Bazillus Klub, The Swiss Boutique Bug
Bazillus Klub shatters all cliché-ridden images of Zurich
Bazillus Klub - Photo by Dominique Meienberg for ZKB
Bazillus Klub shatters all cliché-ridden images you might be familiar with when we're talking Zurich, Switzerland. This venue is certainly not about mountains, cheese or watches, but rather the proverbial "the world is an oyster". The club's organizer, Beat Kennel, has come a long way since 1969, bringing to Zurich the biggest names in Jazz music and touring the town for 40 years in an often-desperate search for a new location for his Bazillus Klub. Engaging in a kind of location-hopping all over Zurich, the artistic bacillus or bug seems to have finally found his what he was searching for at Ausstellungstrasse 21 in the city center. MusicDish had a chance to chew the fat with senior bug Beat...
Is Bazillus Klub's innovative programming an integral part of the project or is a promoter working in Switzerland (like you) 'forced' to offer a variety of events?
Beat: We have been organizing an exclusive lineup of local musicians once every week (on Thursdays) for more than 5 years. Additionally, on Mondays, four creative resident groups are given the opportunity to design their own which is then performed once a month for an entire year. Bazillus Klub reflects a certain kind of style based on new rhythms (loopbeatz-electronic-jazz-afro-R&B, indie rock, freestyle, etc.), a kind of new European groove with influences from the entire wide world of music. Hence, compared to other clubs, we have coined a style. The usual clubs are definitely forced to include anything stylistically imaginable and, thus, lose their profile. This results in randomness and disorientation.
Innovation at our is a result of being creative and utilizing diversity. Each live performance is unique, and we record, mix and edit each performance at our own recording studio run by the club, and then upload it onto our Bazillus Player (http://www.bazillusclub.ch/C_MPlayer.asp). Also, the performers involved receive the original recordings and can use them for their own projects without any hurdles. On Fridays/Saturdays, we rent out the club to commercial promoters, and this is how we fund our cultural activities.
What is your booking policy? Do you prefer to liaise with booking agents and artist management, or with the artists directly? Do you prefer working with local acts bringing their fan base to the venue, or does your experience show that acts from North America, Asia or other European countries can also pull a crowd at Bazillus Klub?
Beat: We directly liaise with individual artists whom we ask to participate. We prefer working with local, individual musicians or non-Swiss guest performers who are calling on Zurich as part of their tour or because they are just around. This is all based on a "low budget line". We cannot afford to book foreign bands in the face of high travel costs, costs for accommodation, etc. Our home base is local, but our music is international.
What are the main challenges you've faced when booking acts from overseas so far (particularly from outside the European Economic Area)?
Television Religion Performing Live - Photo by Dominique Meienberg for ZKB
Beat: In the old days (1980-88), when Bazillus Klub's focus was on the international scene, I would work with the most well-known, most-relevant European booking agencies in jazz music, and you could count them all on one hand. Back then, we were able to have the biggest names perform at our club when they were on tour. Those agencies, in turn, had struck their agreements with agents active on an international scale.
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.)?
Beat: We use a weekly newsletter, a one-click automated press distribution tool from our website. We don't run any print ads. There is a huge plasma screen at our club where we can run tailor-made ads for our club. In addition, we mostly do promotion via Facebook campaigns. Each musician promotes himself or herself. The Monday resident groups have organized themselves as one Facebook group. However, text messaging is still the most-efficient promotion channel for our small club. For example: The visitors present text a friend each. In case of 30 visitors, all of sudden we have 50-70 people coming to our little club. We do not take an entrance fee at the door, but pass the hat. Our Klub projects receive funding by public entities.
What are the advantages to networking with other promoters and clubs (locally and/or worldwide)?
Beat: Currently, we are working on liaising with other innovative clubs for the years to come. We are connected with clubs in Berlin and London. Given that our club concept is highly unique, this can take a while. Perseverance has always been one of our strengths; the 'Bazillus' has been around for 40 years.