Is There Actually Such A Thing As German Pop Music?

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Clearly, there must be, as there claim to be practitioners of it.

The German comedian Jan Böhmermann once lampooned his country’s pop music scene by getting chimpanzees to choose banal lyrics pinned to pieces of fruit and releasing the results as a single.

It often seems as though Germany’s radio stations take a similarly dim view, with programming dominated by big names from the Anglosphere and interspersed with only the occasional home-grown hit.

Yet more than 100 German pop stars and bands are trying to win back a share of the airwaves with a campaign for a quota, under which DJs would dedicate at least 50 per cent of their playtime to local talent.

It’s possible to predict how this will work out. As the article mentions there’s been a French quota – in France naturally – for some decades now. What happens is that the Frog stuff gets played at 3 am when no one’s listening. The English language stuff goes on when there might actually be an audience.

So far so amusing. But it does also create a quite wondrous business opportunity. Get your set of skilled yet cheap session musicians into the studio. Lock them in. Then re-record everything that’s popular in English. Think like those old “Top of the Pops” records in the UK. Just translate the lyrics into German (or, in the Frog example, into Frog).

Issue to radio stations.

It’ll still get played at 3 am when no one’s listening. But it’s German produced music in German. The tune writers – the damned foreigners – get their royalties, but the lyrics, they’re now new and gain 50% of the radio payments.

And yes, Germany does indeed pay needle time.

The numbers do actually work here. There’s no expense of a band – session musos work cheap – nor tours nor costumes nor, well, something like a day per album might need to be paid for.

What Kanye might sound like in German I’ve no idea but it would indeed work. Might be better actually.

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Arthur the Cat
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Arthur the Cat

“What Kanye might sound like in German I’ve no idea but it would indeed work. Might be better actually.”

I can think of several modern “singers” who would be best translated into sign language.

Bloke in North Dorset
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Bloke in North Dorset

When I got dragged in to discos in Germany there were 2 German pop songs, Nena with her 99 air balloons and The Bidie Song, interspersed with English and American pop songs.

At the Schützenfest there was The Birdie Song and nothing else. That was depressing because the band was always in, or next to, the bar tent.

Bernie G.
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Bernie G.

Sounds about right.

Phoenix44
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Phoenix44

I’m not sure France does that anymore. I’m driving in France regularly and the vast majority of music on during the day on the majority of station is French music.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

That’s right. The French radio stations did that trick to hit the quota and got stopped.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

I’m not sure how you get these things, but there’s a paper on protectionism of the Korean cinema industry that suggests that one of the effects is that it supports bad producers. People knock out any old crap, and the cinemas would take it, just to fill the quota.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10286632.2015.1116526

I feel this way about French cinema. The Nouvelle Vague didn’t have any protection, and made a load of profitable films that were also highly influential. Post-protectionism they really haven’t done a lot.

Bloke in Germany
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Bloke in Germany

Popular rock-crooner solo act Eros Ramazzotti already does this. Releases everything in both Italian and Spanish.

bloke in spain
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bloke in spain

It might be worth pointing out that the majority of pop music is bought by children. The average age of buyers of the UK top 20 is something like 14. Germans produce some good music in certain genres. Rock & reggae to name two. Maybe they just can’t hack mindless pap for prepubescent girls & are content to leave that to Brits & Yanks, who excel in it.