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Musical maestros: 35 years of D’Alessandro e Galli

It’s 35 years since Adolfo Galli and Mimmo D’Alessandro first collaborated on a show, changing Italy’s live music scene forever. James Hanley learns that Di & Gi’s founders are the epitome of ‘opposites attract’…

At 35 years and counting, Mimmo D’Alessandro and Adolfo Galli’s promoting union has outlasted most marriages. But then, they do live largely separate lives.

“Adolfo is in Brescia, and I stay in Tuscany, in Viareggio,” explains D’Alessandro of their two-office set-up. “I met Adolfo in 1987 in Tuscany. We had spoken on the phone about Miles Davis, who he was working with, but the first time we met face-to-face was at a David Bowie show I promoted in Florence for the Glass Spider Tour. Adolfo is a very different character to me. I support Napoli [FC], he supports Inter…”

“It’s definitely a unique combination in our business, that’s for sure,” responds Galli with a chuckle. “Mimmo is more involved production-wise, and I’ve always looked at more of the commercial side. Mimmo is from the south, I’m from the north. He likes horses, and I like guitars. But our differences are our biggest strength.

“Even though sometimes we don’t agree, he puts something of what he thinks in and I put something of what I think in; we always listen to each other, and it is that combination that has allowed us to do what we’ve done so far.”

From that fateful first meeting emerged D’Alessandro e Galli (or Di and Gi to its friends) who would go on to bring a who’s who of international music to the Italian market, along with a hitherto seen level of professionalism.

“In the early days, Italy was an extremely difficult place to work, like the Wild West”

“In the early days, Italy was an extremely difficult place to work, like the Wild West,” Sensible Events’ Andrew Zweck tells IQ. “But both Adolfo and Mimmo have played a big part in raising standards and making working there smooth, professional, and enjoyable. A show with them is always a special event.

“I started with them in the late 80s with Paul Simon. Our first big stadium tour was a double bill of Elton John and Eric Clapton in ‘92. Over the years, we’ve created a lot of successful tours for the artists I work with, such as Mark Knopfler, Roger Waters, and the Rolling Stones.”

Basing themselves away from the traditional industry melting pots of Rome and Milan, the company’s longevity has been born out of passion rather than profit.

“For me, this is not business; we love music,” says D’Alessandro. “I mean, imagine life with no music.”

Robomagic’s Rob Hallett can vouch for that. “They both have a genuine love for music, from jazz to country to rock,” he says. “Mimmo has even been known to rap in the karaoke bars of Forti dei Marmi!”

“I owe my business to Peppino di Capri”

Hallett has known the pair for over 30 years, collaborating on productions from Herbie Hancock and Youssou N’Dour to Backstreet Boys to Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, and Leonard Cohen. “We feel privileged to have had the possibility of working with artists like Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Whitney Houston, George Michael, Tina Turner, Sade, Joe Cocker, and more,” reflects Galli. “When we look at what we’ve done, sometimes we cannot believe it.”

The duo made names for themselves separately before deciding two heads were better than one. D’Alessandro started out in Naples in the early 70s, working with Italian singer Peppino di Capri (“I owe my business to Peppi”), before heading north to manage Viareggio’s storied La Bussola. He went on to run the then new 7,000- cap Bussoladomani, where he supervised a live TV show every week and also dipped into management and record production.

A James Brown performance in 1984 remains a personal highlight, even if proceedings didn’t go entirely to plan.

“We had a contract to film the event for television, but when he arrived in Viareggio he said he didn’t want any cameras and was asking for more and more money,” recounts D’Alessandro. “He says, ‘I want to talk with the Pope!’

“Eventually, I gave him $50,000 more, and then ten minutes before he went on stage, he said, ‘I don’t like the audience.’ But, finally, he went on the stage and played for three hours. It was unbelievable – the best show I have seen in my life.”

“I feel quite proud of the fact that I suggested they got together – and their collective talents have proved to be extremely successful”

Elsewhere, Galli took over the management of a local theatre in his hometown of Brescia and began booking jazz artists via a connection with George Wein, founder of the Newport Jazz Festival. Despite Di and Gi’s contrasting personalities, legendary agent Barrie Marshall saw their potential as a pairing.

“We go way back to when Adolfo was actually in the army,” remembers the Marshall Arts founder. “He was booking gigs even then and would call me from phone boxes. For some months I thought his first name was Galli – as the cry would go around the office ‘Galli is on the phone but doesn’t have much time!’ Of course, he very soon became Adolfo – and a friend. I think the earliest shows we did were José Feliciano and then Joe Cocker.

“Just a little later, I met Mimmo D’Alessandro, another fine businessman full of charm and grace. I got to know him quite well, and I felt that the contrasting styles of these two men would create really great chemistry.

“I feel quite proud of the fact that I suggested they got together – and their collective talents have proved to be extremely successful.”

Marshall has collaborated with D’Alessandro e Galli on blockbuster concerts by the likes of Paul McCartney, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Elton John, and George Michael.

“We sold over 200,000 tickets in one month in August, which normally is unheard of in this country, and we are still working with Mark Knopfler 30 years later”

“I’ve known Barrie Marshall since I was about 25, and he is like family to me,” offers Galli. “That is a relationship that is really strong and goes beyond the business.

