The Sound Of (Too Much) Music

The hills really were alive with the sound of music as the Swiss summer festival season peaked, but signs suggest the country’s smaller, multi-night events are experiencing a downturn.

While the major outdoors such as Paleo-Nyon, Open Air St. Gallen, Frauenfeld and Gurten have continued doing sellout business or close to it, the concert series that are holding their own compared with 2009 are still about 10 percent down on what they were selling two years ago.

In Lucerne the annual Blue Balls Festival attracted nearly 100,000 visitors for a series of 24 indoor concerts staged across two venues in the city’s Culture and Convention Centre (KKL) July 23-31. That was about 10 percent less than it pulled in 2009. However, it was still enough to ensure this year’s bash stayed in the black.

Festival director Urs Leierer believes attendance was down because the market is saturated, exhausting the punters’ buying power.

The acts performing at the 19th edition of Blue Balls included The Roots, Paloma Faith, Morcheeba, Apocalyptica, Newton Faulkner, Sinead O’Connor and James Morrison.

Hanswalter Huggler of Impact Music, which produces the annual Live at Sunset concerts in Zurich, reported that this year overall visitor numbers were between 10 and 15 percent down on the 35,000 that attended in 2009 – although that was a record.

The series of 11 shows on a hilltop site on the edge of Zurich city centre July 14-25 was programmed by Good News and included concerts by Tori Amos, John Fogerty, Maria Mena, A-Ha, Nina Hagen, Foreigner and Gilberto Gil.

Huggler told Pollstar that Fogerty, A-Ha, Foreigner and Italian singer-songwriters Lucio Dalla and Francesco de Gregori were the only four concerts to sell out the 3,500-capacity open-air venue. Another three were close to selling out, while the remaining four were between 50 percent and 60 percent full.

On the Piazza Grande in Locarno, where Good News produced the annual Moon & Stars shows July 7-17, Pink was the only act to sell out the venue’s 12,000 capacity.

The year-on-year sales showed a slight improvement, increasing from 74,700 to 78,000, but in 2008 it did 86,000. This year’s lineup also included Stevie Wonder, Ben Harper & Relentless7, Massive Attack, ZZ Top, Eros Ramazzotti, Jamiroquai, Toto, Earth, Wind and Fire, and Mark Knopfler.

A visitor arriving in Switzerland at the end of June could have taken in all three of the concert series festivals, the four major outdoors and the globally known Montreux Jazz Festival July 2-17 within a month.

At press time the famous gathering on the shores of Lake Geneva hadn’t published its attendance figures. But unless Montreux – which was founded in 1967 – bucks the trend set by its younger Swiss rivals, it will struggle to match the 90,000 tickets it sold in 2009.

This year’s lineup included John McLaughlin & Billy Cobham, Roxy Music, Norah Jones, The Black Box Revelation, The Dead Weather, Tricky, Missy Elliott, Vampire Weekend, Julian Casablancas, Billy Idol, Quincy Jones, Diana Krall, Ben Harper and Relentless7, Massive Attack, Simply Red, Elvis Costello & The Sugarcanes, Joe Bonamassa, Buddy Guy, Mumford & Sons and Mark Knopfler.