By Rosine Alleva and José Oliveira – Rock At Night EU Editors
During these hard times due to the Covid-19 virus which very forcefully touched Eastern France and its culture world, we asked 4 promoters from the region a few questions about the actual music crisis: Part 1 Claude Lebourgeois – Music & Wine Festival Artistic Director, David Kilhofer – Music For Ever Production Promoter and Part 2 Jeremy Cardot – Woodstock Guitares Live Programming Responsible and Patrick Georgethum – Zik’inside Promoter
In France, entertainment workers* requested an aid and the expectation was enormous. Finally the day after these interviews, the President of the Republic agreed to grant them a tax free year. An ambitious plan will here ensure the sustainability of the cultural professions in France.
RAN– Facing this enormous health and inevitable economic crisis, which strikes all trades, what are the difficulties you encounter?
Claude Lebourgeois– The first difficulty is financial since we are a whole team working a year to program, communicate, technically organize and this has an annual cost, we estimate the losses for 2020 up to one million Euros! The second difficulty, which isn’t really one, the public doesn’t always understand why we cancel. Even without a government cancellation, we would have canceled, not to create a cluster! But the main difficulty is financial because we made all the advance fees, more than a million Euros deposit have been paid to the Producers. We’re asking for them right now or we try to schedule them for next season and it is not necessarily obvious.
David Kilhofer– We had quite a few difficulties with the lack of information from the government, more precisely from the Ministry of Culture. I don’t think we’ve been left in a state of oblivion but we’re in an artistic vagueness and the speech of the President yesterday isn’t able to reassure us. They haven’t yet understood anything from the live entertainment world and especially the diversity of all the professions around it. Profit and non profit associations Productions like ours, the Music and Wine Festival or even others. The immediate ending, overnight, of all our activities was the biggest difficulty!! And we, in the EAST, stopped everything a good ten days before the others.
RAN– FRANCE remains the Country in the World where promises for aid to the professions of Culture (dixit the Minister of Culture on EUROPE 1 radio) will be the most important. Are you already aware of these measures? What do you think the most urgent thing needs to be done, so that your profession may continue?
CB– The only positive measure I heard of is the aid extension for entertainment workers, which means a tax free year! Everything else is rubbish from the government and for the moment we have no help for Producers or Festivals. The President MACRON did not even talk about Festivals, we’re in a kind of government bubble where what matters are the subsidized theaters, the national scenes but they don’t understand that most of the people who are in Culture, are private! And for the moment, at this level there is nothing!
DK– Above all, it’s necessary to improve this information system and have a calendar to enlighten us on what to do! Since everything stopped overnight, we wanna start again as soon as possible but we can’t do anything either. We are missing guidelines. We must also think of the entertainment workers, the public, the Artists and of course, ourselves. We’re waiting for a reopening date to organize ourselves, at the administrative level, at the hygienic level and be able to anticipate the good progress for a good recovery.
RAN– Will wearing a mask make it difficult to perform certain indoor or even outdoor concerts?
CB– I’m a positive person. Many doctors and infectious diseases specialists are seeing the decrease of this virus. I remain convinced that, as with the various viruses that humanity has passed through, this COVID-19 will also end up disappearing. At the end of the summer we should no longer talk about it and if it would persist, given all the money that was mobilized for research, it would be surprising if a laboratory didn’t find a drug or a drug cocktail to counter this virus and we will no longer have this problem of masks at the start of the school year or in summer! So, I think next year we will no longer have this problem in Festivals.
DK– If wearing a mask became compulsory in a show venue, it would seem strange to me. If this was for a fairly short period, it would not bother me. It does protect people but in a situation like in a theater or a “One Man Show” it would be difficult cause some Artists need interaction with the audience. In any case, we will comply with government requirements. I’m pretty positive overall. This virus will disappear like other epidemics that humans already experienced.
RAN– Certain Insurance companies have terminated the contracts binding them to the Promoters. Some people complain about the irresponsible nature of these organizations. Have you been in that situation? What is your opinion on this subject?
CB– No, we only take insurance when all the programme is published. It makes sense. We can’t guarantee something that we haven’t programmed. And in general, for us, it takes place between February and May. If we should be insured it would only be from April or May and for the moment we even had no opportunity to insure ourselves and for most of the insurance companies, pandemic like coronavirus are not insured! Like all insurances, you have to read between the lines. Even when pandemics are insured, this new virus isn’t. This is the problem for a lot of Festivals like HELLFEST for example, or “LES VIEILLES CHARRUES (OLD PLOWS). If I’m not mistaken, the insurances don’t cover them and it goes even further because they are ejecting them from their insurance company!!!
DK– Not at all. Because in the way, I expected it. The events that I produced during this period did not require the obligation to take out insurance which usually costs me 150,000 to 200,000 € a year. Some insurances cost more than the show and most of them don’t even do their job!! At some point if it’s just to fatten them up and say that we’ve taken out insurance, no, at some point we say Stop!
RAN– We start dreaming of the world after the pandemic! What would be the ideal world for your profession?
