An Elton John concert is not ‘only a concert’

An Elton John concert is not ‘only a concert’

Sir Elton John is a name you would come across among the world’s most popular and most important music stars. In his concert at EXPO 2016 Antalya (we missed it, by the way), he said: 

“I would like to dedicate this to you all and Turkey. And to say people who cancel their shows here and didn’t come: You don’t know what you are missing. I am so glad I am here. We have had the best time; we cannot thank you enough. God bless Turkey.”

This concert and this speech have a meaning very much beyond flattering us. Let me try to explain. 

Unfortunately, Turkey’s image was ruined following bomb attacks one after the other and the coup attempt.

To be able to tear down the “unsafe country” label on us, we need to put extra efforts into convincing foreign investors and tourists. As a matter of fact, the government, representatives of the opposition parties, the business world and nongovernmental organizations have rolled up their sleeves on this matter. 

It would be “naïve” to think that the spheres of influence of billboards and meetings with official and civilian counterparts, the declarations of “Hey, look here, we are a safe country!” would be very wide. 

The significance of the Elton John example should be viewed from this aspect… It is because the positive effect of Turkey regarded as “the country Elton John gave a concert in” on perception management cannot be achieved by tens of thousands of billboards and thousands of persuasion tours. 

To put is shortly, let me give an example: As an ordinary music lover, a tourist, I can easily think, “If Metallica is giving a concert in Baghdad, then Baghdad has become a safe place.” 

When the villainous attempt happened on July 15, the Istanbul Jazz Festival was ongoing. While most of the foreign musicians cancelled their concerts, Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) staff made an extraordinary effort to carry on with almost half of the remaining program. They were able to succeed in having a star like Joss Stone here – thank you, Joss Stone. 

They have not stopped. They have put together a fantastic program for Salon İKSV, opening its doors soon.  
Similarly, Zorlu PSM announced its fantastic program for the coming season; concerts, musicals and exhibitions… I bow before the efforts and risks taken and the labor exerted by my friend Murat Abbas and his team. 

İş Bankası, İşSanat and others have rolled up their sleeves and are working. So is Pozitif… Babylon, for instance, is opening its doors after the holidays with a hopeful program. 

There may be many more examples; the activities sector is working hard… 

I have personally witnessed how Turkey climbed the world activities list since the 1980s. I know closely what kinds of efforts were made for world stars to start coming to Turkey, how that sentiment of confidence was created. 

Daily Hürriyet columnist Gila Benmayor wrote the other day on how the representatives of the activities sector will attend the International Festival Forum (IFF Rocks) in London on Sept. 29, and explain about the situation in Turkey. Thanks to all of them.  Pelin Opçin from İKSV, Ahmet Uluğ from Pozitif, Karaoğlan Taşçı from Biletix, Murat Abbas from Zorlu PSM and representatives from BKM. 

What else can be done? Certain facilitations at airports by TAV, lowering of the tax rate of activity tickets… Sponsorships, several other contributions and facilitations are present. We have to be out there crying out loud: “We are actually fine, come and see it for yourselves.” 

That famous saying used for football can be adapted as: “An Elton John concert is not only an Elton John concert…”