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LGBTIQ+ List 2023: Stefan Lehmkuhl, BMG

Continuing a series of interviews with this year's queer pioneers, IQ speaks to the Berlin-based freelance curator & live entertainment consultant

By Lisa Henderson on 24 Jul 2023

Stefan Lehmkuhl, BMG/Ruined My Rainbow

Stefan Lehmkuhl, BMG/Ruined My Rainbow

The LGBTIQ+ List 2023 – IQ Magazine’s third annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – has been revealed.

The ever-popular list is the centrepiece of IQ’s third Pride edition, sponsored by Ticketmaster, which is now available to read online and in print for subscribers.

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each of them on the development of the industry, the challenges that are keeping them up at night and more.

Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Check out yesterday’s profile with Katherine Koranteng, marketing & campaigns manager at Festival Republic in London, UK.

The series continues with Stefan Lehmkuhl (he/him/his), freelance curator & live entertainment consultant at BMG/Ruined My Rainbow in Berlin, Germany.

Stefan Lehmkuhl grew up in Münster thinking he was the only gay boy in the village. I never learned anything proper after school other than live entertainment and a bit of music journalism. At least, I didn’t get any certificates or degrees, until today.

I worked as stagehand, security, cup collector, paramedic, music journalist, then festival booker (Melt, Lollapalooza Berlin), tour promoter (Robyn, Fever Ray, The xx), co-founder & CEO (Goodlive), curator (Theater des Westens), you name it. Actually, I always got the feeling I was the only gay boy in the village in my career [as well]. It’s been a ride.

Around the age of 40, I got sober, took a break after corona, and sold my company shares [in order] to reflect on what it is that I wanted to do in the future.

Right now, I programme a beautiful theatre (Theater des Westens) in Berlin on behalf of BMG, working with a wonderful queer team, and am in the process of starting a queer-owned company called Ruined My Rainbow with some amazing people.

Tell us about the professional feat you’re most PROUD of in 2023 so far.
To have managed to set up a truly diverse team for the running of a new concert project at Theater des Westens. We didn’t manage to present a diverse enough lineup so far, but I’m proud to say that behind the scenes, from programming to production to stagehands to securities, we didn’t only go with the straight dudes that we all knew best. I wouldn’t say we excluded them, but they are certainly the minority on our payroll.

Name one queer act you’re itching to see live this year.
Cormac b2b fka.4ma.

What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
Probably the same as non-queer young professionals: set boundaries, don’t do anything you’re not feeling comfortable with; practice self-care; [give] your opinion and leave when you get bullied for [it]; connect with other queer and young professionals and support each other; ask your queer elders [Feel free to get in contact!]. I only say all this because I didn’t do any of it. I only recently started and see [now] what I missed out on.

“From programming to production to stagehands to securities, we didn’t only go with the straight dudes that we all knew best”

What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
After 20 years of working my ass off, I kind of earned my seat at the table of the top promoters in Europe, just to leave the industry when I got there. I would have seen that as a mistake if you would have told me ten years ago, but it was one of the healthiest decisions I ever made for myself. The job can be pretty toxic, and if I want to help and change things in the future, I needed to refill my batteries and reflect on my experiences.

In terms of challenges in the industry, what’s currently keeping you up at night?
In the face of the Rammstein ‘row zero’ [controversy], bubbling ‘Me Too’ stories of industry legends, gender-balanced lineup debates, and ongoing white cis-male dominance in the business, I wonder when the time of the next generation in the industry will finally come and when the outburst within the industry will finally be louder.

How do you see the live music business developing in the next few years?
Sometimes I worry that we see the same phenomenon in the industry that we see in society: first there is a glimpse of hope that things will change, and then the alliance of gatekeepers gains momentum again. I’m terrified of what’s happening in Europe politically; it feels like America’s ‘Gilead’ tendencies post-Trump are undermining the progress of the last [few] years. It is crucial for the industry to forge ahead, refusing to succumb to regression and instead embracing genuine progress. To achieve this, the industry must cultivate a greater sense of courage and boldness.

“After 20 years of working my ass off, I earned my seat at the table of the top promoters in Europe, just to leave the industry”

Name one thing you’d like to see the live music business change.
I’d love for it to become a truly diverse and gender-balanced environment, especially at management level. It will automatically turn into a less toxic and safer workspace that’s more attractive to work in for people.

Name one thing the industry could do to be a more equitable place.
Quotas in all fields of the industry: lineup, staff, security, management… all fields! (I know ‘equitable’ isn’t the same as ‘equal’ but both go hand in hand for me.)

Shout out to your biggest ally in the live music industry.
Melvin Benn.

Do you support any LGBTIQ+ causes?
Allout.org – at the moment, especially, [due to] the absolutely terrifying situation for LGBTQIA+ people in Uganda and potentially Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and for putting pressure on governments to issue humanitarian visas.


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