in the year...
from 30 years of MCT
... let’s just do it ourselves” He’s got a driver’s license, doesn’t drink alcohol and doesn’t do drugs. In addition to that, he’s also a music lover and knows the right people. Because of all of this, Scumeck Sabottka ends up in the concert business. He starts out as a bus driver and tour manager.
He chauffeurs Abwärts, Einstürzende Neubauten, Malaria and the Violent Femmes all across Germany and Europe.
One day, he meets Dietrich Eggert of Rough Trade Booking. The two of them make a bold plan: “Before the others cash in on everything, let’s just do it ourselves.”
Together with Jochen Hülder, the manager of Die Toten Hosen, they found a company in Herne that they hope will rival the big event organisers of the industry. They call it: the Music Consulting Team, or MCT.
The first years of MCT are hard ones. Scumeck Sabottka and his colleagues slave away at work, but still make almost no money. With a lot of idealism, they organise gigs of their favorite bands and often make the mistake of approaching business from a fan’s perspective, rather than acting like entrepreneurs. For a long time, they had tried to organise a tour for the Ramones.
Then one day, a long yellow strip of paper rattles out of the Telex. It’s a message from the Ramones’ agent John Giddings: “You win!” To add a personal touch to the merchandise, MCT buy cheap plastic jackets onto which they paint the Ramones’ logo themselves.
On that tour, the band play three cities. On 03 July 1985, the band play the last gig ever held at Ernst-Merck-Halle in Hamburg, before the venue gets demolished. It proves to be a high-speed performance: 31 tracks in 60 minutes.
MCT organise gigs for Die Toten Hosen, the Stranglers, John Cale, King Hurt and the Smiths. They also put on a tour for Marc Almond and a completely unknown act at the time, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Even though Scumeck Sabottka and his partners are always busy, they repeatedly find themselves on the verge of bankruptcy. Often, they are simply too optimistic. Nico at Zeche Bochum? REM? They hope for thousands of people in the audience, and again and again they are disappointed.
In 1986, Dietrich Eggert leaves the company. A few years later, Jochen Hülder leaves, too. Scumeck finds two new partners because he can’t shoulder the company on his own: Réne Heinersdorff Jr. and Berni Lewkowicz become co-partners of MCT.
With an ominous paper slipcase called “Time/system Archiv,” a product that was state of the art at the time, Scumeck Sabottka tries to regain control of his extremely packed appointment calendar. In his records from that year, there are notes about successful performances by PIL, the follow-up band of the Sex Pistols, for which 4,000-5,000 punks paint the town red in Düsseldorf and Berlin.
MCT also organise concerts for World Party, who used to open for U2, and the Communards. After a year of complicated negotiations, they succeed in bringing Tom Waits on tour in Germany.
According to the calendar, this summer is an impossible one for events, unless you’re the UEFA European Championship. Italy plays against the USSR in the semifinal. MCT have already know better than to organize events during big international football matches.
The year of 1988 is defined by musical experiments. MCT flirt with hip hop. They organise tours for EPMD and Stetsasonic. Salt-N-Pepa play Fürth in northern Bavaria, a region home to many American soldiers. Stupidly, they also like to beat each other up when going to gigs.
MCT also put together a tour for the Dutch act Vengeance. Meavy metal acts rarely bring Scumeck any luck. A much bigger success is the ‘Opal Night’ of Roger Eno in Hamburg and Düsseldorf. Spherical, electronic sounds. A completely new and vanguard genre of music. Strange, but somehow good at the same time.
On 09 November, Scumeck Sabottka organises a Melissa Etheridge gig in Hamburg. That night, one of the truck drivers helping to dismantle the show claims there is something going on in Berlin. There is a huge traffic jam. “There’s always traffic jams in Berlin,” Scumeck replies. “Apparently, the wall came down,” the truck driver claims. “Nonsense, impossible!” Scumeck says. At this point, it’s beyond imagination that one could just cross the border.
On 12 November, he’s able to see with his own eyes that something has changed. Together with Paul Wilson, Melissa Etheridge’s agent, and Maria McKee, he drives to the Glienicke Bridge, where he meets a confused American soldier, who still can’t quite grasp how cheering people are suddenly crossing the border. At that time, Scumeck doesn’t believe quite yet that one day he will be able to organise gigs in East Germany.
Wasted Talent’s Ian Flooks asks MCT if they want to organise Kraftwerk’s tour in Germany. Even though the act is the complete opposite of the punk bands he is listening to at the time, Scumeck Sabottka has been a fan of Kraftwerk since the 1970s.
