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Matthias Strobel: "Networking does not end at national borders"

Matthias Strobel: "Networking does not end at national borders"
Photo: © Karan Talwar

How do I set up an association? In part 8 of our legal form series "How are you in form?" we talk about this with Matthias Strobel. Strobel founded the MusicTech Germany association five years ago and has now founded one more with the Music Tech Europe. What is important when founding an association and what added value does it offer? What mistakes should be avoided?
 

InterviewJens THOMAS

 

CCB Magazine:Matthias, you have just founded your second association. Has it now become a kind of hobby of yours to create associations for music culture?   

Matthias Strobel:It's not a hobby, but rather something I'm very passionate about. I simply see the need for such networks.

CCB Magazine:What is your new association about? Why is it needed?   

Matthias Strobel:We want to connect players in the music ecosystem who are involved in innovations for this sector of the creative industries. To this end, we currently bring together ten associations from ten countries - including Music Tech Germany, Music Tech France, Music Innovation Hub from Italy and Music Finland. We are not a lobby association, but more of an umbrella organization. Our aim is to promote the exchange of knowledge and international networking on the topics of innovation and digitalization for the music industry, which is needed at a European level. 

CCB Magazine:What are the specific issues involved?   

Matthias Strobel:The aim is to strengthen the innovative power of the very technology-driven music industry. The main focus here is on issues such as regulation for new technologies, funding and financing channels for start-ups or cooperation between technology providers and music companies. The decisions in this area do not stop at national borders. That's why we want to build bridges between all stakeholders in the music ecosystem, because this is where there is the greatest need. For example, we are currently developing a mapping for AI tools for the live music industry. The aim is to make information available so as not to leave the field to the big technology companies, but to strengthen those who work for the music sector from within the industry.

The aim of our association Music Tech Europe is to strengthen the innovative power of the technology-driven music industry. The main focus is on topics such as regulation for new technologies, funding and financing channels for start-ups and cooperation between technology providers and music companies

CCB Magazine:The German law makes no difference between an association and a federtion. Why did you decide to found an association?

Matthias Strobel:You're right. At Music Tech Europe the main focus is on networking, as we are primarily concerned with representing common interests to the outside world - that's why we act as an association. Furthermore, an association or federation does not need any start-up capital - in contrast to a limited company, which requires at least 25,000 euros. You also have to have at least seven founding members to set up an association in Germany. However, we founded the association in Estonia because only two founding members are required here.

CCB Magazine:Isn't it complicated to set up an association abroad from Germany?  

Matthias Strobel:Not at all. In Estonia, everything can be handled extremely conveniently and quickly digitally. In Germany, on the other hand, the so-called apostille procedure is required when establishing a European association. This requires confirmation of the authenticity of the signature and the authority of the issuer of a document from another country. An apostille costs between 1,000 and 1,500 euros up front. So we would have had to pay up to 10,000 euros just for the entry in the register. It's easier in Estonia. Here, you just need two founding members. As private individuals, we were also able to have ourselves removed from the register on the day of foundation and instead register the respective organizations that we represent. This means that we are now not listed in the register as private individuals, but with our organizations.

CCB Magazine:You are ten founding members in total. Which ones did you select and bring together, and with what aim?

Matthias Strobel:The most important decision-makers from the central European countries are in the association, including some from Germany, Italy, France, England, Finland and Spain. As we were already in contact with each other anyway, we quickly had all the players together. It was clear to all of us that such an association was needed.

An association does not need any start-up capital - in contrast to a GmbH, which requires at least 25,000 euros. You also have to have at least seven founding members to set up an association in Germany. We therefore founded our association in Estonia because only two founding members are required here

CCB Magazine:An association also needs a board. Who is that for you and what is their role?

Matthias Strobel:We are four board members in total, including myself, someone from Finland, Italy and Spain. We all represent the association externally in terms of content and legally. The Executive Board is elected by the General Assembly, which can also vote it out of office. In addition, an association is not like a limited company in that those who contribute the most capital in shares have the most votes.

CCB Magazine:How do your decision-making processes work? Who does what? And who decides what is done in the end?

Matthias Strobel:We do everything according to the majority principle. We have an online meeting once a month where the most important topics are discussed - a two-thirds majority then decides what to do. We also have a WhatsApp group where we regularly exchange ideas and make smaller decisions. For example, we are currently curating a lot of conferences. We are also currently planning further working groups on individual topics so that we don't have to decide everything with everyone.

CCB Magazine:How do you finance yourselves?

Matthias Strobel:We collect membership fees, which so far amount to around 500 euros per year from a total of ten associations. This allows us to cover administrative costs and the bare essentials for the time being. We are also acquiring project funding, and the next step is to apply for European funding. There is a special funding pot for European associations. This includes associations that have been receiving funding since 1997. But you have to write a 170-page application, so you can imagine what that means. And you don't know whether you'll get the funding. The funding would then last for three years. We hope to complete the application soon and thus have long-term planning security.

CCB Magazine:I understand that you do all this on the side. How do you reconcile this with your other jobs?  

Matthias Strobel:That is and can indeed be a lot of work. So far, however, it has been possible, but if there are even more members and the tasks grow, we will reach our limits. There are associations that have full-time board members and create regular positions to keep all the bureaucracy off their backs. We haven't got that far yet. We all currently have normal jobs on the side, all in the MusicTech sector. For example, I run the booking agency Wicked Artists with my colleague Dennis Kastrup and organize the Music Tech Meetups event series. I'm also currently organizing a new music conference in Berlin, which will take place on September 5 and 6 at Pfefferberg under the name NEW VISIONS. The others are doing other things. One member from Finland, for example, represents the Export Office in Finland full-time and is paid appropriately for this. In the end, we all benefit from the association and the association benefits from us - we bring our knowledge to the association and at the same time we learn from each other.

CCB Magazine:If you could give others a tip: For whom in the cultural sector is such an association suitable, for whom not?

Matthias Strobel:An association is always suitable if you discover a gap and there is a corresponding need. But you shouldn't start from scratch. If you don't have a network yet, I would advise against starting one. It's better to build up a network first and clarify the questions about what you need.

CCB Magazine:In conclusion: What mistakes should be avoided in the founding process?

Matthias Strobel:Don't compete with each other. Bring things together, use synergies and create new ones. And above all: don't wait too long. If you already have a network and the right support, just get started. But always ask yourself what added value the association has for the members, both externally and internally. 

Category: Specials

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