“Barrie put his [neck on the line] for us with Dire Straits in 1992. The manager did not want to hear about Italy at all, but Barrie said, ‘Look, I’ve worked with these guys in 1989 with Paul McCartney and Tina Turner in 1990. I’ve done Sade, I’ve done this, I’ve done that. You have to work with Mimmo and Adolfo.

“The negotiation with Ed Bicknell went on for two years and everything was on sale and sold out, with the exception of Italy. We ended up making the deal at the end of July 1992, with shows starting in September in Milan. We sold over 200,000 tickets in one month in August, which normally is unheard of in this country, and we are still working with Mark Knopfler 30 years later.”

D’Alessandro, who describes Marshall as “like a brother,” showed his gratitude in his own inimitable way.

“Mimmo had several horses at one time,” discloses Marshall. “One was called Joe Cocker, and I believe one was Paco de Lucía. I then found out he named one Barrie Marshall.

“He and Adolfo sent me a commentary, obviously in very fast Italian, which sounded so weird as every few seconds in English I could hear ‘Barrie Marshall.’ Apparently, I rode to victory with Frankie Dettori on my back.”

“We’ve always looked at creating events that are not customary”

Thinking outside of the box is a key ingredient in the Di and Gi special sauce, as characterised by its unorthodox choice of venues.

“We’ve always looked at creating events that are not customary,” says Galli. “A great rock and roll band meeting a great archaeological site is one of those things that people will remember, whereas anybody can play a sports hall. Whether you are in New York, London, or Milan, they are all the same, and our view has always been to look for different locations, which is a big challenge.

“We have promoted shows in St. Mark’s Square in Venice; the first Colosseum shows in Rome were produced by us; we’ve done shows with Leonard Cohen and George Michael in the square in the centre of Florence, and James Taylor at the Piazza del Popolo in Rome.”

Most challenging of all was David Gilmour’s 2016 concert at the Amphitheatre of Pompeii, where the guitarist had performed as part of Pink Floyd 45 years earlier.

“I spent one year of my life on this show,” notes D’Alessandro. “Every day was a meeting, and it was so tough. It was very, very complicated.”

“It was a big achievement because we could only work during the day,” adds Galli. “Specialists had to show us the way to load in our material because you couldn’t put a certain weight on the site. And when we started the production, we were inside the venue every day for more than one month, trying to put it together for 3,000 people. David Gilmour was the first artist to perform in that venue after Pink Floyd – the Live at Pompeii DVD came from that show.”

“Lucca is a medieval world within a world”

Di and Gi would later stage gigs by Elton John, James Taylor, and King Crimson at Pompeii, while an annual staple of the firm is the Lucca Summer Festival, which launched in Tuscany in 1998. The 40,000-cap extravaganza has hosted heavyweights such as the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Tom Jones, Van Morrison, the Eagles, Stevie Wonder, Ennio Morricone, and Michael Bublé.

Its most recent edition, held in the Mura Storiche area next to the Lucca City Wall in June/July, welcomed Justin Bieber, Liam Gallagher, and John Legend, among others.

“It’s like my baby,” gushes D’Alessandro. “A politician friend of mine said, ‘Lucca is such a beautiful place. I had never been to Lucca before and when I saw it, I was shocked. It’s an incredible experience.’”

“Lucca is a medieval world within a world,” offers Galli.

“It is magic,” enthuses D’Alessandro. “You need to come!”

“We have seen others follow the same path as us, so maybe we did influence some people, but we have never looked in anybody else’s houses, as we say in this country”

Di and Gi also debuted another unique proposition, the 10,000-cap Tuscany festival La Prima Estate in 2022. Situated just 50m from the sea in Lido di Camaiore, Versilia, headline acts included The National, Duran Duran, Bonobo, Courtney Barnett, Jungle, and Mura Masa.

“We have never looked at what other companies do to promote their events,” stresses Galli. “We have seen others follow the same path as us, so maybe we did influence some people, but we have never looked in anybody else’s houses, as we say in this country.“

Although CTS Eventim took a 60% stake in the firm in 2018, consolidating its “leading position in the Italian live entertainment market,” D’Alessandro and Galli have continued to manage the company on a day-to-day basis.

“We were approached by CTS because they were expanding in our country,” says Galli. “Our company already had a contract with them for ticketing and they gave us this opportunity.

“Now, unluckily, this happened in 2019, and we ended up in between the two years with Covid, so a lot of the things that we were starting to develop or discussing with them had to be stopped. Now, we have started again, and we are looking at some ideas that we can mutually develop together, but mainly it was done by us in order to be able to develop some new strategies for the future.

“The world is changing, and we need to be part of a major company because it’s more and more difficult for an individual independent company to work nowadays. But even though we are partnered with CTS Eventim, we still tend to work with the same people and the same spirit of a family-run business.”

“After two years of being closed down because of Covid, right at the start of the season, we have to cancel for Covid”

Italy became the epicentre of Covid-19 in the devastating first few weeks of the pandemic, shutting down the country’s touring industry weeks before its European counterparts. For D’Alessandro, the memories are too painful to talk about even now.

“It was a really tough time,” he sighs. “I don’t want to remember it.”

“After two years, we finally started working again in April/May 2022,” interjects Galli. “Our first tour, which has been moved twice, was by Eric Clapton. So, in May, we were ready with our Eric Clapton shows in Milan and Bologna.