However, he feels guilty. The previous organiser of the act is the legendary Fritz Rau, a man who is a great role model for Scumeck. Nevertheless, Scumeck and his partners eventually decide to try to outbid Rau.
He has to call Kraftwerk at precisely 5pm, the English agent explains to Scumeck. Supposedly, their telephone is located in the fridge and muted. Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider will pick up the phone at 5pm sharp. If Scumeck is not on the other end of the line, that’s his loss. He dials the number and talks to Kraftwerk. MCT’s offer for the tour is accepted.
MCT bring the composer Ryuichi Sakamoto to Europe for the first time. Of course, he performs in Düsseldorf, home to the biggest Japanese community in Germany. 1,600 people come to see Sakamoto and his band.
After this, the exact opposite happens: Nitzer Ebb take their hard, aggressive electronic body music on tour.
But without doubt, the highlight of the year is Deee-Lite playing Cologne. The act’s manager Gary Kurfirst had asked MCT to book a very special location for this gig. Scumeck Sabottka books the dome of the city’s radio tower. It fits 200 people. Upon the first beats of the gig, everybody starts dancing – and then immediately stops, because the dome seems to be shaking. Nevertheless, it is an unforgettable concert.
At the invitation of the agent David Levy, Scumeck Sabottka travels to Manchester. There, he gets to see Stereo MCs live for the first time has an immediate realization: They are wild, they are the latest shit. He books a tour for them in Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich.
It is actually inexplicable why the company is not doing well financially. MCT make all the right bets with the bands they book. Vaya Con Dios attract 6,000 people per gig. They book Elvis Costello and organise the gigs for Indigo Girls, one of the first openly lesbian bands around.
MCT expand their hip hop portfolio and bring Digable Planets on tour. In addition to that, they organise their first open-air festival in Nordheim with the Ramones, Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Cramps, which prove to be a rather mixed experience.
The first e-mail account is set up! It is email@example.com. Unfortunately, the company is still not doing well financially. Like a light at the end of the tunnel, Marcel Avram, one of the big event organisers in Germany, starts to court Scumeck Sabottka. Their first meeting ends in commotion. Avram suggests that Scumeck should liquidate MCT and start working for the competitor. But that’s out of question for Scumeck.
A year later, Avram eventually agrees to fulfill Scumeck’s requirement and invests in MCT. Scumeck moves to Munich and runs his own company under the roof of Mama Concerts & Rau. During those years, he learns a lot from Avram and Fritz Rau, who are not only his friends but also role models.
According to Avram, Scumeck handles the “weird” music. Back in the day, this meant everything from Marilyn Manson to Celine Dion. That year, Scumeck sees Rammstein play live for the first time, which leaves him feeling almost electrified.
When Marilyn Manson tour Germany for the first time, they play at the Strom Club in Munich. On the day of the gig, some members of the band want to visit the former concentration camp in Dachau, and Scumeck Sabottka drives out there with the musicians.
However, their everyday style doesn’t really differ from their eccentric stage outfits, and so at first they are denied entry at the gate of the memorial site. After a lot of persuasion, the musicians, some of them of Jewish origin, are granted admission. This visit moves them deeply.
Rammstein go on tour and are greeted by hostile press. They are accused of performing with Nazi symbolism and making right-wing extremist music. Scumeck turns to Fritz Rau for advice, who has witnessed the Nazi era.
He concludes that Rammstein are absolutely innocuous. “Just because he is rolling his r’s, he is supposed to be a Nazi?” he asks. Michel Friedmann backs this up, too. The thing with Rammstein, he says, is absolute nonsense.
Excentric characters define the history of MCT of this year. Jovanotti, Jamiroquai and Jimi Tenor tour with the company. At the same time, MCT is riding the trip hop wave and books Massive Attack. “Lost Highway” by filmmaker David Lynch is showing in cinemas around the world. Millions of people are simultaneously shocked and fascinated by the hard sound of Rammstein who contributed two songs to the movie’s soundtrack. Scumeck Sabottka keeps his promise and books the band’s first gigs abroad.
Rammstein play at the New York venues The Batcave and The Bank, and both times they hit the stage in the middle of the night. Afterwards, they party hard on the rooftop of the Chelsea-Hotel.
Also that year a certain Robbie Williams enters the life of MCT. “What’s that bullshit?” is Sabottka’s first reaction; boy groups are really not his thing. But Williams’ managers David Enthoven and Tim Clarke convince him that the singer is not only a rebel, but also a talented solo artist.
