Last week, in the run-up to this year’s jazzahead!, which took place from 29 April to 2 May, I asked my colleague Marcel Kaufmann a few questions about his expectations and the challenges of the first virtual edition of the world’s biggest jazz fair. You can read the article here »
Marcel has been a project manager at FONDATION SUISA for years, successfully ensuring that Swiss music is given the attention it deserves at international music fairs and events. I briefly asked him about his first impressions after jazzahead!
Marcel, what was the reaction of our community to the virtual fair?
Strange as it may sound, I don’t know. When I think back to the previous editions of jazzahead!, you were physically at the fair for four days, met hundreds of people, saw concerts live and at the end, when the Swiss stand closed again on Sunday, you discussed your collected impressions with the team over a beer. This year, there were hardly any such direct experiences and feedbacks. So we lack one or the other reference point to be able to classify the whole thing conclusively now. A more coherent picture will only emerge in the coming weeks through a virtual survey and discussions with participants.
Normally, the Swiss stand is well attended. How did the exchange work virtually?
The spontaneous visit to our stand or a casual encounter could not take place in a comparable way. A member of our four-person team sat at home at the computer and took care of the eventual reception. I noticed that at a virtual fair you become a lone fighter. In the physical world, synergies arise all the time, groups form spontaneously, people go to the showcases together and discuss during the breaks or at the end of the evening.
How difficult was it for the two Swiss acts at this year’s showcases?
The formation The True Harry Nulz consists of Swiss and Austrians, the majority of whom also live in Germany. They performed live in Bremen. At least members of the press were allowed in the hall and applauded after each piece, which could then also be heard on the live stream. It was a different story with the Luzia von Wyl Ensemble. Their performance was pre-produced without an audience at Moods in Zurich and then streamed. The complete silence between pieces and the absence of any conversations after the performance leaves artists with nothing to hold on. I think, especially as far as showcases are concerned, there is no way to replace the physical experience so far.
Are there also positive things to report?
You can see at a glance who is present. If a person has logged in, they can also be contacted directly. That is certainly easier virtually. The Coffee Break, which the SWISS MUSIC partners organised together with Austria, was also very positive. Around 30 people came together – of course no comparison to the traditional Alpine Cocktail – but people were able to talk as a group in the breakout rooms. That was very well received.
Can conclusions already be drawn for the future so soon after this virtual experience?
Who can predict the future? You can constantly form an opinion on the digital transformation, taking into account the real conditions and technological developments. Nevertheless, in the end things turn out differently than you think. As things stand today, I would say that in the future, trade fairs will concentrate on the physical again and use the digital elements as a supplement. But I don’t know if we will ever return to the situation we were used to before the pandemic. Nor am I sure whether that state would be more desirable. In any case, the vaccination campaign would have to be carried out successfully worldwide.