With a broad track record spanning artists, labels and live TV event production, it was a natural expansion of Marcel Albers' interests to bring his talents to bear on the live music sector. In January 2010, he joined the Europe-wide live event production organisation Synco Network Europe as a commercial director. He became director of communications and marketing at Ampco Flashlight Holding, a leading Dutch event production specialist and entertainment technology distributor and developer, in June 2010, filling the big shoes left behind by the much-admired Fred Heuves.
So we're here at the Lowlands Festival in Holland. What's your personal role been at this event?
"As Synco by Martin Audio PA systems and Synco monitor systems are in use across 10 to 14 stages at Lowlands –and some of them are quite big – we need to closely co-ordinate equipment from the Ampco Flashlight company in Utrecht, Holland with extra equipment from our Synco Network partners in Europe.
"Basically our team makes sure that we have everything here on time and that all those artists are getting the attention they need - and that the exchange of crew and equipment between all the Synco partners in Europe works perfectly. My role is to manage that process."
A number of Synco partners are involved, then?
"Yes. Festival season is the busiest season for us; there are three or four weekends a year when it's just unbelievable. The Lowlands weekend is one of those very busy ones, so really we had to involve almost all of our partners. For example, one of the consoles came in from Belgium, and the delay towers on the Alpha stage – which is the biggest stage at Lowlands – came from RG Jones in the UK.
"Marketing and communications is so important; we have to get up and promote the network, especially as we supply so many large festivals tours across Europe including Pinkpop, Park Pop, Lowlands and festivals in Eastern Europe."
Is there a good working relationship between partners?
"Yes! The equipment is coming from all angles and often we work with their crews as well. This is nice for both parties and it's even more important, because it provides the opportunity to have an exchange of knowledge and experience. It's about supporting the whole principle behind the Synco idea – interchangeable plug-and-play equipment and knowledge – and making sure that in every territory we work we can deliver the same sort of service and the same sort of professionalism that goes with the equipment."
Your musical background is vast – and covers many different areas of the music industry. Does that have any bearing on your work today?
"Yes, because coming from a different side of the industry gives me a wider view, and I can use my own network to promote the Synco principle to artists, managers and promoters. For the first 20 years of working in this industry I worked as an artist manager, a record executive, and I was even responsible for theatre and TV productions in and out of Holland.
"So yes, I come from the creative side, meaning close to the artist or the songs, but basically it's one business. I always had international ambition, which also fits perfectly with the strategy of the Ampco Flashlight Group and the Synco Network. It works for big artists like Massive Attack and Chris Rea, and it will work for many others. Coming from Holland, I always wanted to be in the music business to break out of my own very small territory, and I had the ambition to work internationally and travel and break artists into the UK or the US; I tried to do that for 20 years with some success and some not – you know how it is!"
That was a driving factor for you then, the international potential?
"The UK and the US are looked upon as 'the holiness'. They invented the major international industry; and it's changed a lot. If you look at the Ampco Flashlight company, I am sure we are equally as good as all the other companies in the world or maybe even better. But I know that the fact that Ampco developed the Synco Network and the Synco systems together with Martin Audio, and made it into our own system, and were able to deliver it to 12 partners in Europe, who, like Ampco, use it for live music, festivals, touring, TV shows, corporate events – that tells you something, right?"
I guess it does...
"And we've been doing Lowlands for 18 years; we're taking care of the complete festival for the duration – the same with North Sea Jazz; and as a Synco network, we've been taking care of the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury for a couple of years now."
But it's not only about rock 'n' roll is it?
"Exactly. We are also market leaders in theatre productions, TV productions, corporate shows and all the other stuff. It's nice for me to be able to work on that scale with the bigger productions in Europe.
"For the artist, there's only one thing that counts – and that's the same for the management – they need to have people that they can trust, from your production manager to your sound engineers. 90% of acts at Lowlands don't even ask for the specs; they say 'Hey, it's Ampco Flashlight – it's going to be OK'."
Which part of the industry do you prefer?
"The live music industry, including all of its dimensions from the artist to the stage and the audience. The fact I am moving in this direction is not because the record sales are going down to almost zero, it's a natural development from the fact I am more interested in the live part of the industry than anything else."
A dozen companies working together in harmony – any plans for further expansion?
"When I was brought in last year, I thought, well, it's 2010 so the Synco philosophy is even more relevant now than 10 years ago; all artists want to tour – from clubs and theatres to arenas and festivals and transportation is unbelievably expensive. There's also a desire to tour in a greener way, so in using Synco, there's no need to drive up with five or 10 trailers throughout Europe anymore.
"The world is changing and our ambition is certainly to grow further, keeping the right level of professionalism and production. We don't have a partner in Germany; and that's what I am looking for initially. It may be called Synco Europe, but we will also look at North America and other parts of the world. A couple of weeks ago I was in Los Angeles and there are some companies there that are very interested in working with us; it would make a lot of sense to apply the Synco principle worldwide."