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Montreux Jazz Festival 2021 to go ahead

The 55th Montreux Jazz Festival will go ahead this July in a reimagined, Covid-secure format, organisers announced today (31 March).

In a first, Montreux Jazz Festival 2021 will take partially on Lake Geneva, with maximum of 600 people able to watch performances on the main stage from seats on the lake shoreline. Three other stages with a smaller capacity, located in the event spaces and gardens of the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace hotel, will also host live music performances, alongside jam sessions, workshops and other events.

Through a previously announced deal with livestreaming platform Qello Concerts, performances from the physical festival will also be made available in a digital format free of charge.

On the ground, artists will perform on four stages, the largest of which, the aforementioned Lake (Lac) stage, will be built atop Lake Geneva, 25 metres from the shore and have a seated capacity of 600. The second stage, the 300-seat Petit Théâtre, located in the grand Salle des Fêtes at the Montreux Palace, will showcase “jazz fused with different influences, with a fresh and contemporary feel”.

The free-to-access Grand Hall will focus on artists affiliated with the Montreux Jazz Artists Foundation, while the similarly open-to-all Gardens will feature acoustic performances, DJ sets, a cocktail bar and food stalls.

“Our stages’ capacities will be even smaller, which will create an exceptional streaming experience for international audiences who can’t come to the festival”

The Lake stage, in particular, was a long-time dream of festival founder Claude Nobs, who passed away in 2013. “In a year when everything seems impossible, we wanted to do Claude Nobs proud and channel his favourite saying, ’Nothing is impossible’,” say organisers.

MJF’s announcement it is forging ahead follows a raft of recent festival cancellations in Switzerland.

Mathieu Jaton, CEO of Montreux Jazz Festival, says: “We are thrilled to unveil our brand-new format for this year’s festival, which pursues our hybrid model strategy. Montreux Jazz Festival has always been about creating very special concerts where artists can feel up close and personal with their fans while sharing these unique moments worldwide through audiovisual content.”

Montreux Jazz Festival 2021 stages

The format of the 55th MJF will evolve based on the public health situation in consultation with the local and national authorities, says the festival, while contact tracing will be required for each festival zone (the Montreux Palace, Lake stage area and the Gardens). It will not, however, be necessary to reserve places for the free activities and zones, which will remain open until they reach maximum capacity.

“This year, our stages’ capacities will be even smaller due to Covid-19 restrictions, which will create an exceptional streaming experience for international audiences who can’t come to the festival,” adds Jaton. “The content will be especially breathtaking from our new stage built above the water on Lake Geneva, with the Alps in the background.”

 

Line-up and ticket information for Montreux Jazz Festival 2021 will be released in the coming weeks.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Major Swiss festivals cancel 2021 editions

A number of Swiss festivals have called off 2021 editions, citing uncertainty about whether major events will be permitted to take place this summer.

The 45th instalment of the annual rock festival Paléo Festival Nyon, scheduled to take place between 19–25 July, has been cancelled as “the situation is still too uncertain to consider organising the festival in its usual form”.

However, the organisers revealed that they are working on a ‘Covid-compatible event’ with a reduced capacity and size, and an extended duration. Health conditions permitting, it will take place from 8 July to 8 August 2021.

Greenfield Festival 2021, due to take place in Interlaken, Bern, between 3–5 June with headliners Volbeat, Korn and Billy Talent, has also been called off.

“Just when we saw a light at the end of the tunnel, it moves even further away than it already was,” reads a statement from the organisers.

“We don’t know which rules might have to be followed, which capacity is allowed, which measures we would have to integrate”

“The situation around Covid-19 is simply not getting better fast enough internationally and in Switzerland in particular. Since we don’t know whether major events will be allowed at all, we simply lack planning certainty. We don’t know which rules might have to be followed, which capacity is allowed and which measures we would have to integrate.”

Rock the Ring (cap. 15,000) has also been cancelled for a second consecutive year due to “the lack of planning security for large events,” says the organiser. The event was planned for 17–19 June in Hinwil, with a line-up that included Foreigner, Three Doors Down and Airbourne.

However, CTS Eventim’s stable of Swiss events, which includes Open Air St Gallen (1–4 July) and SummerDays and Seaside Festival (3–4 September), are taking a wait-and-see approach.

