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The wonderful wizard of Oss: 70 years of Hoppe

Trying to keep a secret from one of the best-connected people in the business has not been easy. However, with the help of some of Ossy’s family, friends and confidantes – and some historical information taken from an anniversary feature that appeared in IQ in 2015 – we hope that when this issue of the magazine landed on Ossy’s doorstep, this feature came as something of a surprise.

When IQ spoke to Ossy Hoppe, on the pretext of a coronavirus story back in March, the enigmatic promoter was at home in rural France, near the village of Cotignac in Provence. “I’m in the middle of nowhere, four kilometres from the nearest supermarket, where there are never more than four or five people in the shop, so I’m used to being in isolation,” he reported. “I’m with my donkeys, dogs, cats, and the wife. In that order,” he laughed. “This is a novelty to all of us – it’s like we’re in a science-fiction movie – and nobody ever expected we’d be in this kind of situation. But I think this will change people’s attention toward appreciating some of the things we’re used to taking for granted. We’re delighted when a bird sings, at the moment.”



While millions of people around the world struggled to come to terms with the enforced – and long-lasting – house arrest situation, Ossy had unwittingly been in training for the past few years, since stepping back from being the boss at Wizard Promotions to taking on the role of consultant for the company. “Normally, these days, I’m in France for three weeks and then Germany for one week of the month,” he said. “A lot of the business can be done by phone anyway, so it doesn’t really matter where I am. The nitty-gritty is taken care of by the team in the Wizard offices, while I’m tasked with getting the clients, alongside [son and Wizard MD] Oliver, and making the offers.”

At that point, Ossy dropped off the line to pick up another call. “That was my boss, Oliver,” he said on his return, before addressing what has happened to the live music business in the wake of the spread of coronavirus.

“I’ve never seen anything like it – and I’ve been doing this a long, long time,” he stated. “We’re in a very fortunate position because our insurance covers this, so our costs are covered.” Even at this early stage in the crisis, Hoppe foresaw that a lot of smaller promoters, as well as some of the bigger ones, would run into problems, with suppliers and smaller acts in particular likely “to suffer”.

“It’s crucial that everyone keeps talking so that when things do start to return to normal, we’re all ready to go”

Hoppe also predicted that the business might not get going again until next year. “It’s crucial that everyone keeps talking so that when things do start to return to normal, we’re all ready to go,” he said. “Nobody knows when that might be – if you talk to three people, you get four opinions. So, I’m trying to remain optimistic and look forward to better times.”

A Born Entertainer
Life on the road for Ossy is literally in his blood, as he was born into a circus family that was touring their native Germany at the time little Oskar Hoppe junior made his first appearance, on 28 April 1950. “I was born in Munich because that’s where the circus was performing at the time,” recalled Ossy in IQ issue 59. “After the war, the allies were very careful about who they trusted, but because my father, Oskar, had hidden Jewish friends from the Nazis, the Americans gave him the authority to grant entertainment licences. He married into a circus family, but then he met my mother who became his fourth wife.”

Ossy was immersed in circus life and by the age of five, he was already a star attraction, billed as the youngest elephant trainer in the world alongside his pachyderm co-stars, Bounty and Chandra. Despite that fame, Ossy’s mother, Apollonia, was determined he should receive a proper education, so initially he attended the first permanent circus school, established by his father, before enrolling at boarding school.

Sadly, Ossy’s mother died when he was just 15, and by the time he was 19, he was an orphan, as his father passed away in 1969. Those circumstances saw him move in with his grandparents in Frankfurt, where he studied law at university for a time, before deciding it was time to get a job – taking on roles including nightclub doorman, building site labourer, delivery driver, and a printing plant worker.

Fate, combined with Ossy’s love of football and outgoing persona, intervened. As a team member of Makkabi Frankfurt, Ossy had already befriended team-mates Marcel Avram and Marek Lieberberg, who were the founders of new promoter business, Mama Concerts. So when Ossy picked up an injury and was looking for work, Avram employed him as his driver before trusting him to take on the role of tour manager. “Ossy was the best player in the team,” states Avram. “He was twice as fast as me and made us all look good, so we liked him.”

Always ready to roll up his sleeves and get stuck in, Ossy’s can-do attitude quickly earned him a lot of friends in the live music business

Always ready to roll up his sleeves and get stuck in, Ossy’s can-do attitude quickly earned him a lot of friends in the live music business, so when he volunteered his services to help out with Deep Purple’s impending 1973 American tour, one week later he found himself on the other side of the Atlantic. But not before meeting the love of his life, Barbara, on the eve of his departure to the United States.

Given that the couple now have a menagerie of animals, including their donkey sanctuary, at home in Provence, it won’t come as a surprise to many that Barbara worked for a veterinary surgeon when she first met Ossy. But they had one significant question to answer before they could start dating. “Barbara’s name was also Hoppe,” states Ossy. “It’s not a common name in Frankfurt, so I had to check on her background because my father was married five times in total…” The outcome of those investigations obviously worked out, as Ossy and Barbara have been together now for 37 years and celebrate their 44th wedding anniversary this year.