“Three days before the first date, we got a phone call saying Eric Clapton’s got Covid, and we had to move the dates to October. We are all looking forward to seeing him because we have three sold-out shows, and we know the audience is ready to see him after so long, but it was an unfortunate situation that after two years of being closed down because of Covid, right at the start of the season, we have to cancel for Covid. It’s unbelievable! There’s nothing more we can say. I think people have already said too much about Covid.”

On a more positive note, Galli reports the Italian public’s appetite for concerts has not waned in the interim.

“People are buying tickets,” he says. “Lucca Summer Festival this year, which was the first one we’ve managed to do since Covid, did incredibly well. We sold almost 140,000 tickets and most of the shows were sold out. We have sold a lot of tickets for all of our shows this year, including Clapton in October, our Elton John and Rolling Stones shows at San Siro Stadium in Milan in June.”

“You used to be able to speak directly with artists, now you speak with lawyers”

While still intensely passionate about their work, the pair admit to frustrations over aspects of the modern industry.

“It would be impossible for me if I started out today,” declares D’Alessandro. “When I started in this business, it was the best in the world, and I loved it. Every morning when I woke up, I would think, ‘Oh my god, I’m a very lucky man.’ Now it’s changed completely. You used to be able to speak directly with artists, now you speak with lawyers.”

“There was more possibility for music lovers like us to discuss ideas with the artists,” agrees Galli. “We have found that when you speak with an artist and explain the idea, there is the money side but there is also an artistic side. But the music business is unfortunately more about the numbers now. This doesn’t mean they couldn’t make money in those days, but they wouldn’t just look at the money.”

Today, a new generation of D’Alessandro e Galli is waiting in the wings ready to take the company forward.

“The future for Di and Gi, as far as I’m concerned, is my son Andrea and Mimmo’s son Enrico,” suggests Galli. “They are the ones that will have to keep the brand going, because music changes; it’s the circle of life. I mean, 35 years ago, you would have never expected K-pop music to work in Europe, but now you have bands coming from Asia and breaking the market. I still have my ideas on how to promote events. I try to keep up-to-date, as does Mimmo, but when you’re younger, you’re much quicker at picking up new tendencies and influences.”

“The music is what keeps us going, and as long as there’s good music, there will be D’Alessandro e Galli”

“We couldn’t have better teachers,” says Enrico. “What’s so good about them is that they always go for the unconventional choice, and most of the time it’s brilliant, so we try to follow that example.”

“It’s been a good ride so far, and we hope to be here for a few more years,” concludes Galli. “We look forward to new artists and new experiences because we are always learning, so we want to be ready for whatever comes next.

“We are thinking positively about the future, even though nowadays, if you look at the news, it is depressing. At the end of the day, this is what we do. The music is what keeps us going, and as long as there’s good music, there will be D’Alessandro e Galli.”

 


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No place like Rome: Italy market report

Having been shut down by the coronavirus for longer than many of its European neighbours, Italy’s live music professionals have been more eager than most to resume business. Adam Woods reports on their mixed fortunes.

In a market known for passionate and frequently litigious extremes of competition, the breadth of the coalition that met the press at Milan’s San Siro stadium last September was striking.

Under the banner of promoters’ body Assomusica, the heads of Friends and Partners (F&P), Vivo Concerti, Live Nation Italia, Vertigo, D’Alessandro e Galli (Di & Gi), BPM, DNA, and others sat shoulder-to-shoulder to insist on a full live restart at full capacity.

“We have lost 99% of revenue,” said Live Nation’s Roberto De Luca. “Only with 100% capacity can we start again.”

They didn’t get their wish until April this year, and a rollercoaster year has been the consequence – stuffed with shows, not all of them successful, but bringing relief, to the top end of the market in particular.

“We saw huge growth in 2022, both for international artist and local artists”

“We saw huge growth in 2022, both for international artist and local artists,” De Luca tells IQ, almost exactly a year on from the San Siro showdown. “Talking only about big events in the summer period, we produced 22 stadiums, with 1.24m tickets sold; two big open-air shows, with 105,000 tickets sold; and two festivals – Firenze Rocks and I-Days. We sold 309,000 tickets for those.”

The biggest shows, of course, give an impression of health that doesn’t necessarily carry right through the market.

“The trouble with this summer is there were too many offers,” says Vittorio Dellacasa of Milan-based staging and production specialist Delamaison Productions. “In a normal season, a venue might have ten shows a month, and now they have 29 on a monthly basis. The big events work very well – like, capacity of 20,000 upwards. But the medium to small events, it’s tough for them.”

Italy was hit particularly hard and exceptionally early by Covid. In the live business, the resulting restrictions meant two long zombie years, and as with most other markets, the ramifications of those and other disasters are taking time to unravel.

“I’m pretty sure it will take another two or three years before we come back to the pre-pandemic level”

“After two years of pandemic and the Ukrainian crisis, we are all living a very difficult period,” says Vertigo CEO Andrea Pieroni. “I’m pretty sure it will take another two or three years before we come back to the pre-pandemic level. It won’t be an easy challenge, in my opinion, but I’m here, and I’m ready to rock.”

