The Story Of Ossy Hoppe

Allan McGowan of IQ Magazine interviewed legendary German promoter Ossy Hoppe at Eurosonic Noorderslag 2017 in Holland. Hoppe’s father owned one of the biggest circuses in Europe, and at 5 years old Ossy Hoppe became the youngest elephant trainer in the world.

– Ossy Hoppe

He and his father, however, had a fallout and Hoppe grew up with his grandparents. He remembers not having much money and being forced to do all kinds of jobs to finance his law studies, although he “spent more time at a local bar than in law school.” Hoppe met two other legends of the game while playing for a Jewish football team in Frankfurt: Marek Lieberberg and Marcel Avram.

Hoppe became the driver for their promotion company, Mama Events. Through this job, he met and became friends with Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, who invited him to work for Deep Purple Overseas Ltd. in America. While Lieberberg and Hoppe fell out in later years, Avram remains a partner to this day. “I consider him one of the greatest promoters of all time,” Hoppe said.

Hoppe worked for Deep Purple until the band broke up in 1976. He didn’t yet have any plans of becoming a promoter. Instead, he managed Whitesnake for about three years, becoming the first German tour manager in the business. He then went on to work for notorious manager Don Arden, who ran Jet Records and “was living the mafia myth at the time.”

Hoppe also lived in the UK for some time, temporarily sharing his flat with Ozzy Osbourne. In 1981, Hoppe moved back to Germany and signed up for a job with CBS. He got rejected, “so I had to become a promoter, what else could I do?” He launched Top Concerts with Tony Ioannou. “It was learning by doing. There were no 80-page contracts and shit like that,” Hoppe said. It was also the time of 75/25 deals, “not always, but they happened.”

Since the German market was divided by Mama Concerts and Fritz Rau, Hoppe and Ioannou had to go niche, which, at the time, meant hard rock. Many bands that Top Concert represented, such as Iron Maiden and Metallica, are still handled by Hoppe today. Back then, Germany didn’t have the live entertainment infrastructure it has today. In the Rhein Main for example, you had the Festhalle in Frankfurt, and the Stadthalle in Offenbach, which had a capacity of 3,000, although Hoppe “found out it could actually hold 5,000.”

Stadiums only became a thing when popular German acts like Westernhagen or international superstars like The Rolling Stones entered the scene. Top Concerts lasted five years before having to fold, because Ioannou fell in love with Hoppe’s secretary and suddenly had things other than concerts on his mind. Hoppe went solo and founded Shooter Promotions. He kept all of his bands, and launched the first hard rock festival in Germany by bringing the British Monsters of Rock festival brand over from the UK.

In 1989, Hoppe joined MLK, bringing all of his bands with him, which by then included Bon Jovi, Sting, the Bee Gees and Aerosmith. Unfortunately, both promoters fell out. In 1998, with Live Nation and AEG around, Hoppe felt that “maybe we should also lean towards somebody.” So he made a deal with DEAG, which he regretted almost instantly.

“I honestly hated it. It wasn’t my world,” he said, referring to forecasts, accountants and lawyers. “My heart wasn’t in it.” Hoppe left and, in 2004, founded Wizard Promotions with Marcel Avram as partner. Again, all of his bands stayed, which by then also included Iron Maiden, KISS, Bon Jovi, and others. Hoppe “carried on as before.” His son Oliver joined in 2012 (“I’m very happy he joined. Took me three years to convince the bastard.”), bringing new blood and ideas to the company. Oliver Hoppe has created his own staple with his own team, looking after young acts and country acts. Check out our interview with him here.

In 2013, Wizpro rejoined DEAG. “A strategic decision, and I did it under one condition. I didn’t want to go back to what I had left,” meaning: “as long as we’re writing black figures, no one can say anything. And until today [DEAG] honors the agreement.”

Both Hoppes celebrated their biggest success to date in 2014 and 2015, when they convinced German rock band Böhse Onkelz to reform and consequently sold almost 600,000 tickets for six shows at Hockenheim Ring, with two more to follow in 2017. In 2016, Wizpro promoted 692 shows and 171 tours.

Nineteen people, including Ossy and Oliver, form what Hoppe calls a “small but strong team.” His advice to up-and-coming promoters is to “be innovative, stubborn, come up with ideas and passion, and show enthusiasm. Show you’re 100 percent into what the band is doing.”

He acknowledged that the job of promoter has changed. “Something’s missing today: the big shots are trying to take individuality away,” he said. “So be inventive, full on, don’t trust anybody, and take care of your artists. And don’t expect loyalty. If you want loyalty, get a dog.” To outsmart the competition, “you have to move in at a time when bands aren’t yet on the big shots’ radar.”

What helps is that “more and more people are coming to the conclusion that it’s not just about the money.”

Questioned about regrets, Hoppe said: “Of course, I did a lot of things wrong. For me, a handshake was a handshake. Had I had lawyers, I would be a richer man today. What could have been is not important to me. Important is my family, my son as partner, and my dogs and donkeys in the Provence.”

Which is where Hoppe, who said he is “half-retired,” intends to spend most of his time now – and get into the art, science and business of wine. He even brought a couple of bottles to Eurosonic to share with the audience after the interview.