Back in 1973, Ossy found himself in the role of Ian Gillan’s assistant on that tour with Purple, but having impressed all who were on the road that year, he soon climbed the ladder to become the band’s tour manager, kick-starting a relationship rivalled in length only by the one with his wife.

Indeed, Purple were so impressed by Ossy that when the band split, they persuaded Ossy and Barbara to move to England, and even arranged a mortgage for them so that Ossy could look after various solo projects and acts. “The house, in Amersham, near London, became the headquarters for all of the Deep Purple spin-offs,” says Ossy. “So I looked after Whitesnake, Rainbow, Paice Ashton Lord, and the Ian Gillan Band as they took off.”

 


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 89, or subscribe to the magazine here

Venues in the spotlight for next IQ Focus panel

Following on from last week’s popular Festival Forum session, this week’s IQ Focus virtual panel will turn the attention to venues, discussing how the world’s many shuttered music venues can weather the Covid-19 storm, and emerge from life under lockdown.

Chaired by John Langford (AEG Europe), The Venue’s Venue: Building Back, will feature speakers Lucy Noble (Royal Albert Hall/NAA), Olivier Toth (Rockhal/EAA), Oliver Hoppe (Wizard Promotions), Tom Lynch (ASM Global) and Lotta Nibell (GOT Event).

The touring world has changed dramatically since venue professionals came together for the Venue Summit at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in March, as doors have been shuttered, countless concerts cancelled and many venues repurposed to help in the fight against the disease.

Panellists will share their strategies on getting through the current crisis, as well as discussing the main lessons they have learned so far

Panellists will share their strategies on getting through the current crisis, as well as discussing the main lessons they have learned so far.

Looking to the future, the venue experts will also reflect on what the recovery process may look like and what will need to be done to keeps fans, staff and artists safe and get business back up and running in the crucial months ahead.

The session is taking place on Thursday 21 May at 3.30 (BST)/4.30 (CET). Get an automatic reminder when the live stream starts via Facebook Live or YouTube Live.


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Big country: How country music conquered the world

It’s official: country music is cool.

Long stigmatised as restrictively America-centric, country, shed of many of its unfashionable ‘country and western’ trappings, is finding a new generation of loyal fans in the UK, Europe and Australasia, playlisted on commercial radio and championed by tastemakers at Vice, i-D and the NME.

Riding on the rise of festivals like AEG’s UK-born Country to Country phenomenon (now in five countries and counting), crossover success for artists such as Florida Georgia Line, Midland, and Kacey Musgraves, European radio support and the backing of the Country Music Association, country is increasingly big business outside its US heartland – with visiting Nashville A-listers, as well as a mounting number of homegrown acts, helping to build a major new touring market.

(A slice of the) American pie
According to WME Entertainment agent Akiko Rogers, global bookings for WME’s country and Americana artists have increased 14-fold in the past decade alone. “In 2009, 27 international dates were booked out of Nashville, all comprising country artists,” says Rogers, whose roster includes both country (Thomas Rhett, Frankie Davies) and non-country artists (Greta Van Fleet, Alanis Morissette), as well as those sitting somewhere in between (rising southern rockers the Marcus King Band).

“In 2018, that number went to 400 booked international dates comprising country and Americana artists, and sometimes a hybrid of both.”

Global bookings for WME’s country and Americana artists have increased 14-fold in the past decade

“The market interest in country music only continues to grow with the demand for US acts to tour internationally,” adds US-born, London-based UTA senior agent Sean Goulding, whose country and Americana roster includes Jimmie Allen, Ashley Campbell, Logan Mize, the Wood Brothers and High Valley. “C2C [Country to Country] London, the landmark international country music festival, has been growing steadily since its inception in 2013, which is a good indicator of the genre’s impact. Having expanded to Scotland and Ireland previously, it’s now visiting Amsterdam and Berlin this year. A number of our clients have performed at it over the past few years, using it as a springboard for the international market.”

The majority of promoters, agents and managers interviewed by IQ highlighted the C2C phenomenon, as well its various international spin-offs (in addition to Britain, the Irish republic, the Netherlands and Germany, there are also two Country to Country festivals in Australia) as being key to country music’s explosive growth in new markets over the past five years.

Chris York of SJM Concerts, which created C2C in partnership with AEG, says the festival’s genesis formed part of a “conscious decision” to build and grow the market for country music in the UK. “I’d always perceived country as being promoted in a very old-fashioned way,” York explains. It was all about, ‘We’ll pay them some money, put on a show at Wembley, maybe get a tour out of it…’ They weren’t interested in building a community.”

In contrast, York continues, C2C – bolstered by support from radio DJs such as Radio 2’s Bob Harris and Chris Country’s Chris Stevens – helped to establish a tight-knit community of fans, to the point where there is also now a sizeable country touring market in the UK.  “We did 45,000 tickets in London [for C2C 2018]. Four or five years ago that would have been beyond comprehension.”

