Mathieu Jaton: “I’ve rarely been called as often as for the “Audemars Piguet Parallel” experience

According to the Montreux Jazz Festival (MJF) director, artistic and client experiences, rather than capacity, must be increased. Mathieu Jaton is willing to use the codes of luxury for financing purposes, on the condition of speaking to more than just the happy few. Exporting the festival, increasing the MJF brand and cultivating emerging talent are also part of the equation.

The ambition of Mathieu Jaton, General Manager of the Montreux Jazz Festival, is to perpetuate the MJF brand and export it internationally (Marc Ducrest)

Some could have “feared the idea of a superstar showcase for fifty select VIPs at Claude Nobs’ chalet. It’s the opposite.” Mathieu Jaton, general manager of the Montreux Jazz Festival (MJF), is clear about this observation regarding the Audemars Piguet Parallel music experience. Created a year ago by the watchmaker of le Brassus and a global partner of the festival since 2019, the parallel event is perfectly embodied in the Montreux Jazz’s DNA, which means an undisputed artistic quality in a unique setting for all audiences. This year again, the artistic encounter is buzzing on Instagram. The 2023 line-up attracts young audiences with Metronomy, Rampa vs &ME (Keinemusik) and Carlita. Indeed, the promotion campaign and the contest, which allows access to the event, are tailored to generate buzz, but the method works, just as the one implemented by Mathieu Jaton to sustain the MJF brand over the past ten years, since the disappearance of Claude Nobs. From his vision of a successful partnership to exporting Montreux Jazz Festivals worldwide to the music industry’s evolution into Artificial Intelligence, Mathieu Jaton speaks in an exclusive interview four weeks before the start of the festival.

What does the Audemars Piguet Parallel experience bring to the Montreux Jazz Festival?

A partnership must imply artistic added value. The Audemars Piguet Parallel evening is the opportunity for an artist to play in the Montreux Jazz Festival setting while offering a unique scope to the public. In 2022, during the first edition, The Blaze performed in a breathtaking location, in the highs of Montreux, on a stage with an amazing view of the lake. A money-can’t-buy-experience offered by Audemars Piguet and which everyone wanted to live, but which was only accessible through a contest. My phone rarely rang as much. This year, we are re-editing the experience in another location and with other artists.

The Parallel Audemars Piguet experience began in 2022. The concerts were organized on the sidelines of the Montreux Jazz Festival, in a unique location, with a view over Lake Geneva (DR)

The closing night is, however, completely integrated into the Montreux Jazz Festival. What value does the Audemars Piguet brand bring and to which point does it decide on programming?

Star DJ and producer Mark Ronson will close the Montreux Jazz Festival with a host of artists on stage on July 15 (DR)

Until 2019, there was no closing night. The first one was celebrated with Quincy Jones. Audemars Piguet was always committed to offering something unique at the end of the festival and to being included in the paying programming. This year the DJ and producer Mark Ronson, an Audemars Piguet ambassador, was invited by the brand and the Montreux Jazz Festival to create a unique and collaborative show for the closing night of the Festival on July 15th, 2023. For this unique concert, the famous musician will invite artists from his musical family to join him onstage for the Montreux audience. He is an artist who completely matches the festival’s universe. He came several times to Montreux, including in 2012, with special productions alongside Nile Rodgers. It is a true musical creation. The audience will dive deep into a completely different atmosphere from what we have done until now.

These creations must however be funded…

Of course, but that is not what drives us. If a partner offered half a million for an artist to perform in the big Stravinski Hall, attended by 500 VIP clients, I would refuse, as it would go against the music market. It would be a wrong signal for producers who think big checks are now validated thanks to sponsors, even more so for events reserved for VIPs. To be honest, such a proposal was already made. Sponsors were ready to pay one million for a night at the Stravinski. We refused. In the case of our partnership with Audemars Piguet, the artistic creation proposed around Mark Ronson is very good. Proof of that is the ticket sales for the evening which are excellent.

This notion of signature experience comes from luxury. How does it inspire you for future creations?

What is interesting is that it stems from luxury but is not directed to luxury. Prices remain affordable for an evening open to all audiences and completely unique in its artistic creation. The wish led by Audemars Piguet is to value the artist’s performance. When luxury speaks to itself rather than to the audience, and it doesn’t seek to understand it, this becomes a showoff partnership that no one is interested in. Montreux Jazz Festival does not pursue labels but co-creation.

