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Andrea Peters has been an established figure in Berlin’s creative industry for two decades. For 11 years she has been running her company media:net berlinbrandenburg, bringing together creative industry players, networking, training, fighting for women empowerment and tinkering with programs for the future - and now she also has digitalisation on her doorstep: How does digitalisation change a company like media:net? How is it changing the creative sectors? A visit to an industry leader.
CCB Magazine: Hello, Andrea. Your network media:net just came of age, all the best! You’ve been managing director for 11 years. You started with a small team and developed into one of the largest and most successful regional networks of the media and digital economy in Germany. Now that everything is or is becoming digital, does a network like media:net make sense at all?
Andrea Peters:Thank you very much first of all. And yes, that makes sense! Right now, know-how transfer is needed and that’s exactly what we do. We have currently over 420 members. We represent them at state and federal level, we bring stakeholder together and ensure the improvement of the framework conditions at the Berlin-Brandenburg location. We also offer advanced training on everything that is needed - and this is free of charge for all members.
CCB Magazine: Everyone is currently talking about digitalisation and asking questions like this: Can humans replace machines? Which jobs will break away, which will come? Where do you see the concrete future of the job market for creative workers in the context of digitalisation?
Andrea Peters:Basically, you can’t find a clear answer in general, but to be precise you have to look at the individual sub-sectors of the creative industries. But when I look today at the overarching commonalities, I notice that all content is now presented digitally, whether in films, music or games - everything is tailored to digital devices. For creative professionals, this means that they have to acquire the appropriate digital know-how in order to be successful on the respective digital platforms. Content, design, marketing, production and distribution - everything must be readjusted and rethought in the light of digitalisation. Time also plays a role: how long can I keep someone on the ball on their smartphone, TV or game console, when is their attention used up? That’s why a mix of creative and technological understanding is already a prerequisite for successful business in the creative industries. I see the potential for the future in the fact that the entire creative industry is a kind of interface industry. Other industries, such as the automotive industry, Siemens or Bosch, also need what it can do. Their models, from the car body to the wind turbine, are created digitally before production and in this aspect they can benefit from the expertise of many a creative company, for example in the area of virtual reality.
Today, the expertise of the creative industries also benefits the major industrial sectors. Some industries, such as the games industry, even function as real drivers of digitalisation, since the use of the latest technology has always been a prerequisite for its development.
CCB Magazine: You’re looking at cross-innovation. But the study “Booming Berlin” by Hergen Wöbken came to the result that startups and the creative scene have hardly cooperated so far. This is due to the fact that many creative professionals are off-setting profit orientation with a new form of sustainability.
Andrea Peters:Ok, in some places it doesn’t quite work. It doesn’t have to. But the expertise in creative industries also benefits the major industrial sectors today. Some industries, such as the games industry, even function as real drivers of digitalisation, since the use of the latest technology has always been a prerequisite for its development.
CCB Magazine: The creative industry has long been dismissed as a niche industry. At the latest since Cornelia Koppetsch’s work “Das Ethos der Kreativen” (The Ethos of Creatives) (2007), there has also been discussion about their economic performance, against which many artists again defend themselves. But the market has long since absorbed crazy ideas. Does digitalisation create a normalisation of the creative?
Andrea Peters:Creativity is certainly more in demand in business than it used to be. But that doesn’t mean that creative people have to think or be more profitable. It makes a difference whether I am a single artist and have completely different demands on my art and its monetisation than a large commercial enterprise like Universal Music. But if you take a look at the creative industries that are represented in media:net, then I notice that they have not been marginalised for a long time. They are taken very seriously. But the creative industry doesn’t have a strong lobby like the car industry. It is too frayed for that. All in all, Berlin is in a very good position as a location for the creative industries. Quite the opposite: they all know that they need this sector in order to be marketable in the future. Mercedes and VW, for example, have just presented their car models in Las Vegas, where previously only the techies and creative people had exhibited. BMW exhibited at Dmexco last year and not at the Frankfurt Motor Show. That shows, hey, they’re already coming to us.
Since we have had digitalisation, we also have a shortage of skilled workers. More people are needed in the creative sector than are lost. Creative minds will be even more in demand in the future, artificial intelligence or not.