“We did 45,000 tickets in London. Four or five years ago that would have been beyond comprehension”

Live Nation’s Anna-Sophie Mertens started promoting in her own right three years ago, and is now the “go-to person” for country shows in the company’s UK office, she explains. She says the number of country acts who want to play in the UK has more than doubled since then, including both big names worthy of headlining C2C and smaller emerging acts keen to stake a claim in the increasingly crowded country touring market.

Spurred on
Add hit drama series Nashville into that mix, too, suggests Milly Olykan, vice-president of international relations and development at the influential Nashville-based Country Music Association (CMA). “The contributing factors in those first five years [since the launch of C2C] were the internet, the TV show Nashville and Taylor Swift, but now we can add to that with the growth of C2C and, as a result, the volume of live touring and the radio support of the BBC,” says Olykan, who, as VP of live music at AEG Europe, set up C2C UK alongside York. “Radio 2 and Bob Harris have been long-time supporters, and this year we saw BBC Radio 1 play-listing country for the first time.

“We’ve got a momentum going now, and more and more fans are discovering they like country music.”

Anna-Sophie Mertens says the number of country acts who want to play in the UK has more than doubled in the past three years

In Germany, promoter Oliver Hoppe of Wizard Promotions also identifies Nashville as being a key driver of interest in country music – and ticket sales. “Our most successful tour so far is Charles Esten from the Nashville TV show,” he says. “1,500 tickets, five dates, all sold out.”

Hoppe, who describes himself as the main “country guy” in Germany, says the popularity of country music accelerated “six or seven years ago” after the CMA set its sights on conquering Europe. “A year or two before C2C in London started, we started to pick up shows here in Germany,” he explains. “Ossy [Hoppe, Wizard Promotions founder] used to bring Garth Brooks here in the ’90s, [but] that was a completely different animal – it was a worldwide phenomenon, and he played arenas over here that sold out instantly.

“It really picked up when the CMA put Europe on the agenda and we started doing grassroots work bringing over country and Americana acts.”

Hoppe says while the market is still “some years behind” Britain, “country is on the rise in Germany.

“It was a trickle at the beginning, but for every show we put on, more people come the second time around. We started with one country tour – the Band Perry, in 2012 – and now we’re at 25. We’ve been growing the market very organically but the interest is definitely there.”

“Country is one of the few genres of music where radio airplay can definitely move the needle”

The growth of country festivals such as C2C and CMC Rocks in Australia has been “instrumental in swinging the pendulum” towards country music outside the US, maintains Rogers. “Artists who historically did not want to travel outside of the US are standing in a queue to bring their music across the pond, to share experiences and life stories… I always love it when they return to the US with their stories of fans in Germany, Sweden, Belgium or Denmark singing all their songs back to them.

“It is so gratifying when a country artist plays a support slot on a festival, goes back in six to eight months and plays a headline club tour, goes back in another six to eight months after that and headlines a theatre tour, and then ends up headlining that same original festival.”

Like York, Rogers sees radio, as well as record label promo, as being a “huge factor” in country’s rise in Europe. “Country is one of the few genres of music where radio airplay can definitely move the needle,” she says.

 


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 82, or subscribe to the magazine here

Oliver Hoppe becomes sole Wizard Promotions MD

Oliver Hoppe has become sole managing director of Germany’s Wizard Promotions.

His father, Ossy Hoppe, stays on as chief advisor, A&R, following Oliver’s accession to the top job at the beginning of 2017.

Hoppe Snr founded Wizard in 2004 and was bought out by Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) in June 2013. He is one of Germany’s most senior promoters and managers, most famous for his work with hard rock acts such as Deep Purple, Kiss, Whitesnake, Iron Maiden, Metallica and Guns N’ Roses and for founding the Monsters of Rock festival in 1981.

On his 60th birthday, he was the subject of a feature in IQ 59 which charted his story from child circus performer to giant of concert promotion.

Oliver had been co-managing director of Wizard since 2012.

“I am extremely pleased … to be able to fully hand over management to my son. It was always my great wish that Oliver would continue my work”

Ossy Hoppe comments: “I am extremely pleased and, at the same time, also reassured to be able to fully hand over the management to my son. It was always my great wish that Oliver would continue my work, and with his many years’ experience, as well as considerable professional expertise, he unites all the elements which will guide the company into a successful future.

“Oliver has already been managing the business for some time now, and the transfer was a smooth process. I will, of course, continue to advise the company and support artists with whom I have a long-standing relationship.

Oliver Hoppe adds: “I thank my father and DEAG for the trust, and feel honoured to continue the history of the Wizard Promotions concert agency into the future as one of the leading concert organisers in Germany.

“With a strong and homogenous team, we have successfully managed to respond to the new challenges of the event market in recent years with the values and core competencies of a traditional tour event organiser as the foundation. I really enjoy the interesting work of combining innovation culture with the classic values of a family business.”

 


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