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Interview with HERVE LAUZANNE, A&R at Columbia France - Mar 19, 2007

ďFor me, within the first 30 seconds the song is good or not. Iím looking for something that catches my attention immediatelyĒ

picture A&R Hervť Lauzanne provides HitQuarters with a glimpse into the French music industry, the fourth biggest in the world.

Besides A&Ring No.1 France cult act Indochine and Top 10 France singer Nadiya, he also signed porn star Clara Morgane, something one might think can happen only in France!

In addition, Lauzanne's experience and insights about getting started in the industry are valuable anywhere on the globe.

How did you start out in the music business?

I started ten years ago as an intern at Seraquin Sony. It was my first job in the music business. Before that I was a musician. I played guitar in bands for ten years and worked a lot with producers in the studio. Thatís the reason why I know about music and its technical problems.

What artists are you currently involved with?

I work with Indochine a lot over the last eight years. I work with Nadiya. Weíre making an album with Clara Morgane, which is finished in about one month. I did two albums with Jacques Dutron. I have a new album with Patricia Kaas and also with Lorie.

How did you find those artists?

There has not been a lot of signings over the last years in France. But Columbia has a very big roster of famous artists. And I choose these artists because they were at the label.

I signed Nadiya eight years ago. And since then there have not been a lot of opportunities to sign new artists. And actually I hardly can also because I have a lot of work in finding repertoire and doing musical production for the famous artists we have. Iím just too busy.

How involved are you with the productions?

With an artist like Indochine, who has 25 years of career under his belt, he knows exactly what he wants. I can propose some songs, for example. I had a huge hit with ďJíAi Demandť ŗ La LuneĒ.

It was very special because when the whole album was done I got this song, which became in fact the first single. And it was new for Indochine to take an outside song as well. We sold 1 million singles and after that, 1 million copies of the Paradize album. That was a big success.

How do you find new talent?

Iím mainly looking for a composer or producer. Not necessarily a singer because we have a lot of them already. Iím always looking for songs from a new composer, author or producer.

I listen to a lot of new music on demos and most of the times itís not the artist that I want but I contact the producer. I tell him I like his work and ask if he wants to work with me on another project. And I use these contacts to make teams to work with my artists.

Where do you look for outside songs?

I call my friends who are technicians, producers or composers. Sometimes a journalist. I have a lot of contacts and these are my best resource.

What do you look for in the compositions?

I have to be touched by the song the first time I listen to it. For me, within the first 30 seconds the song is good or not. Iím looking for something that catches my attention immediately.

Do you see a lot of live shows?

I love to go and see gigs. But I have a family too. I spend three nights a week in the studio. And I canít spend any more time to go to gigs. Itís impossible for me. I have to choose. I did see some concerts recently but I canít say Iím going every night.

When was the last time you signed a new artist?

I signed Clara Morgane one year ago. She made X-rated movies before. Sheís very beautiful. Everyone was surprised by her new album. We had a meeting with journalists last night. They canít imagine that she can sing like that on this production.

What did you talk about in the first meeting with her?

She came with one song. We talked about what she wanted to say in her new album. We talked about the direction, like if she wanted a rock album. We decided that she would write all lyrics.

We discussed what she wanted to say in her songs. We talked about topics like personality and sex. In the lyrics you find a lot of references to her past work in the adult movie business.

Did she contact you with her song at the time?

I was working with another artist called Gabriel Evan. Heís a rock artist and had done a song called ĎClaraí. He wanted a duet with her because she seemed to be perfect for the project.

I contacted her. I was the first contact in a record company she ever had. And when she had her first track to listen to, she called me back directly.

How important is it to you to work long term with an artist?

Itís very important in the music industry to work long term. Itís important for all artists on our catalogue. We canít imagine to do just one single. The market is not good for singles nowadays.

We have to make singles, for sure, but also albums and performing live is essential to establish the artistís career. For me, itís always a job for a very long time to come. I did three albums with Nadiya, and I hope to do a lot more.

If you were an artist, by what criteria would you judge an A&R and label if they were offering you a deal?

I would check the charts. I would like to meet the label director. Itís very important to understand the key person of the company with whom you conclude a pact and whoís going to develop you for a long time.

The personal contact is very important, maybe even more than the business side of things. Of course, you have to sign a good contract with good royalties, but a good team with a good chief is crucial.

What advice would you give an aspiring artist on how to build a professional career?

To be patient and passionate. Also, when they come with a complete album for their signing, the first job is to make the next album. The moment you sign the contract you have to start thinking about the second album.

What do you think about the media situation in France?

They have to stop imposing everything and paying for nothing. I donít intend to say bad things about the media, but their position is the best position in the music business. But itís not going to continue to be like that, because with avenues like MySpace they have to be careful.

Do you ever consider breaking artists in other territories?

I only work with French singers. They sing in French, so we could never imagine breaking the UK or US. If you want to break in the US you have to use English lyrics and you have to be there physically.

France is the fourth biggest record market in the world. We cover Switzerland and Belgium, and sometimes Quťbec, Canada.

Do you work with artists from outside France?

With Nicola Sirkis of Indochine we went to record with Brian Molko of Placebo in London. Last December I went with Nadiya abroad to produce some new material. Sometimes we meet local artists in the country we visit. But itís mainly very French.

On the song ĎEt cíest partií by Nadiya thereís an English rap. Did you choose that deliberately?

Smartzee is a French rapper. It was very important that the song was cut up. 50% French lyrics and the other half in English. For this kind of song an American style of rap is perfect. And everybody understands it.

What factors are important to produce successful music in France?

The lyrics are very important for the French audience. It could be very simple like Serge Gainsbourg, but the lyrics are very important. Maybe more than for an English or American audience, itís a tradition for the French to emphasize on lyrics in the songs. The meaning of the words and the content of the song are very important.

What will be the future developments for the French music industry?

We have to create a new business model, because it has become very difficult. People listen to music more than ever before, but they donít buy it. We have to find a new solution like maybe you can get the track for free but have to check an advertisement out.

Itís not a problem when people donít pay for the music if the advertiser pays for it. And maybe the global license could be a good opportunity too.

How much does it typically cost to record an album in France?

It depends on the artist. It can range from 80.000 Euros to 300.000 Euros. I just did a DVD with Indochine in Hanoi, Vietnam with the Philharmonic Orchestra. That was around 700.000 Euros including music and filming.

What would you like to sign next?

I want to sign a rock Ďní roll girl. I met her already. Sheís a Vietnamese girl living in France. When it will be artistically in place I will present it to Columbia. We did a little media and a gig. I donít want to bring this project too soon. It takes some time.

What do you see yourself doing in 5-10 yearsí time?

Still doing A&R. I have a lot of things to discover. Each artist is different from the other. Each time I get surprised by new things. Iím happy with my job. Itís the best job in the music industry.

You work with the artist, the composer, the producer in the studio. Everything is possible. And every new album you make is the most beautiful album in the whole world. Each time itís magical.

What has been the greatest moment of your music career?

My best experience was in Hanoi with Indochine. It was amazing to hear this Philharmonic Orchestra. The culture was totally different. The technical conditions were awful. The humidity was like 95%. But it was my best gig yet.

It was inside the Hanoi opera. Only 500 people attended the show. The audience was a mix of Vietnamese people and people who came over from France and Belgium. The ambiance was incredible. The DVD was released on February 19th. I did my job. Iím really happy and proud.

Interview by Kimbel Bouwman

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