Forbes - Leadership

Marketing The Montreux Jazz Festival

Marketing what was once a live music event and has evolved, for the time being, into a hybrid virtual event, presents a fresh set of challenges.  At the Montreux Jazz Festival, one of the world’s leading music events, this year’s hybrid approach requires a deft marketing touch.

I recently asked Montreux Jazz Festival CEO Mathieu Jaton to fill us in on how the festival’s marketing strategies have been fine tuned for 2021.

Paul Talbot: Please give us a history lesson… how has the festival’s marketing evolved since the first festival held in the Montreux Casino in 1967?

Mathieu Jaton: The festival originated from a marketing idea in the first place!  Claude Nobs, the founder of the festival, was working for the tourist office of the town of Montreux and wanted to organize an event to promote the destination.

This is how the festival was born, and for many years it remained organized and financed by the town’s tourist authorities.  Even today, it is thanks to the festival that Montreux is known throughout the world.

The Montreux Jazz Festival brand has become an international landmark by offering the audio and video tapes of the concerts recorded in Montreux to the artists.  There are thousands of CDs, vinyls and DVDs of live performances recorded at the festival which have made and continue to make a mark on musicians around the world.  This has enabled the festival to have a very strong resonance in the USA and Brazil, and to organize delocalized versions of the festival there.


But the best marketing tool of the festival remains the relationship.  Claude had it in his blood, he knew how to welcome artists and the public, and create relationships that lasted throughout his life.  This value of hospitality is still central to the MJF today.

Today, we are taking a new turn in the evolution of the festival in order to achieve a hybrid model between physical event and digital content, using tools such as social networks, streaming platforms and new content creation partners.

Talbot: Who are your leading marketing partners for the festival and how do you align your respective objectives?

Jaton: All our partners are our best marketing allies. The idea is not simply to take advantage of their platforms to spread the festival’s image, but rather to create joint projects that allow the two brands to shine, such as through the Fairmont World Tour, a world tour of concerts organized in Fairmont Hotels on four continents in February 2020.

Talbot: How has marketing for the festival been revamped to support the objectives of this year’s ‘reimagined’ festival?

Jaton: Every year, the festival has its own unique set up and this year is no different. The reimagined festival reflects the fact that Covid has shaped the world in a new way and adapting to this has meant reimagining the audience experience both at the event and online.

To kickstart the MJF2021 marketing, MJF wanted to support the global artistic community and build on the success of the 2020 ‘Silent Shores’ poster competition, by giving cash prizes as well as an opportunity to showcase 30 artworks during the festival. 

The partnership with Vaudois Assurances asked artists to reimagine MJF2021 under the banner of ‘RESTART.’ This generated 1,935 artists from 54 countries to submit their posters on a world getting ready to restart.

With travel restrictions and artists not touring in the traditional way, it meant creating a new performance set up that enabled people to continue to share their music in a different environment.

To ensure Covid compliance but not compromise on experience, MJF has designed a new lake stage with stadium seating that will showcase artists in a unique set up with the backdrop of the surrounding mountains whilst the stage is in the lake.

Marketing this year’s festival will be focused on ramping up our digital offering and ensuring it is accessible to everyone, both within Switzerland and internationally, by being live streamed for free on the MJF Facebook page, across the Stingray Qello platform and artist pages to enable as many people as possible to see this spectacular set up and hear world class music with the finest audio and visual production.

Talbot: Are there any specific challenges this year’s marketing has been designed to address?

Jaton: The obvious point is personal safety and Covid compliance so naturally there will be a lot of communication around how the festival is complying with Swiss Government guidelines to ensure that the festival runs smoothly and people are free to enjoy the ambience.

Managing the fact that this year will have a very limited capacity for attendance will be an area we know will be a challenge.   We have an excellent marketing and customer care team who will be letting people know how to purchase tickets or access the free streams and providing surround content to generate excitement for the event on our social media and partner channels.  We have a dedicated social media team to manage real time questions and ensure people feel supported.

But above all, our greatest wish is that the artists, our public, our partners, our volunteers and our team can meet again, in flesh and blood, after more than a year spent far from each other.  To rediscover some of that intimacy so dear to Montreux, that is our greatest challenge.

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