Rosita Kuerbis “I advise all artists to work on new productions, to compose and prepare for the time when the venues and museums will open again”
Picasso once said: “A good artist needs three things: talent, charisma and a good manager. Over the years I’ve learned that this claim is true and I am amazed that there are so few music managers in the underground or indie scene. One would think that in a city like Berlin with an infinite number of musicians, and music fans, there would be many successful managers who would benefit from it. But that hasn’t been the case since 1987, that is, since I’ve been in town, although I don’t know any musicians who don’t moan about the lack. I actually started to manage and feature myself and other musicians / artists on the side in 1995, because there was such a great demand, but I quickly realized that the work takes so much time that I had to stop and concentrate on exclusively working as interdisciplinary musician. Nonetheless, through this experience I learned that even the smallest amount of support can make a huge difference in an artist’s career. Also that if you do a good job you can earn a living without taking advantage of the artists. So why is this profession so forgotten? We need more people that stand between the Senate or the record company next to the artist and help.
Rosita Kuerbis is such an exceptional figure and has been working for decades to support artists. We met in the nightlife in 1988 shortly after I moved to Berlin and I enjoyed speaking to her about the music industry. A standpoint that stems neither from the Senate / Label level nor from the artist’s perspective is very interesting and has always given me new ideas. Especially during the pandemic, many self-employed are doing badly and since Rosita has been working as a grant advisor for years, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to present her as the inspiring initiator she is and her tremendously important work to give as many freelancers as possible further chances of survival. So it is a great pleasure for me to present Rosita Kuerbis here today.
Danielle de Picciotto: You have had a long career in artist representation, mediation and support. Could you briefly describe its development?
Rosita Kuerbis: I came to Berlin in 1987 to study Sinology and French and got caught up in the vortex of historical events with their legal and social freedom. I was fascinated with the abundance of possibilities. After working for the Club 90 degrees, Low Spirit and Mayday, I founded Germany’s first DJ booking agency: Accomplize Booking. We, my partner Kati Schwindt and I, booked the first generation of DJs back then: Jeff Mills, Marshall Jefferson, Farley Jackmaster Funk or Derrick May, Robert Hood and many more. Accomplice Management and Accomplice Music Publishing followed, there I represented Dr. Motte, Artist Unknown and Märtini Brös amongst others and was involved in the Love Parade. This were exciting times. The territory of Germany quickly became Europe and then morphed into the whole world: Tokyo, Beijing, Manila, Bogota, Chile, New York, Moscow, Johannesburg, Tel Aviv … I still prefer working in other countries today than to vacationing there. Everyday life, people and their life fascinate me up till today. And who needs a day at the beach when an exciting project is waiting? Life exceeded all my expectations.
Then certain fatigue set in. Happily new encounters happened quickly: from 2004 onwards I was involved in setting up the first German music export office “German Sounds”, the first funding institution for popular music in Germany. It must be said that the term “creative industries” was still used at the time, Richard Florida had published his ‘The Rise of the Creative Class’, and the cultural and creative industries had not found their place yet next to the tourism or the automotive industry. On top of that Germany still made a big difference between serious music and entertainment music as well. As did the funding policy of the time. It was not easy.
So with great enthusiasm and personal commitment, we succeeded in developing funding programs and making it easier for companies in the music industry to enter international markets to build networks in Europe, Scandinavia, Canada, the USA, China and Japan. During this time, I also had the pleasure of being involved in the development of the now established EU funding programs ETEP and the EBBA Award as the German representative and envoy for German Sounds at the European Music Office in Brussels.
I have written a report and two evaluations for the Berlin Senate Department of Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises on funding programs for the Berlin music industry, which were then also used as a data source by funding institutions in other federal states, to adapt their funding programs to the needs of the music industry. Today, as a funding advisor, I create the bridge between creatives and establishments. I speak both languages, so to speak, the language of the creative and the funding language, and I move professionally in both worlds.
Looking back, I have to say that my interest in the world has remained unbroken from an early age. Today I speak four languages (five, if you add the “fundeding” language), I love working on an international level and even if I can’t travel at the moment, every country has given me a favorite dish. When it comes to wanderlust, I just stand in the kitchen and taste the world. I actually prefer to go to the Buchenwald forest around the corner instead of traveling.
Today you specialize in providing the right support in the form of scholarships, grants or funding. You once told me that there wasn’t anything in Germany that couldn’t be funded. Did you invent your job yourself? What is the name of the work you do and how did you get into it?
