sector (see Öffentlich geförderter, intermediärer und privater Kultursektor – Forschungsgutachten für den Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien (BKM), 2012- only available in German).

The publicly funded music sector
Within the music sector in Germany, the section financed by public funds from the federal government, the federal states and the municipalities makes up the largest share. This includes orchestras and choirs, opera houses and concert halls, educational institutions (public music schools and music education in general schools, music colleges, institutions offering dual education in musical professions, musical offerings at adult education centres), music in public broadcasting, research and musicology, music archives and amateur religious musicians.
According to figures published by the Federal Statistical Office in 2016, approximately 1.9 billion euros were spent on the music sector by the municipalities, 1.6 billion euros by the federal states and 44.7 million euros by the federal government (Kleine Anfrage Bundesmusikförderung 2011Response of the Federal Government-  only available in German).
These impressive figures indicating the strong support enjoyed by the publicly-funded music sector are also reflected in terms of density and diversity, genres, aesthetics, means of expression, language and occasions for performance and constitute a structure that is the only one of its kind worldwide. As a result, the "theatre and orchestra landscape" was nominated for inclusion in the international UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage (see DUK information- only available in German) in 2019.

Examples of music institutions of national importance financed directly, completely or to a significant extent by one of seven federal ministries or its bodies include the following: music within the federal armed forces, the federal police and state police forces, the National Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, the Beethoven Jubilee 2020 and the musical events organised by the "Kulturveranstaltungen des Bundes in Berlin GmbH" umbrella organisation.

In recent years, public funding for music in Germany has shifted within federal structures towards the federal states and municipalities, particularly in the case of federal music funding. Furthermore, there has also been a shift towards non-profit organisations and private-sector structures – both in the form of direct funding and funding by the intermediary organisation for foreign cultural policy and in terms of the participation of numerous ministries in established representative funding institutions (funds, foundations, initiatives).
The Zukunft der Bundesmusikförderung, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung/Forum Berlin 2013 study and the Kleine Anfrage vom 25.01.2019 – Musikförderung des Bundes as well as the response of the federal government from 19 February 2019 provide further information in this regard (only available in German).

One special case in the public music sector in Germany is church music, the work and institutions of which are financed by the Christian churches and are closely linked to the public music sector (see MIZ information on church music).
Organ building and organ music are of special significance within the area of church music. This area was included in the international UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage 2017 (only available in German).

Music also plays a special role in public broadcasting for the nine federal state ARD radio stations and the three Deutschlandradio channels. Like church music, this area is closely linked to the public music sector. In addition, public broadcasters have a cultural mandate, particularly with regard to the promotion of music and aspiring musicians. In order to fulfil this responsibility in terms of cultural policy, the broadcasting companies maintain their own orchestras and choirs, organise competitions, festivals, concerts and concert series and commission compositions. In television, however, music is of little importance.

The intermediary music sector
This area includes non-profit organisations in the music sector such as music centres, civic institutions, associations and cultural programmes such as festivals covered by private law organised by associations, foundations and non-profit companies operating between the markets of the cultural and creative industries and public services. These finance themselves mainly using their own resources, the income they generate or through the help of patrons and sponsors as well as public subsidies. Voluntary work also plays a major role for many of these organisations. Due to the complex mix of financing, their work requires very demanding management processes because the rules stipulated by public funding law, those of non-profit organisations and those of the market must be taken into account. Music organisations in the intermediary music sector receive subsidies from the federal government, the federal states and the municipalities, usually in the form of one-off or temporary project funding. There are non-profit organisations in all areas of music. However, the "young" areas of jazz and world/global music in particular are structured in such a way that they are not, or are only partially, publicly institutionalised. Amateur music is also part of this sector, as it is not played professionally or with the intention of earning a living (see MIZ Themenportal Laienmusik, amateur music).

The private music sector
The private music industry is one of 11 submarkets of the creative industry (in addition to the book and art market, film industry, broadcasting industry, market for the performing arts, design industry, architecture market and press market, advertising market and software/games industry). The profile was defined in 2011 by the Conference of Economic Ministers (Wirtschaftsministerkonferenz) in order to cover the predominantly commercial branches with freelance activities in the artistic and creative sectors that are concerned with the production and distribution of works and goods as well as with the distribution of goods and services in the media. These include self-employed musicians, music ensembles and bands in the private sector, publishers, labels, recording studies, musical instrument manufacturers and other music users, as well as private concert organisers and agencies. This area is financed mainly using self-generated income, through the help of sponsors and, in some cases, by means of public subsidies from economic development agencies.

In 2015, the turnover of music companies totalled 1.1 billion euros, or 20 billion euros if secondary sectors such as audiovisual media with musical content and music tourism are included. It is clear, then, that the private music sector makes an important cultural and economic contribution to musical life in Germany. The main focus is on the popular branches of music such as musicals and classical music, folk music and schlager music, rock, hip-hop and rap, electronic music and heavy metal.
See also the Musikwirtschaftsstudie of the BVMI 2015 and the Musikindustrie in Zahlen study (BVMI Jahrbuch 2015 (only available in German).

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In addition to the cultural policy distinction and the 3-sector model of the cultural and creative industries, the branch model is of importance for the music industry in Germany. It focuses on the stylistic forms, genres and other common content-related aspects of music practiced by those working in these fields – whether professionally or in an amateur capacity. The actors of a branch may be active in all three sectors and both locally in the municipalities, as well as regionally in the federal states, nationally or internationally.

Six musical branches have emerged in the German musical landscape over the last 40 years. The German Music Information Centre (MIZ) presents detailed information on a number of musical branches in its thematic portals:

Classical music
Chamber music, opera, operettas, musical theatre, musicals, Lieder, symphonies, etc. (see MIZ Konzerte und Musiktheater, concerts and music theatre)

Early music
Music from the Middle Ages to the Early Classical period with an orientation towards historical performance practices as well as sacred music, etc.

New Music
20th-century Western musical composition, modern and post-modern music, avant-garde, electronic sound art, etc. (see MIZ Neue Musik, new music)

Detailed information on other branches can be found in specialised online portals provided by organisations and associations in the following musical areas:

Gospel, blues, improvised music, etc.

Popular music
Schlager music, rock, pop, reggae, hip-hop, rap, techno, heavy metal, punk, drum&bass, dance, etc.

World music/musics of the world    
Unlike the other five musical branches, this "branch" is not characterised by a certain stylistic homogeneity, a specific genre, a common history or a common geographical location. Rather, it reflects the musical and stylistic diversity and organisational and structural heterogeneity of local music in the age of globalisation. Content ranges from classical non-Western music, traditional music passed down orally, folk, country and Alpine folk music to countless contemporary hybrid and creole forms, fusion and ethno-crossover, global music, world music and many more.
A debate on the definition of world music has been ongoing since the 1980s, especially in the German-speaking world, but it would not be appropriate to discuss this issue at this point. Nevertheless, one of the original sources of this debate should be referenced here: World Music History: Minutes and press releases (fRoots 1987).                                                 
Additional information can be found in the following online portals:

  • Virtual WOMEX – the world's largest and most important world music platform         

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