The concept was to create an event for the creative people. For consumers. For social media geeks. For IT people. For anyone whose interested in discussing the changes in music and culture. It was intended to be a convention for anyone to collectively work on the current situation – all2gethernow.

The first installment of all2gethernow aimed at finding first steps towards solutions – we didn’t expect Harry Potter to attend and make Lord “Where’s the artist’s money?” Voldemort go KA-BOOM. Also, confrontation gets no one nowhere. Starting out, it’s great to get people from different sides talking to each other. To motivate. To initiate. To help people participate.

But, no matter what, a2n will be compared to Popkomm.


Again, the facts:

  • 06/19: Popkomm cancelled. Jana Herwig twitters “Cancelling Popkomm and blaming online piracy is the most sordid PR stunt in a long time” – “Dear people in Berlin! Can you make a bottom-up Popkomm happen? #unkomm”.
    The same evening, she blogs a concept of strategy for an #unkomm event.
  • 06/24: all2gethernow initiated.
  • 07/07: Ignition start: foundation of all2gethernow society – 70 days to go.
  • 09/03: First incarnation of programme published.
  • 09/16: a2n starts.

That means:

  • 10 weeks of hard work.
  • A main team of about 40 people plus lots of helpers.
  • No payment, no budget, not projected as part of daily schedule.
  • Thankfully, we received support from the City of Berlin as well as from our sponsors.

And that’s what we ended up with:

  • approx. 130 speakers, panelists & session hosts
  • almost 50 panels and sessions
  • more than 10 speaker slots
  • plus the #cloud (I don’t know how many concerts, sessions and events were hosted here.)
  • plus second SoundCloud music hack day ever
  • more than 1.000 tickets sold. That does NOT include the #cloud, nor does it include the donation based concert featuring Amanda Palmer [link broken, 2016-03-10] feat. Kim “Vermillion” Boekbinder [link broken, 2016-03-10] and special guest Neil Gaiman, with openers Voltaire and siva. All donations directly went to the artists.

Regarding size and visitors a2n roughly equals the Popkomm’s first year in 1989, hosted in Düsseldorf. Presumably (no numbers found), the offerings of sessions at a2n were bigger.

In 2008, Popkomm yielded 14.000 visitors and about 850 exhibitors. This clearly beats a2n.

Yet more important, just as I hinted to above – nowadays, talking and understanding is worth much more than sales. You’re a manager who wants to make a deal? Want to buy your brand new act a story or profile? You should better wait for Popkomm. You’re an artist who likes to get to hear different points of view, get some ideas and understand what labels are missing? Go visit a2n.

Buffy, the Session Slayer

Though, many things we would have liked to do we weren’t able to – due to time & cost. But not because of “piracy”. The ideas that didn’t make it, well, they are not in vain. We are planning for next year.

On another note, unfortunately some sessions and speakers we planned for couldn’t make it. Melvin Benn, Director of Festivals with Mean Fiddler cancelled just a few days before the convention started due to preparing for another, long-term project. Jim Griffin who cancelled German conference c/o pop at Cologne just a month earlier, again did so at a2n. The reason most probably being the same, namely the death of his mother.

Other problems we ran into were a terrible Skype connection when talking to Julie Borchardt-Young and another session that had to be cancelled due to illness.

But – that’s how life is. You can ask any event manager. Yet, most times you won’t hear about mishaps. And I surely won’t tell you all the horrors we encounteredand went through…

Great Expectations

Anyway – what was it all about? Were we able to deliver? Did we hold up against expectations?

First of all, to sell more than 1.000 tickets is more than we expected. No proper invitation had been send out. I think c/o pop (which sold out and had been fully preparated) fetched 1.000-1.500 visitors – congrats to Claudia Jericho (Head of Professional, c/o pop) and her team. The Cologne conference that is being held since 2003 is kind of comparable – but the number of sessions at a2n outdid c/o pop by far. Therefore, due to synchronicity, the number of participants per a2n session at times has been lower.

Having a look at the list of visitors at c/o pop, you clearly find a more “industry” focused audience than at a2n. The people I saw, met and talked to at a2n definitely matched the intended profile of the target audience described in the beginning. Mixed. Motivated. Enthusiastic.

Btw, a full ticket to Popkomm had been priced 375 Euros, a full c/o pop one went for 175 Euros, a2n sold at 50 Euros (with options for single days). Yet I don’t want to omit that c/o pop tickets included almost all concerts (these were a LOT). Since all #cloud concerts and events apart from the opening party and the donation concert at the #camp were managed and staged externally, we weren’t able to offer that.

