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Festivals go to war over artist exclusivity

The violinist Renaud Capucon in the middle of a tug-of-war between two Swiss festivals. His contract with Montreux establishes that he cannot play anywhere 200 kilometers around Montreux six months before or after his concert in Septembre Musical.

As a result, the St Prex festival has been forced to cancel his scheduled appearance with contralto Nathalie Stutzmann and pianist Inger Södergren. They are not happy.

Hazeline van Swaay Hoog, who runs St Prex, last year had to cancel Diana Damrau and harpist Xavier de Maistre. Both had exclusivity clauses with Tobias Richter of the Grand Theatre in Geneva, who also runs the September Musical in Montreux. She calls this ‘unfair practice.’ If this were an English-speaking jurisdiction, she would have a case. But it’s Switzerland, so she doesn’t. Richter, accused of is trying to establish a summer monopoly around Lake Geneva, says: ‘it’s good market practice.’

In the end, the same few artists still get all the big-money gigs.

More here.

renaud capucon


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  1. Rosalind says:

    Exclusivity SIX months before or after an engagement seems totally excessive to me, to be honest.

  2. On the contrary, the effect of such rules is that not always the same artists get the same big gigs.

    Switzerland being a small and cowded place, such exclusivity clauses are the rule. I’m not sure however if a perimeter of 200 kilometres can be true. Usually one fixes a period of plus/minus three months and a perimeter of some dozen Kilometres or some particular cantons for exclusivity.

    Anybody is free to sign any contract he likes. Exclusivity arrangement can be discussed before signing. If a contract is signed one has to keep it. But sometimes a promotor accepts to shorten the exclusivity period after his concert on condition that the other concert is only announced after the first concert.

    And always inviting Capucon to the French part of Switzerland shows a certain lack of fantasy. There is a legion of other first-class violinists to chose from.


  3. Did the parties ever consider offering a payment to Montreux to release Capucon for the Septembre Musical concert?

  4. Six months and 200km seems a bit much anywhere in Europe; maybe in the United States 200km would be ok, given the distances. Are there really people who would travel 200km to see Capaucon in action?

  5. Hi, I am the founder and President of St Prex Classics.

    The injustice of this whole affair is that Mr. Capuçon signed with St Prex Classics 4 months BEFORE he signed with the Montreux Septembre Musical. Mr. Richter encouraged the artist to sign a contract that de facto invalidates ours. That’s is unfair practice.

    Moreover,the concert at St Prex is a unique collaboration with contralto Nathalie Stutzmann. This is very different from the concert with LPO that Renaud gives in Montreux. St Prex therefore stimulates the artistic market rather than cannibalising Montreux. This is what I call good market practice!

    By calling the artist directly and applying pressure (Mr Richter threatened to cancel Renaud Capuçon’s performance in Montreux if he played in St Prex) is really trying to establish a monopoly on lake geneva as he controls the Geneva Opera and, at the other end of the lake, the Montreux Septembre Musical.

    In Switzerland, like in English speaking jurisdictions, we do have a case.

    • Go for it! And keep us posted….

      • Of course we will keep you posted.

        • Martin Locher says:

          Usually I’d say, why let such contract breakers perform? Send him and his management packing! There are enough great musicians out there.

          In this case however, I think you’re right. Try to fight the ones (self redacted: wrote another word that “ones”) who try to disrespect your contracts.

          Thanks for making this public, I won’t consider Montreux in my summer plans this year and will also try to get my family to stay away.

          • Martin Locher says:

            Hmmm, after hitting the send button it came to my mind, that I was assuming Montreux knew about Capucon’s contract with you. That probably is wrong, isn’t it?

    • OK. you have a case. But the fault is then Mr. Capucons. If he has a contrac with Sat.Prext, he has to keep it and to play there.

  6. Mr Capucon and his management should be ashamed of themselves. This is bad business practice on their part as well. An artist has no right whatsoever to break a contract without negotiating with the party concerned. If he is offered another job by a second party with certain preconditions that would make it impossible to fulfil his contractual agreement with another party, then he should NOT accept the offered engagement WITHOUT the agreement of the first party concerned. His management should have negotiated! In this case it is not even a clash of dates that is the problem; it is a simple case of one promoter being greedy, and an artist and his management being unscrupulously dishonourable and unethical (and possibly greedy, too, as it seems Capucon and his management must have been made a financial offer they could not refuse for Tobias Richter to be able to twist their arm in this matter!).
    The six-month rule mentioned above is ridiculous and should be outlawed or boycotted by Artists’ agents and the IAMA generally. 3 months exclusivety is more common and generally accepted by most artists and agents. To be honest, there is no reason to assume that the avid fans of Mr capucon are gonna pass up on a second concert by him four or five months after the first, and I personally believe that, when it comes to these big stars, local audiences and visitors to festivals will always want to see their favourite artists no matter what (especially when the programmes are so widely different, as in this particular case).
    Mr Capucon & his management and Tobias Richter have behaved completely unethically in this matter and I hope St. Prex Classics fight tooth & nail for serious compensation from all concerned for breach of contract, as well as an open and public apology from all concerned. Bloody disgraceful and NOT good business practice in ANY sense of the word. To my mind GREED is the operative word here, both in a financial as well as a political sense.

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