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Montreux Jazz Festival boss on Claude Nobs’ legacy

Montreux Jazz Festival CEO Mathieu Jaton has spoken to IQ about the legacy of the event’s celebrated founder Claude Nobs, 10 years on from his passing.

The 57th festival will be held from 30 June to 15 July, with headliners including Bob Dylan, Lionel Richie, Lil Nas X, Sam Smith, Iggy Pop, Norah Jones, Seal, Joe Bonamassa and Nile Rodgers.

Jaton says ticket sales are pacing ahead of last year’s event, which attracted an estimated 250,000 fans to become MJF’s most-well attended edition yet.

“We’re very confident and very proud of the lineup, and sales are going great,” he tells IQ. “We had record sales for last year and tickets are moving faster than last year, which is a very good sign. A lot of the concerts are already sold out, which is cool, so I’m a happy man.”

Montreux Jazz Festival won the top festival award (Ligger’s Favourite Festival) at the 2023 Arthur Awards earlier this year, and the Swiss institution is the subject of a new documentary mini-series, They All Came Out To Montreux. The three-part presentation, which premieres in the UK tonight (Friday 16 June) at 10.15pm BST on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer, details the history of the event and Nobs, who died in January 2013 following a skiing accident.

“You see the passion, love and authenticity of Claude’s relationships with artists very clearly”

“This year is the 10th anniversary of Claude passing, so it is a very good timing that this documentary will be released finally internationally on the BBC,” says Jaton.

They All Came Out To Montreux features more than 40 testimonies, 30 performances and a variety of previously unseen images, is directed by British filmmaker Oliver Murray, executive produced by Quincy Jones and produced by BMG and Beyond TNC. MJF announced a multi-faceted global partnership with BMG in 2021.

The series has been made in association with MJF’s media company Montreux Media Ventures (MMV), which was launched in 2019 to develop year-round content and events for corporate clients, labels and brands.

“The most emotional thing for me is that you see the passion, love and authenticity of Claude’s relationships with artists very clearly in the documentary,” says Jaton. “That’s what makes Montreux completely different because Claude was not a businessman; he was not a regular promoter; he was an artist lover on a human level.

“The most beautiful heritage Claude gave us except for the festival, the brand and all the things he created, of course, is the love of everybody around him. When he passed away 10 years ago, the first call I got was from Quincy [Jones] and he said, ‘Claude was my brother, Claude was one of the people on earth that I loved so much. Now, we have to continue his patrimony for the future and I will be with you whenever you want.’

“Montreux is always trying to keep to that spirit of Claude, which is the heart before the business”

“Most of those artists could have said, ‘Okay, Claude passed away and that’s sad, and now I’m doing something else.’ But no, the loyalty of those people is still there and that’s amazing, and that’s exactly what this documentary shows – all those relationships, which are key in the DNA of Montreux, are real and authentic.”

Jaton, who began working for the festival in 1999, discloses a conversation he had with his mentor shortly before Nobs’ death at the age of 76.

“Two months before Claude passed away, he told me something very important,” remembers Jaton. “It’s bizarre when you think back because he passed away by accident, but he said to me, ‘You know why I chose you? I know that you understand the DNA and spirit of the festival, and you will transform it into the future.’ And that’s exactly what we’re doing – not looking to the past, but only looking to the future – transforming the festival every year, but keeping that DNA and the legacy of Claude.

“The legacy of Claude is not only the big names, it’s really a mindset: a mindset of hospitality; a mindset of passion, of love. We know the music business now is just that – a business – but Montreux is always trying to keep to that spirit of Claude, which is the heart before the business.”


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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 Media head on futureproofing the festival

Music festivals must diversify their business model beyond simply staging events if they are to thrive during periods of crisis, Montreux Media Ventures CEO Nicolas Bonard has told IQ.

Montreux Media Ventures (MMV) – the media and content division of Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival, launched last year – has enabled Montreux to earn some revenue throughout the pandemic, and sustain its partnerships with clients and brands, even as nearly every festival worldwide fell by the wayside, says Bonard.

“I think this is a time when Montreux Media Ventures has really come into its own,” explains Bonard (pictured), who joined Montreux from Vice Media France at the start of 2019.

Bonard says the “genesis of the idea goes back a few years”, when festival bosses started to consider how they could futureproof what was, up until then, solely an “event business”.

“Because the festival is a foundation, we had to create a new entity to drive that event and hospitality business into something closer to a media company,” he explains. “That meant embracing digital and diversifying all our lines of revenue.”

Of course, the official launch of Montreux Media Ventures (MMV) at the tail end of last year – just as Covid-19 took root in China – couldn’t have come at a better time for the festival, which was forced to pull its 2020 edition as the pandemic hit Europe.

“The whole point of MMV is to diversify our sources of revenue so we can mitigate the revenue risk of a festival”

“It was all planned,” jokes Bonard, who describes how the festival has been able to use MMV revenues to soften the financial blow of cancelling Montreux 2020.

“Through some of the incremental revenue we generated through these [MMV] actions, we’ve been able to cushion the impact of Covid,” he explains (albeit not entirely, as it’s “a big hit”).

With MMV, the festival team is able to “leverage the huge audiovisual archive we have and bring those performances back to life”, continues Bonard – a mission exemplified by this month’s Summer of Music, a 16-day virtual festival that draws on performances from Montreux Jazz Festivals across the past five decades.

This takes the form of digital, streamed content (the festival already sold DVDs and vinyl LPs of historic Montreux performances), as well as custom live programming for selected brand partners, such as the Fairmont Hotel Group, for which MMV organised the recent ‘Fairmont World Tour’.

Both of these strands build on the three traditional sources of revenue for Montreux, as well as music festivals more generally: tickets, sponsorship and food and beverage, says Bonard.

He explains: “The whole point [of Montreux Media Ventures] is to diversify our sources of revenue so we can mitigate the revenue risk of a festival, where everything is just focused on those two weeks.”

“Through some of the incremental revenue we generated, we’ve been able to cushion the impact of Covid”

At present, MMV’s digital events, such as Summer of Music, are primarily “about giving back” to the music community rather than trying to turn a profit, says Bonard. (All MMV’s YouTube advertising profits for that event are being donated to the new National Museum of African-American Music in Nashville.)

However, in a few years’ time Bonard expects Media Ventures revenues to represent 25–30% of the group’s overall income, “if not more”, he says, such is the strength of the Montreux brand and archive.

“I don’t think one will replace the other,” he comments. “Because music is so emotional and personal, you’ll always need that physical contact with the artist or band. So, in my view, physical events will continue to reign supreme.”

“The future,” he adds, is in “hybrid” events, with “technology coming in and amplifying the live experience. Digital will come on top of it and augment the show, but nothing can replace that common experience with other fans.”

Future MMV projects include films, documentaries and podcasts, as well as another Fairmont tour when the Covid threat has passed.

“The festival has an incredible asset with these archives,” concludes Bonard, “and this is about amplifying them around the world.”


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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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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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