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m4music Zurich-Lausanne: Aspiring Booking Galore
In terms of booking, m4music has been aiming at a number of goals right from the start
By Anthony Kammerhofer, GATEWAYmusic
(more articles from this author)
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Have you ever felt reluctant to go to a music industry trade fair only to find them full of not-so-inspiring acts? Maybe you should consider a trip to Switzerland for m4music's, a conference being held on March 25-28, 2010 dedicated to booking and organizing events in both Zurich and Lausanne. We took the opportunity to speak with the head of the festival organization, Philipp Schnyder von Wartensee:

Is m4music's innovative programming an integral part of the project or is a promoter organizing such a trade fair event in Switzerland "forced" into offering diversity?

Philipp In terms of booking, m4music has been aiming at a number of goals right from the start, the common denominator of which is the concept of "networking". This also extends to genres covered. We would also like to further interaction between genres there. However, this doesn't mean we have an "anything goes" policy, rather, we are focusing on urban club music, the "rural topics" we leave for other promoters to focus on. No one's forced into offering diversity, there are successful festivals in Switzerland with clearly-drawn genre boundaries.

What is your booking policy? Do you prefer to liaise with booking agents and artist management, or with the artists directly? what has your experience been when working with local acts who bring their own fan base to the m4music events? Can acts from North America, Asia or other European countries can also find a new fan base at m4music events in Switzerland?

Philipp Usually, artists are tied to agents we then liaise with. The philosophy behind m4music requires booking headliners who can attact a sufficient crowd that will also "support other acts" who then benefit from the resulting exposure. Given that we want to promote Swiss music, local acts particularly benefit from support slots, while headliners frequently come from outside of Switzerland. However, should it be the case that we could cover more stages, with more clubs teaming up in the future, we would also like to make more room for newly-discovered artists from outside Switzerland, who can touch base with the Swiss music scene and possibly enter the Swiss market via that avenue.

What were the main challenges you faced booking acts from overseas, particularly from outside the European economic area?

Philipp The past years have seen a huge increase in performance fee claims simultaneously, the promoter's risk has seen an increase. It's not always so easy estimating how many people a band will finally pull to a venue, and whether the live performance was really good or not, or in other words: whether or not the investment paid off.

There is no question about your regulars being open to new developments in the arts. What are the avenues of "customer retention" you consider to be most favorable for promoting your events (regular newsletters, postings/presence on social networking sites like Facebook etc., text messaging campaigns, vouchers, meet-and-greet events for artists and fans, etc.)?

Philipp We have seen strong ties develop with the pros as they have come to appreciate m4music as a point of contact for networking, an interesting conference and a dense exhibition of artists at the live performances. This only works in a limited way with the usual party and concert-goers. With them, it's all about the question of how and where to spend their weekend, or what they want to do at the moment, etc. However, m4music's reputation is about a dazzling array of concerts for truly affordable entry fees. Our newsletter and Facebook help us to communicate this message. We don't advertise via text messaging as advertising should respect the limits of privacy.

What are the advantages of networking with other trade fair organizers/event promoters and clubs (locally and/or worldwide)?

Philipp Of course, there are advantages in that networking creates more exposure for our own festival in other countries or other seasons. However, that also means that you have to commit resources to it.

How could m4music be a platform for acts outside the European Economic Area? Do you think that such acts may consider m4music as key to entering the Swiss market in terms of booking, PR, etc.? Could participating in m4music even be considered making sense in terms of entering the Germany/Switzerland/Austria market?

Philipp As we speak, m4music is particularly strong for the Swiss market and can truly act as a second-to-nothing promotional platform for foreign acts in Switzerland. Still, we always have selected foreign guests here, and they also closely follow the kind of acts we have hitting the stages.

What are the benefits to participating artists/managements/booking agents/labels, etc. who work with m4music?

Philipp For artists: strong promotion and media exposure, with 500 media and music pros participating, and an audience open to new things. For pros: a densely organized, but well-arranged festival with participants who are usually ready to strike up a conversation without having to rush from one place to the next.

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