Rihanna, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Guns N’ Roses… What do they all have in common? They all performed (or will soon perform) in Israel thanks to the efforts of the Israeli production company Bluestone Group.
Since their first high profile concert — Rihanna in 2013 — they have grown by leaps and bounds, and have been responsible for bringing a number of top name artists to Israel. And since they partnered with concert giant Live Nation earlier this year, it seems clear that they will only go from strength to more strength.
To launch Creative Community For Peace (CCFP)’s Behind the Scenes Series, we sat down with Guy Beser, the owner of Bluestone Group, to discuss his success and the success of the concert industry in Israel.
CCFP: What got you into the industry? What made you want to get involved in bringing concerts to Israel?
Guy Beser (GB): Well, first of all, I think that you need passion to do this. If you don’t have passion, if it’s not coming from your heart and soul, you really can’t do it for a long time. Me and my partner, Shy, I think that we were born with this passion, to do this kind of stuff. I did it from the age of 15, I think. We started international concerts four and a half years ago with Rihanna, which was our opportunity to get into the market. Until then, the market was quite asleep. In Israel, until 5 years ago, you can see no more than 2-3 big shows. And now, it’s something like 27, or even more. So I think us getting into this market changed a lot. After us, a lot of new players got into the market, and this is a very good thing for the fans, for music lovers, for the music industry, for Israel, and for us. And when we saw that the Rihanna show went well, we went to LA and met with our potential partner at the time, Guy Ozeri. We discussed building an international show business in Israel. He agreed, and everything else is history.
CCFP: Why are you passionate about music?
GB: Music unites everyone. Music can heal your heart. Music can make you run faster. It can make you smile. Music can make you happy when you are sad. So I think music is kind of a language that talks to everyone no matter which language you are basically talking. And I think it’s wonderful that we have music in the world that can talk in the same language to everyone. This is the thing that makes us unite around music and makes people love music, and I hope that we’ll continue doing our part in this industry of entertainment.
CCFP: We have to ask about Bluestone partnering with Live Nation, which is obviously a really big deal. How will it impact the concert scene in Israel?
GB: Merging with Live Nation is a really big deal, both for us as a company and for the concert industry in Israel. It’s a game changer when a huge corporation like Live Nation comes to a small country like Israel. It means we’ll be part of the route of every show that Live Nation has through Asia, Europe, or the Middle East. It puts Israel on the map of international shows.
If you see this summer, we already had Aerosmith, we’re having Britney Spears, we’re having Guns N’ Roses, we’re having Lil Dicky, Pet Shop Boys…And we’re going to announce a few more shows. And next summer you’ll see a lot more.
And then there are the festivals. Live Nation owns more than 80 festivals all over the world, so we’re working on bringing some of them to Israel. I think the audience is ready for a festival in Israel, and we’ll do it in 2018. So ultimately, merging with Live Nation is a really good thing for us and for the audience, because they will enjoy all kinds of music.
CCFP: We heard that you work with Live Nation in the United Arab Emirates to bring artists to the region, because it’s lowers the costs if they go to multiple places in the Middle East. How does that cooperation work?
GB:: We work very closely with the Live Nation offices all over the Middle East, and yes we’re trying to work together to bring shows and to build tours that will be only in the Middle East. I say Middle East, but sometimes it also includes places like South Africa. So let’s say they start in Dubai and then they go to Bahrain, Israeli, South Africa, etc. Working closely with these promoters in other countries around us will eventually bring more artists and festivals, and make it much easier to route them through the region.
CCFP: We know there are sometimes difficulties bringing artists to Israel because of the added costs. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
GB: Israel isn’t like Europe, where you use trucks and buses to move the equipment and crew from place to place. Israel is an isolated place, with borders all around us, so logistically it’s difficult to do a show without flying everything here. Everything is with airplanes, all the equipment and crew, so the costs are very high.
We also have high insurances costs, though I think now that will be the same in Europe. We pay terror insurance, cancellation insurance, etc. But the main problem we have in Israel is that we don’t have a real venue to do shows. All the biggest shows are in Park HaYarkon, which is just a park, so we have to build the venue from scratch every time. We have nothing. If we had a venue like Wembley Stadium or something, it would be much easier for us.
Even so, we’re constantly trying to reduce ticket prices. It’s part of our vision that everyone will be able to come and see an international show in Israel.
CCFP: You mentioned terror insurance, Security against terrorism raises the cost of concerts in Israel?
GB: First of all, I have to tell you Israel is one of the safest places in the world for concerts today, because everybody here understands security and how to secure a big venue. I think that all over the world, they’re starting to learn these issues, and we’re already experts. But yes, the costs are high, on police, on security, on insurance, on fence around the venues, cameras…we have a lot of costs regarding security.
CCFP: You’re obviously aware of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and the pressure they put on artists to refrain from performing in Israel. How are they impacting your work, if at all?
GB: Ultimately, I think that artists are not stupid. They understand what’s happening in Israel. And when they come here, they really understand our country.
They feel the warmth of the audience, the love that they share with the artist. And eventually, they leave the country as friends of Israel. So when they talk to other artists, and when their managers talk to other managers, word gets out that Israel is quite a nice place to perform. And on these terms, I think that BDS is losing.
CCFP: What do you do when an artist is getting pressure from BDS?
GB: Well, the first thing we do is work with you at Creative Community For Peace.
CCFP: If you could say just one thing to a BDS supporter, what would it be?
GB: Be part of the music, forget about boycotts.
CCFP: And what would you say to an artist who’s considering performing in Israel but isn’t sure yet?
GB: Just ask other artists who have been to Israel already, and they’ll tell you the truth. They’ll tell you how lovely the country is, how warm the people are, how great it is to perform for an audience that knows how to show love to the artist. What great food we have, what great views we have… Come on, Israel is a great country, come and play here.
CCFP: Lastly, we want to know three of your favorite artists. Your favorite Israeli artist, your favorite international artist, and your favorite artist that you have brought or will bring to Israel.
GB: My favorite Israeli artist would be “The Friends of Natasha.” I love their album “Radio Blah Blah.” If you listen to it closely, there’s a lot hidden in there.
My favorite international artist would be — a very old one — Elvis Presley. I grew up on his music at home.
And my favorite artist that we’ve brought to Israel or are going to bring… it’s someone that we’re going to bring but I can’t tell you about yet.