Earlier this year, GEMA, the body charged with collecting royalties in Germany, announced a controversial overhaul of its fee structure.
Having historically charged venues a flat rate, GEMA are introducing a system based on the size of the venue and a percentage of ticket prices. GEMA’s original proposal was for events that last more than five hours to weather a 50% surcharge, increased by an extra charge if the party tips over the eight hour mark, though recent negotiations have led to this charge being reduced. The new system is scheduled to come in to force in April 2013. The clubbing community both German and worldwide balked at the changes, with high-profile clubs like Berghain and Watergate [above] claiming that they would be forced to close (Berghain later announced that it would, in fact, be staying open).
On June 30, over 2000 German venues cut their music for five minutes by means of protest, and an online petition opposed to the move gathered over 60,000 signatures. Despite this, the Deutsches Bundestag – Germany’s Parliament – decided at the start of November that it would not intervene, suggesting that supporters of the petition “form a compromise with GEMA directly”. When FACT spoke to Nick Hoppner, manager label of Ostgut-Ton (the Berghain’s in-house label) earlier this year, he expressed the view that the clubbing community needed to change GEMA from the inside.
It now appears that GEMA are attempting to knuckle down even harder on club performances. So far this has only – to our knowledge – been reported on German language websites, but at the heart of these newly proposed set of changes is a tax (or “laptop surcharge”) on DJs playing music from laptops, to the tune of 30% for every music file under five minutes with an increase of 20% for each additional minute. What we’re unsure about is whether this only refers to files that are played, or all music on the offending laptop – we’d presume the former, but the post on Tanith implies the latter (“e.g. 10,000 mp3s on the DJ laptop would [require] 1,300 Euros”).
The proposal has reportedly been negotiated with the German Discotheques and Nightclubs unions (DDU and DDO). Dean Driscoll, of German-based promotions company Tailored Communiation, explained on Twitter this morning that these unions are “sub-branches of GEMA populated solely by GEMA members.” We subsequently spoke to Driscoll over email, who explained that although his German is basic, he ran through the Tanith article with German industry colleagues, who confirmed that this was the case. This article on the DDU website also refers to the “laptop surcharge”, though it also explains that DJs who are members of the DDU – a minority, if the union is filled with GEMA members – will be exempt from this charge.
German-based musicians have been reacting to the news this morning, though we’re yet to see it confirmed by GEMA or the DDU themselves (Tanith appear to have a copy of the proposal – above, right). We’ll update this story with more information as we have it: if there’s anything readers – particularly German-speaking readers – can add, all helpful comments are much appreciated.