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Continuing a series of interviews with the 2023 New Bosses, IQ speaks to Lotta Widmer, co-managing director of the Winterthurer Musikfestwochen
By Lisa Henderson on 19 Sep 2023
The 16th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 121 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.
To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2023’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.
Catch up on the previous interview with Kerem Turgut, senior event programmer and live music booker at Dubai Opera (TU) here. The series continues with Lotta Widmer co-managing director of the Winterthurer Musikfestwochen (CH).
Even though music has always played an important role in Lotta Widmer’s life, she preferred to play and listen to it for herself – or to work behind the scenes. At the age of 16, she started helping out at the local club and concert hall, Salzhaus. After shifts at the bar, checkroom and cash desk, she did an internship at the Winterthurer Musikfestwochen, a 12-day music festival in the old town of Winterthur with 60,000 visitors in total, 1,000 volunteers, 50% Swiss artists and nine days of free programming.
After the internship, Widmer secured a permanent position and was from then on responsible for sponsoring and sustainability, while finishing her bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering. Doing two festivals in this position, she is now the co-managing director of the Winterthurer Musikfestwochen. She is also on the national committee of PETZI (Swiss federation of music venues and festivals), Salzhaus and is part of Vert le Futur (association for sustainability in the cultural sector).
Do you play any instruments, or have you been in any bands?
I played the piano for over 10 years, sang in the choir for several years and took singing lessons. But I have never played in a band or been on stage, I really prefer working backstage.
Was anyone else in your family involved in music or entertainment, or are you the first Widmer to follow this path?
I am the first in our family to work in this field – although we all like music very much and it has always accompanied us. We all do very different stuff for work.
You have a degree in environmental engineering. How does this impact what you do and how you plan any of the events you are involved in?
Short answer: A lot!
Long answer: With this knowledge (also about the consequences of climate change) I almost have to. I am responsible for sustainability in our team and have calculated the footprint of the festival in 2021. Based on this, we have made an analysis of how we can avoid, reduce and mitigate emissions. But of course, there is much more to sustainability than ecological measures – it is important to me to also look at the social and economic dimensions of sustainability.
“Often, one door opens to another, as long as you keep working at it”
As a New Boss, what would you change to make the live music industry a better place?
Oh well. Of course, change often starts in small steps. But speaking from an organiser’s point of view, we have a resource problem. There is a lack of human and financial resources, which in turn leads to many other problems such as fair fees and salaries, overwork, (mental) health problems, etc. So what would I change? More paid time for more people who currently do a lot of voluntary work.
Lots of people are trying to find a job in the music industry. What advice would you give to anyone trying to get a foot in the door?
Just start somewhere (as a volunteer e.g.) to get a foot in, make contacts and be open. Often, one door opens to another, as long as you keep working at it.
Do you have a mentor, or someone you rely on to turn to for advice?
Mmh, not really one person. Depending on the issue, I have various people in the local community whom I can ask. That’s what I always come back to because it’s impossible to know and be able to do everything. I think that we should also set an example in teams, that asking for help is not a bad thing.
“The most important meeting place for the Swiss music scene is definitely the industry festival m4music”
As a young person working in the highly competitive Swiss market, are there particular events or forums you rely on to help you connect and network with agents and other industry professionals?
The most important meeting place for the Swiss music scene is definitely the industry festival m4music, which takes place annually in March in Zurich. It’s a great place to make contacts. Otherwise, depending on the topic, network meetings of Helvetia Rockt (Swiss coordination office and networking platform for female, inter, non-binary, trans and agender musicians), PETZI (Swiss federation of music venues and festivals) and of course all the festivals and concerts where contacts can be cultivated.
If money was no object, who would be your ideal headline acts for Winterthurer Musikfestwochen?
Billie Eilish, ROSALíA or Stromae.
What one thing would you like artists to learn about coming to perform in Switzerland?
Difficult question. I couldn’t really think of anything else than that the organisers and the audience really appreciate it when bands also come to little Switzerland to play.
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