.Pierre Rieu Heart and Soul
PIERRE RIEU MARKETS HIS FATHER
CHAPEAU MAGAZINE: From the very beginning of his career, the entire approach has been done by André Rieu together with his wife Marjorie. This solid team of two has been expanded into a team of three in the last few years, since son Pierre has grown into the business. He started out as a helper and in now part of the directors. His role is becoming more and more important.
►How did you happen to grow into that role?
Let me start by saying, there is only one leader and that is Dad. I started by reorganizing the technical aspects. That has always been my passion. When I was around eight years old I already accompanied them on the truck. A white one, which we had bought from a baker.
►Were you brought up in the business, in the sense that it was apparent that your Dad was involved in music?
I did notice that. At home we always listened to music, and during the time of the Salon Orchestra and afterwards the Johann Strauss Orchestra I always wanted to tag along. Early on I felt that my future was there. During high school I did think about another career as a lawyer. I did start my studies for that, but after about five weeks or so, I came to the conclusion that this would not turn out to be successful. I was then already employed in the company.
►Weren’t your parents worried whether that combination would work, studying and touring with the orchestra?
No, they were like, let him find that out for himself. One or the other will succumb. And that was rather quickly apparent. There is no school to go to for what I do here, that school is right here. There are different situations every day, and every day I am busy with different people. I learned a lot from my parents and also from the people around me, even today.
►You haven’t had the idea yet, due to your role in your company, to do a specific study say in, economics, or to work abroad for a year with a different orchestra or artist, purely for the experience?
No, because what you learn there you can not apply to ARP (André Rieu Productions); you would still have to throw that experience away. My Mom sometimes pulls her hair out: "What has he come with now?" We do not work with a budget either. Our financial advisor, Roel van Veghel, has tried to institute that numerous times, but to no avail. Even the Schönbrunn idea, that just popped into Dads head and then he says: "I think we should do that". Of course we do look at our finances, but we still go ahead with the plan. In the end it turned out that it costs us three times as much as we thought. It sure had its setbacks, but it did wonders for us. The tour through Australia cost us 28 million Euros, and if we had spent that amount of money on marketing via spots, billboards, advertising and the like, we would never have had the same results. The marketing we received from that tour has been invaluable and went all over the world. It goes without saying, at least, that "some fool" copied this huge castle, and was even able to attract many, many visitors with it.
►I can remember when you erected the castle for the first time in Toronto, and a few hours before the beginning you had an electrical failure. It took a week with hundreds of people to erect that behemoth. It turned out to be successful, but for you extremely stressful.
I will not deny that. It was so exciting. We had done a trial build at our stage builder in Germany, but only the frame. The façade was made in Maastricht and they finally came together in Toronto. Thousand of façade panels had to fit together. There were so many uncertainties. The panels were placed in sea containers still wet with paint. I thought: "Oh my God, I hope everything goes well".
►Looking back it was an enormous risk you took because the stadium was filled with 35,000 attendees for each of the two evenings. Afterwards you had to slow down a lot since you had reached your limits.
Yes, I have really learned to know them now.
►Back then you were in charge of the technical aspects, while now you are acting in more of a general and also financial capacity.
Right now my primary task is researching new markets. We employ 120 people. And in order to have them functioning properly we have to conduct a certain amount of concerts per year. The equation of revenue and costs. We cannot survive on the Netherlands and Germany only every year, nor can we go to Australia every year. We have just returned from Australia, and now have to stay away for twenty months or so. You sort of have to create a shortage. And every market is again different. I have just returned from Brazil, where Roel and I spoke with a local promoter. It is one of the few countries where you have to work together with a local promoter to organize a tour there. Normally we rent the venue, do the marketing and sell the tickets. We do all this ourselves. But in North and South America, we noticed, by trial and error, that you do not accomplish anything without a local promoter. The cultures are so much different. There are so many rules and unwritten laws, that you really have to watch out. We have now found someone in Brazil who immediately called the owner of the largest TV station in the country to set up appointments. That does make a difference. And it also depends on the individual whether the product appeals to him or not.
