Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., the parent company of Summerfest, announced Thursday that longstanding VP of Entertainment Bob Babisch will hand over the reins to Associate Booking Director Scott Ziel at the end of the 2022 season.
It is truly the end of an era at Summerfest, where Babisch has been booking bands for more than 40 years. He started at Summerfest in 1976 after working for other local concert production companies.
After the 2022 festival season, Babisch will shift to a consulting role and Ziel, who has worked at Summerfest since 1992 and also managed local bands, will become Director of Entertainment.
Over the course of his career, Babisch grew into one of the most powerful and respected figures in the concert business in Milwaukee. His department books not only Summerfest, but its related venues – the American Family Insurance Amphitheater and BMO Harris Pavilion – when the festival isn't running.
“Bob has an unmatched legacy that has helped shape not only Summerfest, but the music industry, during his illustrious career,” said Don Smiley, President and CEO of Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., in a statement.
“In the months to come, he will provide exceptional support for his team as we begin this transition to new leadership. On a personal note, I will miss seeing Bob on a day-to-day basis in 2023, but we both look forward to rocking and rolling in 2022.”
“It has truly been a dream job, I can’t believe I’ve been here for 46 years,” added Babisch.
“Looking back, it’s the connection of live music and the fans that has inspired me for all these years. I am excited to continue to work with Scott and bring that connection to the next generation of music fans.”
Ziel has learned the ropes over the years and has plenty of experience and connections that make him well-suited to the task.
“I am excited to continue our tradition of presenting the world’s top talent as well as our strategy of offering an eclectic Summerfest line-up,” said Ziel.
“We have an excellent booking and production team, which will continue to elevate the live music experience for artists and fans alike.”
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.