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Power to the music-loving people

A slipped disc – pritzat disk in Hebrew – is no laughing matter. But the Hebrew phrase also has highly positive cultural and social connotations. In the early ‘90s, the Tmuna Theater in Tel Aviv initiated and hosted a project of that name in conjunction with Tel Aviv Municipality. That was back in the days when reality-talent shows were not even a glimmer in local TV executives’ eyes, and it provided a sorely-needed platform for up-and-coming musical acts to strut their burgeoning stuff in front of an audience.

Now Pritzat Disc is back at the same Tel Aviv venue, but with a difference. This time it has the staunch underpinning of the FanFund social platform created by two women and two men with a ton of accrued professional experience across a bunch of fields. The management gender equilibrium is not a matter of serendipity, and the social startup’s CEO Keren Shany says she is looking forward to the all-female rock talent evening at Tmuna on August 21, which follows last month’s triple header, which featured young rock bands Ophir Berns, Burton Badman and Silent Regression.

 “It was sold out,” Shany notes with a hint of well-earned pride. “It went really well.”

While Shany, a marketing, advertising and strategy expert, was delighted with the success of the inaugural event, she says next week’s show is a particularly important event. It is, she says, very much a matter of getting the female side of the sector out there into the spotlight.

“One of things that really bothered me, as a woman CEO in a start-up with 50% women, is that none of the bands last month had women.” It is, Shany notes, an ongoing egregious state of affairs. “If you look at all the music festivals over the past few years, you’ll see that the participation of women is almost zero. Then you hear the constant claim that there aren’t enough women out there in the industry, or they don’t perform enough or they push themselves out there.”

Shany feels that simply isn’t the case, and certainly doesn’t offer the whole picture. “We created a collaboration with a feminist web site called Politically Corret [], and we issued a call for response as an exclusively female Pritzat Disc. You could call that affirmative action,” she adds.

The proof of the discriminatory pudding was not long in coming. “The amazing thing is, in industry that claims there aren’t enough women out there, and they don’t want to perform, that within 24 hours there were 30 campaigns up and running.”

A “campaign” involves the act in question getting involved, hands on, in the nuts and bolts of the potential show. One of the prerequisites for artists getting on the Tmuna Theater stage is obtaining the support – as in a commitment to purchase a ticket to the show from 35 people. That makes perfect financial, street-level sense. That meant, for instance, that the first three-band feature last month had a guaranteed audience of over 100 people, and ensured that, at the very least, costs would be covered. In fact, on the evening, the place was packed to the rafters.

The forthcoming all-female evening seems to be heading for success too. It features Gal Bilgorai, Anat Melamed, Noga Lev Ofer Zehavi and Carmit Golst.

“WITHIN 24 hours, four acts reached the target [of 35 supporters each] and the first evening is sold out,” Shany says. And there’s more in the offing where that came from.

“After the first women’s evening was set up we started working on another one, with four more female bands, or bands with solo vocalists, and that is close to being sold out too.”

That, hopes the start-up entrepreneur, will pave the way for a more balanced across-the-board industry mind-set. “This should help to promote sexual equality on the stages of this country. In government ministries, in the public sector and in TA-125 Index [stock exchange list of companies], and in the music industry they are all male executives, male producers, male impresarios, male promoters, male marketing executives and male booking agency CEOs. We have to start working on this from the bottom up, through audiences and female artists, slowly but surely. It won’t happen overnight but that is our modest contribution to achieving that change.”

But, FanFund is not just about righting discriminatory wrongs. It is giving all young bands a fair crack of the consumer whip. “Tmuna serves as a home for artists from all fields of the performing arts and, in particular, we have a soft spot for musicians who are just starting out,” said Ilan Rosenthal, who runs the host venture.

As a veteran of the scene, Rosenthal is fully aware of the steep initial curve incipient acts have to navigate on their way to public recognition, and hoped-for financial success. “It is well known that it is very tough for beginner groups to assess demand and the size of the audience they can realistically expect to bring in.” He says that the Shany et al venture can help to smooth that rocky road. “FanFund, in practice, reduces the financial risk for anyone involved in setting up cultural events, and allows the audience to have a say in the shows we host at the theater.”

Fellow FanFund founder Assaf Lev, who serves as COO, says the project emphasis is very much on marrying consumers with service providers, and tailoring offerings to demand. “We created the collaboration based on the values of connecting audience, artists and stages, and providing new artists with an opportunity to achieve exposure.” He says it is a definitive win-win situation. “Using a crowdfunding model, which limits the financial risks for both the artists and the venue, we create an evening in which everyone wins out. The artists receive appropriate payment for their performance, the hall covers its outgoings and the audience enjoys three high-quality shows and gets to know new bands.”

FanFund also helps communities in the country’s geographic periphery to bring top notch artists to their neck of the woods. Without the project’s intervention established artists might think twice about venturing too far away from the country’s main urban centers. “Each artist of act decides what their break-even point is,” Shany notes. “For example, at the community settlement of Adi, someone started up a campaign to bring [veteran singer songwriter] Arkadi Duchin there for a show.”

ADI? WHERE’S that? I wondered. “That’s exactly the point,” Shany continues. “When they contacted us I had no idea where it was either,” she laughs. “I checked it out and discovered it is in the Jezreel Valley.” Not exactly the center of the world. “It is not far from Kiryat Ata, but not close enough to Haifa, or anywhere else.” Adi, it seems, is stuck in something of a cultural consumerism no man’s land. “If people in Adi want to enjoy a show that means driving somewhere for about 40 minutes. But there are four or five thousand people living there, and they have a great auditorium with a seating capacity of 350. But artists won’t go there because they have no idea how much of an audience they will get.”

With FanFund’s help, Duchin was duly brought over. The audience got a quality show and Mr. Duchin made a couple of bucks too. “We ran a campaign and the locals were canvassed and the show went ahead. People could go to the concert in their slippers,” Shany chuckles.

Seems simple and effective. The audience gets to see their favorite artists perform, the musicians earn their bread, and there is nary a nail bitten in the lead up.

With the Shany and her colleagues are now looking to export the scheme to greater pastures anew. Word of FanFund got out to the UK and Shany and her pals came in for unexpected high praise. “Someone in England said we are a sustainability company. I didn’t understand what he meant. He explained that when you bring one artist to a remote place in Cornwall [in southwest England] to perform for 400 people, we avoid having 400 people get in their cars and traveling all the way to London for a show. So you are doing someone for the environment.”

Shany might be forgiven for harboring a sense of pride at the nascent Israeli export. “Our good news is that, after a few months of running the pilot in Israel, and observing how people here use our format, in October we will be launching a pilot in Britain with Music Venue Trust, which is a charitable organization which works with 800 venues around the UK. They work on the premise that if they don’t nurture young artists up and down the country no one will go to Wembley [SSE Arena concert facility] 15 years from now.”

As with the Israeli model, it is all about managing the supply and demand conundrum. “You get towns with, say, 30,000 residents with a 300-capacity hall. The person who brings artists there doesn’t really know what the locals want to see there. They don’t really have specific data. Our system enables him to know precisely what his consumers want to see right next to their homes, how many people want to see it and how much they are willing to pay for it. That helps independent venues to bring people in. The statistics show that they are empty 40% of the time because they don’t know who to bring.”

That leaves overheads and other regular outgoings precariously uncovered. “By pinpointing the marketing process we save local cultural life, give the audience what they want and provide work for artists who can now go off on a tour to places they never dreamt of playing.”

For tickets and more information: 03-561-1211, and

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