►Is everything then set for Brazil?
We are now starting with the sales and everything else will follow. The first time we’ll be going to Sao Paulo. The expectations are really enormous, apparently larger than Australia, although we sold 3.5 million DVD’s there in a population of 15 million people. Almost every family there has one of our DVD’s. In Brazil the enthusiasm is now already large. You can see that by the reactions on our web site, but we also have a relative amount of Brazilians at our concerts in for instance Florida and Australia, and they also come to Maastricht.
►And you drive that fever even higher?
Of course, that is all part of marketing. It is extremely exciting.
The public really has no idea that with such a career and tours you really need to boost them with marketing. To just play a violin and wait to be discovered is not sufficient. You must always manifest yourself with initiatives in order to continue. I can still remember when my parents made flyers for a concert in the neighborhood with the Salon Orchestra. And then they would wait at home for the phone to ring. But that did not happen of course. You have to be actively involved and need to aggressively follow up. Also Brazil will not run by itself, you have to be physically present. Mexico was a bit of an exception. We only placed one ad for 1600 Euro. Through word of mouth advertising we sold 40,000 tickets, but that is exceptional. For the rest you need to maintain your initiative. Only now, since the "Second Waltz" we certainly do not have to explain who we are and what we do.
►How about the other tour plans?
We think that after the first concerts in Sao Paulo we might return to Brazil rather quickly, and combine that with Chili and Argentina.
►And the USA? You did have a promoter there, one who even worked for Michael Jackson. He was going to ensure a real breakthrough?
We have been doing everything in the USA by ourselves. The first years with a loss. Now we earn a little there. But André is still not really a star over there. In New York he can still just walk about the street, but not in Australia. In the US it is just a totally different system, with its own business channels. We are working with this promoter, but he still has to not come thru. We will manage though.
►Could it be that André’s concerts do not sell in certain countries, just because there is a different taste in music? That you just have to forget about those countries?
I do not believe that. In the USA the public is very enthusiastic, but you have to regularly appear on TV, and that opens the market for you. That right now is still too fragmented. But for now we are going semi-live with the Vrijthof concerts in theaters. We did that too last year, but now we are going worldwide to some thousand cinemas. That’s really going to be something. It will be costly, but we think it will be a good way to entice the market.
DAD WILL GO ON FOR ANOTHER TWENTY YEARS
►Are there any other countries you are working on?
You have undoubtedly heard that we are working on North Korea. Not easy, of course, but those people come to Maastricht and they would like us to be there. Yes, and we told them that there has to be peace there first. Of course we have no control over that, but who knows, we might just be the initiators.
►And is it not difficult to repeatedly come up with a new and interesting program for Maastricht, because you need to vary?
It’s not all that bad. There are a fixed number of components that have to be there, otherwise it will not click.
►You are doing the Vrijthof concerts now for the seventh time. Any idea how long you will be doing them?
Well yes, we currently have no plans to stop any time soon. At the "Preuvenemt" (large culinary fair) I believe Dad played for nineteen years. To match that we would need a few more years.
►Leon de Winter has written a script for a movie. What is the status of that?
Leon has written a fantastic script. It will not be a biographical movie. Dad says: "I am not dead yet". It is more a story. Dad plays himself, meets Johann Strauss, plays his music, and here is even a mistress in it. Anyway, a romantic story with plenty of music. But we are not going to do that ourselves, since movies are not our business. We are not going to finance it either, that has to come from the movie producers. We’ll see how it will all turn out. But if we happen to run into a movie producer, we would definitely take advantage of that.
►Could film actor Anthony Hopkins play a role in that? He was recently here because André arranged a piece of music written by him (Hopkins) and it is rumored that he will return during the Vrijthof concerts.
In any case, they get along very well together. I will not rule out that when a friendship develops that Anthony Hopkins will offer and assist us to take the correct paths in the film world, well, we are not against that. In any case, he will come and listen to his own waltz which André will play on the Vrijthof. That is quite exceptional that he is willing to do that, he is more famous than Dad.
