HOW RIEU TRAVELS
Another Chapter From the Book "Rieu, Maestro Without Borders"
In 2004 there was a change in the organization of concert tours. Just like many travelling artists, Rieu worked with local agents and production offices. They managed the rental of venues, technical support and ticket sales. Since the tour in 2002 to the United States did not go well, it was decided to do the organization in-house, and no longer use the services of the promoters. Rieu thought that his company could do better business directly with the venues where he would be performing. By letting his own staff take over the role of intermediary, he would not only be more efficient, but also more profitable. Rieu and his immediate staff were thus able to control the logistics surrounding the performances into the smallest details.
Since 2004 how do Rieu and his company operate in regards to the organization of a foreign tour? What is involved in organizing a series of concerts in, for example Brazil or China? It begins with an assessment of the market for Rieu's music. The extent of the market depends not only on his fame and popularity in a country, but also on the economic prosperity.
In order to investigate the opportunities, Frans Neus and CFO Roel VanVeggel travel to cities where venues are available which suit the kind of concerts Rieu gives: a minimum of six thousand seats, space for the public to leave their seats and waltz in the aisles, and enough space for the stage apparatus. According to Neus the availability of suitable venues in a country is crucial. After determining the concert dates, the planning of the tour starts, contracts are drafted with the venues and vendors of Rieu products, such as program booklets, CDs, DVDs, and the local support organizations. To generate publicity around the concerts, the company arranges interviews for Rieu with local and national television and radio channels.
A recent example. In the summer of 2013 the company made plans to go to China. Previous tours to South America and Mexico were hugely successful and a massive market beckoned. Rieu has had his eye on China for a long time, says Frans Neus from his office in Maastricht, although the Chinese do not buy CDs, they are very responsive to everything that comes from Europe, especially where it concerns music. "We are looking at China because we are constantly having to find new markets. In order to keep the business going, it is essential to perform at least a hundred profitable concerts annually. That means that with traveling, days off during a tour and promotional activities you are on the road almost 200 days a year. There have been years with as many as 120 concerts. In China, we completed contracts with venues in Shanghai and Beijing (the latter was dropped due to date/technical reasons). The same occurred with Taiwan. When you have a venue and a date, you can start the sales. Part of the seat sales we’ll do ourselves, while another part is handled by a local organization. In the case of Shanghai, it is AAG, a major US promoter. Most tickets are sold over the internet. Regarding publicity, we develop a strategy for each country. Which is the best newspaper to advertise in, which radio and television stations are there? We prefer to make our own specials available. The station then has materiel and we then purchase suitable commercial slots."
Neus does not doubt that the concerts in China will be a success. "It is a universal formula. I do not think there is a country where that does not work. If you only see the concert and not the environment, you would not know in which country you are." A universal formula regarding the programming of concerts goes hand in hand with a standardization of transportation of the orchestra to enable concerts.
The decision to minimize the dependency on local facilitators has many consequences regarding the logistics. For an international tour not only do about 50 orchestra members, soloists and their instruments travel, but so does the technical crew and a large part of the equipment, needed for the concerts. In order to perform concerts on several continents within a short period of time, the company has four complete sets of musical instruments, costumes and technical equipment at the home base in Maastricht, Europe, America and Asia. This for instance reduces the risk that musical instruments remain stuck somewhere along the way. To give one an idea of the scope: a set can consist of seven trucks full of light, sound and video equipment, musical instruments and costumes. The accompanying crew travels in three converted buses, each with twelve beds.
Not only are the instruments and technical equipment taken along, but for instance also washing machines, with which the men’s shirts are laundered after each concert. Two chefs ensure an elaborate buffet for the musicians and crew every evening. They cook with fresh and local produce. Peter de Beer has been travelling along as resident physician on the orchestra’s intercontinental journeys for several years. He brings along a large suitcase with medicines, but more importantly, he finds out where in a city the good hospitals are located. As a specialist in tropical diseases, he knows, thanks to his network, where to find good medical care in non-European countries. During a recent tour to Istanbul three judo mats came along, so that Rieu could do his daily workout in his hotel room under the guidance of his personal trainer. The more the company can regulate matters by itself, the less it is dependent on others.
Information about the book: Dutch title: Rieu, Maestro Zonder Grenzen. Available in Dutch only. Authors: Maaike Meijer, Peter Peters, Jac. van den Boogard. Publisher: De Bezige Bij and can be ordered at ► Bol.com
Translated by Entia from South Africa and John from the USA