Fritz Rau (1930-2013)

Legendary German music promoter Fritz Rau has died at home in Kronberg, near Frankfurt, aged 83. 

Recognised as one of the founding fathers of Europe’s live music business, Rau made his name, initially, as a promoter of jazz and blues artists working with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole and Miles Davis.

In later years, he promoted pop and rock acts such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and the Rolling Stones. Stones’ frontman Mick Jagger once referred to Rau as: “the godfather of all of us.”

Rau’s career began in the 50s alongside Horst Lippmann, and the duo eventually established the Lippmann + Rau agency in the early 1960s. Just last year, both pioneers were nominated to the Blues Hall of Fame. Rau reportedly viewed his early work with jazz musicians as events against racism, and, ever politically minded, he even stood as a candidate for the city council in Kronberg.

Veteran promoter Marcel Avram says, “Fritz Rau was a loyal partner for over 12 years at Mama Concerts & Rau; and I had not only a devoted partner, but also a good friend. The music industry has lost one of its pioneers. Fritz’s slogan always was ‘You can never do enough promotion for a concert until the last ticket has been sold’. Fritz, you were my friend, my partner and I will miss you – rest in peace.”

Born in Pforzheim, Rau’s parents died when he was young and at the age of ten he began living with relatives. He graduated with a degree in law from the University of Heidelberg and while he worked as a court clerk and in a legal firm, in his spare time he ran Cave 54, a jazz club in Heidelberg. However, his big break came in 1955 when he organised his first major concert at Heidelberg Town Hall and was spotted by Lippmann who hired him to help run jazz tours. From that point onward, the duo build their business into a powerhouse, while, when Lippman stepped back from the business, Rau joined forces with Avram’s Mama Concerts.

United in grief, some of Germany’s biggest promoters contacted IQ to pay tribute. Marek Lieberberg says, “The music industry [has lost] a legendary and charismatic veteran who set standards for decades. He initiated the awareness of artists, concerts, and the promoter forming a trinity. He defined and personified the term ‘promotion’, devoting his passion to gain maximum attention for popular culture. Fritz once said a promoter can only rest once the artist is airborne. Now he has left us and is hopefully watching us from above. His star will shine as long as we remember.”

Karsten Jahnke notes, “The German concert landscape would have looked completely different if it wasn’t for Fritz. His lifelong enthusiasm for music, his ability to spread his excitement to other people and his pioneering spirit to go routes nobody had dared go before is what makes his contribution outstanding. Without a doubt, my life took a significantly different turn once I got to know Fritz. He put trust in me from the very beginning and we’ve been working together ever since. I miss a true friend and mentor – farewell, my hero.”

MCT’s Scumeck Sabottka says, “No one else had such an important influence on me than you, Fritz; no one else showed me the way, as you did. Your courage paired with your incredible trust in your taste gave me faith in presenting new artists. Your partnership with Marcel [Avram] was pure power. Our friendship was special and you always supported me. Thank you so much and keep on rocking!”

DEAG CEO Peter Schwenkow began his career working for Rau in 1975 and comments, “Almost everybody worked for or with Fritz in the German live entertainment industry. He helped a lot to establish the concert promoter as a profession and invented many marketing tools in those days. And he lived for the music and his artists – Rock ‘n Rau forever!”

Creative Talent Europe’s CEO Carlos Fleischmann did not work directly with Rau, but says, “I was very impressed as a young man by this shining character. He was, and still is, one of my true inspirations – he will be greatly missed.”

Peter Rieger, however, knew Rau his entire working career, “His office happened to be right next to my grammar school in Frankfurt and I applied as a trainee with him when I was 17 and still attending school,” says Rieger. “That’s what got me into the concert business. We have been friends for a long time and I remember quite well our cooperation during the last tour with Queen and Freddie Mercury. He was a great master of anecdotes and very funny.”

And Semmel Concerts CEO Dieter Semmelmann adds, “The first concerts that I was allowed to host for Fritz Rau were very special to me. His weekly faxes with the latest pre-sales hit lists and information about marketing activities concerning each tour were legendary. For me, personally, he set a standard: his caring way of dealing with the artists; his eye for detail in all matters concerning press and marketing; and his meticulousness setting up each concert. He was unique, and today we try to reach this level of perfection, without ever really coming close. Being a promoter was his passion and his calling. For all who have known him and, in particular, worked with him, Fritz Rau will always remain unforgotten.”