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5 questions to Ina Keßler and Tina Sikorski: “We have partners who pull in the same direction together with us and with a lot of strength”

Initiative Musik supports the music business in Germany in its focus areas pop and rock music and jazz. GVL is the main associate of Initiative Musik. We spoke to the two Managing Directors, Ina Keßler and Tina Sikorski about their positive review after a year of dual leadership and about the most recent developments in the cultural promotion sector.


GVL: A year ago, you both started as a dual leadership team, a lot of exciting things have happened at Initiative Musik in that period.  What is your verdict after your first year together?

Ina Keßler: 2020 was a year of growth for Initiative Musik in two respects: A decision was made in the summer of 2020 that we would process major programme parts of the BKM [Federal Ministry for Culture] rescue package for the music business. At the same time, we were able to further expand the core business of Initiative Musik, e.g. in the Awards sector, due to introducing this dual leadership. The jump during the COVID-19 period from 20 to 60 staff at the same time as a tenfold increase in funding would not not have been possible otherwise.  

Tina Sikorski: In order to manage this growth, we had to strengthen our internal structures by building up and expanding our administration, for example, as an independent area and an important backbone of Initiative Musik. Another mammoth-sized project was the première of the German Jazz Award, shortly followed by the award ceremony for APPLAUS, and all of that with a completely new team for our awards and a constant planning uncertainty due to the pandemic. That was like jumping in at the deep end for all of us and required nerves of steel. On top of that, there were various side projects such as our aid programme for music creators, for which TikTok, Teufel and other private sponsors* generously supported us. We also managed to realise a cooperation with the ZDF where 12 impressive documentaries were published under the title Stay Live on the situation of the musicians and music clubs in COVID-19 times. Moreover, together with the Google Future Workshop and YouTube, we were able to launch the workshop series ReBoot Live, a further education offer for the live music industry. I think that we managed to achieve and launch an awful lot over the last few months. There is, however, still a lot to be done, many areas must still be developed further. This is where the good collaboration between Ina and me is really very helpful.  

Since mid-2020, NEUSTART KULTUR has been the talk of the town, Initiative Musik has been playing an instrumental role in this. What has Initiative Musik managed to achieve here in the past few months?

Ina Keßler: Since August 2020, we have set up the process for four partial programmes, provided financial support to about 850 projects for musical live experiences (clubs, events, festival) from rock to classical music and promoted more than 1,200 musicians in 4 promotion periods so far. We have trained about 40 project consultants who have been advising, supporting and listening to those accepted and those rejected under the promotion programme during that time to the best of their ability. We learned to deal with the subsidies law in a correct yet creative and application-oriented manner. At the end of the day, it was only possible for us to succeed in doing so because we have a highly motivated team, network partners who are at our side and money donors who pull in the same direction as us and with the same strength at that.

What is the role that GVL has been playing as an associate during this journey?

Ina Keßler: GVL’s engagement and support has been very important to us because it has been backing us as an associate for 14 years now, and not only in the financial sense.  Without this wonderful cooperation with GVL, the great development of Initiative Musik would be unthinkable. And we are very much looking forward that GVL now also allocates means from NEUSTART KULTUR for scholarships. Here, it is us for a change who can assist GVL with words and deeds - usually it is the other way round. 
The German Jazz Award had its première in June, the APPLAUS ceremony took place in the same month. What is the conclusion of Initiative Musik regarding these highlights in the event agenda for 2021?

Tina Sikorski: To run the two awards in such a short time was definitely a particular challenge. On the one hand because of the short lead time and on the other hand because the entire team had to be reorganised. For APPLAUS, we were at least able to use the experience gathered in the previous years. But it is also here where we saw a lot of new things such as the special APPLAUS which awarded creative formats dealing with the pandemic. The German Jazz Award was a special journey which took it out of all of the participants. It also showed, however, how successfully you can develop such an award together with the industry sector. This is also reflected in the generally positive feedback in the media which reported on the German Jazz Award in more than 2,000 articles and news items, from specialised jazz blogs all the way to Tagesthemen or ARTE. In the meantime, we have found ourselves in the middle of the preparations for the second edition which will take place in April 2022 in Bremen for the jazzahead!. At the same time as the preparations for APPLAUS and the German Jazz Award, the preparations for a new pop music award are currently ongoing. The academy which has been founded for this purpose is going to come together for the kick-off, and is formed of 25 well-known music creators and creative artists. Together with the academy, which is going to be grown by additional members, we will design the new award for pop music in the next few months.

What are the next topics that Initiative Musik has on the radar for the coming months? 

Ina Keßler: What’s important going forward is to continue to successfully implement a demand-oriented, pragmatic expansion and adaptation from the rescue package NEUSTART KULTUR for 2022 with all the participants and recipients of the grants and subsidies. The implementation of NEUSTART KULTUR for 2022 will be another major show of strength for club and festival organisers and for all event promoters. The business sector is unfortunately far from being out of the woods yet or in a position to look forward optimistically. It was possible to hold the first events again in a careful manner. This is important and great! We therefore must continue to react as flexibly as humanly possible.

Tina Sikorski: For me, the focus continues to be on the awards which I mentioned earlier. Apart from that what matters is to continue to shape the profile for our national structure support in the area of platform projects and to formulate our offers in an even clearer manner.  In this context, we wish to support regional initiatives and networks, in particular. A large and rather relevant construction site for me is also the export sector. We are currently carrying out an evaluation here where we interview various players of the sector regarding the current needs and requirements. On the basis of our results, we wish to further develop and expand the sector and to implement new programmes and measures in this context. These are only the most important topics for the next months. Apart from them, there are numerous additional considerations and approaches which are also supposed to be further developed and on which we may be able to report in the next months. At the same time, it is paramount that Initiative Musik continues to be strengthened in its entirety such that it can meet future requirements.  We gladly accept this challenge and look forward to anything that might come our way.  

Interview: Juliane Fiedler
Photos: Stefan Wieland

Tina Sikorski und Ina Keßler bilden seit einem Jahr eine Doppelspitze bei der Initiative Musik