WHAT HAVE BEEN THE BIGGEST CHANGES IN THE AGENCY LANDSCAPE OVER THE PAST THIRTY YEARS?
When I started out, you needed a licence to become an agent. There were only a few agencies, most of them were also promoters. They used to swap artists: “You’re taking her? Well I’ll take him then!” Things were more manageable: the foreign agencies weren’t active in Germany, and the German ones weren’t working abroad. Eventually the Internet made everything more international, more fast-moving, but, in the process, replaced the gently meandering career paths with epic career-super- highways. Traditions disappeared into thin air; many simply forgot how to communicate with one another, especially about music.
It’s unclear where things are heading, but the value of live concerts has, once again, grown enormously.
BACK WHEN YOU FOUNDED YOUR AGENCY, THE LABELS WERE IN GOLD RUSH FEVER, AS CDs HAD JUST APPEARED...
That’s right—the companies re-released their entire archives, people were buying like crazy. CDs pretty much dictated concert programming for a long time; now, their days are numbered. It’s unclear where things are heading, but the value of live concerts has, once again, grown enormously.
I consider it a blessing that glamour and appearances are losing in importance, that artists and audiences are focusing more on the music itself.
THE ARRIVAL OF CDS MARKED A BIG CHANGE IN MARKETING...
... and in terms of events, too, which were no longer organised around the music, but rather the other way round: the event was at the centre and the music organised around that. I think that’s when things got out of hand. It was the start of this really brutal marketing of musicians. But that too is changing at the moment.
WAS IT SOMETHING OF AN OWN-GOAL THAT EVERYONE USED THE TERM “STAR” SO EXCESSIVELY, SO UNNECESSARILY?
I consider it a blessing that glamour and appearances are losing in importance, that artists and audiences are focusing more on the music itself. There’s still so much to be done here, of course. There’s also a great need for communication: between artists and promoters, between promoters and audiences. In terms of works, of programmes—who is programming what, when, how? How are ideas, possibilities and people’s needs being brought together? And how can we protect and nurture that special something that makes an artist unique? It’s sadly a fact that young people are often “discovered” early on and so heavily promoted that many can’t cope. But also when I began, there were those who were finished at 30. And there are still artists who grow more prominent and popular over a longer period of time, who attract more and more fans as they develop and mature.
LOOKING AT THE MARKET TODAY, IT SEEMS THAT EVERYTHING IS AVAILABLE: AN ENDLESS SUPPLY OF ARTISTS, SPECIALISMS, NO END OF CROSSOVERS... IS THERE ANYTHING MISSING?
We are living — as is always the case — in very exciting times, unsettled by the unpredictable breaking down of familiar barriers, for better or worse. Anything is possible and everything can happen at the same time, and that makes us anxious. Where are my boundaries? How do I make decisions? Who will tell me what is good, what isn’t? In a way, this compels us to listen better — more profoundly — and to be more receptive for music, to get a feeling for whether something is well-founded and rooted in something bigger. That’s how I explain the growing community around historically informed interpretations or the interest in complete cycles performances. It’s no longer the bourgeois canon and comprehensive knowledge that we’re after, but rather the joy of being totally infused by something, of getting actively involved.
Absoluteness is no longer a priority; preserving one’s individuality is more important.
HOW DID THE BOOM IN STRING QUARTETS OF THE LAST TEN, TWENTY YEARS COME ABOUT?
It’s linked to life plans and the desire for more freedom in one’s work. That’s why orchestras are for many no longer such an attractive option. The quartet seems to be a good solution: you don’t go through life all by yourself, and you have the chance to collaborate on something of a very high standard, all the while maintaining your individuality.
DO YOUNG QUARTETS TODAY HAVE IT EASIER OR HARDER THAN BEFORE?
They have it different. Absoluteness is no longer a priority; preserving one’s individuality is more important. Young people are perhaps cleverer than they used to be in terms of relationships, and not just within their string quartet. They are more considerate to themselves and others and it’s easier for them to take a more distanced perspective.
Plus, playing in a quartet has become more of a normal profession, rather than something just for “freaks” as was the case before. If a member leaves, it is — rather like a divorce nowadays — nono longer a public drama, it’s just a transition.
I need mystery in an artist; I always have to be surprised.
WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA YOU USE WHEN DECIDING WHETHER TO TAKE ON AN ARTIST?
I’m not sure. Sometimes I don’t quite understand it myself. To be honest, it’s just intuition. That’s where the passion comes from.
AND WHAT IT IS THAT MAKES YOU PART WAYS?
Many artists have come and gone over the past three decades. When I started out, my artists were much older than me; at some point they exited the stage, so to speak... Some left because they hadn’t found in me what they were looking for. For others, I asked them to leave, because
I didn’t feel comfortable representing them or because I wasn’t able to give them what they needed. And there’s another reason, too: at some point, you know each other too well. I need mystery in an artist; I always have to be surprised. If there’s no longer any mystery there, it doesn’t fire me up and at some point, I don’t feel it anymore. Sometimes it happens after just a short while; sometimes it doesn’t happen for decades, or ever.
WHAT’S NEW AT THE IMPRESARIAT? WHAT’S CHANGING?
Next generation! It’s an exciting time for shedding one’s skin and let- ting go, a time for curiosity and putting one’s trust in younger colleagues. Over the years, the Impresariat team has grown to include a number of outstanding agents; my son, too, has discovered an interest in the profession—perhaps the greatest gift a parent can imagine. All of them will shape the future. Once started, that kind of process gains its own momentum and things change which you would never have even questioned. Take the company logo, for example, which symbolically represents the business. Suddenly it seems quite natural to alter it radically. And beyond that, too, a great strength is developing.