The Jury

Ok, we got the people cueing up. But how was the feedback? Those who immediately come to mind are:

Andrew Dubber obviously had lots of fun, starting by meeting Georgia Wonder while twittering at Stansted – and, when leaving he proudly wore his brand new self-designed t-shirt sporting the lines “music is not like water – not even a little bit” (now guess the title of Gerd Leonhard’s presentation the next day…). The camp had been the environment he’s into most – a kind of UnConvention. Btw, right after his session just at ContentSphere, the downloads of Andrew’s ebook “The 20 Things” jumped up by more than 100.

Actually, he pitched the same topic for Popkomm. But Popkomm’s preliminary programme actually showed little match in direction. That’s how things turn out.

Gerd Leonhard, in his closing words (opening a marvellous chill out barbecue), pointed out “he felt like witnessing something great and new just starting”.

Georgia Wonder wrote: “We really enjoyed the panel sessions and thanks for [..] the Q&A with Amanda [..]. We sold some CDs just because of that session, and also people came up to us afterwards and were saying nice things which was great.”

Amanda Palmer obviously enjoyed the gig (see YouTube) – even before we were able to thank her for coming she mailed us an overwhelming “thank you guys again so much!!!!”.

Management and coordination has been much more smooth than expected. We encountered just a few problems. For instance, we had a visitor who missed a session since it had been relocated. Unfortunately, this apparently had been the only thing he was into that day – which made him loose the expense for the single-day ticket (12 Euros) plus the cost of a taxi. He mentioned something like “that’s how musicians are” and left.

Nevertheless, several visitors afterwards directly approached us just to thank us. Really. Now that we didn’t expect. Nor did I ever see this anywhere else. I must say, I’m still flabbergasted.

The Remains of the Day?

Nope. Not at all. More precisely, the results have been rich in setting a healthy basis for what’s to come. Results have been yielded not everywhere, but at to some part in most of the sessions. Confrontation made way for reasonable discussions.

Anyway, throughout there was that real good and productive atmosphere. A new approach to it. The conference in itself wouldn’t have made it – the camp has been the core of it all.

Though at the conference we learned about new directions at large companies. New approaches, that really are implemented right now. BMG Rights Management as well as broadcasters ProSieben and ZDF presented their first steps into a new world – not concealing the need for more experience.

The Fast and the Furious

So here’s a quick run down through my personal impressions – I simply can’t list it all.

Andrew Dubber has been dead-on as always. He showed how today’s music is separated from culture. He revealed the loss we are to expect.

Some statements during the panel on intellectual property (“Values 2.0”, continued from c/o pop) and that on a culture flatrate kind of frightened me. Flatrate isn’t understood in all of its consequences. There still is such a high proportion of lack in apprehension and false estimation regarding today’s economic environment. Mixing up reasons from different contexts within one argumentation doesn’t work. Neither does a high involvement of emotion advance any solution or discussion.

The expectation that there definitely is development in collection societies and alternative licensing makes me look forward. Our panel allowed for insights on what may come. I will add a separate posting on another day. Also, I’m going to post the link to the video of the session as soon as it’s up.

I loved the opportunity to have Amanda Palmer & Georgia Wonder in one session on DIY marketing – well-known vs less known. This worked out much better than I’ve been expecting. Me and Björn M. Braun, being the hosts, were more or less able to let the artists do the talking. Again, more in a separate posting with link to upcoming video.

Too bad I had to miss out on many sessions I really were interested in.

The Empire Strikes Back

Yes, in 2010 a2n definitely will happen again. With a significantly longer time of notification for potential speakers though. I can only judge from the people I tried to place this year – but I instantly know some people who explicitly demanded to be asked for next year.

Additionally, if Popkomm does return as intended in 2010, chances are that both event in conjunction with a whole array of other events might build up to Berlin Music Week – catering all sorts of demands.

The X-Files

One thing I miss in most conferences – a documentation. We planned for it. It soon will be available – unfortunately to a large extent only in German. We had so called rapporteurs summing up the results from each session and presenting it at the conference. There was streaming from the main sessions – these videos will be available online soon (some in English, for instance DIY marketing w/Amanda Palmer). Watch this place. Also, where applicable we will collect presentations from speakers.

Life of Brian

I don’t intend us to be held as martyrs for the good cause. But – anyone, please try to keep above facts in mind when comparing a2n to other conventions and conferences. Martyr? Erm, no, but no thanks. I’m not into carrying wooden crosses… I’m very much into having 10 weeks of freaking fun and getting to know a whole bunch of fabulous people!

This text has been published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 Unported licence. If you would like to make use of the text or parts of it in a way that goes beyond the scope please get in touch with me.