Dieter Gorny

German Pop Finds its Groove

Felix jaehn pic alliance Schroewig
German DJ Felix Jaehn has stormed to the top of the U.S. charts, the first German musician to do so in 25 years.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    While it has exported some of the most successful DJs in the world, like Sven Väth and Grammy-nominated Paul van Dyk, Germany has had little international success with its mainstream pop acts.

  • Facts


    • Hamburg DJ Felix Jaehn recently conquered the American pop music charts, the first time in 25 years for a German performer.
    • Pop music as a discipline is getting more respect from colleges and universities, where well-known musicians and composers teach classes.
    • Royalties from streaming remain an issue for artists, but industry insiders say it still remains a small portion of all music purchases.
  • Audio


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As the chief executive of the German Music Industry Association, Dieter Gorny, 62, is the lead lobbyist for German pop music.

A trained composer and musician, he founded the Popkomm Fair in 1989 and launched the television music channel VIVA in 1993.

He was recently at the Pop Kultur music fair, the successor to Popkomm and Music Week, where he discussed copyright law with German Justice Minister Heiko Maas. He also took time out to talk about the power of German pop music domestically and internationally.


Has there ever been a better time for German pop music? 

Dieter Gorny: The charts show there is a big demand for music produced in Germany and for German-language music. That is great. However, there still are unsolved economic problems, such how artists make their income and the market entry possibilities for new musicians and bands. Within the past 15 years, sales in the music industry have nearly halved, and artists’ incomes have been scaled back accordingly. But the market is growing again. It is also because the industry has successfully learned to act digitally – the largest growth is currently in streaming.

What are the roots of these German chart successes?

They are the result of a years-long normalization and balancing-out process. By that I mean that we currently have well-balanced music markets in Europe, that function according to the 50-50 principle: 50 percent international, 50 percent national products. In Germany, it was not like that for a long time. There was a post-war dip; even by the 1990s, we had only about 20 percent domestic productions. The public values German-language music more as well.

In the charts, hip hop by Marteria ranks next to techno by Paul Kalkbrenner and the pop songs of Helene Fischer. Is there something that connects these genres?

If the Internet has created anything, it is the variety and democratization of access to music. What the charts reflect is the existence of various markets, various communities and various fan structures. What is interesting is that German productions today can hold their own internationally, even in electronic music, which before was an exclusively Anglo-American genre.

Is that a new phenomenon?

Earlier, the Scorpions or Rammstein enjoyed enormous success abroad, but in Germany, they faced opposition or ignorance. People said, “Wow, that song sounds good. Where is it from?” – “From Hannover” – “Oh my goodness.” Now, the careers of German artists in Germany are perceived much more positively and that is good for creativity. Pop music is now taught at universities, at the Mannheim Pop Academy and even at a pop course in Hamburg.

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