Pieroni says he didn’t draw his inspiration from his home market for his recent novel, È solo rock‘n’roll (It’s only rock’n’roll), set in the international live music business. But anyone who wanted to create a soap opera around a real-life live music industry could do worse than basing it in Italy, where passions run high and lawsuits rain down with remarkable regularity.

Last year, CTS Eventim’s TicketOne was fined almost €11m by the country’s competition authority Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM) over allegations of abusing a dominant position in the Italian ticketing market, though the conviction and fine were repealed in March 2022.

Over the course of the case, back in 2019, venue group and promoter Zed Entertainment’s co-founder Valeria Arzenton, who had publicly decried the practices of TicketOne and Eventim-owned promoter F&P, was threatened by the Eventim side with a defamation suit.

This year, Viagogo was dramatically fined €23.5m for breaking Italy’s rules on secondary ticketing. And in February 2019, De Luca and other Live Nation and Viagogo executives, as well as Di & Gi’s Mimmo D’Alessandro, were cleared of wrongdoing by a court in Milan, having been charged with profiting from inflating ticket prices using the secondary market between 2011 and 2016.

All of which paints a picture of a wild and interesting market, and one that remains proudly unique in numerous ways.

“The main difference between Italy and other markets is that around 70% of the business is in domestic acts”

Italian talent
In an industry where international talent typically makes the world go round, Italy remains remarkably self-contained. Italian stars still rule the roost on home turf, and big touring acts can often find themselves feeling rather less famous and successful in Italy than they do elsewhere.

“Probably the main difference between Italy and other markets is that around 70% of the business is in domestic acts,” says Pietro Fuccio of Rome-based independent promoter DNA Concerti. “When I speak to an international agent, he doesn’t understand why his artist, big or small, doesn’t get the same attention in Italy as he gets everywhere else – and it is because they are smaller here than they are everywhere else.”

The difference in recent years is a significant shift towards younger artists, spearheaded by performers such as stadium-filler Ultimo, Milan’s Rkomi, Vicenza’s Sangiovanni, glam-rockers Måneskin, Bergamo’s indie-rockers Pinguini Tattici Nucleari, and hip-hopper Sfera Ebbasta.

As a barometer of Italian music’s health at home, every one of the Top 20 best-selling albums of last year was by an Italian artist, and for the first time ever, the same was also true of the year’s Top 10 singles.

“In the last five, six years, Italian music has got big exposure,” says Eric Bagnarelli of Live Nation-owned promoter Comcerto. “There are a lot of new acts that are getting good results, and they are a huge part of the market now.”

“You can do very well from touring just in Italy”

The 71-year-old Sanremo Music Festival – the inspiration for Eurovision – retains a remarkable power to guide the musical mainstream. Over the years, Sanremo has launched the careers of numerous Italian acts, including Andrea Bocelli, Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti and Zucchero, but it has neatly pivoted towards younger, edgier talent in recent years. Måneskin won the contest in 2021, and 2022 winner Blanco this summer sold out all 350,000 tickets of his 27-date Blu Celeste national tour in hours.

But while Italian acts may be superstars at home, it is relatively rare that they have made it big else- where. Often, they have been brokered by powerful booking agencies who fulfil a management-style role, with little attempt at an international plot.

“It is still difficult,” says Attilio Perissinotti of booking agency BPM Concerti. “There are more Italian artists that now play Europe because in the last ten or 15 years a lot of people have left Italy and gone to cities like Barcelona or London. But usually Italian acts sing in Italian. It’s a barrier, you know?”

“You can do very well from touring just in Italy,” notes Christoph Storbeck, head of the conference programme at Linecheck, Italy’s leading music conference, “so a lot of artists don’t see it as natural or mandatory to go out into the world.”

Måneskin have made a piece of Italian history by becoming a genuine international act on the back of their Eurovision 2021 win. Will Italian stars start bursting the country’s borders in greater numbers? Vivo Concerti’s managing director and co-owner Clemente Zard, isn’t convinced.

“I think this is an exception,” he says. “They obviously sing in English, and they came out in a very, very strong way, but to say it will now happen to a lot of other Italian artists – no, it won’t happen. But definitely, Italian music can have success in other countries.”

“There’s not much room for indie promoters, although sometimes even indie promoters can do some big names”

Promoters
Italy represents a particularly heated battleground for the international corporates, with Eventim in the box seat as the majority owner of promoters Vivo Concerti, Di & Gi, Vertigo and F&P, as well as ticketing market leader TicketOne.

“The reality is that now there are only two big groups: Live Nation on one side and Eventim on the other,” says Pieroni at Vertigo, which broadly leans towards rock, both domestic and international. “There’s not much room for indie promoters, although sometimes even indie promoters can do some big names. But in general, if you are not part of a big corporation, things will be very hard.”

Vivo Concerti finds itself in a particularly strong position as the booking agent and promoter for many of Italy’s most successful new acts, including Ultimo, Blanco, Måneskin and others.

“We promote a lot of international acts, and we are growing on that side, but we did €120m, €130m revenues this year and 75%, 80% is from local acts,” says Zard.

“We are lucky because we are the promoter for practically all of the major new Italian artists. This summer we did 22 large-scale events, between stadiums and big arenas including Circo Massimo. And we are still growing because we are a young company – I am 32 years of age, all my employees are pretty young. We understand how things are moving because we are part of the generation that is moving them.”

