Have you ever heard of the FCMA (it stands for Fondation pour la chanson et les musiques actuelles)? No? Not a problem, I am going to try to make a little presentation with the help of its director Albane Schlechten who happily took my call just before the COVID19 locked all of us home. Why do I want to talk about the FCMA? Because they rock, they do an amazing job for the sake of Swiss music in Switzerland but also on a global level.
The FCMA and its partner the Swiss Music Export office in the german speaking zone of the country have managed to plug the Swiss music bands on most of the European taste-making festivals like Groningen’s Eurosonic and les Transmusicales de Rennes. In 23 years, the FCMA has also helped hundreds of bands, solo artists and music professionals in shaping their carreers, choosing a manager or defining a media strategy to reach their audience.
More than twenty years ago, the Foundation was born in Nyon, inside the Paléo Festival organisation. The aim was to offer the youngest artists and bands from the chanson. rock and hip-hop scenes emerging scene in Romandie. It started off as a platform that provides professional tips and contacts to break through, it became a central actor to help the musicians to make the best out of their craft by linking them to professionals in rights management, production companies, music programmers in clubs and radio stations.
Behind this project, Daniel Rossellat and Jacques Monnier, the founders of Paléo who are preparing themselves this year to organize a Paléo festival edition that is healthy for everybody if the Swiss Federal Council allows them to operate this Thursday. Along with the famous duo, a group of political and music actors like the Mayor of Geneva Alain Vaissade and the music programmer and director of the late-Dolce Vita in Lausanne Marc Ridet were important in launching the Foundation. Marc Ridet became the boss of the organization and ruled it for 20 years. Albane Schlechten replaced him when Marc retired late 2017. How are things now in Nyon at the FCMA, Albane tells us all (the interview took place the 9th of march)
Hi Albane, how are you coping with the whole coronavirus outbreak and its repercussions on the music industry? Is the FCMA financially safe?
The FCMA does not have any financial losses really, for now. The situation is in fact difficult. We are navigating in uncharted territories. We are reallocating budgets, cancelling trips without insurances to help us on that matter. We are monitoring the situation, on a short-term basis. We are confident that the crisis will come to an end.
Could you tell me more about your promotion campaigns inside and outside of Switzerland in 2019 and early 2020 before the outbreak?
We developed the Eurosonic Project, the most important festival for new talents with a significant number of showcases offered to the media partners of the festival and also bookers and programmers in clubs all around Europe. A lot of the summer festival programming work starts there at the Eurosonic Festival in Groningen (Netherlands). It is also a big opportunity to reach a bigger selection of the media outlets that play and curate music. We came there with a “Focus on Switzerland”, with 22 artists, in many different genres, among them L’Eclair, an instrumental jazz-dub-synth pop combo from Geneva which released their music on Bongo Jo records. And there was Emilie Zoé. She attracted a huge amount of interest from medias from everywhere. Emilie’s presence was highlighted in the different reports given away to the press, she has been selected by the music programmers to appear as the “flagship” of the swiss scene.
Who else stood out according to the medias and the programmers?
Emilie Zoé was of course not the only one to stand out these last months. Camilla Sparksss, the project of Barbara Lehnoff the bass-player of the ticinese band Peter Kernel. Her performance at the Swiss Music Export event at the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg last september was really appreciated along with the electro artist La Colère.
What kind of partnership did you create with the artists and the Swiss music professionals?
We have established a real relationship with these artists, we are tracing a path together with the help of the Foundation. We also gather forces from everywhere in the country for that Swiss Focus, whether it is institutionnal or mediawise. For instance, the EBU (the European Broadcasting Union based in Geneva) is a partner at the Eurosonic festival. They team up with the Swiss public radio stations like Couleur 3 or SRF 3 to produce a quality coverage of our artists’ presence.
Who are the other artists that you helped develop outside Switzerland?
Marius Baer, Muthoni Drummer Queen. Pascal Gamboni (an artist supported by the Radio Televilisiun Svizra Rumantsch)… and many more. First means to measure the efficiency of the Eurosonic Focus Switzerland scene, is KT Gorique gonna be more programmed elsewhere. It seems so because the Wallis female rapper and Camilla Sparksss were lined up for “The Great Escape” in Brighton (which had have to take place right now).
Some Swiss bands found bookers in England and Germany to book them on domestic tours. These guys hear songs from our artists and if they are convinced, they want to see them live, simple as that.
Could you describe your strategy to break those artists elesewhere?
We have a strategy in two different levels, the first. As we have a diverse and independent scene, we work artist by artist, we interact with the medias that we know and the labels, we will talk about some artists linked to us to the appropriate media or label. We target the right networks, the right actors. We work on the globality of the Swiss scene. One of our media partners is MX3, a platform that gathers all the music and the biographic facts to help programmers and journalists to get to know more about Swiss music in rock, electro, hip-hop and chanson. Their platform is linking up our four linguistic regions with the help of the public radio stations. We exchanged with the people of the radio station 3FM is the Netherlands, BBC Music Introducing or the Belgian broadcasting company RTBF in the French-speaking region, they are interested by what MX3 does.
MX3, this seems to be a dream tool for artists, why is it not more pushed forward?
It is a public financed platform, it is not a big platform like Spotify, you need people to work for it, to manage its content, promote it, you have to be very pushy with communication, produce new contents and to be on the look out for new talents, the Radio Télévision Suisse and MX3 are doing a great job to promote our Swiss artists, with special shows on the radios, with sessions in the Studio 15 in Lausanne. The collaboration with the Swiss media is really good.
Who are the financial actors that inject money in the FCMA?
Paléo, the cantons, the munipalities, some of the municipalities have clubs, some others have none. Every other year, cities like Neuchâtel, Geneva or Lausanne contribute, we also get subsidies by the Lotterie romande, Fondation Pro Helvetia and Fondation Suisa. We have a trustworthy relationship with the cantons, we meet with their representatives to discuss the money question, but we were certainly not at risk these last two years.
What is your aim for the following years?
The market is getting more complicated each year. Our means to help artist break through are still not enough, we would like to enforce more self-sustainable strategies.
By David Glaser
FCMA on line on this website.
HERE’S A SELECTION OF SWISS SONGS FROM ROMANDIE’S SCENE