Enlarge image

Poster at the Erfurt Christmas market: No »Last Christmas« today

Photo: Michael Reichel / picture alliance / dpa

As a protest against what they consider to be the high music licensing costs of Gema, many Christmas markets throughout Germany do not play any music today. In addition to Christmas markets in Leipzig and Dresden, markets in Magdeburg, Erfurt, Hanover and Rostock also take part in the so-called "Day of Silence". It's unusual, but it's definitely possible," said a Christmas market spokesman from Magdeburg in the early afternoon. But something is missing.

The Christmas market operators criticise the higher licensing costs for the use of music compared to previous years. Gema, as the administration of the music rights, defends itself against the accusations. According to Gema, the reason for the alleged increase is false information provided by the Christmas market operators. "Some large, high-turnover stores have reported to us that space is significantly too small," said board member Georg Oeller last week.

Many operators are now in goodwill negotiations with the collecting society. "We want to stay in touch with Gema and not let ourselves be fobbed off across the board," said the Leipzig store manager on Monday, explaining the campaign. Overnight, costs have risen by up to 1000,<> percent.

Across Germany, Gema says it has sent around 3350 invoices to Christmas market operators for 2022. In 167 cases, there were higher fees, in 35 cases even in the five-digit range.

"We're completely doing without music today," said a spokesman for the city's event management in Goslar. There, as in the state capital of Hanover, neither live music nor music from tape should be played.

Misrepresentation by some markets

The city of Braunschweig has already announced that it will refrain from performing choirs this year because of the higher fees. According to the city, Gema demanded around 18,000 euros more. In Saxony, several cities have joined forces to take action against the alleged price increase in a petition. The operators in Potsdam are drawing strict consequences: This year, there will only be royalty-free music there.

The collecting society Gema, which represents the copyrights of over 90,000 rights holders such as composers, lyricists and music publishers in Germany and distributes income to them, is surprised by the excitement. According to the company, the costs for the total sound system of Christmas markets are calculated according to a tariff that has been in force since 2011 – namely on the basis of the size of the event space.

"Measurements must be taken from wall to wall, from the first to the last stand," according to a statement published by Gema on Thursday. Broken down, this means that the larger the sound area, the higher the licensing costs.

A children's choir doesn't fill the whole Christmas market

For this year, the Lower Saxony Association of Cities no longer sees a solution in sight. "Of course, we have an interest in finding a regulation again in the coming year that takes the cost pressure out of the market events," said Managing Director Jan Arning. The association is calling for Gema's tariff to be adapted more closely to the conditions of a Christmas market.

After all, a children's choir or orchestra does not automatically fill the entire Christmas market. "The best way to see that is in Hanover: when someone sings at the Marktkirche, you don't hear anything about it on the banks of the Leineufer," said Arning. Therefore, the entire area cannot be used for the calculation. "You have to make sure that you find a clever solution that takes both sides into account."

Markets such as the one in Bremen are not affected by the dispute, where there is no overall sound system and no performances. The music at the individual stalls also has nothing to do with the dispute, because the showmen conclude their own contracts with Gema for the music played there.