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French biz unites against “antidemocratic” Le Pen

Prodiss and MMF France are among the industry groups to have publicly opposed Marine Le Pen's presidential bid, as ticket sales tumble amid pre-election uncertainty

By Jon Chapple on 05 May 2017

Marine Le Pen, Front National (FN), Rémi Noyon

image © Rémi Noyon

A coalition of 70 French industry associations, including promoters’ group Prodiss, performing arts body Syndeac, Music Managers Forum France, the Union of Contemporary Music (SMA) and the National Venues Association (Association de Scènes Nationales), has urged voters to reject presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen, warning her National Front (FN) party represents an “inward-looking attitude” and a threat to the “republican values” of liberté, égalité and fraternité.

The new campaign, dubbed ‘Culture Against the FN’ (hasthtag: #stopFN7mai, or “#stopFN7may”), was inaugurated with an event at the Philharmonie de Paris on Tuesday (2 May), with over 25 artists, conductors, film directors and other influential figures from the arts world calling for the country to “vote to block the FN” from office at this Sunday’s presidential election.

“Arts and culture, through their values of diversity, sharing and freedom, are inseparable from a democratic society of equality and fraternity,” reads a statement from organisers. “We cannot accept the banalisation of the National Front and its anti-democratic ideas of rejecting ‘the other’ and an inward-looking attitude, […] that run contrary to republican values.”

Aline Renet, Prodiss’s strategic counsel, says there were around 1,000 people at the #stopFN7mai event. For Prodiss, she says, the message is to “go and vote, and vote usefully” to stop Le Pen – which in effect means a vote for her opponent, Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! (‘Forward!’).

Renet tells IQ the association, which represents roughly 75% of France’s live sector, met with representatives of every candidate before the first round of voting – bar the Le Pen team. “We decided that was not an option,” she explains.

“Ticket sales have taken a real dip in the last few weeks … everyone’s minds are fixed on the election”

Le Pen’s opinions, says Renet, are “so far away” from those held by most people working in the entertainment industry, “in a very French sense – not just in business terms, but also on culture, freedom, fraternity…”

The latest polls show Le Pen, who is running on a populist, eurosceptic, anti-immigrant, economically protectionist platform, trailing Macron – who is socially liberal but broadly pro-business – by 40.2% to 59.8%.

Despite Macron’s seemingly unassailable lead, ex-Nous promoter Arnaud Meersseman, now at Fimalac’s Miala, says he’s “a little bit worried” about 7 May’s vote – chiefly because Macron, in contrast to Le Pen, is widely perceived as being “more of a reason candidate than a passion candidate”. (And we all know how ‘reason’ vs ‘passion’ turned out in America…)

The attitude of many towards Macron, Meersseman tells IQ, is that “‘he seems reasonable, he’s not going to fuck up the country, let’s vote for him’. But lots of people, especially those who voted for the far-left candidate [Jean-Luc Mélenchon] are also saying they’re going to abstain, which will increase Le Pen’s vote.”

In addition to making the markets jittery, Meersseman says the spectre of a surprise FN victory is hurting ticket sales. “Ticket sales have taken a real dip in the last few weeks,” he explains. “May is traditionally really slow, but I do think the uncertainty is having an effect – everyone’s minds are fixed on the election.”

Meersseman says that while he “obviously” supports Macron – Le Pen, he says, is a “demagogue” whose vague proposal to limit the number of ‘foreign workers’ in France to 10,000 per year could be catastrophic for touring – it likely won’t be business as usual for the French industry under the 39-year-old centrist either.

“We cannot accept the banalisation of the National Front”

For example, Macron has “made it very clear there needs to be a reform of social structures and wages”, he explains, which could affect the unique employment benefits enjoyed by French artists and technicians, who are entitled to a special dole payment to protect them in the downtime between jobs.

That fund, says Meersseman says, is costly – and so could, with France’s national debt running at close to 100% of GDP, “be something he [Macron] could look at”.

However, when councils controlled by one party (FN) are reportedly depriving festivals of funding if they fail promote ‘national culture’, and the other (En Marche!) has appointed a well-known advocate for the music industry, Marc Schwartz (the architect of the loi Schwartz on music streaming), as its culture spokesman, the choice for most working in the live industry is clear.

“We can’t be political, but there is one thing we [Prodiss] all agree on:  the need to vote, and to stop Marine Le Pen,” says Renet.

With the arts world, most of the media, prominent business leaders and, seemingly, the majority of the general public behind him, the smart money is on Macron to be France’s 25th president. Still, it’s worth remembering that the same was true (with the notable exception of Harvey Goldsmith) of the pro-remain side in the Brexit referendum…

 


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