Jean-Paul Roland: “The big festivals are facing a speculative bubble: the intrinsic value of the headlining act is constantly increasing without necessarily any added value in financial spin- offs.”

Jean-Paul Roland has been the director of the Eurockéennes de Belfort for 19 years.
Belfort, June 2020
“Les Eurockéennes de Belfort is a generalist festival that attracts a large audience thanks to a variety of headliners, from Booba to The Cure. In recent years, we have witnessed a globalisation of the festival sector and popular music. Young people in Ouagadougou can enjoy the same music as those in Clermont-Ferrand. This audience is very volatile. They like something in 2019 and then don’t like it anymore in 2020. The careers of the new stars they listen to are therefore very short, which is why they try to maximise their income. The system is completely governed by the law of supply and demand. Their managers are often business lawyers who raise the stakes, with fees of up to several million Euros. Their values are indecent and are traded by the number of streams or videos viewed. There is also inflation in technical productions. Since live performances have become preponderant, there are more and more people on the road accompanying these new stars. So the big festivals are faced with something that is artificially growing, in other words a speculative bubble: the intrinsic value of the headliner is constantly increasing without necessarily any added value in terms of financial spin-offs.

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As in many other areas, the COVID-19 crisis has brought this problem into stark relief. It’s clear that by 2021 most festivals will have financial resources that will inevitably deteriorate. Even if we are considered major historical events, our finances are fragile. We don’t own anything, (not even video recordings of the concerts), and we’re only break even when we reach a fill rate of 80%. That’s why we have decided to join forces with other festivals, such as the Vieilles Charrues, to renegotiate the fees. We propose to artists already scheduled in 2020 to extend the contract to 2021, but with a reduction for all those whose fees exceed €30,000. A gentlemen’s agreement, in short, so that the bigger ones help the smaller ones. We have to burst this bubble one way or another.

At the same time, we continue to programme lesser known artists and new sounds. A lesser- known artist doesn’t necessarily perform on a small stage. I remember a concert by the Ghanaian artist King Ayisoba a few years ago in front of 15,000 people. We also organise TGV trains with live concerts from Paris to Belfort. In addition, we carry out location scouting work all year round. For example, we take part in the Franco-Swiss operation ‘Iceberg’ to encourage the emergence of new talent and we offer a series of acoustic concerts on our website, which are also broadcast by our partners.

Still A-live! During this unprecedented period of confinement, the Show-me team has gone to meet musicians and cultural players to question them and take the pulse of what they’re thinking. What is or should be the status of the artist? What are possible remunerations? What evolution is possible after the crisis?

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