Behind the scenes: Indiecon 2014

by Steve Watson in September 2014
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These Behind the Scenes interviews normally focus on the unseen world of magazine making, helping to show the work and thinking that go into some of my favourite magazines. But this week I want to switch focus slightly and go behind the scenes of a magazine event.

Indiecon 2014 was held in Hamburg last weekend and was a fantastic meeting of Germany’s independent publishers. Organised by young creative agency Die Brueder, it was indie through and through, from the piratical theme to the way that everyone involved contributed their time and expertise for free to make something happen.

It gave me a fascinating insight into the German indie world, so I caught up with organiser Malte Brenneisen (pictured below left, with co-organiser Urs Spindler) to hear his thoughts on an inaugural success.


Congratulations on a fantastic conference. What would you say is the main lesson you took from it?
The main question of Indiecon was “Was ist indie?” We wanted to define what this thing is that people seem to love so much, and after two days of discussions and struggling I have to say we couldn’t find a decent answer.

But maybe that is exactly the answer – as long as we are trying to define the German indie, as long as we need to discuss the term indie, we have indie magazines.


Over here in the UK we have quite a stark difference between the independent and the mainstream, but it seemed that maybe the divide isn’t quite as extreme in Germany.
That’s right – there are lots of magazines we might call indie in Germany.

We have a pretty simple definition, which we use for argument’s sake. We say the chiefs have to be the makers; those who take care of the financial decisions need to be responsible for the magazine’s content or design. So the CEO or the CFO of a company that is running a magazine needs to be the editor-in-chief or the art director, or at least a writer.

When you apply that to the heterogeneous mass that is German publishing you see there are very different types of magazines that fit the definition. We have the big elephants like the very successful German economics magazine Brand Eins – you might have seen that founder and editor-in-chief Gabriele Fischer spoke in one of the discussions on Friday night.

And then on the other hand we have very little mice; the magazines that are pulled together by a few people working in someone’s living room. This is exactly what we want to support – the dialogue across the whole genre, with all different sorts of independent magazines.


Your approach in itself is totally indie – the way that everyone contributed their skills reminded me of how things get done on smaller independent magazines. Is that generally the way you run things at Die Brueder?
Yes – it’s all about equality and passion, and with the Indiecon 2014 we have the proof of concept. It works!

We’re always astonished by how large and diverse our network is today; journalists, illustrators, designers, programmers, chefs, event managers or helium shark pilots. And can there be anything better than working with friends and family? I think that’s something special and you could feel it at the event.


So can we look forward to Indiecon 2015?
We’re still counting the invoices, but you can be sure as long as we’re not bankrupt the whole thing was worth it. So I’d say see you next year.

Want more magazine events? Book your tickets to the Modern Magazine Conference in London on 19 September, or come along to Printout, also in London on 23 September

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