The pandemic has changed our world. As a foundation that promotes Swiss musical creation, we were, are and will be confronted with numerous challenges. I have already pointed out one or two aspects in previous posts. An essential part of our foundation’s work also concerns our presence abroad ¬ above all at internationally relevant music fairs.
Last year, jazzahead! in Bremen, the largest and most important trade fair for jazz, could not take place. From 29 April to 2 May, the 2021 edition will now take place virtually for the first time. Marcel Kaufmann is responsible in our team for ensuring that this all works perfectly with the necessary Swiss presence. As project manager, he has been successfully ensuring for years that Swiss music is given the attention it deserves at international music fairs and events.
I asked him to give me a brief update on the state of affairs in the run-up to the event:
Marcel, participants at previous editions of jazzahead! were used to meeting each other – either as co-exhibitors or as visitors at the Swiss stand – in the exhibition hall. What does this look like in 2021?
Marcel Kaufmann: The SWISS MUSIC stand of the FONDATION SUISA in cooperation with Pro Helvetia, Sonart, Swissperform and the Swiss Performers‘ Cooperative SIG will also exist this year. Only not physically, but virtually. This way we can also advertise Swiss artists, promote our jazz compilation and present artist trailers. There are numerous functions that make it possible to communicate and network in this way as well. There are chat functions in words and pictures, contacts can be created and meetings can be entered in a calendar.
And how are you received at this virtual stand?
Marcel Kaufmann: The virtual front office will be staffed. So someone from our team will be sitting at the computer at home and will be on stand duty.
And what about the live showcases?
Marcel Kaufmann: Some bands will perform live on site and – as in previous years – will be professionally audio-visually streamed. Switzerland has two bands in Bremen this year. Since The True Harry Nulz is a Swiss-German-Austrian cooperation, they will play live in Bremen. The Luzia von Wyl Ensemble is a different story. To send the ten-piece band on the road with the current health constraints would have been too costly. In this case, there will be a showcase produced in advance.
Is the uncertainty in this particular situation the biggest challenge?
Marcel Kaufmann: Absolutely. What will apply today may already be different tomorrow. A lot of flexibility is needed before and during the event.
jazzahead! is the biggest trade fair for jazz. Is this also reflected in the number of registrations for the virtual version?
Marcel Kaufmann: The fair itself has massively fewer registrations compared to the past. I would say it’s somewhere between a sixth and a third of what it used to be. Which can also be an advantage. It’s easier to get hold of certain participants. Ultimately, it depends on who is there and not how many. As far as the Swiss co-exhibitors at our stand are concerned, things are looking much better. As of today, there are about fifty percent compared to the past. But that may increase in the week leading up to the start.
The legendary and ever-popular Alpine Cocktail, organised jointly with Austria, cannot take place.
Marcel Kaufmann: That is unfortunately the case. But we have created a virtual alternative with our eastern neighbours, the Coffee Break. The best conversations happen when you stand and wait at the coffee machine with someone you don’t know yet. We have transported this situation into virtual space. The Coffee Break is basically a meeting via Zoom, but there are breakout rooms where you can exchange ideas. A lot of a fair is informal and I am confident that this form of virtual networking has a chance.
What are you most looking forward to?
Marcel Kaufmann: The reaction of our community. People’s attitudes to the digital world are changing as rapidly as the virus. Many who previously didn’t like digital suddenly see certain advantages in it. At least for specific events. A panel session works at least as well digitally as physically.
How do you see the future of such events in the post-pandemic era?
Marcel Kaufmann: Nobody really knows what it will look like in detail. I think there will be a mixed form in the future, although the physical part will probably be bigger at the beginning. The longing to travel again, to experience music live and to meet people physically is still very great. On the other hand, people will probably choose events more carefully in the future. But that’s all theory. We simply don’t know today what it will be like tomorrow.
Thanks, Marcel. We are looking forward to hearing what you have to say after the end of this year’s jazzahead!
More information about the upcoming jazzahead! 2021 can be found here: