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Spanish rapper sells out Madrid stadium in presale

Spanish artist Dellafuente has sold out a one-off show at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium just in the presale.

The trap star reportedly shifted all 75,000 tickets within an hour for the 15 November date, organised by promoter and music management company MAAS to celebrate Dellafuente’s decade in the music industry.

Affordable ticket prices of €32-65 have been credited for helping make the Granada-born singer-songwriter the first domestic independent artist to sell out the recently renovated home of the UEFA Champions League holders. The concert will be Dellafuente’s only remaining concert of 2024.

Real name Pablo Enoc Bayo, the 32-year-old previously sold out three shows at Granada Sports Palace in 2022 and two nights at Madrid’s WiZink Center in 2023, where he was joined by fellow Spanish rapper Morad. He also attracted 15,000 people to a secret free gig on Granada’s Explanada del Paseo del Salón last month.

The Bernabéu will also welcome Karol G from 20-23 July, with the Latin superstar becoming the first artist to fully sell out four consecutive nights at the Spanish stadium.

“We have been working discreetly, but continuously, with Real Madrid to reach an agreement that allows us to reduce the noise”

Earlier this summer, it hosted two nights of Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour, as well as shows by Luis Miguel, Duki, Manuel Carrasco and Vintage Culture.

However, Público reports that all major concerts at the stadium held up to the end of May had exceeded noise limits set by municipal regulations, leaving promoters facing fines of up to €20,000 in the most serious cases.

Following protests by local residents, Real Madrid and the city council reached an agreement in June to install noise barriers and limit the number of concerts at the venue to 20 per year.

“Measures had to be taken to guarantee the residents’ rest and peace of mind,” said Madrid mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida. “The Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is also important for everything it can contribute to the city of Madrid. We have been working discreetly, but continuously, with Real Madrid to reach an agreement that allows us to reduce the noise.”

 


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Mad Cool counts down to July festival

Ahead of its July 10-13 return to the Iberdrola Music Venue in Villaverde, Madrid, Mad Cool’s Javier Arnáiz and Cindy Castillo spoke with IQ about the various changes they have implemented to improve the customer experience, as well as the event’s evolution during its first decade.

On the back of recent research, the event’s organisers reveal that last year Mad Cool generated more than €46 million to the Spanish economy: €37m in the municipality of Madrid, and €9.2m in the wider municipalities around the capital. It also created 6,763 jobs for the month around Mad Cool: nearly 5,000 in the city, with the remaining 1,774 in the outskirts of the Community of Madrid.

In response to fan feedback, the festival’s organisers have reduced capacity at the 2024 event, altering the site layout to incorporate six stages (down from eight) to avoid both noise bleed and scheduling clashes, and they have also added a fourth day to further take the pressure off that programming process.

In terms of audience comfort, more bathroom facilities and water supply stations have been integrated, the food options have been increased, along with bar areas, more screens will be in use around the site, and the event’s accessible areas have been increased to cater for guests with disabilities and functional diversity.

With a lineup headlined by Dua Lipa, Pearl Jam, Måneskin and The Killers, among the other sixty acts on the bill are The Smashing Pumpkins, Janelle Monáe, Motxila 21, Sum 41, Jessie Ware, Black Pumas, Tom Morello, Bring Me The Horizon and Avril Lavigne, to name but a few.

 “Spain is vibrant and bustling with activity this year”

How is the festival scene in Spain doing this year in general? Have you heard about many cancellations, or, on the other hand, new events? And how do you ensure Mad Cool stands out in a crowded market?
Javier Arnáiz: The festival scene in Spain is vibrant and bustling with activity this year. While there have been a few logistical challenges and economic pressures, we’re also seeing a surge of new events and innovative concepts emerging. I would say the overall energy is very positive, with both organisers and attendees eager to have live music experiences. To ensure Mad Cool stands out, we focus on delivering an exceptional experience from start to finish.

Cindy Castillo: Yes, this includes a diverse lineup that appeals to a broad audience, all-year-round music & art-related projects, and a high-quality festival experience. Our branding, coupled with consistent and engaging art related content & communication, helps us maintain a unique position in a crowded market.

How are ticket sales going for Mad Cool 2024 compared to previous years?
JA: Ticket sales for Mad Cool 2024 are performing well, on par with our expectations and previous years. We’ve seen a robust demand, which reflects the anticipation and excitement surrounding this year’s lineup and the unique experiences we have planned.

What role has your advertising and social media strategy played in driving these sales?
CC: We have focused on creating engaging and shareable content across platforms, showcasing not only our lineup but also the unique experiences and atmosphere that Mad Cool offers. Interactive campaigns with creative content have helped maintain a steady buzz and engagement from our audience.

You made some big changes this year in terms of the number of stages, site layout, capacity, and the extra day. What has the feedback from fans been like, and how do you think it will change the festival experience?
JA: The feedback from fans has been positive regarding the changes for Mad Cool 2024. Adding an extra day and decreasing the number of stages have been particularly well-received. Fans appreciate the lineup & the new site layout has also been designed to enhance the overall experience, making navigation easier and improving accessibility. We believe these changes will make the festival more enjoyable and memorable for everyone involved.

CC: We have communicated these changes effectively through a multi-channel approach via our website, social media, and email newsletters. We also use video content. Additionally, our customer service team is always available to answer any questions, ensuring that fans feel informed and excited.

“We are optimising our operations to maintain high standards without significantly raising ticket prices”

Festival organisers around Europe are telling us that it’s proving to be a difficult year with costs continuing to increase, but little room to move on ticket prices because of the general cost of living crisis. Does that sound similar to the Mad Cool situation, and if so, how are your team dealing with that? How do you communicate value to your audience in such a challenging environment?
JA: Yes, we’re facing similar challenges at Mad Cool. The rising costs across the board, coupled with the need to keep ticket prices accessible, have required us to be very strategic in our planning and resource allocation. Our team is focused on finding efficiencies wherever possible without compromising the quality of the festival. To manage this, we are optimising our operations to maintain high standards without significantly raising ticket prices. This includes strategic partnerships and sponsorships that help offset costs, ensuring that we can continue to deliver a top-notch experience for our attendees.

How do you communicate value to your audience in such a challenging environment?
CC: We communicate value to our audience by highlighting the unique aspects of Mad Cool—such as exclusive performances, high-quality production, and the exceptional hospitality of a city like Madrid. Through transparent, creative and engaging communication, we show how their investment translates into a memorable and worthwhile experience, reinforcing the festival’s value proposition despite economic challenges.

Your festival has become a bit of a summer meeting spot for the international business. Was that always the plan, or just a happy coincidence? And do you have any statistics regarding the numbers of professional guests?
JA: It’s a combination of both strategic planning and a fortunate evolution. From the outset, we aimed to create a festival that would not only attract music lovers but also become a hub for industry professionals. Over the years, this vision has come to fruition, and we’re proud that Mad Cool is now seen as a key event in the international festival calendar. While we don’t have exact statistics at hand, we’ve observed a significant increase in professional attendees, including industry executives, media, and artists, contributing to a rich and dynamic networking environment.

 


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Kalorama festival to launch in Madrid

Meo Kalorama, a Lisbon-based festival organised by Last Tour, has announced a new edition in Madrid, Spain.

The decision comes after the independent promoter axed its Spanish festival Cala Mijas, following a dispute with the local municipality.

Kalorama Madrid will take place at the Recinto Ferial Fairgrounds, sharing the same dates and lineup as its Portuguese counterpart.

Slated for 29–31 August, the twin festivals will feature performances from acts including Massive Attack, LCD Soundsystem, Death Cab For Cutie, The Postal Service, Sam Smith and The Smile.

Last Tour claimed that Mijas Town Hall failed to pay “significant amounts owed in sponsorship” for the 2023 edition

The new Madrid event comes after Cala Mijas was cancelled due to “repeated and serious [contractual] breaches” by the municipality.

The third annual edition was due to take place in Mijas, Málaga, on 29–31 August with a sold-out crowd.

However, Last Tour, which also organises Bilbao BBK Live and BIME, claimed that Mijas Town Hall failed to pay “significant amounts owed in sponsorship” for the 2023 edition.

“In addition to this, there are equally serious breaches, such as the lack of conditioning and provision of facilities at the venue,” reads a statement on the festival’s social media accounts.

In response, Mijas Town Hall said they have worked, “tirelessly to make progress on the 2024 edition of Cala Mijas without Last Tour showing any willingness to do so”. They maintain that they have reiterated, “the need to justify the investments, which should have been carried out since the festival started”.

“[We have] always shown its willingness and interest in the continuity of the festival but this must be balanced with its obligation to look after the public resources of the citizens.”

 

 

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K-pop’s Music Bank World Tour to debut in Spain

A renowned K-pop event is to debut in Spain later this year in the latest phase of its international expansion.

First staged in Tokyo, Japan in 2011, the Music Bank World Tour is an offshoot of one of South Korea’s most popular music TV shows, Korean Broadcasting System’s (KBS) Music Bank. It has gone on to be held in cities across Asia, Europe and Latin America, showcasing artists such as BTS, Stray Kids and Twice.

Its 19th edition will land at Madrid’s 80,000-cap Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on 12 October this year, promoted by SONDE3 and LA Rock Entertainment and broadcast live on KBS. Lineup details are yet to be confirmed.

The Madrid show will mark the fifth time the festival has taken place in Europe, having debuted in Paris in 2012

APMusicales reports the occasion will mark the fifth time the festival has taken place in Europe, having debuted in Paris in 2012, when it featured the likes of SHINee, Girls’ Generation, 4Minute, BEAST and 2PM.

The Music Bank World Tour has also previously visited Hong Kong and Chile (2012), Indonesia and Turkey (2013), Brazil and Mexico (2014), Vietnam (2015), Singapore and Indonesia (2017), Chile and Germany (2018), China (2019), Chile (2022), and France and Mexico (2023). It was most recently held last weekend in Antwerp, Belgium at the Sportpaleis on 20 April.