CCB Magazine: In a gloomy scenario, digitalisation threatens to tear down entire industries. Even professions such as lawyers and doctors seem to be threatened in this vision. What forecast do you make for the creative industries, who are the potential winners and losers?
Andrea Peters:I’m not worried about the creative industry running out of work. Since we’ve had digitalisation, we’ve also had a shortage of skilled workers. More people are needed in the creative sector than are lost. Creative minds will be even more in demand in the future, artificial intelligence or not. The film industry is currently searching and searching and searching. In other words: I think the creative industry is very flexible and will adapt to the rapid changes. After all, our task is also networking the individual sectors with each other in order to establish cooperations - we refer to this a cross-cluster. For example, the VR sector meets the tourism sector, and a lot is happening in the area of gamification. There are quite different fears expressed in Berlin.
CCB Magazine: What are they?
Andrea Peters:Rising rents - an absolute horror topic. Not only for businesses, but also for private individuals. The fear of being repressed. And of course this increasingly affects the smaller creative companies that predominate in Berlin. In Berlin, every other creative person is a solo freelancer.
CCB Magazin: But isn’t digitalisation just filling the gap between low and high earners? Monopolies are already developing; just think of the music market, where only the big three still dominate.
Andrea Peters:I don’t think it makes any sense to think about the risks any more, it’s been going on for a long time. We can no longer turn back the wheel. That’s why we in Germany have to be prepared to invest more. Many creative founders in this country are looking to sell their start-ups as soon as the sale promises a decent sum. The problem is that there’s simply a lack of investors in Germany to turn a four-million euro company into a forty-million euro company. That’s what the Chinese or Americans do.
CCB Magazine: But wouldn’t that require better regulatory legislation?
Andrea Peters:No. I think we are in a transitional phase. It can be tough at first like the music industry, but today the whole industry benefits from supposed enemies like Spotify or Soundcloud!
CCB Magazine: There are already newer approaches to so-called “forms of corporate ownership”. The investor network Purpose, for example, invests specifically in companies that keep their company in their own hands, that is, companies that don’t sell shares in companies - and that’s exactly what many creative companies don’t want. Do we need to rethink our investment approach?
Andrea Peters:Yes, that’s what we need! We have to invest in those that also serve society. And the creative industry in particular is an industry that acts very deliberately. And too little is invested in it, and if so, it is mainly technology-driven companies with high growth potential that are candidates for venture capital, a study by Entre Europe showed. In many respects, we are only at the beginning, also with regard to equal rights for men and women.
The creative industry is an industry that acts very deliberately. We need to invest more in it in particular
CCB Magazine: Aha, nice. I have a question about that on my piece of paper. In addition to that, you’re active in the field of women empowerment in the creative industries. At the moment, there is a sparking debate as to whether the digitalisation of gender images will stereotype them through new algorithms and digital recommendation cultures. What do you think is the problem? And what do you stand up for?
Andrea Peters:The problem is: The more digital a company is, the more men there are at the top of a company. We want to change that. As media:net, we are making the series DWOMEN, Women in digital business; this is a breakfast that we make with 50-60 women, mainly from the digital economy. There we always have a woman as a guest who is the centre of attention and tells us her story, for example Verena Pausder, Lea-Sophie Cramer or Joana Breidenbach. It is a networking and exchange format. It’s amazing how much more open the atmosphere is when there are only women in the room. I am also personally involved in various committees: in the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, in the university council of the HDPK, I also chair the advisory board of the Investitionsbank Berlin and am of course managing director of media:net. Everything within the bounds of possibilities.
CCB Magazine: Andrea, you started small with media:net and have grown over the years. How does digitalisation change companies internally? Where will media:net be in 10 years?
Andrea Peters:As far as digitalisation is concerned, little has changed internally, we still work with Excel. Of course our offer has changed, it’s more international, more global. Since last year, we have also been one of twelve digital hubs for media technology in Potsdam. The aim of MediaTech Hub is to bring together players from the media and IT industries with other industries. For the support of the Hub we have even founded our own GmbH. And where do we stand in 10 years? That’s hard to say because the media and digital economy is developing so rapidly, but I don’t think it’s any different than it is now. Only that we will have completely new players who will influence the economy. Our work will always be similar, probably more service-oriented. The physical network we’ve built will continue to exist. And hopefully it will grow.
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