Robbie Williams plays small German venues like E-Werk, Loft and Inkognito, each time with just about 500 people in the audience. In December, he releases his single “Angels,” thus laying the foundations for what will be an illustrious career.
With Kraftwerk, Scumeck Sabottka for the first time travels to Brazil. Defying samba clichés, the band is received well in South American. In the end, Kraftwerk and Scumeck will return to Brazil many times. In Germany, MCT organises tours for the Levellers, Eagle Eye Cherry, Bad Religion and M People, a dance band with Mike Pickering, to whom MCT has been linked since his legendary Club Hacienda days.
Lou Reed as well plays in Germany once more in 1998. In contrast to earlier years, when beer bottles were occasionally thrown on stage and fighting broke out in the audience, these days everything goes along peacefully.
Scumeck Sabottka enjoys his great autonomy under the roof of MAMA Concerts
& Rau. Nevertheless, he begins to feel bored of the city. He is longing for
Berlin. In his spare time, he begins to develop an interest in photography. He meets Joel-Peter Witkin and
immediately becomes a big fan of Witkin’s grotesque pictures.
Five years are enough – Scumeck Sabottka is done with living in Bavaria. He politely asks Marcel Avram if he can leave. Avram replies equally politely: “As long as you remain being my guy, just go.”
MCT seperates from MAMA Concerts & Rau when Scumeck buys back his shares and moves to Berlin. Finally, he’s back in the city where he feels most at home. With Karsten Jahnke and Folkert Koopmans, he organises a gig with Aerosmith, Lenny Kravitz and the Black Crows at Trabrennbahn in Hamburg.
During set-up, a misplaced stage tether tears apart, resulting in Aerosmith’s manager declaring the stage unsafe and that his band won’t play.
Scumeck and his head of security, Manfred Meyer, are forced to cancel the event while tens of thousands are waiting at the gates. Fortunately, the fans remain peaceful. Of course they are refunded for their tickets.
Since that fiasco, MCT knows that, until the very end, pretty much anything can go wrong with a gig. With his lawyer and a tax consultant, Scumeck Sabottka founds the company Harms Way, thus entering the artist management business. MCT takes over the management of Chicks on Speed, the Harlekins and Jasmin Tabatabai.
The company has absorbed the big move to Berlin. The Aerosmith disaster at Hamburg (MCT had of course to pay the band’s fee entirely) results in long negotiations with insurance companies, but eventually the financial damages are reimbursed.
Even though MCT resides in a tiny office in Berlin-Treptow, the company feels strong enough to handle big events again. Radiohead play both the Hurricane and the Southside Festival. And MCT organises gigs for Pearl Jam, Patti Smith and the Counting Crows, and book tours for Goldfrapp and Jamiroquai.
After ex-boy group member Robbie Williams becomes more and more successful, MCT organises gigs for an ex-girl group singer, Melanie C. Unfortunately, the agency can’t fill big venues with this act.
Scumeck Sabottka convinces Robbie Williams’s manager David Enthoven that they should book a stadium gig. Enthoven considers this a huge risk, but eventually agrees.
On August 13, the concert takes place at Cologne. Keeping the tickets cheap, they actually sell out the stadium. The gig proves to be the turning point in Robbie Williams’s career: he is now a stadium act and finally on the road to becoming a superstar. Enthoven is so grateful that he doesn’t blame MCT for an incident happening later on the tour, in Stuttgart, when a confused fan approaches Robbie Williams from the rear and pushes the singer down.Luckily, Williams lands softly.
Later that year, world history overshadows one of the gigs organised by MCT. On September11, Radiohead play at Wuhlheide in Berlin. The atmosphere is absolutely depressing. Thom Yorke reacts and makes a somber announcement. “Who hasn’t heard of it yet? Everybody has heard of it, no? Two, no four planes have crashed.”
Propelled by the urge to try something new, Scumeck Sabottka and his friend Uritz von Oertzen travel to Calabria. In 2002, there are high hopes for a unique musical genre from that region.
Malavita’s album “La musica della Mafia” reaches the top of the German news magazine Der Spiegel’s music charts. In Calabria, Scumeck and Uriz meet Malavita in a shabby garage. The band consists solely of amateur musicians. The tradition of playing ’Ndrangheta songs is passed on within the families. The German visitors are thrilled by what they hear and see in the garage, and despite the confusing circumstances, they actually manage to book a tour for the band.
Back in Germany, they suddenly face a different problem. The Italian expat community of Germany, turns out to be much less receptive to the mafia romanticism than Scumeck and Uriz assumed. Sicilian pizza bakers refuse to have the tour posters in their shops because they don’t want to have anything to do with the ’Ndrangheta.
