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The Guide

Germany's cultural scene

Associations and organisations

The music sector is organised into national, regional, state-wide and local professional associations of the musical branches, in accordance with the federal structure of the musical sector. In addition, there are numerous associations which lobby for certain instruments, for the repertoire of a certain composer or for thematic, religious and economic areas. These are often financed predominantly by means of institutionalised public funding. Collecting societies are also important as associations representing certain interests in the music sector.  

The German Music Council (Deutscher Musikrat e.V.- only available in German) is the largest national umbrella organisation within the public and intermediary music sectors, into which more than 90 professional associations of the various music branches and 16 regional music councils as well as a number of renowned individual music personalities in Germany have organised themselves. It represents the interests of its affiliated organisations in a dialogue with the political sector in order to create and maintain an affordable and accessible musical and cultural infrastructure in the hands of the public, to protect intellectual property, to support appropriate framework conditions for a creative economy focusing on cultural diversity and to promote a foreign cultural policy in the music sector as a pillar of international understanding.
The German Music Council is organised both as a non-profit association and as a non-profit project company, which supports individual projects such as competitions (e.g. German Choir Competition (Deutscher Chorwettbewerb), German Music and Orchestra Competition (Deutscher Musik- und Orchesterwettbewerb) and Youth makes music (Jugend musiziert)), the Federal Youth Orchestra and the German Music Information Centre MIZ. The project company also produces publications on the music landscape in Germany.

The following is a small selection of collecting societies and important national associations. Approximately 300 more associations in the music sector can be found on the MIZ website.

Professional associations related to musical branches

Professional and thematic, religious and economic professional associations in the music sector

Collecting societies

The music sector also includes actors from cultural minority groups, alternative or new social movements and the transnational music sector, who often organise themselves into informal or open networks and platforms. They are often not part of association structures, but play an important role for their respective areas of the music sector as lobby and specialist organisations – particularly with regard to innovation and in supporting young talent. Networking can be promoted through project funding at the local, state, national and European levels. This work is often financed by volunteers or internal funds.

Selection of open networks and platforms

  • Klangkosmos NRW – network of organisers of global music in NRW (only available in German)
  • create music – network of pop cultural bands and cultural actors in NRW (only available in German)
  • BR Home (BR Heimat) – folk music platform of the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation

Open platforms within the transnational music sector with German participation

  • eeemerging – Emerging European Ensembles for early music
  • Liveurope – European platform project of popular music concert halls for the promotion of up-and-coming European musicians

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International work

Various professional, semi-professional and amateur musicians resident in the country are active in Germany. In addition, many international artists visit Germany and participate temporarily in co-productions, projects and transnational ensembles – and, of course, musicians of all disciplines from Germany are active all over the world.
Germany is committed to implementing the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity, which recognises culture as a strategic element for national and international sustainable development at all levels (Article 13). Music is one of the most effective means of international communication and sustainable development collaboration in a globalised world.  

Principles for the exchange of cultural products and services and cultural rights are also regulated in the Convention, e.g. through co-productions and joint distribution (Article 12), for securing viable local and regional markets for independent cultural industries (Article 14) and for preferential treatment for cultural exchanges with developing countries (Article 16).

In accordance with the overall structure of the music landscape, these challenges are also accepted in Germany for musical work abroad:

The Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Government regularly commission intermediary organisations for foreign cultural work, such as the Goethe Institutes worldwide and the House of World Cultures in Berlin. In addition, numerous foreign state cultural institutes are based in Germany.

With financial support from the government, specialised and national non-profit institutions and bodies carry out the tasks of mediation, exchange and documentation of musical work abroad, e.g.:

In addition, national umbrella organisations for music have systematically organised themselves into European networks in recent years. These multinational organisations are becoming increasingly important with respect to international work in the German music sector. There are currently seven EU-accredited European networks with active German participation:

Because of the cultural federalism, international and foreign cultural work in the music sector also depends on private-sector organisations and committed partnerships with the independent cultural scene (cultural associations, festivals, agencies and music producers), which are implemented in collaboration with partners in Europe and worldwide with countries of the Global South.  

Initiative Musik gGmbH, the central funding agency for the German music industry, plays a special role as the joint promotion and export office of the music industry and the German Federal Government. Responsible bodies are the Society for the Exploitation of Performance Rights (Gesellschaft zur Verwertung von Leistungsschutzrechten (GVL)) and the German Music Council (Deutscher Musikrat (DMR)) with financial support from the GVL, GEMA, the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy and the Federal Foreign Office.

Its mission is to support the presentation and dissemination of music from Germany at home and abroad, with a focus is on promoting up-and-coming musicians from Germany, musicians with migration background and live music clubs.

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Education and music communication

In Germany, there are many opportunities to pursue music education in and outside of school as well as opportunities for training in the musical professions and for further and advanced training and education in the field of music.

There are more than 30 state-approved, publicly funded universities for church music, music colleges, conservatories and music academies. The range of subjects offered can vary from college to college and includes a broad spectrum of artistic, artistic-educational and academic courses of study. Several universities, comprehensive colleges and teacher training colleges also offer musicological and music pedagogical study courses.