Earlier this week, meanwhile, TEG Live announced that K-Pop superstars aespa would be playing their first Australian dates this August and September. The group will play Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney, on 31 August and Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, on 2 September.

 


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Deft punk: Barnaby Harrod’s ten live lessons

Having given up his native England in the 1980s, Barnaby Harrod enjoyed a successful decade in a punk band, before fate – and love – saw him pursuing a backstage role. Now celebrating 25 years of Mercury Wheels, he (with the guidance of wife, Elie) has become one of Spain’s top promoters. Gordon Masson discovers ten of the key lessons learned by Barnaby during his fascinating career.

Born in Cambridge, Barnaby Harrod spent his first four years in the northern English city of Newcastle before the family returned south to London, where he stayed until the age of nine. “We then moved to Oxford, but we moved back to London when I was 13, so I spent all my teenage years around Ladbroke Grove and Portobello Road,” he tells IQ.

And it was there where his love for music blossomed. “I was born in 1965, so I was 11 in 1976 when punk broke,” he says. “My uncle took me to see my first gig when I was 12: the Boomtown Rats, with Bob Geldof, and it was amazing. Just going to that one gig got me into music forever, and I started listening to the Ramones and the Sex Pistols and the Clash, as well as going to gigs in London, in 1977, 78, 79, as a teenager.”

While he wasn’t necessarily academic at school, Barnaby was a promising footballer, but punk rock soon took over his life.

“I got into the first 11 football team in my penultimate year, but in my final year, they put me back into the second 11 because by that time I was too much into music, having a drink down the pub, and enjoying myself.”

Always ahead of his time, Barnaby took a gap year when he left school. “I pulled on a backpack and went to South America – I was 18 – and I went to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. You couldn’t go to Argentina at that time if you were English because it was just after the Falklands War.” However, armed with the rudimentary Spanish he had learned at school, that adventurous trip planted a hispanophile seed, and on his return to the UK, he enrolled at University College London to study Modern Iberian Latin American Studies.

“I always felt like a tourist in France and Italy and Greece. But as soon as I got into Spain, I felt instantly at home”

Studies can map your path in life
“When we lived in Oxford, my mother always had lodgers. They were mostly students, but one of our lodgers – Philip Lloyd-Bostock – was a Spanish don, and he was the one who got me interested in Spanish. He was a wonderful man, and he inspired me to learn Spanish and read Spanish literature, which completely changed my life.”

In his second year at university, he completed a four-month exchange course in Córdoba. “I loved it, and I connected straightaway with the Spanish people. When I went on Interrail with my friends, I always felt like a tourist in France and Italy and Greece. But as soon as I got into Spain, I felt instantly at home. That’s been the way I felt about Spain from the very beginning.”

Disillusioned by university, Barnaby poured himself into music, joining a pub band in London called The Pleasure Splinters. “We never did anything, but I played bass and sang a bit of backing vocals. Then I joined another band, the Disco Dagos, where I played a bit of guitar, but they didn’t really come to anything either.”

But the pull of Spain was too much to ignore and because his birthday coincided with the running of the bulls in Pamplona, he decided that’s what he should do, having read about the event in Ernest Hemingway’s Fiesta.

Taking a risk can pay off immeasurably
Displaying the steely nerve that every promoter requires, he took £100 that his father had gifted him for his birthday and took a risk. “I went to the Golden Horseshoe Casino on Shaftesbury Avenue (London), played roulette, and walked out with £1,000. And the next morning, I went to a travel agent and bought a flight to Barcelona because that was the nearest place to Pamplona.”

Having met a couple of friendly Pamplona locals, he found himself staying in a flat overlooking part of the bull run. And then came the day when he joined the spectacle. “It was absolutely terrifying,” he states. “At the bottleneck that enters the bullring, I managed to catch my hand against a gate, and I snapped my little finger. So, a few hours later I was in hospital with my fractured finger while others were there, covered in blood,” he laughs. “But I had a wonderful time and at that point everything seemed a bit aimless in the UK, so I thought I’d try to move to Spain.”

“There’s not a single town in Spain we didn’t play – I remember going to places where they didn’t have tarmac roads and there would be donkeys tethered in the corner”

Ever practical, he returned to the UK to undertake a course teaching English as a foreign language, which was his only weapon when he relocated to Madrid in March 1989. “I actually thought of going to Barcelona, but I was friends with Robin Wills, who was the guitarist in a band called the Barracudas, and he told me that Madrid was more rock and roll – more nightlife, more bars, more fun, so I took his advice.”

Wills also put Barnaby in touch with a DJ called Kike Turmix. “He was also the singer for The Pleasure Fuckers. Through him, I became firm friends with the band’s two American guitarists – Norah Findlay and Mike Sobieski – and when they kicked the bassist out a few months later, they asked if I wanted to join the band.”

Barnaby’s first show took him back to a familiar setting. “It was in Pamplona, of all places, a year after I had run with the bulls, but this time playing in a punk band. It was wild.”

