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Business Models | Karolin Kretzschmar
​“See yourself as a business person”

Buzz meets Biz: Berlin
Foto: Valerie Siba Rousparast

Karolin Kretzschmar, a BMG-signed songwriter and co-runner of the Berlin based songwriting studio bauteil3 kicks off the six-day workshop programme in Berlin. She introduces music-based business areas such as music publishing, record labels, distribution, merchandising, management, booking and brand management.

As a professional songwriter, Kretzschmar pays special attention to the role of copyright for musicians. Most of the participants as well as independent artists in general nowadays are lyricists, composers and producers at the same time. Kretzschmar explains that “in these three roles, artists are automatically the owner of the rights and they can collect money because of that.” In the complementary workshop on Tuesday, attorney Prof. Dr. Hanno Fierdag dives even deeper into the legal aspects of the business model. He explains: “The copyright is given for compositions and lyrics if they are the own intellectual creations of the composer and/or the lyricist. In that case the composer has copyright protection for his composition. They are the author. On the other hand, there are other parties which are engaged in the presentation of music, the performing artists. They have their own exclusive rights given by the law and these are so-called neighbouring rights.”

Kretzschmar understands musicians nowadays not solely as artists but also as business people, as which they have to use their rights as licenses for royalties. She asks the participants in the room how artists can monetise their music. She gives a few examples: “Songs can be licensed as sync to movies, TV shows or commercials, they can be contributed to a songbook, sold to a compilation, songs can be placed (pitching/plugging). These are all legitimate ways to generate income for an artist.” But to actually understand the music industry, Kretzschmar provides an overview of the different departments of a music label: with A&R (artists & repertoire), song plugging, the copyright department (registering copyrights), royalty department (GEMA and payout), tracking (tracking royalties), promotion and public relations (PR), marketing, and booking. 

“See yourself as a business person”

Although major labels have very important expertise in all fields, Kretzschmar emphasises that “artists have the possibility to be any business person. For example a Facebook page is nowadays valid as an artist’s website, and it’s for free. Free promotion tools are provided by social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, SoundCloud or Twitter, cheaper technologies allow for home recording, and bookings can be managed by the artists themselves. So they can be their own producers, A&R managers, product managers, promoters, merchandisers, and distributors. They only need to have the time and the ideas.” Alexander Wondergem from the Accra Buzz Meets Biz programme, contributes advice for artists handling the distribution of music on their own: “Among many distribution platforms, there is a new player in the game called DistroKid. It is a platform that allows you to upload as many songs and projects as you like for a flat fee, which is much cheaper than anything else on the market. It is relatively unknown. It helped me as an independent artist to have access to online streaming.”

Just like any other business model, distribution can eat up a part of an artist’s income and can be avoided, especially at the beginning of a career. Many of the participants agree during the discussion that Do-It-Yourself (DIY) strategies are helpful. In a one-on-one interview, Karolin Kretzschmar gives the following advice to aspiring artists: “I think really the most important thing is to finish up with your content. Have the songs ready and be able to play live, because that’s what you want to work with, and the next thing is basically, go with the flow. If you want to get to know a manager, but all you meet is bookers, go with a booker. Try to take it as easy as possible; don’t try to walk through walls if there is already someone that can help you.” The intense three-hour opening session leaves the Hungarian party promoter Anna Simai, based in Germany’s capital, almost speechless: “For me, there’s so much new information that I’ve never heard before. It’s super cool. This is what I expected. It’s like a CTM talk, just for three hours. My brain is melting, but I love it, and it’s part of the whole process.”