Johannes Theurer, experienced radio editor and producer in Berlin, chair of World Music Workshop of the European Broadcasting Union (the biggest association of public service broadcasters), publisher of monthly ‘World Music Charts Europe’ (airplay-recommendations from 46 radio presenters in 24 countries), curator of online music catalogue dismarc.org.
How interesting is music from Brazil for the music journalists and German radio stations?
We have to divide the media in two main areas, special interest and mainstream. Producers of special interest programs may want to keep up with trends in Brazil. In particular colleagues from the Jazz or the World Music section feel obliged to play some Brazilian music from time to time. Independent recordings have a good chance to be listened to and be discovered for airing. DJ Dolores, Nacao Zumbi, Lenine and more find attention in these niches. But will they also find a place for broadcast? They have to share very limited space with many other nations from Africa, America and Asia plus a lot of non-mainstream recordings from Europe. The competition is tough.
In the mainstream programs Brazil’s image is still characterized by Bossa Nova. Since Lambada happened, Getz / Gilberto is perhaps again the most played Brazilian music on mainstream radio. At the same time megastars like Ivete Sangalo are almost unknown in Germany. Bebel Gilberto or CEU have their opportunities as modern post-Bossa acts.
What can musicians from Brazil do to catch the interest of the German media?
Prepare for journalists who do not speak Portuguese. Your infos need to be in English, German would be even better. If you have a message, shape it. Don’t take too much of the time of the media personnel to bring your story across: kiss (=keep it short and simple)! If you have a link to Jobim, Gill or other classics, mention it. Compare your music to other global trends, not only to regional Brazilian phenomena. No need to send gifts, payola is almost unknown in Germany. Name contact persons only if they speak English or German and will react instantly. Your music may be listened to with more curiosity if it comes as part of a general story, for example if it deals with football, Carnival or the Amazonas. If a band is on tour, it may become interesting for the cultural news desk as current information (but only for a very limited period).
Your point of access to Germany may be your booking agent who organises a concert tour. He will bombard media according to his experiences with information. Or your label may send your CDs to selected journalists like the radio presenters in the jury of the World Music Charts Europe. Over 21 years now that network became influential as a gatekeeper for talents from all over the world. (details at www.wmce.de). If you see a good story about Brazil in a newspaper, google the author’s contact and get in touch bilateral rather than sending your CDs to the editorial office. Besides that you may choose to engage a media promoter for your product. Make sure that you agree on a strategy which is understood by both sides in the same way before starting. Using a promoter is not cheap but may be a wise choice if you really want to achieve some status.
How important are digital media for promoting artists in Germany/Europe? Should people also use the traditional elements like CD‘s or print advertising?
If you want to build the name of an artist you have to consider that the talkative and chatty online reception is worth a lot. But how much weight does it realy have? You never know. While bloggers will love to quote from a print or radio statement from the UK or the US, they will hardly be quoted in return by radio or print. (btw: forget about Portuguese media if you want to reach the rest of Europe). I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to invest in online advertising. Print magazines or airplay adverts will eat a lot of budget. It may be very difficult to reach your ROI point. You should make yourselves easily traceable by some Youtube video (even if it is not the best quality, it can show your personality). Also some tracks on Myspace are helpful for a journalist to gain an overview what your project is about. But when it comes to actual broadcasting, your radio liaison will choose music from his/her pile of CDs. Meaning: that physical product should be at hand then.
How would you recommend Brazilian artists or agents get started in Germany?
There is no real how-to-do-strategy. Trial and error is normal. Usually you would start in the big cities like Berlin or Hamburg – but there you also find the strongest competition. What I said about the language applies again: if you can’t express yourself in English – forget it! If you speak German – even better! Concerts are crucial to make artists known. So an agent’s job needs to be done. Festivals can be checked by working up and down the list of the European Forum of Worldwide Music Festivals. Learn about their profiles. Can you offer yourself as a Brazilian contribution to the festival program that comes with governmental tour support? Very good, that may inspire the conversation with festival bookers. If you want to see yoursel what the World Music business is about, come and visit the WOMEX in October. Afterwards you should know what it’s all about.
When you think of Brazilian music, what artists come to mind? Do you have any musical favourites from Brazil?
It is only natural to think of Gilberto Gil immediately. Jobim, Lenine, Arto Lindsay, Caetano Veloso, Nacao Zumbi, Luisa Maita, Tom Ze. I even havn’t forgotten Olodum yet.My personal favourites? Mawaca for example. Lucas Santtana. Hamilton de Holanda, Gilberto Gil, SPOK Frevo Orchestra and many others.
Actually I hardly have any fixed favourites from Brazil. I listen to most new Brazilian releases with curiosity.