Furthermore, there are numerous specialised training centres for music professions which are run by public and private institutions – MIZ information.

The national and state public music academies act as institutions for further education and training for amateur, up-and-coming and professional musicians:

In addition, countless training and further education opportunities are offered by freelance musicians, music educators and other professional groups in the music sector in non-profit institutions and private academies within the music industry.

Teaching in general schools focuses on all children and adolescents in their respective subject areas, including music lessons. Education in these institutions is based on an individual's right to education as well as the state's educational mandate. The legal basis for general schools lies in the state school laws, which result in very different educational landscapes and diverse forms of music instruction.
One example is the non-profit JeKits Foundation (only available in German) in NRW, which advises and supports schools and their extracurricular educational partners in implementing the JeKits joint music-making, singing and dancing programme as an important element of a holistic education for all children in NRW.  

Music education and cultivation of music also takes place outside of general schools:

Other public and private music schools and other music educational establishments – MIZ information

Music lessons are also offered on the open market by freelance musicians and music teachers, for whom there is no central register (MIZ – search for courses and conferences).

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Music festivals

The number of music festivals and festivals offering music as part of their programmes in Germany is enormous. There are public festivals, publicly-funded non-profit festivals and privately-run festivals in every musical genre. There are one-day to several-week festival formats, indoor and outdoor festivals, events taking place at one or several venues, with one or more stages, unique festivals organised to mark special occasions and annual, biennial and triennial festivals as well as festivals that take place at irregular intervals. In addition to the musical varieties of a musical genre, festivals have often also developed a separate profile. The following are just a few examples:

  • themed festivals dedicated to a motto that changes annually
  • spiritual music festivals – Festival Musica S. Paderborn, Yiddish Summer Weimar etc.
  • festivals dedicated to local music traditions – Oberammergau Passion Play, Cologne Carnival etc.
  • festivals dedicated to composers – Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Offenbach etc.
  • festivals involving performances at certain locations – Mittelrhein Music Festival, Rock am Ring at the Nürburgring race track etc.
  • community festivals – Afrika, Newroz, Reggae, Irish Folk festivals etc.

Further information on festivals can be found on the MIZ website here (only available in German) and here, as well as in Online festival guides for all types of music festivals

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Places for music

Given the sheer size and complexity of the music sector, it is not possible to provide a comprehensive overview of music venues here. Furthermore, unlike most other arts, music can traditionally be played in any situation and anywhere. Specific music venues have evolved in each epoch, for example churches, philharmonic halls, opera houses and clubs. However, there are also countless music venues in the public space in rural surroundings as well as in urban metropolises. Even rather private spaces are increasingly being developed as venues for public music events as part of the "music in the houses of the city" (Musik in the Häusern der Stadt) concept.

List of links to selected venue networks:

  • approximately 24,000 Catholic and 20,330 Protestant churches and chapels (Source: Churches and places of worship of the Protestant Church in 2016 – EDK statistics- only available in German). Many of these churches are fitted with permanent organs, as can be seen from the UNESCO publication, which counted around 50,000 organs in Germany in connection with the designation as an Intangible Cultural Heritage site in 2017.
  • Association of Music Venues in Germany (LiveMusikKommission – Verband der Musikspielstätten in Deutschland e.V. (LiveKomm))
  • Award for programme planning of independent venues (APPLAUS – Auszeichnung der Programmplanung unabhängiger Spielstätten (Initiative Musik gGmbH) - only available in German)

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Music information and documentation

Music libraries, archives and museums collect and disseminate source material, literature on music and musical life as well as sheet music, musical instruments and audiovisual media.
Comprehensive information on and addresses of scientific and public institutions and collections can be found in the online portal of the German Music Information Centre (MIZ). The MIZ is itself a central, open information facility that is accessible to all. It is operated by the German Music Council with the aim of making musical life in Germany more transparent, facilitating orientation within the musical landscape and documenting the development of musical cultures.

There are also a number of other relevant online portals for the music sector:

Furthermore, there are many private collections of various kinds – physical and digital – within the music sector, but these are not usually accessible to the public. Nevertheless, they represent an important treasure trove of knowledge and experience with regard to music. 

In addition to public archives, museums and collections, cultural mapping – the mapping of music in Germany – has also gained importance in the documentation of music. In order to make musical diversity visible, it has become popular as a central method in recent years in connection with the implementation of the UNESCO Conventions on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and Intangible Cultural Heritage. This method is used to investigate the relationship between space – nature, urban and rural landscape – and music and sound. This opens up new cultural and community profiles in Germany along with their diverse musical practices. Little known, often atypical places of music become visible and contexts and actors of oral music traditions of intangible cultural heritage and cultural minorities are explored.
The results of studies using this method provide new impetus in terms of cultural policy for the development of music and the musical landscape in a demographically changing society in the age of globalisation. Furthermore, the mapping of cultural diversity also provides a resource for analysing current conflicts between cultures in the music sector and offers impulses for sustainability strategies in accordance with the SDGs. 

Examples of such mapping projects include the following:

  • Germany, Land of Music: Day of Music (Musikland Deutschland: Tag der Musik- only available in German)

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