A lot of international music industry folks have already confirmed that they’re on their way to this year’s edition of Spot Festival in Århus. During the coming weeks, MXD would like to highlight a few of the international guests that you will be able to meet at the festival.
Henning Furbach is an editor at the free Munich-based music magazine Piranha. He has worked his way up in the business, and he’s a loyal attender of Spot Festival (his goal for this year’s edition is to catch 20+ shows). We asked Henning to share his thoughts on the Danish music scene and Spot Festival, and to give us a peek into the work of a music loving editor at an ex-snowboard-now-music magazine.
Indeed, Piranha started as a snowboarding magazine back in the 90’s. The publisher, Piranha Media, issued other magazines as well, and JUICE, targeting the German hip-hop fans, went through the roof when the domestic hip-hop scene exploded in Germany. Piranha media saw the chance to aquire some more magazines, among them the revered intellectual music mag called Spex. Meanwhile, Piranha (the magazine) gradually became something different – it turned from a sports magazine into one all-music and one all-film-magazine.
Henning’s work involves a lot of the organizing around the releases of the music edition of Piranha – assigning the right freelancers to jobs, making sure all the content arrives on time, doing acquisition of ads, as well as writing “the little uncredited bits”, like small news pieces and competitions.
– Often people think my job is mostly doing interviews and watching concerts, he says. But all this framework leaves pretty little space for me to actually write articles myself. I still try to write a couple of features every issue though, cherrypicking my favourite acts.
You’ve been working for Piranha for several years, what got you there?
-I got to this position mainly through being a music nerd. I studied to become an English and arts teacher, but I realized I wasn’t going to be happy in that line of work. What I really cared about in life was always music related. Going out I met people working in the music industry, and I sneaked my way in – I started writing for different magazines, I played DJ gigs, worked for a promoter… I got this job at Piranha and thought I’d stay here for a few years and then move somewhere, like I used to. But this has become astonishingly permanent, I’ve been here for a decade now and I’m still not bored!
There are lots of different magazines for different target groups on the Piranha media roster: the actual Piranha magazine (with a free version for the German Saturn-stores), Spex, Groove and Classic Rock, among others. But according to Henning they all have their different fan bases. The risk for cross-overs is very small, but it does exist, he says.
-Groove is a magazine for electronic and dance music. Classic Rock is catering for the fans of – you guessed it – classic rock (it’s a licensed version of the UK magazine). Spex is the mag for the music gourmet – trying to talk about the bigger picture, the cultural context around the music and the artists. So, cross-over between Groove and Classic Rock – none. But Spex does cross over into Groove’s territory every so often. Into Classic Rock’s, rarely, but sometimes. Jack White or Noel Gallagher would be artists that fit into both mags.
Nordic music has a big impact in Germany and Henning thinks there’s a difference in how you look at culture in the two regions. He says there’s a lot more forward thinking and general emphasis on cultural capital in the Nordics compared to Germany, and most important of all, youth culture is included into the definition. That’s not always the case further down south.
-Here in Munich, there’s talk of spending billions on a new opera house. At the same time the city’s most iconic indie club, the Atomic Café, had to close down. It could easily have been saved with a fraction of a fraction of that kind of money.
Henning has a warm relation to Spot and has been visiting the festival for many years. He says the venues are very accessible and the atmosphere and bands are great.
-At Spot you will discover a great act every time. You will see some really awful acts every time too, but that’s all part of the fun when you check out bands you did not yet know.
How often do you go to showcase festivals?
-That depends. Two, three times a year? I don’t go for the contacts – of course it’s nice to get to know good people, but I’m too much of a music nerd to be a good networker. The main thing for me actually is to see the concerts. I just like to see new bands and get excited by good new music. Sweden’s or Denmark’s new hot band might just be the world’s new hot band in a few months time!
When asked which other showcases bands that are heading for the German market should play, Henning counters with suggesting touring instead.
-I’m guessing the Reeperbahn Festival is the big one these days. It has become too huge for my taste though – I’ll be skipping it this year. With so many acts there nowadays I guess it’s easy to get overlooked, especially if last year’s trend continues: some big guns were kind of hijacking the event for “secret“ shows and ended up taking all the headlines from the newcomers. So I don’t know if I would really recommend going there.
-When it comes to artists going for the German market I would much rather say: tour, tour, tour! Put the work in! Don’t only play the big cities – there is so much competition there. People are spoilt and reluctant to go see a band they don’t know yet. Play places where people go out to see you, because finally something is going on in that town. Do a twentyfive-date tour, not a three-date tour. The show in some smalltown might be the one you remember best. And that groundwork will pay off in the long run.
And of course, as a final question – what’s the first thing you’re going to do when you arrive in Århus?
-Well, my trip takes me from Munich to Hamburg via plane and then to Århus by bus, which is dragging. So what I’ll be doing is not exciting at all, sorry! Hang on, there is one thing I will definitely be having: some elderflower cider. They don’t sell that in Germany, and I love it!
Find links to other profiles at the bottom of this article.