On 4 February, a statement was published on their respective social media pages saying the organisers are “working on various scenarios and protection concepts” for each festival but that ultimately, it’s uncertain whether the events will be able to take place.

At the time of writing Blue Balls Festival is set to go ahead from 23–31 July in Lucerne; hip-hop festival Openair Frauenfeld is holding onto its 7–10 July date and pop event Zürich Openair is on for 25–28 August.

Swiss concert series Baloise Session became the first major European festival to cancel its in-person 2021 edition

Swiss concert series Baloise Session became the first major European festival to cancel its in-person 2021 edition in January, as organisers say it’s “impossible to plan with any certainty” due to the limitations of the pandemic.

While it was announced in February that Montreux Jazz Festival will take place at least partially in the digital realm in 2021, livestreaming all performances from its 55th edition as part of a plan to protect the festival against future disruption.

The lack of certainty around Switzerland’s summer season prompted the Swiss Music Promoters Association (SMPA), along with 26 of the country’s festivals, to call for clarity on the conditions under which Swiss festivals can be held regularly and at full capacity without social distancing.

Last month’s appeal relayed three key requirements for the restart of Swiss festivals: a transparent strategy and uniform conditions for holding events safely, a continual review of measures to ensure they are proportionate to the risks posed, and an event cancellation fund that covers 100% of losses.

Elsewhere, in neighbouring Germany, CTS Eventim and Goodlive have cancelled a slate of the market’s major festivals.

 


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Montreux Jazz Festival goes hybrid with Qello deal

Montreux Jazz Festival will take place at least partially in the digital realm in 2021, livestreaming all performances from its 55th edition as part of a plan to protect the festival against future disruption.

The Swiss festival, whose 2020 edition was replaced by a 16-day YouTube event, Summer of Music, has struck an exclusive deal with Canadian company Stingray to make all sets available to watch free of charge anywhere in the world. In addition, all future editions of Montreux Jazz Festival will be streamed via Stingray’s Qello Concerts platform, which already has access to around 50 historical Montreux performances, including Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Nina Simone, Deep Purple and Marvin Gaye.

The festival is expected to announce details about its 2021 edition, as well as new deals and partnerships which will “further futureproof” the event, in the coming weeks. MJF 2021 is provisionally scheduled for 2–17 July,

Commenting on the Stingray partnership, Nick Bonard, CEO of Montreux Media Ventures, says: “Our deal with Qello Concerts by Stingray to livestream the festival is a key part of our hybrid model, creating an always-on experience. Streaming is a crucial medium for securing the continued success of the festival: if people can’t come to the festival, we will bring it to them.

“If people can’t come to the festival, we will bring it to them”

“This deal will enable us to adapt and respond more nimbly to the key challenges facing the sector while generating support for the true lifeblood of the Montreux Jazz Festival – bold new talent – for many more years to come.”

In related Montreux news, the festival has announced the launch of MJF Spotlight, a new-music brand that will support up-and-coming talent through digital content, including recorded live sessions, special events and a Spotify playlist, and a showcase night at the festival itself.

“The lack of concerts and festivals has a severe impact on the emergence of new artists. At Montreux Jazz Festival, hundreds of up-and-coming talent usually perform each summer on our various stages,” says Mathieu Jaton, CEO Montreux Jazz Festival. “With the launch of MJF Spotlight, we will now be able to promote new talent throughout the year on our digital channels, independently of the festival line-up.

“This initiative brings together our booking team’s competence, Montreux Jazz Artists Foundation’s support to emerging talent and Montreux Media Ventures’ digital content expertise.”

 


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Montreux launches virtual Summer of Music festival

Montreux Jazz Festival has announced Summer of Music, a 16-day virtual music festival, to mark what would have been its 54th edition on 3–18 July.

Showcasing iconic Montreux performances from festivals past, including Nina Simone (1976), Etta James (1993) and Carlos Santana (2004), Summer of Music will air exclusively on YouTube on the same dates, with one broadcast a day across the 16-day period.

Other streams scheduled for Summer of Music – an initiative of Montreux Jazz Festival, its subsidiary Montreux Media Ventures, and music film distributor/producer Eagle Rock Entertainment – include several world premieres, including John Lee Hooker (1983) and Charles Bradley (2006).

Mathieu Jaton, CEO of the Swiss festival, comments: “Since its beginnings in 1967, the Montreux Jazz Festival has been immensely fortunate to have built up, thanks to the visionary spirit of [founder] Claude Nobs, a rich and unique audiovisual archive.