►You are busy with new markets, but sometimes you look critically over the shoulders to see if all expenditures are equally useful and efficient.
That is one of my busiest occupations. It is not always a question of skimping. Every now and then I’ll say: "Hey Dad, shouldn’t we do this or that extra?" I am not only concerned with turning the money flow off. André is someone who has a million ideas a day. That is good, otherwise we would never have come this far. It is also good when someone else looks at it from a different view. I look at it from another generation’s point of view. During the concerts I am always in the venue and I get a good understanding what the public is feeling. And I relay that later to him.
►Do you operate sort of like the Holy Trinity, Father, Mother and son?
Just leave the holy stuff out. We work very well together and have a good feeling about each other. Dad’s illness last year has brought us even closer together. Then it became even more apparent that without him nothing happens here.
►And there are no alternatives, or maybe, with you in another role.
Well, violin for me that will never amount to anything. I still study the piano and play trumpet every now and then, but there is no time for me to do anything professional with that and I have no further plans for that. No, the fact is that our triangle is constructed in such a way, that if one of us would fall out, it would become extremely difficult for us.
►It must be enjoyable work since the trust is undoubtedly very large.
Certainly, there is no doubt about it. When we say it is "A" then it is "A".
THE SON OF
►When you were really placed in charge, did the other people who had worked there longer, not respond surprised or reserved with the adage of: Here comes the boss’s son. Did they feel that as a threat?
Of course, that is a normal reaction. I was nineteen when I was placed in charge of people who had been there for ten years. So you can imagine how they felt about that. Of course I did get to hear that at times, that I was being viewed as a brat. But it was also a tough school. If you are the boss’s son you have to work three times as hard, just to prove yourself. You have to learn that and I stumbled quite hard a few times.
AS ‘SON OF’ YOU HAVE TO PROVE YOURSELF THREE TIMES OVER
►During the time when the castles became a little too expensive, didn’t your financial advisor reassure your bankers? They had to take a risk and does that still play a role or is that over with?
I think that on both sides we now can sleep a little easier. There was quite a time frame when the Rabo Bank would pester us with the question: Isn’t it time that you undertake something again, we like to plan our credits. Well, Dad came up with an idea; a castle. I don’t think that’s what they had in mind, but they went along with it anyway. We also had to offer them something as collateral. Take our royalties, also our future royalities. I don’t believe that ultimately it was all that risky. But they were quite responsive and I do not believe that every bank would have done the same that very moment.
►Yes, they like to invest in someone who is on top – or maybe that peak is still to be achieved – but also someone who can become ill.
Well, they sure did see that last year. The minute André is gone; our earnings come to a screeching halt. That was for us hard to swallow, one way or another no one had ever taken that into consideration. He always wants to go on. I also believe that he will continue to play for another decade or two. Not in today’s turbulent life style, but I do see him still performing on stage in another twenty years, providing nothing happens. But then, viewed from the other side, you have to stop when you’ve reached your peak. As long as you are not on stage as a pathetic man and nothing works anymore, that is no option. We have a feeling that we have not reached our peak yet. He is very busy, and luckily feels good.
OUR PEAK STILL HAS TO BE REACHED
►He has resumed his work again, but not in all aspects.
That he has learned. He needs to stay involved with his music, the programs and ideas. Purely on the artistic side. The rest he needs to let go. He has to learn to say "no"
TO STEP BACK
►Does he know how to do that, to step back? Or do you regularly need to remind him?
Yes, all the time. Then I say: "Dad, why do you have to do that, think of yourself". That of course is the nature of the beast and that is why he has achieved so much.
►Can you yourself step back far enough?
Ever since I have been in the business, work and private life go hand in hand. Whenever he is not on tour, Dad will come by every day to look in on the kids. And in between we chat about the new things in the business. That goes hand in hand. He is changing the kid’s diaper and at the same time asks about Brazil. That for us is very logical.
►And do you like living next to your parents?
Yes, because we have so much to do together, it makes it quite convenient. While when I need it, I do have my privacy and I do not feel any interference.
Thanks to Ineke for scanning the article and John for his Marathon ©Translation of it!