A group of French musicians, Alain Meunier, Gilbert Amy, Claire Désert, Marie Hédin-Christophe, Francis Maréchal, Jean-François Zygel, have published a text in which they question the future of Société Générale’s cultural patronage. Last year, these musicians, members of the board of directors of the association Mécénat Culturel Société Générale, had criticized and voted against the bank’s participation in Gautier Capuçon’s summer tour. The consequence was the dissolution of the association, which was now absorbed by the bank’s Foundation dedicated to solidarity.

The six musicians say: « Beyond the case in point, our question concerns the political ambition of companies through their sponsorship actions. What mechanisms could safeguard the existence of a virtuous and independent patronage? Because as it is, there are abuses, as we can see here. (…)

We are six musicians and expert professionals who have contributed voluntarily, for more than twenty years for some of us, to defining the policy of Mécénat Musical Société Générale (MMSG), an association under the law of 1901 created in 1985 by Société Générale and Sogenal to support so-called classical music outside of any business influence. (…)

For thirty-five years, the Mécénat Musical Société Générale association, in accordance with its statutes, has been working, thanks to the bank’s financing, to discover young talent, to support independent musical ensembles, and to ensure a real musical presence in all areas. The musical aesthetics supported are therefore very varied: from medieval music to contemporary creation, including everything that can contribute to exploring, enriching and making known the different repertoires. The association is of course attentive to the territorial balance of the selected projects, and projects with a strong social impact, justified by long-term work, are also supported. (…)

But times are changing. Last year, we were first alerted to a mix of communication and sponsorship. The very mediatic and contested « summer solidarity tour » of the cellist Gautier Capuçon was promoted all over the place by the bank’s communication department, announcing that the Société Générale’s patronage was « presenting » this tour, without the agreement of the directors that we are. We were presented with a fait accompli.

When Société Générale displays its support for Gautier Capuçon by linking him to the long history of the bank’s musical patronage, it not only disguises history but it consummates the mixing of genres.

In the wake of this episode, we were informed of the programmed transformation of the MMSG association in favor of a foundation that would unify the various strands of patronage of the bank, which is also active in terms of solidarity.

This great company knows how to be efficient. It took only a few months to make the transition, and only one meeting to present it to us. As directors, we voted unanimously against it. A surprising legal spin soon took us out of the game. Game over.

Far be it from us to hang on to our seats. But to cross out with one stroke the demanding work that had made the Société Générale’s patronage an indisputably qualitative and recognized label seemed to us more than a fault, it was a sign: that of the all-powerful communicator ready to destabilize a patient, committed, and above all, independent fundamental work of its financer. (…)

Today, we understand that the image of the company is probably located elsewhere. Classical music was useful for a while; but the global aegis of a foundation in favor of youth and solidarity will do better. Of course, the bank promises us that the transformation of the association into a foundation will only be a legal formality. They will remain faithful to the music, they say. They asked us to take their word for it.

To serve music or to use it? To serve culture or to use it? Because we are convinced that if Société Générale is a patron of music, music has given it back.

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