The Times Are A-Changin

"I am happy that I started out 25 years ago," he says in a reflective moment. "This does not mean that today I am no longer aggressive enough or do not have the energy anymore. I'm sure I'd still win out if I started now, but the early days were different. Of course, we didn't have the telecommunications we have now and the industry wasn't as developed—but this also meant that the main thing was playing music. There was less paperwork then because the business side was nothing compared to today. The productions were also a lot smaller. A big production would have two to three trucks. There were no light shows, no massive sound systems. Nowadays, a show becomes a piece of art, but I don't know if the music always matches up."

Avram feels that, for all the benefits, one of the major drawbacks of modern production technology is that, if an artist goes on the road with a smaller show than the time before, it is immediately deemed to be inferior. "The production really dictates the tour," he says, "not the music. If you have released a mediocre album, you can disguise this by putting on a big production.

"So the reality is that the money is actually being made by the trucking companies, the sound companies, the lighting companies—not the promoter. The promoter is the one who guarantees the fees, but he himself has no guarantee that he is going to earn money." While Avram asserts that artist guarantees are based on the estimated value of a performer and how many people he or she can attract to the box office, he also likens the method of doing this to having a price put on a work of art at Sotheby's. "The evaluation may be based, for example, on record sales, and while 80% of the time this may turn out to be correct, there is also another 20% where you go wrong," he says. "The Rolling Stones, for example, sell more tickets than albums. Or take Rod Stewart: although he sells a lot of albums he is an even bigger live attraction."

If, judging by attendance figures and box office receipts, an act's value has, in fact, been overestimated, Avram feels that, having done the best he can, he should be entitled to approach the manager with a view to renegotiating. "It should not have to be a problem," he says.

"I mean, when you go to a restaurant and pay a lot of money and the food is not what you expected, you don't go back there. However, I personally do not like to renegotiate. I am a man who keeps to his word. There has been the odd occasion when I have gone to a manager and said, 'I paid you too much,' but even then— with one exception—I never got anything back anyway. So, basically, I believe that the artist should be guaranteed his expenses, but the guarantee on top should be negotiated. After all, why pay X amount of money in advance just because people around the artist believe that X number of tickets will be sold?"

The basic concept of MAMA's new record label is to combine the company's touring experience with its knowledge of the recording industry, enabling bands actually to learn how to perform in a live situation before ever entering a studio.

Today, Avram continues to move onward and upward, forever diversifying and undertaking more and more activities on behalf of the artist, making it easier for him or her to concentrate on the job of putting on a first-class show for the people who spent their money on the tickets.

"As the producer of a tour, my responsibilities include transportation, hotel accommodation, and sound and sight production," he says. "I will take care of booking a hotel for, say Michael Jackson or Rod Stewart, and if they decide which sound and lighting systems they want to use, I will see to it that they get what they want.

"At the same time, here at MAMA Concerts we are more than aware that our role does not place us at the center of the universe. We don't want to be the biggest, but we want to accomplish the most professional job possible. And I am at my best when I am producing tours, using a global view. I am a promoter and I like to promote.

"I was born in this business and I want to end my life in this business."

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