“It was a good summer with big numbers, although most of the shows were postponements from 2020, so those tickets were sold a long time ago”

One of Vivo Concerti’s innovations is the incorporation of a 13-strong booking department. “That is very unusual for a promoter in Italy – Italians are not famous for being the most modern in the business.”

Vivo Concerti and F&P recently pooled their resources for the launch of a new media company, Friends & Vivo Multimedia, which aims to assist brands eager to capitalise on the power of live music. The venture defines the two companies’ reach as 3,000 shows per year and an audience of 5 million, with a combined 140 Italian artists, 50 international ones, and 45 DJs represented.

Of the other Eventim siblings, Vertigo reports a fitfully strong summer, flanked by a testing spring, and a potentially barn- storming autumn.

“It was a good summer with big numbers, although most of the shows were postponements from 2020, so those tickets were sold a long time ago,” says Pieroni. “Regarding shows we announced in early 2022 to happen in the summer, unfortunately the situation was not so good. On the other hand, we announced several arena shows to happen in the autumn, and those have sold incredibly well.”

Di & Gi, meanwhile, finds the market “in very good health right now,” according to promoter Enrico D’Alessandro, who reels off big shows: the Stones at the San Siro in June; Elton John’s final Italian performance at the same stadium a couple of weeks earlier; six dates for Roger Waters next year in Milan and Bologna.

“Like everywhere else, increased costs have affected our work, and this problem will not decrease in the near future”

Live Nation Italia, meanwhile, has all the international strength you would expect, as well as a fast-growing ticketing contender in Ticketmaster. De Luca rates development of local artists as a key priority for Live Nation over the coming years, though he notes that there are plenty of existential challenges in these tricky times.

“Like everywhere else, increased costs have affected our work, and this problem will not decrease in the near future,” he says. “On top of this there was, and there is, a shortage of personnel, as many left their usual jobs due to the lack of shows during the pandemic. We lost a lot of professional people, and we need to train new ones, and it will take time for that.”

Of course, there are independents that thrive, including Trident Music, with its affiliated booking agency BPM Concerti.
“We are one of the last big independent groups in Italy,” says Perissinotti at BPM, which holds a roster of around 50 Italian acts such as Pinguini Tattici Nucleari, Luchè, Paky, Nayt, while also taking care of Italian gigs for international artists such as Jethro Tull, Yes, Tokio Hotel and V**gra Boys. Trident handles Jovanotti, Sfera Ebbasta, and Tiromancino, and events including the Jova Beach Party’s recurring summer tour of Italian beaches.

In July, Milan-based independent Radar Concerti sought the comfort of a larger group when it became the latest member of the Nordic All Things Live collective.

“I was with Live Nation for ten years, and I was missing the information,” says Radar Concerti’s Fabrizio Pompeo. “Now we have a lot more of that, a lot of colleagues sharing what they know about different markets. Being part of a bigger company means having a different strategy – bigger shows, maybe festivals.

“When you’re a smaller independent, you try and grow some new artist, and then when things start to happen they come and say, ‘Sorry, we went to Live Nation. Thanks, you did a great job.’ But already, I think people are treating us differently.”

“Some very good medium and small shows are suffering on the sales, and production-wise, all of us in Europe have lost a lot of personnel”

Under veteran Claudio Trotta, Italian pioneer Barley Arts also forges on, bringing Queen + Adam Lambert, Deftones, and others to Italy this summer and selling 170,000 tickets for three Bruce Springsteen dates next May and July at the Parco Urbano G. Bassani in Ferrara, Rome’s Circo Massimo, and Monza’s Autodromo Nazionale.

“2022 has seen ups and downs,” says Barley Arts head of booking Marco Ercolani. “There was a slow spring, a hectic and way too busy summer, and a difficult fall.”

For obvious reasons, including rising touring costs, squeezed disposable income, market saturation, and other knock-on effects from Covid and the Russo-Ukrainian War, Ercolani and Trotta predict a difficult time to come.

“It’s going to be tough,” says Trotta. “Very tough. But for now we are having a very good year. We are back working, we are doing shows and tours that have been rescheduled five, even six times, and we are doing some new shows as well, with some great successes. But some very good medium and small shows are suffering on the sales, and production-wise, all of us in Europe have lost a lot of personnel.”

“I tried a couple of times to do multiple-stage festivals and camping, but the ticket sales remained the same”

Festivals
Festivals mean something a little different in Italy than elsewhere. Multi-stage events are rare, as is onsite camping, so the typical Italian festival is more akin to a concert series, often spread across several weeks, with a handful of acts and one clear headliner each day.

“We don’t have a festival with multiple stages and a 60,000-70,000-capacity,” says Bagnarelli. “We don’t have anything that is comparable to Glastonbury or Reading and Leeds.”

It is an issue that has dogged the market over the years. “I tried a couple of times to do multiple-stage festivals and camping, but the ticket sales remained the same,” says Pieroni. “So why spend more money? We also have to consider that June and July in Italy are the hottest months. It’s not like northern Europe where you have 22 degrees during the day and people feel like they are in heaven. In Italy, they would feel like they were in hell.”

