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Our Diary of m4music 2024

Negative White is attending the m4music Festival 2024 in Zurich. Two days of conference and live performances. Here is our diary.

Part I


15.03.2024 • 08:45

Okay, the countdown is running: One week until m4music officially opens its gates.

And I can’t postpone the necessary preparation work any longer. I have to have a plan, which I will inevitably throw overboard during the festival because that’s just the festival’s nature.

But here’s my preliminary plan for the conference on Friday:

On Saturday, I’ll probably only attend «Fair pay in the music scene: between expectations and reality» since I’ll also hang out at the invite-only «Business Mixer Brunch» by Swiss Music Export.

By the way, the official conference panels are free, so if you’re curious about any of them, you should definitely drop by. Here’s an overview of all panels.

I feel that the panels have become way more artist-focused, which is not bad but less attractive for me to cover as I’d be more curious about industry challenges. Also, a more fun and lighthearted panel is missing.

18.03.2024 • 07:25

After my recommendations for the conference, it’s time for the concerts I’m most looking forward to at this year’s m4music festival.

My favourite Moonpools memory dates back to July 2022. They’ve released their single, Damaged Goods, which immediately landed in my heavy rotation. We spent a week in Scotland and, one day, picked up two hitchhikers. The song was playing faintly in the background. One of the guys was in awe and asked who was playing. So far, I haven’t seen the Swiss band live. After their incredible new single, Never Mind, I can’t wait for their show.

Mary Middlefield
I could get a taste of Mary Middlefield’s raw live performance at last year’s «Musikfestwochen» in Winterthur, leaving me wanting more. She performs her indie-folk songs with the verve of a rockstar: intense, pressing, demanding.

The Swiss electro-pop duo BARON.E has been floating around my head since 2021’s COMME RÊVE. Their oscillating quality, paired with a love for detailed melodies, always grabs my attention. As with the Moonpools, I haven’t had the chance to catch them live on stage. It’s finally time to see them.

Hannah Jadagu
Last year, US artist Hannah Jadagu released the exceptional debut album Aperture. Songs like Warning Sing or Lose combine refined songwriting, soul-esque grooves, and rough-edged rock flair. And since up-and-coming musicians from the States rarely come to Switzerland, it’s definitely a must-see for me.

Skimming through the festival’s line-up, Deadletter stood out, but then again, I’m a sucker for UK post-punk, and the band adds a flavour of DIY and 2000s indie-rock to the sound. I’m predicting a sweaty and escalating show.

Part II


22.03.2024 • 08:21

Good morning. Today, I will start scribbling in this festival diary for real. And the first day obviously needs to start with fuel.

I’d say I’m more or less prepared for the whole thing, but I still need to pack the essentials. In a way, m4music is unique since I get to sleep in my own bed tonight, but simultaneously, it’s also a drag not to have a place to sleep really close by—even if it just would be a tent.

22.03.2024 • 12:30

Okay, all set and on the way. I’m not sure if the laptop will be really necessary; we’ll see. Better save than sorry.

22.03.2024 • 13:30

Okay, it feels like always: A slow start, people hanging around, chit-chatting, saying hello. Some drink beers, while others still rely on coffee. The sun’s shining, life’s good.

And as always, the growing crowd is a unique blend of business casual industry guys, cliché rocker dudes, and everything in between. For now, I’m just waiting for the first panel to start. And I think I’ll stick with Mate for now.

22.03.2024 • 16:00

As expected, the plan starts to fall apart. I’ve been to the SRG panel; however, as soon as I sat down, I thought this might get quite boring: It was supposed to analyse the relationship between Swutzerland’s public broadcaster and the music industry. «A love story,» as the panel’s title hinted.

Gilles Marchand, director of the public broadcasting institution SRG.

The panel started with a speech by Gilles Marchand, the soon-to-be-ex director of the public broadcasting institution. He obviously praised the SRG’s efforts in promoting Swiss music, and some of the numbers he presented were quite impressive. Then again, this speech could have been a PDF.

The essential question, the political threat against the SRG, was only touched lightly. If you’d like to know more about the potential impact of cutting the public broadcasting fees in half would have on the music industry, check out this article:

Far-Right Referendum Threatens Swiss Music Scene
A referendum seeks to cut the public broadcasting fee in half. It not only threatens independent journalism but also the opportunities for Swiss musicians.

Marchand’s speech was followed by individual presentations of the language divisions of SRG. Also, impressive numbers, cool visual trailers, but ultimately nothing new or controversial. The actual discussion panel, featuring two SRG people and two people from the music industry, started off with enough cringe to get out and start with the first beer.

22.03.2024 • 18:00

My plan completely derailed. I skipped a couple of panels and caught up with some people instead. Mary Middlefield drones over the place outside of Schiffbau, the festival’s primary location.

We’re talking about wokeness, awareness, and the fact that the Swiss music industry is too nice. No drama. No scandals. Everybody’s playing ball. Cheap supermarket beer fuels the debate.

22.03.2024 • 20:00

I’ve been slacking around a bit. Undoubtedly, witnessing the saddest moment so far when Neil, singer of Bahnhofbuffet Chancental, kicked and spilt his beer.

«You’re networking. I just dropped my drink. We are not the same.»

Also, I had a quick chat with Frank from Lautstark, a music promoter. Now, it’s time for music. Club Exil. Deadletter.

22.03.2024 • 21:00

Deadletter rumbling in Exil club.

It smells like sweat, beer, perfume, and maybe a bit of piss. The only atmosphere the UK band Deadletter truly deserves.

They play with the aggression of earliest post-punk, dressed in 90s grunge, handling their instruments with the exceptional sophistication of art-rockers. Explosive. Disruptive. Angry.