It’s possible to earn a living doing something you love
Touring extensively with the band across Spain and beyond, The Pleasure Fuckers started to build a fanbase, and what began as a part-time endeavour, soon became a full-time affair. “We made enough money to live on, and the whole thing lasted about ten years,” states Barnaby. “There’s not a single town in Spain we didn’t play – I remember going to places where they didn’t have tarmac roads and there would be donkeys tethered in the corner and stuff.”

The band also toured around Europe, but it’s a show in the United States that Barnaby proclaims as one of his onstage highlights. “The tour was a double bill with another punk band called Nashville Pussy, and we were in Seattle, which was really exciting because that’s where the Sub Pop label was, and we knew a lot of people from other bands who came along to see us. It wasn’t a huge venue, but still, it was sold out to 700 people, and we were headlining that night. It was just this amazing feeling of ‘We’ve done it – we’ve made it.’ And the next day we played Bend, Oregon with four people in the room…”

Another band highlight was in Spain at the inaugural Festimad festival in Madrid where The Pleasure Fuckers appeared on the same stage as Rancid and Rage Against the Machine. “We played at about eight o’clock in the evening, and I remember looking over to the left, and all the guys from Rancid were there, nodding their heads to the music. A couple of songs later, I looked over to the right, and all the guys from Rage Against the Machine were there, nodding their heads.

“Festimad followed closely by the the US tour were great. But they proved to be the zenith of our career, we just didn’t know it at that point.”

“I had to change my initial way of doing things – The Pleasure Fuckers way – into something more professional”

However, it was a show in Switzerland that would provide Barnaby with his biggest life-changing moment. “One of our promoters was called Elie Muñiz, and it was like Cupid had fired his arrow: we just fell in love. And when the tour ended two months later in October 1997, she moved to Madrid.”

Twenty-six years later, Cupid is still at work, while Elie and Barnaby’s son Zack (17) is studying for his international baccalaureate, ahead of plans to attend university in his father’s native England.

“When I met Barnaby I was working as a promoter for the Vendetta Agency in Switzerland,” says Elie. “In an extremely unprofessional manner, I decided to leave everything for the sexy bass player of the band I was promoting! And here we are twenty-five years later!”

Play to your strengths
While Elie knew how to promote shows and had developed relationships with agents in London, that world was a mystery to Barnaby.

“But I did know everyone at all the venues in Spain – literally everywhere up to 1,000 or 1,500-cap. So we decided to set up as promoters. Prior to that I had been doing a bit of tour managing and I realised that in a lot of cases a bit more professionalism was needed – I’d arrive at a venue and nothing had been prepped. In fact, often I’d get to the venue and there was no one there. It was chaos. And I thought to myself, ‘I could do this a lot better.’”

The very first tour came courtesy of Russell Warby, then at the Agency Group. “It was a band called Royal Trux – an alternative rock band from the US, who we did three shows with. I went up to San Sebastian to welcome them and then came down to Madrid, where we had about 200 people in a 300-cap venue, meaning we lost money. But it was a great way to start, although I didn’t really have an idea of what I was doing.

“I’d been used to touring with The Pleasure Fuckers where, literally, we’d sleep on the promoter’s floor. Obviously, I wasn’t gonna ask Royal Trux to stay on my floor, but I tried too hard – I booked a cool hotel in a Bohemian area of Madrid. But I quickly realised that the band just wanted a nice clean hotel with 24-hour reception. And so that began a very quick learning curve of how to deal with bands. I had to change my initial way of doing things – The Pleasure Fuckers way – into something more professional.”

“If the band’s relaxed, then they’re more likely to have a great gig”

Showing musicians a bit of love pays dividends
Barnaby’s experience of life on the road proved invaluable. “I realised how important it was for the band to just feel at ease, so I’d make sure the backstage looked nice by bringing candles, nice food, and decent coffee so that it would smell good in the morning when people arrived. I’d basically go out of my way to make the tour manager and the band felt relaxed, because I knew how important that is, especially at smaller levels.

“When you’re touring in a van playing smaller capacity venues, you’re often far from home and missing your loved ones. And if you just feel a bit of love, then it can make such a difference for the whole day. If the band’s relaxed, then they’re more likely to have a great gig. So having done all that time on the road with The Pleasure Fuckers definitely stood me in good stead.”

That level of attention does not escape the talent. Rick Astley comments, “Working with Barnaby is truly amazing. He exudes professionalism and knows the business inside out, all whilst making it fun. He knows the best restaurants and wine in Spain, so who can’t love that?!”

Sharon Corr says, “I love working with Barnaby and Elie! They’re great people with an incredible knowledge and experience of the industry and music. We have become great friends over the years, and I always look forward to working with them, knowing that they pay great attention to all the details necessary for a great concert, venues, ticket sales, and a super show. Barnaby and Elie are fantastic at what they do!”

American quintet The National agree. “Barnaby has been a stalwart supporter of The National from our earliest days touring in Europe and has taken good care of us on stage and off,” the band say in a statement. “We look forward to more concerts together and seeing him standing backstage, sharp dressed as ever.”

Luck plays a major role in live music
Establishing the company and working with emerging talent saw Elie and Barnaby throwing themselves into Mercury Wheels with a passion that meant they were involved in the business 24/7 in those early days.

