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‘It’s never business as usual at Montreux’

Ahead of the start of this year’s Montreux Jazz Festival, CEO Mathieu Jaton gives IQ an update on his plans for the brand at home and abroad

By James Hanley on 30 Jun 2023

Mathieu Jaton

Montreux Jazz Festival (MJF) chief Mathieu Jaton has discussed the next stage of the event’s evolution as it prepares to break from the norm in 2024.

The reigning top festival (Ligger’s Favourite Festival) at ILMC’s Arthur Awards, MJF’s 2023 edition launches today with sets by Simply Red and Tom Odell at the 4,000-cap Auditorium Stravinski and Jimi Jules and Rufus Du Sol in the 2,000-cap Montreux Jazz Lab.

The 57th festival will follow the same format as last year’s post Covid return, maintaining the Lake House space that was introduced in 2022 to showcase emerging jazz talent. But changes are already afoot for 2024 as MJF’s 2m2c (Montreux Music and Convention Centre Congress Centre) venue will be out of commission due to redevelopment work. As a result, plans are afoot for a new 5,000-cap stage on the lake.

“It is never business as usual at Montreux,” laughs MJF CEO Jaton. “It was very clear when we came back in ’22 that we were going to bring in a lot of changes to transform the festival and take it into the future. And ’24 will be another challenge because we have to move the festival from the Congress Centre as [redevelopment] work will be starting just after the festival this summer.

“We have to find a new and brilliant ID for ’24 and ’25, so that’s going to be a major challenge. And then June ’26 is the 60th anniversary, so we have some nice years in front of us.”

“The perception of the Montreux brand is getting greater and greater”

Other performers at the Swiss festival, which runs until 15 July on the shores of Lake Geneva, will include Bob Dylan, Lionel Richie, Lil Nas X, Iggy Pop, Norah Jones, Sam Smith, Seal and Nile Rodgers.

“We’ve been elected as the best European festival this year for the second time and the perception of the Montreux brand is getting greater and greater,” Jaton tells IQ. “The format of Montreux is different from other open-air festivals, for sure, and we have a mix of programming that stays close to our DNA. When you put it all together at the end it is quite successful. Now, we’re just hoping for good weather!”

Jaton says ticket sales have moved at a faster pace than last year, when the festival attracted 250,000 people (approximately 100,000 for paid concerts and 150,000 for its 450 free events).

More sets will be livestreamed than ever before, with over 40 performances from the Auditorium Stravinski and Jazz Lab to be available to watch free of charge on the MJF website and YouTube channel as part of the festival and the Montreux Jazz Artists Foundation’s mission to make music accessible to all.

Jaton also gave an update on efforts to strengthen the Montreux Jazz Festival brand worldwide, with spin-offs in Miami, Abu Dhabi and Ibiza all in the offing.

“Fingers crossed… there could be six Montreux Jazz Festivals internationally in 2024”

“We have a complete ecosystem of the festival, which is of course the festival itself in Montreux, but also the Montreux Jazz Artist Foundation,” he explains. “We also have Multimedia Ventures and Montreux Jazz International, which is developing MJF Cafes and the festival around the world.

“We have three international festivals historically, in Tokyo, China and Rio. China and Rio are taking place in October. And we’re planning to open Montreux Jazz Festival in Miami in March ’24; Montreuz Jazz Festival in Abu Dhabi in March ’24 and Montreux Jazz Festival in Ibiza in autumn ’24.

“Fingers crossed, but if it works there could be six Montreux Jazz Festivals internationally in ’24. And it’s not a copy and paste format, it’s bringing the DNA of Montreux to each of those countries, using the rules of each of these countries.”

MJF was the subject of the recent documentary mini-series, They All Came Out To Montreux, which premiered in the UK earlier this month on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer. The three-part doc details the history of the event and its legendary founder Claude Nobs, who died in January 2013 following a skiing accident. Jaton speaks about Nobs’ enduring legacy here.


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