The first edition of the Parallel Audemars Piguet experience saw artist Arlo Parks give a concert on the stage set up, for one evening, on the heights of Montreux (DR)

François-Henry Bennahmias will be leaving by the end of the year 2023. Are you worried about the future of the partnership?

No. Of course, we have grown to have a personal relationship, not to mention the one he nurtures with many artists. But in the end, the music strategy is deeply rooted in the brand and is validated by Audemars Piguet’s board of directors. It’s a company project.

Strong ties remain to Jay-Z, Quincy Jones, and the American market…

Yes, and it goes way back. The brand is deeply anchored in music, beyond François-Henry Bennahmias’ personal ties to artists, such as the Audemars Piguet Parallel experience, created internally by the teams in le Brassus. The brand is completely aligned with the way live music business is evolving.

Can you be more specific?

Big festivals are only getting bigger. Coachella, for example, has reached 125,000 people a day! Two music markets confront each other: the gigantic entertainment market, with artist checks that reach three million dollars, such as Coachella, based on image rather than music creations, and which offer the artist great visibility. On the other hand, there are festivals focused on artists willing to share and live these moments of pure creation. Montreux or Montreal festivals are part of the latter dynamic. In this case, it is not about capacity but about accelerating artistic and client experiences. To face the increase in checks and costs, we must generate additional income, such as the Montreux Jazz Café and the foreign Montreux Jazz Festivals.

In fact, the MJF brand is growing its revenue. Do you wish to increase this part?

This year will mark the tenth anniversary of Claude Nobs’ passing. My objective was to sustain and strengthen the brand for decades. Therefore, The brand universe was created around two axes: the Montreux Jazz Artists Foundation and the MJF Spotlight program, which encompass education and showcasing new talent. This type of project enables emerging artists to play at the LAB, such as Rag’n’Bone Man, Ed Sheeran, or Dua Lipa back then. On the other hand, MJF festivals abroad operate under franchise licenses. As of 2024, we are launching three new festivals: the Montreux Jazz Festival in Miami, Abu Dhabi, and Ibiza. These cities all have shown the will to focus on different cultural and musical offers, as did Tokyo, Rio, and Suzhou in China, who have long been organizing Montreux Jazz Festivals. They all have their style and specific signature. They are not replicas of what is happening in Montreux. Four pillars must be respected in their creation: the touristic, economic, cultural, and social identity of the location. Everything is managed by the Montreux Jazz International company, founded in 2008 by Claude Nobs, Peter Rebez of Caviar House-Prunier, and myself.

How do you apprehend metaverse and A.I. technology in music?

With the MJF Spotlight, the Montreux Jazz Festival offers a monthly artistic discovery on its digital platform (Marc Ducrest)

The technological transformation we are going through today is significant. Unfortunately, the music business has not anticipated the massive arrival of AI. It is still thinking about how to pay artists on digital platforms. Imagine with the metaverse, NFTs, or AI! But I am an eternal optimist, and amid current intellectual property rights challenges, these new issues will allow to clarify the subject, precisely thanks to NFTs. The festival has already tested these technologies by supporting artists in these fields. The Montreux Jazz is interested in technology without wanting to invest more. Yet the very successful example remains the one developed by the Tomorrowland festival. It has set up an exceptional experience in the metaverse during Covid by investing millions of dollars to create a unique platform alongside 250 developers from Pixar. This aligns with what electronic music has become today: it conveys both physical and virtual sensations, which does not work with pop or jazz. A second interesting point: NFTs offer to regroup royalties for artists and give them the means to be in the creative economy, which the music industry had lost over the past years. When the artist will be able to speak directly to their audience, everything will be balanced again between content production monetization on platforms and live music. Artists will rarely be on tours, which will reinfuse this craze from the public. An artist has managed to achieve this: Sofian Pamart. He produces everything himself. Thanks to NFT image creation designed by himself, then by selling them - in this case, half a million NFTs sold on his last album - he has generated sufficient income. He has made his production profitable through parallel artwork. If the industry takes this turn, new perspectives will open for everyone.

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