Enjoying a resurgent economy and live music industry that continues to strengthen since the government sales tax from 21 to 10 per cent in 2017, Spain’s concert and festival promoters hit a revenue high last year, report Christopher Barrett
Although unemployment is still at an uncomfortable 14 per cent, that is around half what is was in 2013, five years after the global financial crash.
Fortunately, Spain’s economy grew last at 2.5 per cent, the fastest rate of all major eurozone economies. That same year, its live music industry enjoyed a record annual turnover of €334 million ($368m), according to the Association of Musical Promoters (APM).
A 24 per cent rise on 2017, the landmark result followed five consecutive years of revenue growth for the industry.
Among the highest earning shows last year were stadium dates by Guns N’Roses, promoted by Live Nation Spain (LNS) at the Estadio Olympico (cap. 56,000) in Barcelona and the Madness Live-promoted Iron Maiden at Madrid’s 50,000-capacity Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
But it was Bruno Mars who enjoyed the highest attendance of the year, with 110,000 fans across concerts at the Estadio Olympico and Wanda.
The APM represents 75 of the country’s leading promoters, more than 80-per cent of the market. APM’s Gerard De Josep says the increase in revenue from concerts is not just a result of lower VAT and a burgeoning economy.
“There are several reasons for the growth but one of the main reasons could be changing leisure habits,” he says. “People are now more focused on searching for unique experiences. At the same time, thanks to Mediterranean Sea, we have great weather, which makes Spain an attractive country for artistes and tourists.”
Live Nation Spain (LNS) is on target to organise 300 shows in the country this year. Among the most notable so far are sold-out show by Bon Jovi at the Wanda and its Barcelona Beach Festival (40,000) in July, headlined by David Guetta and Armin van Buuren.
“There are also a lot of Spanish artistes filling stadiums and arenas,” says. LNS chairman Pino Sagliocco.
“Rosalia is a clear example of the health of the market. She was almost unknown a year ago, but sold-out two shows at Palau Sant Jordi [17,000] in Barcelona and one at Madrid’s WiZink Center [15,000] straight away, and there is more to come.”
In February, LNS acquired a majority stake in Madrid-based Planet Events, a leading Latin music and festival promoter, which Sagliocco says will see LNS step up its activity in the Latino market.
Wheels in motion
Madrid-based promoter Mercury Wheels was founded in 2003 and absorbed into LNS in 2015.
Managed by directors Barnaby Harrod and Elie Muñiz, the company concentrates exclusively on international artistes, including Ed Sheeran’s sold-out dates at the Wanda and Estadio Olympico.
A key project for Mercury is the annual O Son do Camiño (34,000) festival in Galicia. The second edition of the three-day event took place this year with headliners Bastille, Black Eyed Peas and Iggy Pop.
“O Son do Camiño has been a great success since it launched,” says Muñiz. “Last year we sold 20,000 three-day passes in three hours, this year we sold 25,000 three-day passes in 25 minutes. Half of the attendees were from Galicia, 10 per cent from Portugal and 40 per cent from other parts of Spain, which means it has genuine reach across the country.”
She says that even though the live music market is buoyant with tickets selling well for concerts in the main cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Bilbao, the unemployment rate remains a concern.
“While the economy is growing, this isn’t always reflected in people’s salaries and there is still 20 per cent unemployment among people aged 25 to 30, which clearly has an impact,” she says.
Welcoming the reduction in the performance royalty rate levied by the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (SGAE), she believes it remains very high compared to other countries.
The new SGAE rate varies depending on ticket prices and venue capacity, but for a 5,000-capacity concert with tickets at €40 ($43.70)C, the SGAE charge would be €17,000 ($18,500).
She is also concerned by SGAE having been embroiled in controversy over the past few years. It was recently expelled for a year from CISAC (International COnfederation of Societies of Authors and Composers) and was fined €3.2m ($3.5m) for anti-competitive conduct in June.
“It clearly has an impact on everyone from promoters to publishers and artistes,” she says. “There is also the fact that a large proportion of the money collected by SGAE goes to established artistes and very little makes it to the smaller artistes who really need the support.”
Since it was founded in 1994, multi-venue electronic music festival Sónar has become a landmark event in Barcelona, with 105,000 show attendances overall across three days in July, having been moved from its usual June dates. The line-up included Underworld, Skepta, Disclosure and Four Tet.
Sónar co-director Ricard Robles says the event will return to the third week of June next year and its reach will be increased.
“We will be cementing our partnership with the OffSónar brand, bringing a diverse dance music line-up to Barcelona’s Poble Espanyol in parallel to Sóna,” he says.
“There is definitely a strong market for electronic music here. We are seeing increased competition from smaller events and festivals, as well as more headline DJs coming through the cities year round.”
Magic of Madness
As well as the Iron Maiden show at Madrid’s Wanda stadium, rock and heavy metal promoter Madness Live! has been working on concerts by acts including Skindred, The Darkness, Sabaton and Airbourne this year, but for Festival Director, Juan Antonio Munoz, the standout concert was Toto at Barcelona’s Auditori Forum (3,000).
“It was so many years since their latest time in Spain, it was great to be involved,” he says.
Madness Live! launched new festival Rock The Coast in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol this year. The sold-out, 15,000-capacity event took place in June with headliners including Scorpions, Rainbow, Opeth and Europe.
“Due to some differences between us and the city council, we are moving the festival to Madrid and obviously we are changing the name,” says Munoz.
The festival will be re-branded Rock The Night Festival and its daily capacity increased to 18,000.
“The new venue is an open air space beside the IFEMA congress fair, which if necessary means we can grow to a 30,000-capacity. It’s not our goal for the moment but who knows,” says Munoz.
A major success story is LNS’s Mad Cool (60,000) festival in Madrid.
Launched in 2016 with a capacity of 45,000, Mad Cool has enjoyed significant growth. Taking place on 11-13 July, the festival was headlined by The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, Lewis Capaldi and Bon Iver. Tickets cost €160 ($176).
For the past two years the festival has taken place at Valdebebas near Ifema in north Madrid, close to Barajas Airport.
“For next year’s edition the venue will be changed considerably, we will reorganise the whole site to generate wider spaces and enable better audience flow,” says Mad Cool festival director Javier Arnáiz.
Despite this success, Arnái says there is no room for complacency.
“We need to be aware of the reality and know that without hard work there are no results,” he says. “Due to the lack of headliners in the market this year, everyone struggled more than usual to sell tickets.”
Mad Cool, which is sponsored by Madrid’s City council’s tourism department, has become a major draw for international visitors, something that is reflected by one of the main stages being named Madrid te abraza (Madrid hugs you) and the site containing tourist information kiosks.
Of all concert and festival tickets sold by Ticketmaster Spain (TMS) last year, visitors from 195 countries accounted for nine per cent.
Doctor of music
Founded by Neo Sala in 1982, Madrid-based Doctor Music was acquired last year by German pan-Europe ticketing and promoting giant CTS Eventim and organises around 90 shows by international artistes annually.
Events this year include a Bryan Adams tour in venues such as the WiZink Center and Palau Sant Jordi, Little Mix at WiZink, Rammstein at RCD Espanyol Stadium (35,000) in Barcelona and six arena shows by Mark Knopfler.
However, Sala had to cancel its revival of his Doctor Music Festival, set to return in July after a 15-year hiatus, due to the level of ticket refund requests following the event’s forced relocation due to flood warnings. Smashing Pumpkins, The Chemical Brothers and The Strokes were among the acts due to perform.
“This year’s experience has shown us that the Doctor Music Festival cannot exist outside of its original environment, the Pyrenees Valley,” says Sala.
Despite the misfortune, Sala is upbeat about the health of the market.
“We find ourselves in one of the best moments in our history and the business continues to grow,” he says. “Live music has become a leading leisure and cultural activity and we are seeing greater demand for concerts and new generations wanting to attend them,” he says.
Where there is money and tickets, there are parasites, and Sala has been a leader of the campaign against secondary ticketing.
“I would like to see clearer legislation to better protect artistes, promoters and fans from the secondary ticketing market, which is clearly one of the biggest torments we have lived through in recent years,” he says.
TMS was set to roll out its fan-to-fan, face value, ticket re-sale platform this year, but its launch has been delayed until next year.
As the country’s leading primarily ticketing operator, TMS sold 10 million tickets last year, with 99 per cent of them for music shows – 81 per cent of that being concerts and 18 per cent festivals.
Around 98 per cent of tickets were sold digitally, up from 89 per cent the previous year. The use of mobile phones to purchase tickets also rose, up from 25 per cent in 2017 to 38 per cent last year. The average cost per concert ticket in 2018 was €54 ($59) up two euros on 2017.
“One of most successful tours this year has to be local artiste La Polla Records, who sold out eight arenas in just a few hours,” says TMS MD Eugeni Calsamiglia. “We also have another fantastic local artiste, Marea, playing more than 30 arenas.”
Barcelona-based The Project, founded in 1988 by Tito Ramoneda and Joan Roselló, promotes around 400 concerts per year with a collective attendance of around 500,000 people. Its concerts this year include shows by Herbie Hancock at Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana (2,049), Roger Hodgson at Gran Canaria Arena (10,000) in Las Palmas, and Manuel Carrasco at Palau Sant Jordi.
The Project is also heavily involved in festivals. It organises the Barcelona Jazz Festival, which is attended by 14,000 people across more than 100 shows that take please over a two-month period in 20 venues. Its other festivals include the Festival de Porta Ferrada, which involves 30 shows over six weeks with a collective attendance of 42,380.
Ramoneda says it has been a very good year for the company with ticket sales up on last year, however he is concerned by the forecasts of an economic slowdown in Spain and by what he describes as an “excessive” increase in the number of festivals.
“It generates competitiveness in the booking of artistes and that leads to us paying fees above the market price,” he says. “Paying more to the artiste means higher price scalings, which is not good for the people.”
He is also concerned by the prevalence of secondary ticket operators.
