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Concertzender fights for his life again

For the umpteenth time in its more than 30 years of existence, the colourful Concertzender going down. That is why there will be a benefit concert at the Amstelkerk in Amsterdam. Greats like Liza Ferschtman, Yuri Honing, Erik Bosgraaf and the Ragazze Quartet will perform for free, to support the station that broadcasts so many live recordings of their concerts. I myself started my career as a radio producer there in 1995, so I would say: come all, and donate generous! For less than two tonnes a year, the station will stay on air.

It began so beautifully in 1983. As a counterpart to "chattering broadcaster" Hilversum 4, a club of volunteers decided to start broadcasting serious music themselves under the motto "few words, lots of music". The sympathy was great: violinist Theo Olof supported the project, Jan Wolff made the attic of the Ysbreker available as a broadcast studio and publisher Donemus donated forty albums. In ten years, the station grew from a local city broadcaster to a 24-hour-a-day station that could be listened to nationwide. It exclusively plays 'serious music', from jazz to world music and from classical to avant-garde and experimental pop.

concert channel appDespite the great appreciation from the public and politicians, the Concertzender was threatened time and again with closure, but like a true devil's advocate, it managed to avert it each time. In 1995, help came from a very unexpected quarter, from commercial station Veronica. This dropped out two years later, after which the Concertzender was incorporated into the public system. But this rescue did not last either: in 2006, the new station Radio 6 started broadcasting from its airwaves. Since then, the - once again independent - Concertzender has again been fighting for its survival.

'Recently, our two main sponsors dropped out,' says director Sem de Jongh. They are Muziekcentrum Vredenburg and Conclusion, together accounting for a tonne on a total budget of 170,000 euros. 'The plan was that we would become part of the activities in the new TivoliVredenburg, where we were supposed to get our own studio. But construction was delayed, financial problems arose and, as of 2014, Vredenburg no longer falls under the Municipality of Utrecht, but under the TivoliVredenburg foundation. The latter does want to continue with us, but on a smaller scale. So we recorded the very first concert in the renovated Great Hall and we also have the premiere for Hertz. The second main sponsor Conclusion got a different director, who has little interest in music.'

Nevertheless, De Jongh remains optimistic: 'Against the backdrop of the recession, our donor base has grown by four percent in recent years, which we hope to increase even further with this benefit concert. The great thing is that the musicians, without exception, responded enthusiastically; we had the programme ready within a few days, with big names on top of that. That's a big help, because the public is willing to buy a ticket, but still demands something substantial in return.'

De Jongh acknowledges that it is difficult to recruit new donors, as the Concertzender is not distributed over the airwaves: 'Our potential listeners are generally a bit older and do not like to listen via the internet, so we are in endless talks with cable companies. UPC does transmit our signal, Ziggo does not, so we are far from being heard everywhere. But we keep trying. Our next project is to get into The Hague, then at least we'll reach the four big cities.'

Sem de Jongh
Sem de Jongh

Once the Concertzender started as a counterpart to Hilversum 4, what is the relationship with today's Radio 4? De Jongh: 'The pain of 2006, when we were sacrificed for Radio 6, has now passed. We even work together a lot. For VPRO, we make all the live recordings of events like the Gaudeamus Music Week and November Music. But Omroep Max and AVROTROS also knock on our door for concert recordings. We get a small fee for that.'

The question arises why listeners should pay for the Concertzender, when they can go to Radio 4 for free. 'We are essentially different,' says De Jongh. '[Tweet "Sem de Jongh: The Concertzender is a music-oriented station, Radio 4 is audience-oriented, which broadcasts what they think the audience wants to hear.'"] We are a music-focused station, they are audience-focused. In other words, they broadcast what they think the public wants to hear, while we present music that we think is of great importance. In doing so, we pay a lot of attention to lesser-known composers and styles. This ranges from Indian ragas to Bach, electronic music and avant-garde pop. We also never play parts but only complete works. We get grateful reactions from all over the world. For instance from India, where integral ragas are rarely heard on the radio'.

You can also support the ConcertZender by making internet purchases through their Sponsorkliks to do.          

37 thoughts on “Concertzender vecht opnieuw voor zijn leven”

  1. Dear Sem, That was a VPRO broadcast. The registration budget was managed by MAX at the time, which is why we paid that invoice on behalf of Radio4.
    In the article, it now seems as if MAX is knocking on the Concertzender's door (with some regularity) for concert recordings. They don't.
    Kind regards, Russell

  2. Dear Russell, I remember a nice meeting with Max, 2012. Was about the Gaudeamus Music Week, which we recorded in its entirety. In return, we were then allowed to send an invoice to Max. regards,

  3. Check the facts! MAX has never tapped Concertzender for concert recordings. This regarding "But Omroep Max and AVROTROS also do knock on our door for concert recordings. We get a small fee for that."

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Thea Derks

Thea Derks studied English and Musicology. In 1996, she completed her studies in musicology cum laude at the University of Amsterdam. She specialises in contemporary music and in 2014 published the critically acclaimed biography 'Reinbert de Leeuw: man or melody'. Four years on, she completed 'An ox on the roof: modern music in vogevlucht', aimed especially at the interested layperson. You buy it here: In 2020, the 3rd edition of the Reinbertbio appeared,with 2 additional chapters describing the period 2014-2020. These also appeared separately as Final Chord.View Author posts

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