“The first act we had a hit with was Moby, who had just released Play. We got pretty lucky”

“The first act we had a hit with was Moby, who had just released Play,” Barnaby tells IQ. “We got pretty lucky. The agent was Ian Huffam, and for Mercury Wheels it was our first big international thing. Moby had been to Spain before, playing small venues like 300-capacity. But on the back of Play, we sold out a 1,200-cap club in Barcelona and about 1,800 in Madrid. But I was still green, so I’d be there to help with the load-in and the load-out because we didn’t have specific local production that we could rely on.

“In fact, we were still doing business via fax at that point. My friend, Mark Kitcatt, who ran Richard Branson’s Caroline imprint in Madrid was crucially benevolent as we started out and generously gave Elie and I some space in his warehouse. We had one computer between us, and we were surrounded by thousands of Prodigy records because The Fat of the Land was huge at the time.”

As the company’s reputation grew, Mercury Wheels were asked to help with booking the new Isladencanta Festival in Majorca. “Year one, we booked Ladytron and maybe one other band, and it all went so well that in the second year, we were asked if we could book the entire event. But then, of course, it went pear-shaped because the organiser didn’t have the money he said he did. But we’d booked it all, and we bought the Strokes for their first ever show in Spain through Russell Warby – he was always there and has been continually supportive to us. I remember Russell actually playing me one of their songs down the telephone, and we paid $1,000 because it was before the record was released. But then it blew up and we kept putting the Strokes higher and higher on the bill.”

Now a long-time agent at WME, Warby comments, “We first worked together on the mighty Royal Trux back in 1998, which only seems a minute ago. Barnaby is a lovely soul. His enthusiasm for music always shines through and he has great taste… in suits and literature, too.

“I remember telling him how much I enjoyed reading Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and that it made me want to walk across Spain. He told me he loved that book also… so much so that he was inspired to move to Spain and actually did!”

Fellow WME agent David Levy adds, “It’s as much a pleasure to do business with Barnaby today as it was when I first met him as a small independent promoter. Transferring to a larger company, he hasn’t lost any of his excitement to make things happen.

“Perhaps the act I’m most grateful for his work on is Rick Astley because when we first took Rick on, lots of promoters weren’t ready to look at him in a contemporary way, but Barnaby immediately understood what we were trying to do and was one of the first promoters to really support him.”

“Booking the Strokes was important for us, but behind the scenes, we were suffering immensely because the money wasn’t there”

And that respect extends across multiple agencies. Alice Hogg at ATV Live states, “I first met Barnaby a decade ago when I was a shiny new agent at UTA. He wanted to book one of my artists at a boutique festival I’d never heard of at the time, and I made him pay the full fee upfront as I didn’t trust him (not yet understanding Mercury Wheels was part of Live Nation and they were absolutely good for the cash.) Little did I know he’d turn out to be the most trustworthy of them all, and I’d end up working alongside him on global Live Nation tours one day.

“Every call I’ve ever had with Barnaby (even when it’s bad news), I’ve put the phone down smiling. He’s a pleasure to do business with and a great friend.”

ATC Live founder Alex Bruford recalls his first encounter with Barnaby, vividly. “It was at the Moby Dick in Madrid. We were outside the venue, and he walked up in his trademark suit and shades, looking far cooler than anyone in the band. To this day, he still looks cooler than the bands! My artists love hanging out with Barnaby in Madrid – it’s almost always a tour highlight.

Bruford adds, “Barnaby is a brilliant and mercurial promoter, often coming up with unique plans to launch tours and always bringing his incredible sales analysis and projections to the table. He’s been an absolute rock for me, hugely supportive of myself and ATC Live since my first day as an agent. On top of that, he’s taken me for some of the most enjoyable meals in my life, and I consider him a true friend.”

Business partners can make or break you
“Booking the Strokes was important for us, but behind the scenes, we were suffering immensely because the money wasn’t there. So, in 2001, through no fault of our own, we went bankrupt, even though we’d booked an amazing bill for Isladencanta, including Goldfrapp and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.”

That episode resulted in Mercury Wheels having to take out a loan to get back on its feet. “You learn who to go into business with,” notes Barnaby, but on the back of that lesson, he and Elie secured a partner to take care of the financial side of things and were able to keep working with Isladencanta with great success.

“Ed [Sheeran] gave Mercury Wheels our first arena show. And then he gave us our first stadium show”

“The following year, we had Oasis and the Libertines. And then we did one more edition with Iggy Pop and Supergrass, but the cops came in and closed it down at midnight because there was a new government in Majorca that didn’t want to do the festival because they were getting pressure from the people who ran the island’s nightclubs. That was the end of it. In a way, I was happy to get out, but when I think about who we booked, it was pretty amazing, even though it was like walking on a knife edge the whole time. And it obviously helped give us credibility with the agents and allowed us to start doing bigger shows.”

