The “ECHO” is no more. At a special meeting held yesterday in Berlin, the executive board of Germany’s Federal Music Industry Association (Bundesverband Musikindustrie, BVMI) decided conclusively to discontinue the award. The board members noted that the ECHO had served as one of the country’s foremost music prizes for decades, while also functioning as a key annual industry event with countless memorable moments and performances. They also confirmed that the German music industry – the third largest music market in the world – will continue to require a system of music awards that allow the industry to honour the work of artists and musicians across all genres and generations. However, the board made it explicitly clear that these music awards cannot be perceived as a platform for anti-Semitism, misogyny, homophobia and the trivialization of violence. The board expressed its deepest apologies for the events surrounding this year’s ECHO award presentation. It noted that these events cannot be undone; however, it signalled its deep commitment to ensuring that such mistakes are not repeated in the future.
The BVMI board members argued that the ECHO brand has been damaged to such an extent that it now requires a complete overhaul, which also entails a fresh new start for the ECHO KLASSIK and ECHO JAZZ awards. With this in mind, the board named its first concrete steps, which involve recasting the three prizes based on an entirely new structure. In the course of this remodelling, each of the committees involved in the ECHO up until now will cease their activities. The nomination and award criteria involved in the prizes will also undergo a complete transformation. As with the ECHO KLASSIK and ECHO JAZZ awards – which have always been based entirely on decisions emanating from a jury of experts – the new award for Pop music will also place a stronger emphasis on the opinion of an expert jury.
The executive board will now take the time it needs to formulate and concretise these changes. At a workshop the board’s task will be to craft a new prize that serves the interests of artists across the entire industry. This workshop will attempt to incorporate as many ideas and expectations as possible in the process of recrafting the award. The BVMI has already approached a number of institutions to ask that they join in shaping a much-needed social debate about the scope and limits of artistic freedom.