I’d say my calling as a grant advisor has evolved. My curiosity and willingness to understand connection certainly helped. I have supervised many different projects that consistently involved research in new areas. So I learned a lot about the scope of state funding and, so to speak, cut paths through the ‘funding jungle’, and provided orientation. Firstmore for myself and then for my clients. Except in the field of architecture and photography, I’ve actually found suitable programs for everybody, so yes, you can say there is hardly anything that is not actually being funded. Funding will always be a federal instrument where problems are solved or gaps closed. One example are the many funding programs that Germany has set up to cushion the loss of income through measures against the coronavirus pandemic (such as lockdowns). Here, the economy and also the cultural and creative industries are being helped to survive the pandemic. To ensure that there will be a cultural life after Corona. For the first time, politics have to deal with the cultural and creative industries. This is due to associations and societies, together with the German collecting societies, that do not cease to insist on this support and repeatedly influence the finance department and Monika Grütters, Minister of State and Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. From here, for example, NEUSTART KULTUR emerged and it awards 1 billion euros in funding programs to support cultural workers in Germany. The special thing about it is that the programs equipped with this money were developed by associations, clubs and collecting societies – that is, they were conceived directly from the industries – and this is where the applications are made. So it is not federal authorities that have creative people as contact persons, but institutions and creative people from their ranks. That is pretty sensational.
What advice would you give artists and freelancers during this time?
I advise all artists to work on new productions, to compose and prepare for the time when the venues and museums will open again. This is the time to apply for scholarships and residency programs. Such programs can be found in the federal states or in your own city. In Berlin, for example, there is the Musicboard’s scholarship and residency program and in Hamburg there is also the Gagenfonds. There are also nationwide programs, see Goethe Institute with the Virtual Residence Program or the International Coproduction Fund or the programs under Neustart Kultur. Many of these programs existed before Corona and they will still exist after Corona. It is always worthwhile to deal with this topic now and to find the right support for your own work. I advise self-employed people without fixed costs to look out for programs that cover the cost of living or the so-called “fictitious entrepreneur’s wage”. Fixed costs can currently be covered by the bridging aid II + III. If you have no fixed costs, you should look at the “Neustarthilfe”. Here you can get up to 7,500 euros for January to June 2021. The most important instrument to cover the cost of living is the basic income from the employment agency. Anyone who is unsure can find out more at Hartz4.org. There is also a calculator here.
What are the most common mistakes people make when applying for a grant?
What strikes me again and again are texts that get too long. Above all the box sentences that are very popular in Germany and that guide the reader from A to B and additional information on background that are apparently urgently needed to serve as a reference and in this way underline the applicant’s eligibility and motivation of the applicant and his or her partner, before, during and after the project, and are so long that in the end the reader no longer knows which question this sentence actually answers. ☺
Please avoid endless sentences. The sponsor is only human. This person sifts through hundreds of applications in a relatively short time. It can be exhausting with endless texts and one loses interest. Or did anybody read the above sentence with pleasure?
The shorter and simpler the sentences – the more understandable the context is presented – the better. A graphic or a photo can also be of great use here. By the way, I am often asked this question. For this reason, I publish tips on how to apply on my blog. Just take a look: https://rositakuerbis.de/foerdermittelberatung/
It’s often rumored among artists that when it comes to awarding Scholarships nepotism reigns and therefore theydon’t even try. How is your experience?
I don’t think that is true. What you should do is see who the judges are and from what point of view your application will be assessed. This helps to choose suitable formats for the presentation and to set convincing focal points.
Berlin Music Commission – Sprechstunde „Mit den Nachwirkungen des Lockdowns umgehen” vom 25. Juni 2020
What is your impression of what is being offered as support since the beginning of the pandemic? Do you think that all areas are sufficiantly covered with grants and support or have you discovered areas that have been forgotten and where more could happen?
Basically, more funds must be made available for the cultural and creative industries. Neustart Kultur is underfunded with 1 billion euros. At the moment an agreement has been reached on increasing the funds by a further billion euros. That’s good, but not enough. We all need a long-term perspective. All artists who live on royalties from live performances and music publishers, for example, will still feel the effects of 2020 in 2021 and 2022. And there are certainly other areas where there is a need for clarification. Where the funds have not yet reached everyone. All of that still needs to be adjusted. If you see a weak link, please address it so that something can be done. I would like to motivate everyone to turn to their own industrys association to get in touch and help make the right adjustments. Here you can find an overview of the contact points, perhaps there is already a suitable institution. (The list is not complete. It is an attempt to list as many contact persons as possible for all the branches of the cultural and creative industries.)
Could you list a couple of grants that are not being applied for enough? You once mentioned that there is a lot more money than being aplyed for. Is this still the case at the moment or has this changed with the pandemic?
At the moment it is important to ensure survival for everybody. This means that Covid 19 aid has priority for all sponsors. This also means that it is easier to apply for funding than usally. After all, it is intended to help as many quickly as possible.
What are you working on at the moment and what are your plans for 2021?
My customers are companies in the creative industry that develop digital solutions. This is often about research and development or pioneering solutions. At the moment I am working with a company to develop a funding database for myself and my customers, which can then be used to administer the approved funding. I’m really looking forward to the completion.
What other advice can you give to freelancers, small businesses and artists?
Keep calm, visualize your own goals, gather the means to implement them and go. I don’t just mean financial resources, but also the social network, the equipment, tours, informational events, workshops, everything that helps to get to your goal directly. Stay strong and stay tuned.