“This heritage has made the festival famous and continues to make it shine through initiatives such as the 54th Summer of Music, made possible through our collaboration with the Claude Nobs Foundation, Eagle Rock and the NMAAM. This summer, this heritage is more essential than ever.”

“This summer, Montreux’s heritage is more essential than ever”

All YouTube ad revenue from the festival will be donated to NMAAM, the National Museum of African American Music, in recognition of how Montreux has been shaped by the contribution of black artists, the festival says. Viewers will also be able to make donations to NMAAM, which is due to open in autumn 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson, vice-president of brand and partnerships for NMAAM, says: “Montreux is a titan in the popularisation of black music, not just in jazz but across genres, showcasing the wide-ranging impact of black music and black sounds. We look forward to what the Summer of Music event brings to fans and we hope for a continued friendship and partnership”

“Marvin Gaye’s 1980 performance marked the inaugural collaboration between Montreux and Eagle Rock Entertainment; it paved the way for not only an exciting stable of ongoing releases, but also a fantastic line-up of artists at this summer’s virtual Montreux Festival,” adds Geoff Kempin, executive director of Eagle Rock. “We are delighted to be partnering with the Montreux Jazz Festival and YouTube in this summer festival celebrating the diversity of artists that have performed at Montreux.”

Gaye’s 1980 Montreux set will close Summer of Music on Saturday 18 July. Other performers include Rory Gallagher (1979) on 7 July, Deep Purple (2011) on 11 July and the premiere of Tom Misch (2019) on 17 July.

 


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Paléo, MJF cancel, other Swiss fests await guidance

For the first time in 45 and 53 years, respectively, there will be Paléo Festival Nyon or Montreux Jazz Festival this summer, as several Swiss festivals take the decision on whether to cancel into their own hands.

In addition to Paléo (which would have taken place on 20–26 July) and Montreux Jazz (3–18 July), other smaller festivals to have given up on 2020 altogether include Rock the Ring (18–20 June) in Hinwil and Blue Balls Festival (17–25 July) in Lucerne.

The cancellations come as authorities in Switzerland yesterday (16 April) declined to be drawn on whether summer festivals would be allowed to go ahead, putting off the decision until a meeting of the Federal Council on 27 May.

Other major events, such as OpenAir St Gallen (25–28 June), SummerDays and Seaside Festivals (28–29 August), hip-hop festival Openair Frauenfeld (9–11 July) and pop event Zürich Openair (26–29 August), are taking a wait-and-see approach, with OpenAir St Gallen lamenting that the missed opportunity to provide the festival with a “clear decision” about the summer. “We need an order from the Federal Council as a legal basis” for any cancellation, it says in a statement.

According to Paléo, which has yet to announce its 2020 line-up, even in the absence of a formal ban on festivals, it “still couldn’t guarantee the smooth running of the event” amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

“We need an order from the Federal Council”

“Paléo is a temporary city that welcomes some 50,000 people every day. All conditions must be met to start the huge construction work, which relies on a whole chain of service providers, suppliers, artists, sponsors and technical teams,” organisers explain. “It’s highly likely that artists will postpone their tours and that the delivery of key equipment for the festival will be hampered due to the current climate. In view of these elements, maintaining the festival in July 2020 is not possible.”

“This Thursday, 16 April, the Swiss Federal Council announced that it would be gradually easing some of the protective measures against the coronavirus, but keeping the majority of the necessary hygiene and social distancing measures in place,” reads a statement from MJF, which put off its first line-up announcement late last month.”As such, it is now impossible for us to consider holding an event on the scale of Montreux Jazz Festival in July, just as it is for our fellow organisers of other summer festivals in Switzerland and around the world.

“Public health concerns naturally take precedence over all other considerations.”

“This is the first time the festival has had to be cancelled in its 53 years of making history, bringing people together and producing legendary musical moments,” festival organisers add. “Until the very end, all of us here in the festival team were still hoping to share these magical moments with everyone who, like us, cannot imagine a summer without the Montreux Jazz Festival.

“Public health concerns naturally take precedence”

“Our thoughts go out to the staff members, artists and their support teams, technicians and engineers and to all our partners who make the event possible, from local hotels and businesses, to everyone who lives in Montreux, and of course our loyal festivalgoers.”

