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There are over 300 inclusive bands in Germany - hardly anyone knows them, hardly anyone books them. The association Handiclapped - Kultur Barrierefrei e.V. wants to change that - and is launching the Pinc Music project in cooperation with MusichTech Germany. We spoke with initiator and project manager Thorsten Hesse about vision and strategy.
CCB Magazin: Thorsten, you've been active for several years with the association Handicapped, which promotes inclusion in culture. Your latest project is called Pinc Music. It takes place in cooperation with the MusicTech Germany association. What is it about?
Thorsten: Our goal is to bring inclusive music acts more into the spotlight. Inclusive bands and musicians still have a hard time getting booked by promoters. With Pinc Music we want to create a new platform to bring people with disabilities on stage - no matter which one.
CCB Magazin: What is the problem? For example, are blind DJs booked less than those who can see?
Thorsten: The problem is that there is often no distinction between inclusion and accessibility. For example, Berlin clubs are often not barrier-free because they are located in the basement without an elevator. But there's nothing to stop a blind DJ from playing there. However, organizers are often concerned that an act might be too complicated or risky if there is no barrier-free access to the stage or if an event has to be tightly timed. As a consequence, inclusive acts are booked less often.
Organizers are often concerned that an act might be too complicated or risky. As a result, inclusive acts are booked less often
CCB Magazin: To understand, what exactly is considered an inclusive act?
Thorsten: There is no clear definition, nor is there a register or anything similar. Ultimately, the band itself decides whether it considers itself inclusive or not. For Pinc Music, all bands in which musicians with and without formally recognized disabilities play together are considered inclusive acts. This can be solo musicians or bands in various combinations - musicians with physical, mental and/or other disabilities. For us, the disabilities do not necessarily have to be formally recognized. It doesn't matter to us. One band once put it nicely, "With us, everyone has a disability, and some are even recognized." The acts on the platform are also very diverse in other ways. From punk to classical, from solo to orchestra and from Greifswald to Stuttgart. There is a suitable act for every event.
CCB Magazin: And at what point does Pinc Music come into play? How do you bring inclusive acts on stage?
Thorsten: A nice example is the Pferdefestival, a music festival in Piesport. The initiators were in contact with the band "Meine Rock Kwien Rica", which has been performing as an inclusive act on various stages since 2018 and is represented on Pinc Music. The band told the organizers about us. Subsequently, "City In The Galaxy" was another act booked through Pinc Music. Another example is the Special Olympics, the world's largest sports movement for people with mental or multiple disabilities. Here I was at a conference in advance and brought Pinc Music in to find inclusive music acts for the event. In the end, ten bands and musicians were booked by our platform - a success story. In the end, we as organizers also book the bands from Pinc Music ourselves - at around 15 inclusive concerts every year.
CCB Magazine: A few words about you, how did you actually get into this? Is there a special story?
Thorsten: I studied economics and have been representing non-profit organizations and projects for several years. For the past three years, I have also been a project coordinator at Handiclapped. Over the years, I have also run my volunteer blog Barrmusik, a reference to accessible (barrierefreie) music. Through it, I wanted to bring the topic of inclusion into the music field. At some point, I met the chairman of MusicTech Germany, Matthias Strobel, at the Reeperbahn Festival. That's where the idea of making Barrmusik more professional came up - and that's how Pinc Music came about.
CCB Magazine: What role does MusicTech Germany play in the project?
Thorsten: MusicTech is our most important cooperation partner. The team helped us with the conception and creation of the Pinc Music platform. MusicTech is our consultant for many technical aspects, for which we are not experts. They also help us with great contacts in the music industry and with public relations. MusicTech in return benefits from our inclusion knowledge and network, which we bring to the project. Win-win, if you want.
CCB Magazine: And how do you get in touch with the acts?
Thorsten: We research and see what projects and bands are out there and then get in touch. Other acts come to us, because the whole thing gets around like Chinese Whispers between different projects. Of course we benefit from the fact that we have been active as concert organizers with Handiclapped for 15 years. Over the years, we have been able to gather numerous contacts that now make our work easier. In addition, we have just helped the Initiative Musik with an aid program for musicians with disabilities.
CCB Magazine: How do you finance the project? Do you get funding or do the acts have to pay you a fee?
Thorsten: For the acts, everything is free of charge, because we - in the meantime - receive funding. For the development of the platform, for example, we had a grant from NEUSTART KULTUR in the program section KULTUR.GEMEINSCHAFTEN. This came from funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media and the Cultural Foundation of the Federal States. Without the funding, we would never have been able to build the site the way we did.
CCB Magazine: The project has been running since May 2022. What have you achieved so far?
Thorsten: We now have over 50 music acts from 15 German states in our portfolio, whereby there are over 300 so-called inclusive bands in Germany. So there are still a long way to go before everyone is on board. We have also already organized several successful promotions. At the end of the day, however, we don't know how many bookings have already been made, since contact is partly made directly with the bands. Currently, we have received a commitment from the Initiative Musik for infrastructure funding, which will allow us to promote the site in the music industry.
We need easier access to institutional funding. It is stressful to constantly have to submit new applications and hope for funds
CCB Magazin: The topic of inclusion is becoming increasingly important in society. In 2009, for example, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came into force, Article 30 of which is intended to ensure active and passive participation in culture. In 2018, the "Mediation and Integration" program was also revised to promote inclusion in the arts and culture. New funding, for example through "NEUSTART KULTUR" , was also made available. What do you wish from politics?
Thorsten: We would like to see more support in general to build an inclusive music scene. I don't want to engage in political bashing, since we finance ourselves 100% from subsidies. But what scares us is what the situation will be like after the pandemic. Many funding programs came into being in the course of dealing with Corona. But what will come after that? I would like to see easier access to institutional funding for associations that have been doing good work for a long time and are considered important in the scene. At the moment, like many others, we receive temporary funding. We constantly have to submit new applications. After all, it is money well spent considering that the topic of inclusion not only involves people with disabilities, but is a topic for society as a whole, which focuses on tolerant, democratic and open coexistence. As a common language, music is a great medium for conveying this. We should use that.
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