Close Friends Looking To The Future

There has been much curiosity as to the working relationship between Avram and his partner Fritz Rau. Although they are both clearly very strong characters—an attribute without which they would not be where they are today—there is never any clash of temperaments. "We never quarrel," says Rau. "And not for one moment have I regretted going into partnership with Marcel. He is one of the few people in this business who works even harder than I do!"

According to Rau, the secret of the partnership's success is that both men have a deep respect for one another. "He doesn't want to make another Avram out of me and I don't wish to make a Rau out of him," he says. "He accepts me for who I am, with both my weak and my strong points, and I respond in the same way toward him. Were this not the case, the partnership just would not work. So after five years, I can honestly say that we collaborate extremely well."

"What we have to offer at MAMA Concerts & Rau is a fully cohesive unit," adds Avram, referring not only to the 30-strong staff based at the Munich headquarters, but also to an organization that has reciprocal working arrangements with a number of partners across Europe: Thomas Johannson of EMA Telstar in Sweden; Leon Ramakers of Mojo Concerts in the Netherlands; Andre Bechir of Good News in Switzerland; Maurizio Salvadori of the Trident Agency in Italy; Pino Sagliocco of the Creative European Group in Spain; Michel Perl and Paul Ambach of Make It Happen in Belgium; Alvaro Ramos of R&R Productions in Portugal; Jackie Lombard of Inter Concerts in France; and Barrie Marshall of Marshall Arts, Barry Clayman of BCC, Danny Betesh of Kennedy Street, Barry Dickens of ITB, Tim Parsons of MCP, Rod McSween and Harvey Goldsmith in the U.K.

Yet the MAMA Concerts & Rau Company is not solely concerned with concert promotion. Thanks to the wide-ranging background and experience of its senior colleagues, it is also well-versed in the disciplines of recording, marketing, merchandising and artist development.

Klaus Boenisch, for example, managing director of MAMA Concerts GmbH, is also a qualified lawyer, whose working relationship with Avram began in the '70s. In those days, Boenisch worked for MAMA Concerts in order to help finance his law studies and, once he had graduated, he joined CBS Records in Frankfurt as assistant to the managing director. He then formed his own concert promotions company and, in 1987, returned to MAMA Concerts and took over the post of general manager.

Today, in his role as MD, he concentrates on two major tasks: "We have to recognize new trends and market them well in order to enrich our already successful repertoire with young, upcoming artists," he says. "This is the only way to remain competitive in the future."

The other aim is to branch out into other areas of the entertainment industry. Boenisch places particular emphasis on family entertainment, resulting in such promotions as WWF wrestling, the Chinese National Circus and the German tour of "Sesame Street."

"The advent of the single European market, plus the public's growing use of electronic media, forces a promoter to not only recognize new leisure activities right from the start, but also to market them on an international level," observes Boenisch, conceding, "It often takes a lot of courage to outgrow old habits."

Deputy managing director Gerd Ludwigs, on the other hand, specializes in marketing. He was around when Avram launched MAMA Concerts in 1970, and after stints elsewhere—including a spell as the head of international A&R for a group of major record labels—he returned to the company in July 1992.

In the meantime, since November 1992, a new division has been operating at the MAMA Concerts & Rau headquarters: Das Haus der Neuen Töne (The House Of New Sounds). Michael Loeffler, former owner of Hammer Promotion in Frankfurt, heads this division, and he keeps in close contact with what is going on music-wise in the world. Thus far, Loeffler has displayed a real knack for discovering bands of true potential— such as Living Colour, Spin Doctors, Smashing Pumpkins, Soul Asylum, Arrested Development, the Toy Dolls, the Mission, Teenage Fanclub and the Wonder Stuff, to name but a few.

There is a desire to branch out into other areas of the entertainment industry, with particular emphasis on family entertainment—resulting in such promotions as WWF wrestling, the Chinese National Circus and the German tour of "Sesame Street."

"The search for new talent is a vital aspect of our business," says Avram. "These bands are part of our future."

Also on the agenda is the launch of MAMA's new record label, which is aimed at providing young talent with the basis for a well-rounded, long-term career. The basic concept is to combine MAMA's touring experience with its knowledge of the recording industry, enabling bands actually to learn how to perform in a live situation before ctct entering a studio.

This was how things used to be in the pre-techno-pop era, when artists often had to ply their trade night after night for several years before they were signed by a record company. Today, the opposite is frequently true, with more and more recordings taking place in computerized, home-type setups and fewer and fewer engineers knowing what a real drum kit even looks like, let alone how to mike one up.

"Record companies today would rather put young talent into the studio and spend vast amounts of money on videos, instead of giving them the opportunity to gain live experience," says Dirk Hohmeyer, who will be running the new MAMA label. "This is the reason so many young bands, especially high-tech bands, do not play live. In the old days it was different. Bands were head-hunted by the record companies after they had made a name for themselves by doing live shows.

"It is therefore our intention to find talent and initially give people the opportunity to play live. This way they can both develop their material and learn how to work with an audience before going into a studio to record. In such cases, MAMA Concerts can arrange tours along with clubs, arenas or stadiums, because it is our belief that good craftsmanship and live music experience are the essential keys to a successful career."

Avram points out that, in terms of supporting an act, the policy of most major labels today is to spend the best part of an allotted budget on a large advance and then promote the act by way of video. Tours may also find favor, but nonetheless they are tied in with a record's release, and so it is often the scheduling that can let a project down. "If an album has been out four to six months, and you go to the record company and say, 'Let's do a tour now,' you won't get that much support," Avram warns, indicating that much of the funding is spent at the time of the record's release. "They do hope, however, that the tour will generate additional album sales.

"So the best record company support can be achieved if the album release and tour coincide. The days when record companies made up big shortfalls are over, because now we are in the video age. Videos can be played at any time all over the world, without the band having to go out on tour. So, invariably, more money is now spent on producing a video. After all, a video can always be made to look good even if the band isn't!"

After spending a quarter of a century in the business, and having scaled the heights of his profession, Avram is every bit in love with his job today as he was in the beginning. To him, there are always fresh challenges to face, new achievements to enjoy, and that extra special something keeps spurring him on. He still finds the same excitement in what he does.

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