One can’t be sure if it’s their attitude or the frontman is actually pissed. The audience could have been more enthusiastic, but that’s just Switzerland for the most part… No comparison to a pub full of drunk Englishmen. 

And the saxophone… oh my! If you can, see them!

22.03.2024 • 22:25

After Deadletter, it can only go down. Well, probably. Right now, and that’s the exhausting thing about m4music, I can’t walk 10 meters without saying hi to someone.

Aime Simone didn’t convince me.

That’s why I sit in the Hall, the biggest stage at the festival, and a guy from Paris is playing. Aime Simone. I don’t know, and it sounds rather underwhelming.

23.03.2024 • 00:16

On the train home, or at least in that direction. I’ll have to call a cab to get home. But it was time and a good opportunity to say goodnight. The first day is done—and, unfortunately, but expectedly, relatively unspectacular.

However, some of the conversations I had (which made up the bulk of my first day) went deeper, discussing the broader challenges the music industry is currently facing. But, let’s be honest, we also reminisced a lot about past times.

It’s the beauty but also the dirty little secret of m4music: The music is incidental. It’s about seeing and being seen, about connecting and networking—building relationships—especially for younger artists. I met a woman who worked in my team a few years ago, moderating comments for a big media brand. She has now started creating music. For her, the festival provides the perfect opportunity to learn and meet people.

The industry aspect of m4music seems more profound this year: The conference mainly provides hands-on information for musicians, event organisers, or other professionals. Admittedly, for me, the unfortunate thing is that these topics make rather boring stories, even for overly interested music fans. It’s too nerdy.

Nevertheless, tomorrow—well, later today, actually—there are definitely more bands I plan to see. But you know, plans and m4music don’t really work out as intended.

23.03.2024 • 09:15

After two coffees, I’d consider myself halfway living again. A glance out the window offers all the reasons you’d need to stay inside: It’s cold, wet, and terribly windy. But it can’t stop me from finally seeing Moonpools today, whose song Never Mind is already a high-chance contender to land on this year’s best list.

I had the chance to talk to Alain and Arthur from Young+Aspiring, Moonpools label and booking agency. They assured me their upcoming EP, Hide and Seek, will feature another excellent banger. They also revealed that there are about ten demos for their debut album. I’m already excited.

23.03.2024 • 12:30

I’m later on the train to Zurich than I originally intended. I needed more time to get in a ready state, ready for another night of standing around, talking, and listening.

Some of yesterday’s discussions are still ringing in my head—especially those around the function of music journalism in small Switzerland.

If you’re a regular reader of Negative White, you might find that we rarely write negative things about Swiss artists. There are two reasons:

First, Negative White is a volunteer project. Nobody earns any salary, and at least I have no interest in spending my free time ripping apart music I don’t like. Then, I would not write about it, although I know it would generate way more traffic.

Second, I see a significant difference in writing about an artist’s work, critiquing or praising it, and reporting on the industry itself. The latter requires much more journalistic distance and rigour. There is no reason or need to be overly cautious reporting on institutions and large organisations.

23.03.2024 • 14:15

Just came out of the interesting «Fair Pay» panel, which definitely needs some more digestion. But now, with perfect sunshine, Moonpools.

23.03.2024 • 15:11

Moonpools promised. Moonpools delivered. The Swiss band pushed its already heavy wall of sound with pressure over the sunny place without compromising on the dreamy wave elements.

23.03.2024 • 15:55

Waiting for Obliecht to start. First beer.

23.03.2024 • 16:15

Obliecht. Atmospheric dulcimer indie rave sound with Swiss German and English lyrics. Weird but good.

23.03.2024 • 19:25

Alright, a quick update on what happened. Had a couple of beers and met a couple of people—old and new. And I saw EDB, a Swiss guy, live on stage. With his Swiss German lyrics, he certainly has boundaries, but his show was energetic and charismatic. Now, I’m mostly looking forward to Hannah Jadagu.

And, completely honest, after that, I’m probably done.

23.03.2024 • 20:50

Hannah Jadagu hammered heavily in Exil Club. Between sugary melodies, raw rock energy, droning noise, and R&B groove, her performance was incredibly cool. The loudness perfectly contrasted with her soothing voice, and when the sound got more complex, Jadagu and her band really shined in sophistication and brilliance.

23.03.2024 • 21:30

Alright, final entry of the festival part of this diary. I call it a day shamefully early, but I’m too old for FOMO, and Hannah Jadagu’s concert seemed like the perfect final closure.

Over these two days, I’ve experienced great performances by local and international artists, reconnected with musicians and industry people, and generally had a good time. But there’s also some criticism, which I’ll elaborate further in the diary’s third and last section in the coming days.

In the meantime: Thank you if you followed my reporting so far. 🙏

Part III

Final Thoughts

The m4music 2024 is now part of history. Although an overall urgency was absent from both the festival’s line-up and the conference, it was again a must to be there. It is the one event almost everybody in Switzerland’s indie music scene is attending and for me to have some face-to-face time with people whom I only am in contact via email throughout the year.

So, in a way, it doesn’t really matter if the programme is better or worse—the main focus remains networking and relationship-building. However, that makes for a terrible report.

On the other hand, I could still experience some musical highlights: Deadletter, Moonpools, Obliecht, EDB, and Hannah Jadagu delivered all energetic and impressive performances I shall fondly remember. Also the moments of genuine laughter and fun. Or profound debates with people, which added new insights and perspectives to my understanding of the challenges of the music business.

Nevertheless, when I reflect on this year’s festival edition, everything felt a bit too cosy, a bit too nice. There may be no need for a big scandal, yet a pinch of controversy and opposite opinions might create more intrigue and new ideas. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the business remains stalled in the face of significant global shifts.