Q’s With Lily Fisher: 40 Years of Musical History And Counting

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Lily Fisher, Director of Le Zénith Paris

One of Paris’ landmark concert halls turns 40 this year: Le Zénith, located in the 19th arrondissement of the French capital. It’s one of 17 Zéniths strewn across France, and just like the city it dwells in, the most popular. The list of names who have performed on its stage includes Amy Winehouse, Janet Jackson, Blur, Nas, Björk, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys and many more. The building’s 40th anniversary is the perfect opportunity to reach out to Lily Fisher, director of Zénith Paris – La Villette.

Pollstar: Le Zénith is a landmark of Paris. In your opinion, what makes the venue so special?

Lily Fisher: First of all, it’s the only large-capacity venue in Paris specifically dedicated to popular music. The venue has been designed above all to offer the best possible relationship between the artist and the audience, and in particular with a specially adapted scenography.  The venue is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and the many artists who have performed at Le Zénith have naturally made it a legendary venue. A venue is a place, a scenery, a concept, but above all, it’s a story with artists and audiences that continues to be written.

Looking at the artists you’ve hosted at the building, what were some of the highlights of 2023? And how is 2024 shaping up?

2023 was an exceptional year for live entertainment, with a strong emphasis on French rap, which accounted for 20% of our performances, including Luidji, Werenoi, Soolking, Lujipeka, Zola, SDM and more, as well as some fine electro concerts featuring international artists such as Fred again.. and Boris Brejcha. The program is varied and always reflects the enthusiasm of our 15-to-35 age group. Over the years, we’ve noticed a balance between French and international artists. 

2024 also promises to be a busy year at Le Zénith, with many shows already sold out, including concerts by Zaho de Sagazan, Black Pumas, Tom Odell, Amelie Lens, Étienne Daho, So La Lune, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Rod Stewart, Charlotte Cardin, Grand Corps Malade, and more, all eagerly awaited. And this year, with the Olympic Games, the Zénith will turn into the house of Holland and host the Dutch teams and athletes. It’s a very exciting project for our teams because we’re going to transform the Zénith into a real outdoor and indoor living space with a wide range of activities.

Do you notice any year-over-year changes in terms of artists and event genres on tour?

Obviously, programming depends on the artists on tour and also on what our audience is listening to. What we have on offer therefore varies massively. However, we have noticed a change over the last few years. For a long time, the Zénith mainly hosted artists known to the general public. Today, even niche artists with a very targeted audience can perform and fill a Zénith. The discovery of music and artists via social networks has brought many changes, enabling more and more artists to play in our venue.

Has local repertoire become more important in recent years? Or has France always had a strong representation of domestic artists in the concert scene?

The lineup is fairly balanced and stable in terms of French artists. We have several artists in 2023 who have sold out several Zéniths, such as Shaka Ponk, Pomme, Lorenzo and Luidji. What’s new is last-minute programming, up to three to six months before the concert, for French rap or K-pop artists in particular. The Zénith’s lineup is a good reflection of what’s going on in the streaming world.

What’s your strategy to ensure the next generation of headliners has a stage to perform on?

The Zénith is a huge draw for young artists, who dream of performing on the same stage as their mentors and idols. In fact, many artists’ songs speak of the Zénith and its importance in their careers. It’s a great reward for us and proves to us that the venue never gets old and that it has been able to adapt to the evolution of music and audiences. What made Le Zénith such a success 40 years ago still works today, and we’re determined to keep it that way!

What’s next for Zénith? Any renovation plans or other upgrades? Maybe even opening another Zénith elsewhere?

Le Zénith is constantly improving. In recent years, we’ve worked hard to optimize the building’s energy performance. And it has been a real success. We also pay a great deal of attention to the way we welcome our fans, and this year we’ve got a whole host of surprises in store for our anniversary, including a brand-new exhibition showcasing the Zénith archives, featuring merchandise by the likes of David Bowie, Prince, Nirvana, Johnny Hallyday and Bruce Springsteen.