With the confidence of the agents growing, Barnaby had a discussion with then Free Trade employee Jon Ollier about a young act he was working with called Ed Sheeran. “We talked about going to the Apollo in Barcelona, which was 1,000-cap, but it did not happen on that tour because they had to change the routing or something. But on Ed’s next tour, we did a 4,500-cap Sant Jordi Club in Barcelona, and the cut-down arena in Madrid, which we started at 5,000-cap and went right through to 8,000 or 9,000.

“Ed Sheeran remains the only person to have played the three venues in the San Jordi complex in succession. First the Sant Jordi Club, then the Arena which is 17,000-capacity, and then the stadium, which is 54,000, stepping up on each consecutive tour. But the confidence was always there because on that first visit, Mark Friend, Ed’s tour manager, said to me, ‘Next time, we’ll be playing the arena.’ So we went to look at the arena. And when Ed played the arena on the following tour, Mark said, ‘Next time, we’ll go to the stadium,’ so we went to look at that, too. And it happened.

“Ed gave Mercury Wheels our first arena show. And then he gave us our first stadium show.”

It’s possible to be independent and benefit from corporate assistance
Having made a big impression on the Spanish live music market, it was only a matter of time before the corporate giants made an approach, and in 2014, Live Nation Spain chairman Pino Sagliocco invited Barnaby for lunch. “He asked me if I’d ever thought about becoming part of a bigger company. I was unsure, but he said, ‘This is your chance. The train’s come into the station, but it’s only here once, and it’s not going to stay forever.’ So, we negotiated and eventually we reached an agreement that was good for all of us. And we officially linked up with Live Nation in 2015.”

Unlike other LN deals, the corporate parent did not acquire Mercury Wheels, however. “They never bought us,” explains Barnaby. “We’re under their umbrella, and we work within the structure of Live Nation, but we’re still independent. I always think of it as like one of those sub labels that are under the major record labels but who have their own independence within the major.”

“The greatest thing about working within Live Nation is that they are incredibly hands-off. I’ve never been told not to do anything. The only directive is to try to make shows work”

Nevertheless, the benefits of that lunch with Sagliocco are obvious as the association with Live Nation enters its tenth year, and Barnaby admits that alongside Elie, Sagliocco has been one of his greatest mentors. “When we do the big stadium shows, there’s a lot of money involved, and there’s a lot of legal stuff with the contracts, the rental of the venues, the marketing, the security, etc. Live Nation’s managing director in Spain, Paco Martinez, runs an incredibly tight and efficient ship.

“Paco’s ability and speed with the numbers is second to none in the business, and Elie & I have learnt an incredible amount from him. So having that team of Live Nation behind you makes things a lot smoother.

“At the same time, because we maintain a level of independence, we can be very nimble and act quickly to jump onto new projects. The greatest thing about working within Live Nation is that they are incredibly hands-off. I’ve never been told not to do anything. The only directive is to try to make shows work.”

Music remains at the heart of everything
With a roster that includes burgeoning act Twenty One Pilots and superstar Dua Lipa, Mercury Wheels continues to get bigger and bigger. “It feels good,” says Barnaby. Indeed, recently he’s added a new axle to the company’s chassis.

“We’re doing comedy now,” he reports. “Five or six years ago, comedy in English wouldn’t have worked in Spain. But thanks to streaming networks and comedy series, English-speaking comics doing routines have become popular here. We did Ricky Gervais, which was a big test for us. When he came on stage in Barcelona and made his first joke, the whole place just cracked up, which was a massive relief. I spoke to Ricky about this, as we had an extra pop-up on Ticketmaster, warning people that the show is fully in English – no subtitles, no dubbing, you must understand it. And you had to tick that box to then be able to buy the ticket. But it works well, so being involved in comedy is very exciting.”

That new string to the bow should see Mercury Wheels promoting between 100 and 120 shows this year. “That’s everything from 200-capacity clubs up to 55,000-cap stadiums, which isn’t bad for a core team of seven people in the office – and sometimes also Pino [Sagliocco], who shares our space whenever he comes to Madrid. He’s an amazing man – very dynamic and engaging, like a rock star – and I’ve been immensely lucky and privileged to learn from him, because he has a very global overview of the business works.”

“It’s important that we all have ways to deal with stress, so I’ve been meditating for the last seven years”

Relying on healthy and happy colleagues has never been more important
With Elie and Barnaby investing heavily in Mercury Wheels’ staff, most of the team – Maria Gaudelia, Will Anderson, José Luis, and Ricard Rois – are long-term employees, as was Irene Garcia until very recently, before she moved over to Live Nation’s ticketing dept, while newer additions include Alexandra Karpova, and new canine colleague, Stan, who joins the incumbent pup, Pukki. “When I visited Live Nation in Los Angeles, there are people who walk dogs around the building, which just helps bring people’s stress levels down. There’s actually a Dog Nation programme within the company.”

A big believer in meditation, Barnaby has been on a number of ten-day silent retreats and takes part in weekly mindfulness sessions through the Mindful Nation programme. “It’s important that we all have ways to deal with stress, so I’ve been meditating for the last seven years,” he reveals. “It teaches me to be a witness to my thoughts rather than automatically engaging with every thought that pops into my head! I’m a big advocate of taking care of people’s mental health.”