Ticket pre-sales are so disastrous that Uriz and Scumeck are forced to cancel the tour. Unfortunately, they get stuck covering the expenses for the band. Such is life if one tries to expand into new musical genres. Most other deals at MCT are going well though. MCT organises tours for Moby, Morcheeba, Sheryl Crow, Patti Smith and even Quatsch Comedy Club for the first time.
In terms of figures, this is the company’s most successful year to date. Robbie Williams plays two shows each at Dresden, Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, and at the Hockenheimring, as well as three shows in Munich.
In total, MCT sells an incredible 1.25 million tickets for his gigs in 2006. The enormous scale of the tour means a tremendous amount of work for Scumeck Sabottka and his team. On August 23, after Robbie Williams’s last gig in Germany, Scumeck gets on his motorcycle and heads towards Potsdam.
For him, this means relaxation. He can clear his head when he’s riding his bike: a 1946 Harley Davidson WLA, with a suicide clutch. It must have traveled many winding roads from Eastern Europe to Berlin before Scumeck got hold of it.
While on the way to Potsdam, there’s a loud bang suddenly, and the next thing Scumeck knows is that he’s burried under his 150-kg Harley. The wheels keep spinning though, owing to the bike’s construction, and practically cut through his right leg. After an operation to insert a long nail into his knee, Scumeck remains wheelchair-bound for some time. In autumn, he drags himself to Robbie Williams’s gig in Rio de Janeiro on crutches, a tremendous strain.
Taking things a little easier, that’s the motto for 2007. It takes Scumeck a full year of rehabilitation to recover from his accident.
MCT organises a tour for the Good, the Bad & the Queen. Damon Albarn, who previously worked with MCT when he touring in Germany with Blur, re-invents himself, playing with Tony Allen, Simon Tong and Paul Simonon on this great project.
Arcade Fire play Elser-Halle in Munich — they are not big enough yet to fill bigger venues. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Björk, Rufus Wainwright, Bloc Party and Portishead tour in Germany.
Compared with the outstanding previous year, 2007 is somewhat unremarkable, even though the quality of the concerts is the same. It’s just hard to beat selling 1.25 million tickets for a single artist.
This year, MCT organises tours for a mix of both established and new artists. Florence + the Machine, Eels and Tracy Chapman play in Germany. But also as yet lesser known singers, such as Katy Perry and Lykke Li, start working with MCT. And Little Dragon embark on their first German tour.
Pianist Hélène Grimaud, through a private contact, asks Scumeck Sabottka if he’s interested in managing her. The idea behind this request is that Scumeck and his rock dudes sort out the outdated world of classical music concerts.
MCT finds out that the structures in this genre work totally differently from the ones of his previous acts. Deals are different, and the organisation of orchestras is highly hierarchical. MCT gets into trouble with maestro Claudio Abbado when he tries to coerce Hélène Grimaud to play certain cadences during a concert recording.
But the foray into classical music doesn’t last long. Although the collaboration with Hélène Grimaud is successful, and MCT succeeds in defending her interests in a tough industry, in the long run, managing her is simply too energy-consuming.
.After things went so well with Robbie Williams, MCT is all too eager to organise the reunion gigs of Take That in Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Munich. The company sells 150,000 tickets. It’s a great tour, but the band doesn’t match the previous success of Robbie Williams’s solo shows.
Scumeck travels to Australia and New Zealand. Rammstein headline “Big Day Out,” a festival that tours the continent like a travelling circus.
MCT become the agent for Max Raabe and his great orchestra in Scandinavia where the singer’s German folk and chanson repertoire is well received. In addition, the Specials, GusGus and the Red Hot Chili Peppers go on tour.
Once again, Kraftwerk outplay the other acts. On the initiative of Monika Sprüth and Ralf Hütter, the band make its transition into the art world. After two years of preparations, the electro pioneers perform in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
They play their entire catalog, generating enthusiastic responses all over the world. On eight consecutive days, Kraftwerk play their albums in chronological order, framed by a spectacular 3-D stage show. Every single concert is sold out, of course.
That year, Scumeck Sabottka celebrates his 50th birthday, and begins to indulge in a new passion: planes, deciding to get his own pilot’s license.
MCT Agentur GmbH
Strausberger Platz 2, 10243 Berlin
Tel.: +49 30 5363 8200 Fax: +49 30 5363 8222
CEO: Scumeck Sabottka
Responsible editor: Isabel Wolf
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