“It’s a tough break,” adds Paléo. “This postponement will inevitably have heavy financial repercussions for the festival. Indeed, as a non-profit organisation (non-subsidised), Paléo generates close to 80% of its revenue through the sale of tickets, and food and beverage during the event. In this complex context, the organisation is working hard to mitigate the impact of this postponement.”

To help Paléo, says founder and president Daniel Rossellat, fans should keep hold of their tickets until July 2021, when the festival will return.

By not formally extending its ban on mass gatherings, the Swiss government is bucking a trend seen in many of its European neighbours, including Luxembourg (no large events until 31 July), Germany (31 August), Belgium 31 August), France (mid-July), Austria (30 June) and Denmark (31 August).

 


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Montreux Jazz Festival launches media company

Aiming to “evolve the festival from an annual event […] to an international media company sustainable in itself”, Montreux Jazz Festival has announced the launch of Montreux Media Ventures, which will develop year-round content and events for corporate clients, labels and brands.

The new company, registered in April, will draw upon the festival’s expertise and vast audiovisual catalogue (which includes more than 11,000 hours of live music) to “deliver true 360° music experiences” for its partners, according to Montreux Media Ventures’ CEO, Nicolas Bonard.

“Innovation, both creatively and technologically, will drive our content strategy,” says Bonard, formerly of MTV, Vice Media and the Discovery Channel. “We are collaborating closely with talent, from musicians to star directors, to shoot our live content in a new, creative way with full cinematic production capabilities.

“Our ambition is to go behind the scenes, generate fascinating stories and truly immersive music content, with our audience always at the centre of it all.”

“Innovation, both creatively and technologically, will drive our content strategy”

One of the company’s first projects is a a 13-date world tour with the Fairmont Hotel Group, which will see live performances in hotels in the US, Europe, Asia and Brazil, with content produced “for social media, long-form video and more”.

Montreux Media Ventures is also producing content for the festival, including interviews and backstage footage, as well as its own documentaries, live-streamed concerts, podcasts and vinyl releases.

Mathieu Jaton, CEO of Montreux Jazz Festival, comments: “At Montreux Jazz Festival, the artists are up close and personal with their fans, which encourages unique moments. The festival is a special playground for the artists, who sometimes rethink their concerts just for Montreux. It’s that spirit of intimacy and creative freedom that we want to share through our global content development.”

Montreux 2020, the Swiss festival’s 54th edition, will take place from 3 to 18 July. Read IQ’s feature celebrating 50 years of Montreux Jazz Festival here.

Montreux at 50

 


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Uptown Funk named song of the decade

Festival streaming platform LiveXLive today (14 November) presented its Top 100 Songs of the Decade, with songs by Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars, Drake and Post Malone coming out top.

Premiered today, the Top 100 Songs of the Decade ranks tracks based on LiveXLive’s engagement quotient ratings, taking into account the number of plays, ‘hearts’, skips and bans songs receive on its audio platform.

‘Uptown Funk’ comes in at number one, with 67 billion total plays since the beginning of the decade, followed by ‘One Dance’ (Drake), ‘Psycho’ (Post Malone), ‘We Are Never Getting Back Together’ (Taylor Swift) and ‘Something Just Like This’ (Coldplay/the Chainsmokers).

Iggy Azalea’s ‘Fancy’, Wiz Khalifa’s ‘See You Again’, Lady Antebellum’s ‘Need You Now’, Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ and Rihanna’s ‘Work’ complete the top ten.

“Our countdown takes into account exactly how our users have interacted with our music library from 1 January 2010 through today”

“We are excited to present the Top 100 Songs of the Decade, a true list by the fans and for the fans,” says Kevin Stapleford, vice-president of programming at LiveXLive.

“Our countdown takes into account exactly how our users have interacted with our music library from 1 January 2010 through today. Users pick their favourites and listen across all their devices. Congratulations to Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars for getting the number one spot.”

The five-and-a-half hour programme is hosted by LiveXLive’s Raymond T Parker, Jess Wright, Red and Jennifer While, as part of the company’s Ranked audio series. The broadcast can be accessed here.

LiveXLive’s livestreaming partners include Rock in Rio, EDC Las Vegas, Sziget and Montreux Jazz Festival. The company recently branched out into gaming, signing a multi-year partnership with China’s Allied Esports and earlier this year teamed up with rapper Nas for urban-focused content creation.

