Press release / 30 November 2023

GEMA clarifies: No increase in licence fees for Christmas markets

The reports fed to the press by cities, towns and councils regarding alleged price increases for the licensing of Christmas markets are wrong. This is what’s actually correct:

  • Particularly the large, commercially oriented Christmas markets provided information that was partially incorrect when submitting music usage notifications. The actual area calculated for the Christmas markets led to higher costs for the music use.
  • Each Christmas market visitor generates an average 18 euros in turnover. Compared to this, there are 2.5 cents which are charged per visit for the music. The GEMA tariff is thus not the reason that Christmas markets can no longer play music.
  • Some members of the Bundesvereinigung der Musikveranstalter (Federal Association of Music Event Organisers, BVMV) and the Deutsche Städtetag (Federation of German cities) simply ignored the information of their associations regarding the application of the GEMA tariff.
  • GEMA has not changed the assessment criteria of its tariff for city festivals, according to which Christmas markets license their music. Since 2011, the overall total area is authoritative as the basis for calculation.

German Copyright Act provisions are clear. For performances and use of music at Christmas markets, a licence fee must be paid to GEMA. Such revenues are then paid out as royalties by the collective management organisation to its members, i.e. about 90,000 music creators who have joined the association that is GEMA.  Said royalties account for a large part of the total income of music creators.

The GEMA tariff was last changed in 2018. The assessment criteria have been valid since 2011

If music is played at town festivals or Christmas markets, the total event area is used as the basis to calculate the licence fee. The German Federal Court of Justice decided the following in 2011: The event area must be measured wall to wall, from the first to the last booth and not just the area in front of a stage where the insonification occurs. GEMA is also subject to this decision and has to apply it in its tariff.  Nearly all event organisers know this procedure, a fact that is exhibited by the low number of claims or complaints among the 3,350 licensed Christmas markets in the year 2022. To date, GEMA relied on the correct information regarding the event space or area. Now, however, GEMA had to find out that some markets had not indicated the correct numbers for their event areas. This led to higher licence fees for approx. 5 percent of the 3,350 markets.

Georg Oeller: The fact that some Christmas markets are cancelled or can only be held without music, is not due to the GEMA tariff

“I do not understand the media hype. We know that individual Christmas markets provided false information. Some larger, commercially strong markets declared areas which were clearly too small”, member of the Managing Committee, Georg Oeller, explains. “It is in the interest of a fair remuneration for music creators that we want to see the tariff applied correctly. What type of information is required for this purpose is something that has been known to the members of the Deutsche Städtetag for years. Most of them do not apply the tariff correctly, after all. As a member of the Deutsche Städtetag, they receive a rebate of 20 percent. With a view to the Christmas markets, the Federation has obviously not sufficiently fulfilled its task to inform its members more clearly about how the tariff must be applied. We have no other explanation as to the reports circulating over the last few weeks about markets that are not open across entire areas, which are simply false”, adds Oeller. “No Christmas market must renounce on music just because the music is licensed by GEMA.”

“No Christmas market must renounce on music just because the music is licensed by GEMA.” – Georg Oeller, member of the GEMA Managing Committee

GEMA appeals to the umbrella organisations: Fairness should be the directive for a partnership

Fact is: Even with the 35 largest Christmas markets where there have been significant changes to the licence fees, GEMA has found solutions for 2022 and 2023 in coordination with the Deutsche Städtetag in the course of the application process for adequacy. “We expect that the BVMV as our direct general agreement partner and the Deutsche Städtetag are going to encourage its members to working together in the spirit of partnership, just as the one we had always maintained over the past years”, Oeller says.

Economic factor Christmas market: Music increases sales and turnover. About 18 euros in turnover per visit

Christmas markets are, with all their “Gemütlichkeit”, cozy appearance and folksy atmosphere, still commercial events. This applies, in particular, to Christmas markets with large event areas which are open for many days. Music plays an important role here, to create a Christmassy mood and to entice visitors to buy mulled wine, fried sausages and craftwork items. Clever use of music whether during live performances or pop-culture Christmas classics in constant loop playbacks, support the intended turnover of the goods on offer – and increases the time people stay around. About 18 euros is spent on average by a visitor to a Christmas market (Source: Deutscher Schaustellerbund (German Showmens' Federation), 2018).

“Musical works which our 90,000 members compose or write lyrics for, create an atmosphere which boosts turnover. The growing number of Christmas markets and the trend to add more and more opening days, partially starting in early November to way past the pre-Christmas advent time, are proof of the commercial significance of such markets.  It is the legally binding duty of GEMA to collect a small part of the added value generated by the music used for our music creators”, concludes Georg Oeller.

Further information: www.gema.de/christmas-markets-2023

In Germany, GEMA represents the copyright of more than 90,000 members (composers, lyricists and music publishers), and more than two million copyright owners from all over the world. It is one of the largest societies for creators of musical works in the world.

Press download:

Georg Oeller, member of the GEMA Managing Committee (c. Sebastian Linder)

 

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