Hamburg: Europe’s Capital For Music Business

14 January, 2019

Hamburg has long been regarded as Europe’s capital for all things ‘music business’. The city’s renowned reputation as a musical hub goes as far back as the 17th century, when Europe’s first public opera house opened on the Gänsemarkt in 1678. It’s also the birthplace of composers Brahms and Mendelssohn, and Telemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (Johann Sebastian Bach’s son) wrote some of their most important pieces in the city.

Far from being confined to the classical era alone, Hamburg’s music industry influence continued into modern times with example after example of its musical prominence. The Beatles honed their craft in Hamburg in the early 1960s before being launched onto the global stage by Brian Epstein; Nena of ’99 Luftballons’ fame calls the city home; a strong heavy metal scene developed in the 1980s with bands like HelloweenGamma RayRunning Wild and Grave Digger; and the city spawned the German indie pop genre ‘Hamburgerschule’ which gained commercial success in the 1990s via local bands such as Blumfeld and Tocotronic. Hamburg has even created its own hip-hop scene, with platinum-selling artists Jan Delay and Samy Deluxe leading the way. Electronic music is also strong, thanks to Hamburg residents Digitalism, who met in a local record store in 2004, and Boys Noize.

But compared with other German cities where, say, creative experimentation and musical boundary-pushing might have been a priority, Hamburg has historically been a place where trade and commerce reign surpreme… and this is one of the reasons why the ‘business’ side of the music industry has always been stronger here. Global brands like Warner Music have based their German operations in Hamburg and leading German indie labels like Kontor RecordsAudiolith and Grand Hotel van Cleef call the city home. A host of music booking agencies, such as KingstarFKP Skorpio and Hamburg Konzerte run from offices in the Schanzenviertel area, and management company Buback Tonträger represents Hamburg headliners Deichkind and Jan Delay. Identical twins Bill and Tom Kaulitz from the rock band Tokio Hotel run a recording studio in the city.

And then there are the festivals! Every year in September the Reeperbahn Festival brings music business experts from all over the world to watch over 800 live music events across 70 venues, featuring many a BIMM student. It’s gained a reputation as the most important festival of its kind in Europe – a kind of German South by Southwest (SXSW) – and BIMM has a big presence at the event with its very own showcase stage for up-and-coming student musicians. There’s also Dockville in August – a music and arts festival held on Europe’s biggest river island in the district of Wilhelmsburg – and nearby there’s Elbjazz, Blurred EdgesHurricane FestivalWackenKlub Katarakt and Überjazz. 

But having such strong business credentials doesn’t mean Hamburg shuns creativity and artistic expression – Germany’s second largest city also has a strong counter-culture, with the emergence of energetic punk, goth, hip-hop, psychedelic trance, rockabilly and power metal followings, a colourful street art scene in Sternschanze, and a plethora of alternative clubs and renowned live music venues in St. Pauli like Menschenzoo, Uebel & Gefährlich, Molotow and Gruenspan.

The Hamburg Music Business Association (IHM) is a Hamburg-based music industry body, of which BIMM is a member, meaning BIMM students have an ongoing connectivity with the local music business in the form of internships, work-based learning, and networking and career opportunities. IHM’s Managing Director, Timo Wiesmann, believes Hamburg is one of the most dynamic regions for the creative industries in Europe and has been an established hub of the music industry for decades: “The city attracts both artists and music business professionals and hosts the complete music business value chain – from studios, publishers, musicians and composers, to orchestras and bands, concerts and clubs, labels and organisers.”

BIMM Hamburg prides itself on being an integral part of the Hamburg music scene and has been giving back to the community as a funding partner to RockCity Hamburg e.V. The pioneering non-profit organisation supports the Hamburg music scene and has a community of around 5,000 musicians and bands who they collaborate with for coaching, careers advice, networking opportunities and more. All BIMM Hamburg students become RockCity members, automatically gaining access to the organisation’s many benefits and networking contacts.

So, if you’d like to study in the European capital of music business, order a prospectus, book to attend a BIMM Hamburg Open Day or contact our Admissions Team on +49 303 11 99 186 or by email at

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