By José Oliveira and Rosine Alleva, Rock At Night France Correspondents
INTERVIEW WITH: NUNO BRAANCAMP
RITMOS & BLUES – Portugal
Since the creation of their company RITMOS & BLUES, the Rock Promoters Nuno Braancamp and Alvaro Ramos contributed, in many respects, to placing Lisbon and Portugal to the high level of the best world rock scenes.
Nuno Braacamp is also the owner of MEO ARENA, the largest one in Portugal with the capacity to welcome 20 000 people.
For the past two decades, he has invited great artists such as U2, Dire Straits, Police, Bryan Adams, Tina Turner, Rolling Stones, Madonna, George Michael and most recently Rod Stewart to perform at the MEO ARENA.
But this great businessman has many hidden sides to be discovered. So I ran to the airport to catch the quickest flight to Portugal and to discover a wonderful view from Nuno’s office, which included Christ The Redeemer overlooking the Tagus River.
You can feel so much honesty in his declarations. A deep passion for this very special profession and a nostalgic admiration for the wonderful Tina Turner… A beautiful dream!
Check out Rock At Night’s (RAN) exquisite interview with this wonderful man!
RAN- Nuno, it’s a big honour to come to Portugal and have a chat with one of the greatest European rock promoters. Before talking about the music business, one question comes to me easily. How did you live the achievement of the Portuguese Football team?
NB– Well, of course it was a great deal for the country, for the Portuguese who live abroad and supported our team and for those who had always believed that Portugal was able to win the European Championship! It was an enormous happiness! I must confess that I never believed in this team and I’m fully convinced that 80% of the Portuguese people didn’t believe in our victory! I congratulate Fernando Santos (The Portuguese Coach), because when I was the President of ESTORIL PRAIA, I had dismissed him from the club, although I ‘d recognized his value! For me, he was the only person to believe in his team! And don’t forget that if France had won, they would have had a lot of merit, because they played a good game! Twelve years after our final lost at home against Greece (0-1), we really enjoyed this moment!
RAN– I ignored your implication in football.
NB- I have been the President of ESTORIL PRAIA and Vice-President of the glorious SPORT LISBOA BENFICA! Both, on the First Portuguese League, of course. I met the clubs inside and had some big disillusions! I was so disappointed with Football. So many people join in only for their own profit and interest!
RAN- Apart from football, what were you doing before creating your rock music business?
NB- I have been linked to this activity of customhouse broker and I’m still doing this. Why? This may seem very strange but when Portugal joined the European Commission, I had enormous offices in different areas of Lisbon and employed many people. It was a lot of work! There was no choice! To stop, to retire or continue! And I’m not the kind of person to give up! At 77, I play tennis three times a week, run some kilometers and swim, and I adore it. Therefore, I maintained this professional activity, reducing it as much as possible but I quickly realized this wouldn’t be enough to keep me busy all day!!!
Then, with the emergence of a great artist , Tina Turner, I had to organize her first show in Portugal and rushed to do it alone! Later I thought my idea needed more support and I created the enterprise RITMOS & BLUES, with my associate Alvaro Ramos. Twenty seven years and we are still here, at our best!
RAN- Some years ago, was it a hard thing to be a rock promoter?
NB- Well, at that time there were only two promoters in Portugal. And the competition between us to sign some big artists was already terrible! Sometimes our competitors were offering much more fees than us but we had the perfect understanding of the profession and were not interested to waste our money! You must have the perfect knowledge to do this! To know which cities could be interested in this artist or this band and of course always calculate in audience terms! It’s not a question of amount but of quality! If the artist or the band is good and famous, the sales will be great ! But there is always an enormous part of risk!
RAN- Can you tell us some of the big names you promoted ?
NB- U2, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, MICHAEL JACKSON, CHRIS DEBURGH, TINA TURNER, PINK FLOYD, GEORGE MICHAEL, THE POLICE, ELTON JOHN, THE ROLLING STONES (three times), MADONNA, ROD STEWART and many others.
RAN- It’s really impressive! What were the main evolutions of this musical market in Portugal?
NB– Very negative! Reason? Everyone thought that suddenly everybody could be a rock promoter! A Golden Paradise! Of course, we could make money but there are rules not to be forgotten!! Some people offer fees to bands which are really not worthed, to finally disappear anyway. RITMOS & BLUES and EVERYTHING IS NEW are the only big companies in Portugal. With two companies only, there is a competition, it becomes a real auction. And the agents or managers begin to practice what we call “black mail”, announcing fees to make sure to obtain the highest proposal!! My intention is far from this. When I hire an artist, it’s for his real artistic value! Well, you have to know they never lose money but only get profits! The largest percentage belongs to the artist, from 80 to 95% !!!
RAN- Do you remember having lost a substantial amount of money in a concert?
NB- Yes, of course. With MICHAEL JACKSON in 26 November 1992!!!!
RAN- A big lesson for you I suppose ….
NB- Yes, José! MICHAEL JACKSON and BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN were big lessons! At that time, we were in NEW YORK to sign BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and we paid him big fees! More than his real artistic value for Portugal by then! He was a big name in Spain but not here. Well, we are not going to cry! There were other concerts which helped us to recover our losses.