Among the most recent attempts to challenge the paradigm was the eclectic pop and rock event Home Festival, initially in Treviso and latterly in Venice, which appeared to signal a new dawn in Italian festival habits, drawing 80,000 at its peak in 2018. But its Treviso-based promoter Home Entertainment fell on hard times after a troubled tenth edition in 2019, and the following year the company went into liquidation.

For his part, Zard is convinced festivals are another area of the market ripe for modernisation. Having brought on board Daze Events’ Alessandro Ravizza as senior promoter and head of festivals development, Vivo Concerti is involved in Florence’s two-day, multi-stage electronic festival Decibel Open Air, for which Zard predicts bigger and better things – just as he does the market at large.

“It’s important for Italy to have festivals in a proper way and not only headline shows”

“It will take some time, but I’m sure we will achieve this result because it’s important for Italy to have festivals in a proper way and not only headline shows,” he says. “In the coming years, we will surely invest more in festivals we have at the moment, festivals we will acquire, and festivals we will start ourselves in the coming years.”

Founded in 1998, Di & Gi’s Lucca Summer Festival is the veteran of the scene, its 2022 edition the 23rd to grace the Tuscan city – this year across 15 nights in the Piazza Napoleone and on a site beside the historic city walls.

“We registered 150,000 attendees in this edition, and we had John Legend, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Zucchero, and a few other major Italian artists,” says D’Alessandro. “You could really feel the joy of the audience at being able to come back.”

Di & Gi’s latest festival venture was the six-day La Prima Estate in Lido di Camaiore in the province of Lucca, which had its first edition in June with space for around 5,000 and a range of daytime activities – yoga on the beach, cooking classes, trekking in the hills – to further sweeten evening line-ups headlined by Duran Duran, The National, Anderson .Paak, and others.

“It’s a 360-degree experience,” says D’Alessandro. “We realise that a concert is not enough anymore for this audience, so let’s do it in a great location where they can spend the day on the beach or having a lot of different experiences. We have 1,000 km of coast, but I don’t recall an Italian festival right on the beach.”

Rock in Roma, which was launched by Maximiliano Bucci and Sergio Giuliani as Romarock in 2002 in tribute to Rock In Rio and Coachella, this year chalked up its 19th edition, with Massive Attack, Chemical Brothers, Rkomi, Blanco, and others playing through June and July, again in the headline show format.

Firenze Rocks, with Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, and Metallica headlining across four days, leveraged Live Nation firepower in June, while I-Days did the same in Milan with Greta Van Fleet, Imagine Dragons, Rkomi, and Green Day once more.

Other Italian festivals include techno event Kappa FuturFestivalin Turin; drum and bass festival SUNANDBASS in Sardinia; Mi Ami in Milan; and indie event Ypsigrock in Castelbuono, Sicily.

Music Innovation Hub’s Linecheck, meanwhile, leads the line for industry conferences, taking place in Milan in November. “It’s the main conference in general,” says Storbeck. “We are happening within the great framework of Milan Music Week, so there’s stuff happening all over the city, more or less coordinated.”

“More than in the past, the national market is full of international artists… Italy is finally a global destination”

Venues
Valeria Arzenton of Zed Entertainment, the Padova-based venue operator and promoter whose ten buildings include the 2,500-cap Gran Teatro Geox, the 3,916-seat Kioene Arena, and 32,420-cap Stadio Euganeo in Padova and further venues in Brescia, Mantova, and Conegliano, found herself in the role of whistle-blower in 2019 when she gave anonymous testimony to an Italian TV show about abuse of a dominant position on the part of TicketOne.

The ensuing scandal was noisy and painful, but from Arzenton’s perspective it was ultimately worth- while, as the AGCM imposed on the market leader the obligation to open up to competing ticketing operators.

“In October, the final vote of the administrative justice will decide definitively the status of the trial,” she says. “In any case, from the first AGCM verdict, the market is irrevocably opened to other ticketing companies. In any case: goal achieved.”

Zed’s venues are carefully rising again after two full years of Covid, and Arzenton’s other projects include a musical based on the music of late Italian star Raffaella Carrà, which will debut in Spain in autumn 2023, but what Arzenton sees in Italy is an increasingly globalised market.

“More than in the past, the national market is full of international artists,” she says. “Also, promoters are more daring than ever with new venues, with festivals, with more dates. Festivals are becoming more familiar and more appreciated by the audience. Italy is finally a global destination.”

Evidently, other venue operators think so. Last year, Eventim announced plans to build a new multipurpose arena in Milan. Scheduled for completion in 2025, the 16,000-capacity MSG (Milano Santa Giulia) arena will be one of the largest in Italy and will also include an outdoor area of more than 10,000 square metres for open-air events.

The venue will compete with Oak View Group and Live Nation’s promised Santa Giulia Arena – which will, like the MSG, be used in the 2026 Winter Olympics – as well as the 12,700-seat Mediolanum Forum in Assago, near Milan, which has served the city since 1990 and is one of two Italian members of the European Arena Association (EAA).

Last year, ASM Global entered the Italian market for the first time when it secured the contract to operate the new 6,000-seat basketball arena in nearby Cantù, which is due to be completed in late 2023 and has potential concert applications.