The love for Barnaby within the Mercury Wheels operation is palpable. Colleague Will Anderson tells IQ, “I had recently moved from London to Madrid [in 2015] and was trying to figure out what the future held having spent ten years in A&R in the UK. As a fellow Englishman in Madrid with a love of music, we immediately hit it off.

“Barnaby was incredibly gracious and generous with his time, explaining how the industry worked in Spain and introducing me to other Spanish music industry contacts. In 2016, after a year or so working outside the music industry, I mentioned that I was keen to get back in, and he said there might be an opening at Mercury Wheels. I joined the company in 2017 and have had the huge pleasure of working with and learning from one of the very best since then.

“Barnaby has not only built Mercury Wheels into the incredible company it is today, but he has done it with humanity, humour, love, and respect for all those he works with, be they his colleagues at Mercury Wheels and Live Nation, artists, agents, managers, tour managers, production crew, or the bar-person at the local 200-cap venue. His love of live music remains undimmed, and you only had to see him pogo-ing to Noah and the Loners at ILMC’s recent London Calling showcase to see that love manifested in all its glory!”

Anderson adds, “It would be remiss not to mention Barnaby’s wife and business partner, Elie Muñiz, without whom, as Barnaby regularly acknowledges, Mercury Wheels would not function. It has been an absolute pleasure working with and learning from them both for the last seven years, and I can’t wait to see Barnaby pogo-ing his way through another punk show in another 25 years’ time!”

“I love discovering new talent, so I’ve got a lot of time for anyone who is out there doing that”

Talking of which, The Pleasure Fuckers will be playing a one-off reunion gig at Azkena Rock Festival in Vitoria, this June, marking 25 years since Barnaby’s last show with the band.

On a professional level, another event Barnaby is looking forward to is Vida Festival in July. “I’ve booked all the international acts onto Vida since its inception back in 2014,” he says. “It’s a gorgeous boutique festival that takes place in the grounds of a country house, 40 mins south of Barcelona. There are two main stages and several smaller stages in the woods including the boat stage where we had Spanish megastar Rosalia play an unforgettable sunset slot when she was just starting out.”

Among the acts Barnaby has managed to secure for this year are headliners M.I.A, James Blake, and Vance Joy. “The philosophy of the festival is to create an amazing experience for the festivalgoer, from the food area under fairy lights in the woods, to the amazing main stages and the world renowned Wild Side Zone,” he says.

“The creative brain behind the festival is the energetic and charismatic Dani Poveda, supported by the ultra efficient Xavi Carbonell.”

With a move to Live Nation’s offices in Madrid imminent, Barnaby is also relishing the creative opportunities this will bring to the Mercury Wheels team. “We’re a very close team and that’s partly because we work in an open office, so I’m really looking forward to the symbiosis that the new arrangement will give us. I personally cannot wait to work closer with Robert Grima, Nacho Córdoba, Daniel López, Julio Ebrat, and Johanna Llorente, while I’m super-impressed with the work that César Andión is doing to develop young Spanish acts.

“I love discovering new talent, so I’ve got a lot of time for anyone who is out there doing that. Ultimately, I’m a punk at heart, so I still love doing the 200-cap shows in the sweaty clubs, and I get as much of a kick out of doing the small shows as I do the giant ones.”

 


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Mad Cool reveals improvements for 2024

Mad Cool has detailed a series of improvements that will be made to the festival ahead of the 2024 edition.

The Madrid event last year “successfully” relocated to the Iberdrola Music venue in the capital’s Villaverde District.

The festival will return to the site for this year’s edition but will take place across four days instead of three to “minimise overlaps between artists”.

The 10–13 July edition will also have six stages instead of eight to minimise schedule clashes and prevent sound leaks across stages.

The festival’s capacity, meanwhile, will be reduced from 70,000 to allow for a better crowd flow around the site

The festival’s capacity, meanwhile, will be reduced from 70,000 to allow for a better crowd flow around the site. Organisers say the final capacity is yet to be determined.

Other changes include more bathroom facilities, water supply points, wristband charging points and chill-out areas.

More food options will also be added to the restaurant area, as will more bar spaces. Screens around the stages will also be larger than before, and more will be installed.

Finally, there have been improvements to accessible areas, improving the festival experience for individuals with disabilities and/or functional diversity.

The seventh edition will be headlined by Dua Lipa, Pearl Jam, Måneskin and The Killers. The Smashing Pumpkins, Janelle Monáe, Motxila 21, Sum 41, Jessie Ware, Black Pumas, Tom Morello, Bring Me The Horizon and Avril Lavigne are also set to play.

 


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ALMA launches second site for 2024 edition

The ALMA festival concert series will take place in two major Spanish cities for the first time in 2024.

Between 2013 and 2022, the outdoor concert series took place in the Jardins Pedralbes of Barcelona under the name Festival Jardins Pedralbes, before it moved location to Poble Espanyol in 2013 and was renamed.

Next year’s event adds Parque Enrique Tierno Galván in Madrid as a second city from 30 May to 17 June, with artists including Deep Purple, Jamie Cullum, Valeria Castro and Vetusta Morla confirmed.