RAN- Does this profession involve calculated risks?
NB- Of course! Sometimes I have to accept a band I don’t really want to promote. Even if I know I’m going to lose money, I have to accept! Anyway I must play the game if I want to get big artists from that same agency later on!
RAN- Well, a good way to reduce some financial risks is to be the owner of a big hall. Are you the owner of the MEO ARENA in Lisbon?
NB- Yes I am! After the Lisbon World Expo’98, we were three Portuguese and one American organization trying to buy the beautiful Atlantic Pavilion (MEO ARENA). It has been quite tough! It took two years to get the keys!! We lost some money and time fighting against the other candidates! We are the owners of the only hall in Portugal, where you can place 20 000 people for a concert. Obviously, now, if all the other promoters want to organize a big event, they have to rent the MEO ARENA through me! So, tough but a great investment.
RAN– In the Eighties, THE BUGGLES sang “Video Killed the Radio Star”. Do you think that Internet and the new technologies run counter or contribute to your professional interests ?
NB- Absolutely not! It’s the same phenomenon that happened with the record companies. Everyone thinks that they keep helping us in promoting artists. They don’t help us at all! They have no budget for this! I remember I had big promotion problems with UNIVERSAL.
RAN – Yeah! Everybody knows that record sales did considerably drop and, for sure, the fees increased. Some agencies become even arrogant and ask astronomical amounts to the promoters!
NB- You know, it’s the real situation! They’ve asked me a huge amount of money for Bruce SPRINGSTEEN to play ROCK IN RIO last May! And it was “get it or leave it”!!!
RAN – How do you see the Culture in Portugal? Portugal has a new President, open to communication and cultural events. Would this mean high expectations?
NB- You know, I would like to say yes. I know him very well. He is very open-minded, very cultured, and very sympathetic! But he won’t bring anything to the Music business ! Nowadays, music events will only survive with sponsors! The fees have increased and the tickets sales don’t cover enough to support some big names! Also our sponsors have to admit that when they support us, they receive something in return. That’s what happens with our sponsors at the MEO ARENA! They are happy with the benefits they receive! And last but not least, RITMOS & BLUES recognizes this important help!
RAN– The Rod Stewart concert, last 6th July, was just fabulous! At 71, he still conserves this full magic, that rough voice from the sixties! You seem to have a great relationship with him and his management, eight years after his last concert in Lisbon!
NB- Excellent question! He is someone so special! A very polite and interesting guy! A great artist in a good shape!! This Tour includes his golden songs from the sixties and seventies and people really appreciate it. I recognize I made an enormous mistake. Rod Stewart must come here every three years! Not every eight years! Although he has never been a cheap artist!
RAN- This comes exactly to my next question. How much did you pay to bring the Celtic Glasgow beautiful Boy to Lisbon?
NB- A lot of money, as you can imagine!
RAN- Which was the most expensive concert you organized?
NB- Without any hesitation, U2!!! But I never lost money with them!!
RAN – Which artist continues to inspire your dreams?
NB- José, it’s an easy and obvious question ! I know that I will never accomplish this but it’s my dream since a long time to sign Tina Turner again!!! I told Roger Davies, her agent, that I was able to pay what she wanted! Well, TIna has a beautiful life in the south of France! That picture on the wall, will forever stay in my memory! Roger Davies, is a fabulous and clever man and he knows that if Tina is back on tour one day, she will begin to sing for Lisbon! (laughs)
RAN– TOO OLD TO ROCK N’ROLL, TO YOUNG TO DIE! Are you still in a good shape at 77?
NB- Wow!! Absolutely! I Feel Good! I’m 77 and I don’t care about death! The most beautiful way for me to leave this earth would be to close my eyes forever being at work. Cause I always dedicated my life to work!
RAN – How would you like people to remember you, Nuno?
NB- A promoter who wanted to change the rules system, but I didn’t make it. Unfortunately the promoter’s rules continue to follow the wrong law! With which I don’t agree even though many agencies do exactly the same! Artists, agencies, all know it’s the wrong way! 25% of benefits should be given to the promoters and the end, they only get 5%, more specifically with big names! The other 20% just fly away….
RAN- So, when Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistol’s manager, said one day that Rock n’Roll was a great swindle, he was right!! And it still goes on….!
NB- …it’s not only going on, it will always …. Just like me feeling young forever. (laughs)
**Interview pictures: Elisabeth OLIVEIRA
***ROD STEWART pictures: José OLIVEIRA
I was born in Portugal and lived the Sixties exploring the great UK Rock magazines: "The New Musical Express" and "Melody Maker". Ray Charles and Pat Boone were my father’s fav. I became “The Great Pretender”. Cliff Richard was our Elvis Presley. As a beach boy, with my first guitar, I met a beautiful French girl on the beach! It was the Summer of 69!! We got married and rock music was our dowry. In France, I became a Wine Genetic Research Scientist. One of my works contributed to the decoding of the genome of the vine! As a rock journalist, I’ve worked twenty years for the Portuguese and Brazilian Rock Press. I ‘ve interviewed so many great artists. Then, one day I met FRANK ZAPPA! I got into trouble for introducing my wife to "Uncle Meat"!