Meanwhile, F&P’s Ferdinando Salzano is one of the movers behind the 100,000-capacity RCF Arena, the largest outdoor music venue in Europe, which opened in Reggio Emilia, near Bologna, just as Covid bit, but still sold out all tickets for its opening concert, featuring local superstar Luciano Ligabue. Harry Styles is booked in for July 2023.

 


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Di & Gi’s Adolfo Galli surveys the Italian biz

Italian promoter Adolfo Galli has told IQ the country’s live music market is showing signs of recovery despite another challenging year.

Galli and his D’Alessandro e Galli (Di and Gi) co-founder Mimmo D’Alessandro are profiled in the upcoming issue of IQ, out later this week, which looks back at their illustrious 35-year business union with the help of a number of their longtime industry sparring partners.

Di and Gi’s month-long Lucca Summer Festival (cap. 40.000) made a successful return this summer with headliners such as Justin Bieber, Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, Liam Gallagher + Kasabian, John Legend and Robert Plant + Alison Krauss. The firm also debuted new 10,000-cap Tuscany festival La Prima Estate in June with headline acts including Duran Duran, The National and Bonobo, and Galli suggests the public’s appetite for live shows has not waned since the pandemic-enforced break.

“We have sold a lot of tickets for all of our shows this year”

“People are buying tickets,” Galli tells IQ. “Lucca Summer Festival this year, which was the first one we’ve managed to do since Covid, did incredibly well. We sold almost 140,000 tickets and most of the shows were sold out.

“We have sold a lot of tickets for all of our shows this year, including Eric Clapton in October, our Elton John show at San Siro Stadium, which sold out – 50,000 tickets – and the Rolling Stones show also in Milan – 57,000 tickets.”

Brescia-based Galli and Viareggio-based D’Alessandro have carved out a niche over the years by staging concerts at unique venues such as David Gilmour, Elton John and King Crimson at Pompeii; Leonard Cohen and George Michael in Piazza Santa Croce, Florence; and James Taylor at the Piazza del Popolo, Rome.

“We’ve always looked at creating events that are not customary,” says Galli. “A great rock and roll band meeting a great archaeological site is one of those things that people will remember, whereas anybody can play a sports hall. Whether you are in New York, London or Milan, they are all the same and our view has always been to look for different locations, which is a big challenge.”

“I think people have already said too much about Covid”

Italy’s music industry was allocated €50 million by the government earlier this year following ‘The Last Concert?’ (L’ultimo Concerto?) campaign, promoted by KeepOn LiveArci and Assomusica in collaboration with Live DMA. Fifteen million euros were dedicated to live clubs and other operators in the live music sector, €10m to concert organisers to compensate losses due to cancelled or missed dates, and €25m to authors, performers and performers for missed collections.

Di and Gi has a busy few months in store with upcoming concerts with the likes of Little Simz at Fabrique (cap. 3,100) and Kasabian at Alcatraz (3,000), both in Milan, rescheduled arena dates with Eric Clapton in Milan and Bologna, and tours with Bryan Adams, James Taylor, Roger Waters and Michael Bublé, among others, as it bids to make up for lost time.

“After two years, we finally started working again in April/May 2022,”says Galli. “Our first tour, which has been moved twice, was by Eric Clapton. So in May, we were ready with our Eric Clapton shows in Milan and Bologna. [But[ three days before the first date, we got a phone call saying Eric Clapton’s got Covid and we had to move the dates to October. It’s unbelievable! There’s nothing more we can say – I think people have already said too much about Covid.”

“The world is changing and we need to be part of a major company”

While CTS Eventim took a 60% stake in Di and Gi in 2018, D’Alessandro and Galli have continued to run the company on a day-to-day basis.

“A lot of the things that we were starting to develop or discussing with them had to be stopped [because of the pandemic],” notes Galli. “Now, we have started again, we are looking at some ideas that we can mutually develop together. The world is changing and we need to be part of a major company because it’s more and more difficult for an individual independent company to work nowadays.”

The full feature celebrating D’Alessandro e Galli’s 35th anniversary will be published in IQ 114.

 


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Inside Di and Gi’s new La Prima Estate festival

Italy’s D’Alessandro e Galli (Di and Gi) is targeting a younger demographic with its new 10,000-cap Tuscany festival La Prima Estate, according to organisers.

The six-day festival will debut in Bussola Domani Park in Lido Di Camaiore, Versilia from 21-26 June, with headline acts including Duran Duran, The National and Bonobo.

Di and Gi, which also runs the region’s established, month-long Lucca Summer Festival, is billing La Prima Estate – which translates to “the first summer” – as “the ultimate festival holiday destination”, combining live shows with a series of unique experiences drawing on the beauty and culture of the local area. Activities will include art, wine and culinary experiences, as well as mindfulness and sports.

“We have an unbelievably beautiful venue, a brand new park, just 50 metres from the beach. It’s the perfect place for a festival,” promoter Enrico D’Alessandro tells IQ. “We’re going to have six consecutive nights, with four artists on stage every night. But we’re also going to sell packages that include not only a hotel, but also a beach cabana, and we’re going to plan activities all day for the audience. This place is a natural paradise, so you can do cooking events with major chefs on the beach, cycle events with professionals, meet and greets and yoga at dawn.

“We want to give the full package to the audience. The event itself is no longer enough, we have to provide a full vacation experience and this festival will be all about that.”