CB– I really think that in my profession there is no ideal world cause it’s a world of individualists! Each one works a bit in his corner, doing his own”cooking”, that’s why Festivals, really private, not those bought by LIVE NATION or AEG, have a different programme. But it’s true that the ideal world in our profession would be that big producers become a little more humble and that this Parisianism (Parisian way) stops working!! We have to stop taking us for Peasants!! When I buy a show, I consider myself as the customer and I pay enough to be respected!! So, there should already be kindness from the producers, a respect for the smallest so that we could work in perfect collaboration between Festivals, not being afraid to exchange on the fees of the artists, which is happening very little now cause we’re afraid that information would come out and to be slapped on the fingers by LIVE NATION or by AEG. An ideal would also be for Festivals to be bought by big companies, which will apply the “scorched earth policy”, they buy Festivals, not to make them work but indeed to make them disappear to have their own Festival in place and eliminate competition!!! Like what happens in Industry or in Banks, where everyone tries to eat the other to rule better!!
DK– Difficult and utopian question! Already a world where record labels would invest in a greater diversity of musical styles and stop swinging us only “BEST OF”. People listen to what we let them listen to. Same for radios. Not only bet on what currently works like RAP but allow people, to get to know other styles.To also break away from this Parisian microcosm, which has always been due to international agents, who believe that if you don’t have an office in Paris you are not credible. Things are slightly changing, as proof I’m installed in MULHOUSE and I work with renowned foreign artists. Not yet like those working with big companies in PARIS but we’re doing a lot to enlarge our artists catalog. I currently work with German, English, American Agents. Festivals are also increasingly trusting us. In short, this Parisianism detachment can only be beneficial for us! As we already proved that we have expertise and an incredible sense of responsibility!
RAN– What do you think about the current situation of artists, might they be English, American or even French?
CB– They will suffer like us this “white” year, I would say. Of course there are a whole bunch of little artists who won’t get any money. Either they saved some money for themselves and they will spend a year like someone who is unemployed or who has been out of business for a year. It’s the same thing. Then there are all the Medium and Large Artists, who have enough money to support this period properly. I don’t worry too much about the Artists and we try to work out the concert postponements with them.
DK– In general, I think they all reacted well at the moment, accepting the date extension almost immediately. Festivals are all trying to postpone their programming until next year. This isn’t obvious with foreign artists because some will not be able to return until 2022. We’re trying to do our best. We’ll see their attitude later. We’re also trying to stick together with other business colleagues. There is kind of a solidarity. We’ll see if they’ll still play the same game afterwards.
RAN– Won’t the postponement of concerts from March to July lead to more uncertainty for Artists at the end of 2020 and all of 2021?
CB– The Festival period in France is in full swing in June, July and August. I work with most of the big Festivals in France but also in Switzerland and they have an ethics which allows them to postpone the majority of concerts which should have taken place this summer, at the same period in 2021. Precisely to help the Artists to avoid a complete hole of 2 years. As far as I’m concerned, I try to postpone day by day what was planned at the Wine Fair, from 2020 to 2021!
DK– As I said earlier, the lack of directives contributes to the existence of some vagueness in this area. Of course, I also admit that there may be sectors of higher priority but Culture is a very important element in a nation. The performing arts brews an interaction of diverse cultures and the public is in demand. We’re currently trying to postpone all of our shows until fall. But finding available venues for all those postponed dates is another problem already emerging. In Paris this will be hot!!! And let’s not overlook the question, will people be willing to come to concerts right away? Big program! We need to regain public confidence. I don’t worry for fans of Hard or Heavy Metal because they’re already “hot” for the Party !!
RAN– What do you think the future has in store for the music industry?
CB– Very broad question because it brings together everything related to digital music. The Artists anyway, have no longer the money they used to earn with the sale of albums and are currently finding remuneration related to the number of plays, which aren’t valued…and I think that this will expand the importance of music on stage! So, if you want, this phenomenon for us is something positive because the Artists will have to be on tour to earn money. After this crisis we will have to see if the fees would be reconsidered. Because in five or six years, some fees have been increased almost tenfold!!! Now to have large groups of HARD ROCK, you have to align, minimum 500.000 € up to 2 or 3 Million Euros!!! I hope that this crisis can lead to a better world. Where people, with this difficult time for everyone, may think that maybe Artists will also make a small gesture for the public! But I’m not too afraid for the future of the music industry. I remain really positive!
DK– Wow! It seems to me as difficult to guess as winning the Euromillion!! (US Mega Millions) Laughs! Like everyone else, our musical tastes were mostly influenced by what Parents were listening to. My Parents, also Producers at the time, introduced the German group THE SCORPIONS to France and I forged my education on Hard Rock but not only. I knew how to evolve in my personal tastes. This confinement immersed people in structures like YOUTUBE, where they could see free concerts. Perhaps time has played in favor of the music industry because there was plenty of time to surf on SPOTIFY, widening their musical knowledge and possibly contributing to the purchase of CDs or Vinyls!! The future will tell.
RAN– Thank you for these interviews and we hope to see you again soon to live concerts!
*Entertainment Workers – Entertainment workers have a particular status. Due to the precariousness inherent in the profession, they benefit from some favors in terms of unemployment contribution, employment bonus or even maternity leave. An entertainment worker is a performer or technician who alternates between periods of employment and unemployment. He can work for a show or an audiovisual production (cinema, television). To obtain unemployment benefits, the entertainment worker must justify 507 hours work: during the 319 days preceding registration for artists; during the 304 days preceding registration for technicians.