“That continues to be a very serious problem that affects the fan’s pocket and against which it is very difficult to fight since they take advantage of a legal vacuum existing in Spanish legislation,” he says.
Success and saturation
Based in Córdoba, Riff Producciones was founded in 2001 and typically promotes around 120 shows per year.
Projects this year a tour by Manuel Carrasco playing venues such as Benito Villamarin Stadium (48,000) in Seville, with neatly 300,000 tickets sold. Others include Bob Dylan (eight shows), Rod Stewart (two) and Mark Knopfler (six), with that latter’s dates including the opening night of his world tour at Palau Sant Jordi.
As well as concerts, it also runs three festivals including Blues Cazorla (4,000), which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Over the years the three-day event has seen performances by acts such as John Mayall and Muddy Waters.
Two years ago, Riff partnered with LNS to co-promote tours by homegrown artistes. Riff co-founder Chris Ortiz, says the three-year deal has resulted in a major increase in shows, with some of the most successful recent tours featuring Fito, Malu and Miguel Poveda.
Ortiz says the old VAT rate was “ridiculous” and meant the promoter lost out on shows because it was forced to raise ticket prices and make lower offers. With that issue in the past, he says the company is enjoying a busy year, with tickets selling well. But he is concerned the market is becoming saturated.
“There are tonnes of shows and festivals going on and the markets is not used to that much activity,” he says. “The risk of losing on shows has been greater this past year and will continue to be that way.”
The increase in the number of shows has also put pressure on production suppliers across security, staging, sound and lights.
“They are at their limits in terms of workload and there is a need for more companies,” he says. ”Unfortunately, experience is key to the production side and the creation of new companies with experienced personnel that can offer these services is not easy.”
Heavy metal and rock promoter RocknRock Concerts’s biggest event of the year is four-day Rock Fest Barcelona (25,000), which takes place in July at the Parc de Can Zam. Headliners included ZZ Top, Def Leppard and Saxon, with tickets at €161.90 ($180).
RocknRock’s Pierre Sabbag was pleased to see an average daily attendance of 23,000 this year, but he is another promoter concerned the market is becoming over crowded.
“There is too much competition these days with tours and festivals,” he says. “There were more than 800 festivals in Spain last summer, covering all music genres. It is too many.”
Operating throughout Spain, Sabbag is generally happy with the venues on offer but says Barcelona lacks the right venue for shows ranging in capacity from 5,000 to 10,000.
“Sometimes we have to stage shows for 7,000 or 8,000 people at Palau St. Jordi, which is not ideal,” he says.
A safe approach
Opened in 2005 and formally known as the Barclaycard Centre until it was rebranded in January 2017, Madrid’s WiZink Center is one of Spain’s busiest arena venues with concerts.
Despite its vast 17,453 concert capacity, the building can accommodate relatively intimate shows set ups including a 3,000-capacity ‘Box’ format.
Among the acts to play the venue this year are Andre Rieu, Enrique Iglesias, Bryan Adams, Roasalía, Elton John, Ghost, Hans Zimmer and Elton John.
Comunidad de Madrid (The Community of Madrid) owns the venue and Impulsa Eventos e Instalaciones has operated it since 2014. Manuel Saucedo is CEO of Impulsa Eventos e Instalaciones and the arena’s general manager.
With secondary ticketing and ticket piracy a problem in Spain, Saucedo says the venue’s management has taken the matter in hand by offering an in-house ticket service.
“One of our biggest challenges is to end the confusion about where to buy tickets,” he says. “Our venue has a big online ticket sales platform, Wizinkcenter.es, that promoters and audiences value, because we’re offering safety. We have to take care of the spectators, it’s very sad when people come with duplicated tickets and they have to stay outside and miss the concert.”
Founded by Rosa Lagarrigue in 1980, Madrid-based RLM Producciones primarily works with domestic talent.
RLM marketing director Yann Barbot Marín says that among its most successful events this year were two shows by Raphael at the Wizink Center and a concert there by Rozalén.
“The live music market is pretty healthy but we definitely need to develop new young talent and this is one of our main goals,” says Marín. “Regulation of the secondary ticket sales market is also urgently needed.”
With offices in Barcelona and Madrid, Proactiv Live Entertainment & Brand Events works with shows such as Peppa Pig, the Harlem Globetrotters and Harry Potter, with the latter concert series involving a film being screened simultaneously, with an orchestra performing its soundtrack live.
The company also works on concerts with Placido Domingo and Enrique Iglesias, and this year organised a four-city tour by Juan Luis Guerra with a combined attendance of 52,000. Venues included the WiZink Center and Palau Sant Jordi.
Managing partner Nicolás Renna says the improved economic situation is helping business but some parts of the country continue to do better than others, with Madrid outperforming all other cities. He says genres that are proving particularly popular at the moment are Latin, Reggeaton, Salsa, Bachata and Urban.
With tickets selling strongly and new venues being built, Renna says there are plenty of reasons for optimism.
“We are looking forward to see how the new venues – such as Valencia Arena [15,000] and the Nou Palau Blaugrana [12,500] in Barcelona – set to be opened in the next few years, will work,” says Renna.