 


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Elton gets a stadium upgrade for Montreux shows

The two Elton John shows at this summer’s Montreux Jazz Festival have been combined into a single open-air date, accommodating a further 7,000 fans alongside the massive production of the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour.

Sir Elton, originally scheduled to play two shows at the 4,000-capacity Stravinski Auditorium on 29 and 30 June, will now play to 15,000 people at Montreux’s Saussaz Stadium on the 29th. All tickets for the Stravinski shows remain valid for the new date, although those wishing to receive a refund will be able to do so via email.

Another 7,000 tickets will also go on sale, at the same price of 185 SFr. (standing) or 450 SFr. (seated).

“Elton John will be doing a giant show which draws on a 50-year career,” Montreux festival director Mathieu Jaton tells Swiss daily le Temps, who explains that following the successful debut of the AEG-promoted Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour in the US, Sir Elton requested to bring the full stage production to Europe.

“Elton John will be doing a giant show which draws on a 50-year career”

“There were two or three places where we could not fit this gigantic production, including the Stravinsky Auditorium, so we looked for another solution.”

The Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour kicked off in North America in September, heading to Europe this summer for a string of arena, stadium and festival dates.

The 53rd Montreux Jazz Festival begins on 28 June and runs until 13 July 2019. The full 2019 line-up will be announced on 9 April.

 


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Montreux Jazz heads to Rio next year

Montreux Jazz Festival will expand to a third country next year with the launch of its first Brazilian edition.

Montreux Jazz Festival Rio, provisionally scheduled for March 2017, follows Montreux Jazz Festival Japan in Tokyo – the second edition of which wrapped up last week – as the second international spin-off of the long-running Swiss jazz, rock and pop festival.

Speaking to IQ, festival director Mathieu Jaton says many details – such as the festival’s exact dates, location in Rio de Janeiro and, of course, the artists – are still to be confirmed, but does reveal it will take place across three stages, run over three days and be promoted by longtime Montreux Jazz collaborator Marco Mazzola.

“Japan and Brazil are two countries with which we have had a very strong relationship for many years”

Rio-based Mazzola programmes the Swiss festival’s famous Brazilian night, and Jaton explains the decision to launch a festival in Brazil was motivated by Montreux Jazz’s pre-existing relationship with the Brazilian music scene. “Japan and Brazil are two countries with which we have had a very strong relationship for many years,” he says. “Claude [Nobs, festival founder, from whom Jaton took over following his death in 2013] booked many Brazilian musicians, beginning in the early ’70s – and the Brazilian night at the festival is a real tradition…”

Neil Young, PJ Harvey, Muse and – of course – Deep Purple, who immortalised the 1971 fire at Montreux Casino in their 1972 song ‘Smoke on the Water’, were among the headliners at the 50th Montreux Jazz Festival in June and July.

 


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Montreux at 50

One true sign of an iconic event is that when mention is made of its host town, people automatically assume that you’re talking about the festival that takes place there: Glastonbury is an obvious example; Woodstock another; and add to that category Montreux – the picturesque Swiss town on the shores of Lac Léman (aka Lake Geneva). However, it’s Montreux Jazz Festival (MJF) that’s the granddaddy of them all, predating Woodstock by two years and Glastonbury by three.

Established in 1967 by René Langel, Claude Nobs and Géo Voumard, the inaugural event was made possible thanks to the support of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegün and his brother Nesuhi, who helped the trio attract the A-list of jazz acts to perform at Montreux Casino, including the likes of Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Keith Jarrett, and Nina Simone – firmly underlining the festival’s credentials from a very early date.

“By the early 70s chart-topping acts such as Chicago, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Santana and Ten Years After were gracing the stage in the small Swiss town”

Under the leadership of the enigmatic Claude Nobs, MJF rapidly widened its outlook by broadening the scope of artists to rock and roll, and by the early 70s chart-topping acts such as Chicago, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Santana and Ten Years After were gracing the stage in the small Swiss town.

By year five, it was all over for Montreux Casino as a venue, at least temporarily, when during a performance by Frank Zappa, a flare gun fired by an audience member caused an inferno that razed the building to the ground – an incident immortalised in rock anthem ‘Smoke on the Water’, written by Deep Purple, who were nearby using The Rolling Stones’ mobile studio to record a new album.

Read the rest of this feature in issue 66 of IQ


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