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Concert promotion is tough work in Switzerland

Brian Ferry of Roxy Music - one of the many international bands that perform at the Hallenstadion

(Keystone)

Good News Productions, Switzerland's largest music promotion agency, organises concerts across the country with some of the biggest names on the international music scene. It's a tough business, with a high degree of risk.

It is easy to sell out the 12,000-capacity Hallenstadion in Zurich with top names like U2 and Eric Clapton, but the days of successful mega concerts in Switzerland are numbered.

Marcus Simmen of Good News told swissinfo: "It's a tough business. Like everywhere, you need to calculate the risk by yourself."

"If you have hundreds of thousands of Swiss francs to pay for an artist and the venue's not sold out, it's not easy and it's not good for your business. We are doing pretty well but it's always tough and you need to have good sponsors as well."

Andy Beshir launched Good News in 1970, organising concerts and promoting events. A German group, Deutsche Entertainment, took over the Zurich-based agency this year, but Beshir remains in charge.

Alongside its regular musical programme at a variety of indoor venues, Good News also organises some outdoor events. However, it dropped the longer open-air music festivals over two years ago, preferring to focus on one-day open-air events.

Among the headliners featuring at shorter open-air concerts staged by Good News this summer are AC/DC and Bon Jovi.

International music stars

While Good News deals with a wide range of international music stars when they come to perform in Switzerland, the company promotes very few Swiss bands - two or three a year, performing in smaller locations.

"The Swiss music that is really successful in Switzerland is in German and with that you really can't do a Hallenstadion concert," said Simmen. "The only exception is DJ Bobo."

Good News sometimes has difficulties attracting top international artists to such venues as the Hallenstadion as the Swiss music market is a low priority for the music industry.

"For the music industry, Switzerland is a B market, which means it isn't important. There are other markets in Europe that are far more important such as England, Germany and France," said Simmen. "Unfortunately every year, at least two or three big names do not come to Switzerland."

Janet Jackson is among the big name American singers coming to Switzerland this year. Her date in Zurich is, however, at the expense of a concert in Vienna.

"There's a nice song we heard this summer from AC/DC called 'Money Talks' and that's the way it is: money does talk," explained Simmen. "If an artist gets $10,000 more in Switzerland, he will come here, but if he gets it in Germany he will stay in Germany."

Boost sales

More artists have come to the conclusion that touring in itself isn't profitable. The main reasons they do it is to retain contact with their fans and, perhaps more importantly, to boost sales of their music.

Good News doesn't give details of artists' fees. "But you can work it out by yourself," said Simmen. "You take the 12,000 Hallenstadion seats and multiply that by the ticket price of between SFr50 and SFr60. It comes out at SFr700,000, of which more than half goes to the artist."

The artists don't pocket all the money; tour crew, dancers, transport and accommodation costs still have to be met.

Another problem facing companies like Good News is that record companies are increasingly unwilling to nurture artists long-term. They prefer to promote a band for a shorter period, make their money and then move on to newer, fresher faces.

"Unfortunately, the times we are living in are not so good for creating huge artists like Eric Clapton and U2," said Simmen. His statement underlines that the promotion of concerts and artists remains a business, with all its inherent pitfalls and rewards.

by Tom O'Brien


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