“For audiences today, just attending a conference is no longer enough”

With other artists on the bill including Courtney Barnett, Easy Life, Jungle, Mura Masa and Beabadoobee, with more to be announced this month, D’Alessandro says the musical direction is along similar lines to Primavera Sound and Sonar.

“We’re looking for a younger audience, although not so young,” he says. “The park is huge, but it is going to be split between a concert area and a big food and beverage and leisure area because we want to create a very relaxed atmosphere,” he says. “We want people to enjoy the full experience – that’s what we think the future of live music will be and that’s what we think the offering of live events should include.”

The festival will take over the whole town of Lido Di Camaiore and will be topped off by aftershow parties at nightclubs, hosted by the Apollo Club from Milan, each night.

“Our impression as promoters of live music is that for audiences today, just attending a concert is no longer enough,” adds Di and Gi CEO Mimmo D’Alessandro. “La Prima Estate wants to build on this desire, accelerated by the post-pandemic euphoria to fully enjoy free time, and combine an evening of live music with a series of experiences related to sport, the sea, food and other incredible activities during the rest of the festival goers’ stay. A new concept of a festival for which we consider Versilia and Tuscany to be the ideal place.”

 


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Italian live business defends vouchers

Italian live music industry professionals have hit back at comments made by Sir Paul McCartney criticising the decision to offer fans vouchers, instead of cash refunds, for cancelled shows.

Representatives from industry association Assomusica and promoter D’Alessandro e Galli spoke out following a statement on McCartney’s official Facebook page in Italy. The post declared it was “outrageous” that fans were “not getting their money back” for shows he had been scheduled to play at the 23,000 square-metre Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples on 10 June and at the 45,000-capacity Mura Storiche in Lucca on 13 June.

In accordance with government regulations, ticketholders for McCartney’s Italian concerts were reimbursed with credit to spend on future shows, rather than receiving their money back. Vouchers have been championed by industry associations around the world as a way to alleviate the pressures on cash-strapped promoters facing unprecedented volumes of refund requests.

“We strongly disagree with what the Italian government are doing,” wrote McCartney. “In every other country we were going to visit this summer the fans have all been offered full refunds. This is a real insult to the fans.”

In response to the comments, D’Alessandro e Galli, the promoter for the former Beatle’s Italian shows, issued a statement acknowledging the “displeasure” McCartney may feel at “the inconvenience that his fans will have to sustain by not receiving a direct refund”.

“The voucher is the instrument that guarantees the balance between the disappointment of the fan and the vital need to support the industry”

The promoter adds that vouchers are an “extraordinary” form of reimbursement that McCartney’s team was “perfectly aware of before the cancellation” and that aims to help the Italian live industry through a crisis that could deal it, as well as the 400,000 professionals working within it, a “fatal blow”.

“We believe that the government has identified the voucher as the instrument that guarantees the correct balance between the legitimate disappointment of the fan and the vital need to support the entire entertainment industry.”

Speaking to Italian publication Rockol, Vincenzo Spera, president of Italian promoters’ association Assomusica – which has spoken out in favour of the voucher scheme – iterated that McCartney’s team were aware of the reimbursement situation and had the chance to “devise and adopt solutions that seemed most suitable”, if they so wished.

Spera also points out that the voucher scheme extends to the whole tourism and cultural sector in Italy, with similar programmes also adopted in other European countries including Germany.

In countries where voucher laws are not in place, ticketing platforms including Eventbrite, StubHub and SeatGeek are currently facing legal action for the alleged non-payment of refunds for cancelled or postponed events.

 


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CTS Eventim acquires Italian promoter D’Alessandro e Galli

CTS Eventim has bought a 60% stake in Italian concert and festival promoter D’Alessandro e Galli (Di and Gi), in its third acquisition in Italy in the last five months.

The deal follows the acquisition in September of Vertigo and November’s buy-out of Friends and Partners, and “consolidates [CTS’s] leading position in the Italian live entertainment market”, says the company.

“With TicketOne, we have been the leading ticketing provider in Italy for more than ten years,” comments Klaus-Peter Schulenberg, CEO of CTS Eventim. “Now we have progressed, within a very short period, to become the market leader in the live entertainment segment as well. This is a milestone in our internationalisation strategy.

“The Italian market is one of the most diversified and attractive in Europe, and there can hardly be a promoter that symbolises its creativity and vitality as much as D’Alessandro e Galli.”

“There can hardly be a promoter that symbolises the creativity and vitality of the Italian market as much as D’Alessandro e Galli”

Di and Gi, which turned 30 last year, has over the past four decades organised shows by Adele, Justin Bieber, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Mark Knopfler, Jennifer Lopez, Ennio Morricone and Paul Simon. It also promotes the Lucca Summer Festival, whose 20th edition in 2017 was featured performances by the Rolling Stones, Green Day, Robbie Williams and Kasabian.

The company will continue to be managed on a day-to-day basis by co-founders Mimmo D’Alessandro and Adolfo Galli. In a joint statement, they comment: “We are delighted to be part of CTS Eventim from this day on. This provides us with access to the resources of a global player that not only has the most sophisticated ticketing platform in the world, but is also able to organise Europe-wide concert tours. We also have an opportunity to continue our company’s special culture: the interests of artists will remain the centre of focus for everything we do at D’Alessandro e Galli.”

 


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