“ALMA has become one of the great musical events in the Catalan capital”

The Barcelona line up, scheduled from 25 June to 17 July, has announced performances from Queens of the Stone Age, Take That, Jamie Cullum, James Blunt, Hozier and Glen Hansard.

Organisers say: “The festival brings together renowned national and international artists to offer a unique musical experience in a spectacular setting. With a careful and eclectic programme, ALMA has become one of the great musical events in the Catalan capital.”

The festival series is promoted by Barcelona-based Concert Studio, which also books artists including Ruth Lorenzo, Bad Boy, Ana Belen, Paco Ibáñez and Carla Bruni.

 


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Mad Cool expands to four days for 2024

Spanish festival Mad Cool is expanding to four days for the 2024 instalment, organisers have announced.

Next year’s edition will take place between 10 and 13 July 2024 at Iberdrola Music, a new arts area located in Madrid city centre.

It will mark Mad Cool’s second event at the Villaverde District site after the festival successfully relocated earlier this year.

With 185,000 square metres and the capacity to host more than 100,000 people, Iberdrola Music has been touted as the largest sustainable space in Europe dedicated to leisure and culture.

It will mark Mad Cool’s second event at the site in the capital’s Villaverde District

Mad Cool 2023 saw acts including The Black Keys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lizzo and Mumford and Sons christen the new site.

While last year’s offering was a three-day affair, the 2022 edition took place across five days in celebration of Mad Cool’s fifth anniversary.

Both the 2020 and 2021 editions of Mad Cool were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 


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Wizink Center’s music marathon to mark 1,000 shows

Madrid’s Wizink Center is to celebrate its 1,000th show with a 1,000-minute macro-concert featuring rising talent from across Spain.

A total of 317 emerging acts – 75% of them from Madrid – have signed up for the chance to perform on stage at the 17,456-cap venue for The 1,000 of the Wizink Center – a 16 hour, six minute music marathon on 24-25 October.

The successful 100 entrants will be revealed on 16 October, with 100 performances by the chosen bands to take place uninterruptedly, interspersed with musical performances by already established groups.

The event will serve as a celebration of the 1,000 concerts held at the WiZink Center since the venue was reopened in 2005, Its 1,000th concert, headlined by Spanish singer Raphael, will take place on December 16.

Upcoming shows at the venue include Greta Van Fleet, Jason Derulo, The 1975, IDLES, Depeche Mode and Niall Horan

Pop group Miss Caffeina will be in charge of opening this musical marathon on 24 October at 7pm, with Spanish band Marlon to close it on 25 October 25.

Upcoming shows at the venue include Greta Van Fleet, Jason Derulo, The 1975, IDLES, Depeche Mode and Niall Horan.

In the spring, Wizink Center opened new 1,000-cap concert lounge La Sala inside the complex. which is located at the same level as the main floor of the arena.

 


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The New Bosses 2023: Dani Lopez, Live Nation

The 16th edition of IQ Magazine’s New Bosses was published in IQ 121 this month, revealing 20 of the most promising 30-and-unders in the international live music business.

To get to know this year’s cohort a little better, IQ conducted interviews with each one of 2023’s New Bosses, discovering their greatest inspirations and pinpointing the reasons for their success.

Catch up on the previous interview with Chloe Pean, promoter at AEG Presents in the UK. The series continues with Dani Lopez, promoter at Live Nation.

Madrid-born, Dani Lopez started working in Live Nation Spain after finishing an MA in live entertainment business at Universidad Europea de Madrid. Starting off as a promoter assistant in 2018, Dani was quickly upped to promoter in 2019 and joined the MC Festival booking team in 2021 after finishing his MBA.

Dani’s expertise spans various musical genres, from K-pop to Latin music. He has worked closely with notable Spanish artists such as Rels B, Beret, and Hombres G, striking arena deals with them.


You studied live entertainment business at university – was this one of the Live Nation courses? And if so, how did it help prepare you for starting work in the business?
Yes, it was the first version of the Live Nation MA. I think the most important part of the program is the 360º approach. They show how the music business works from different angles, which helped me understand the business and gave me an overall vision of how this industry works. As a promoter, understanding the job and responsibilities of all the roles involved in a tour is crucial. When you are 20 years old and have almost no background in the music industry, programmes like the LN MA give you an extraordinary advantage to pursue your music business career.

Is anyone else in your family involved in the entertainment business? If not, why did you choose this career path, and how did you find out about jobs like promoters and agents?
No, my parents came from entirely different industries. Music has always been around my entire life. I studied for many years in the conservatory, then played in bands with my friends and touring a few years as a sound engineer in my early 20s. But, the main reason for pursuing a promoting career was not being able to see the bands I loved when I was a teenager in my city. It all started with the romantic dream of booking all the bands I listened to and wanted to see in my hometown.

“Live shows are the best way to determine if you believe in an artist or not”

How do you discover new talent? Are there any venues/radio stations/streaming sites or other platforms you use to find new acts?
I spend a lot of time listening to new acts and scrolling around playlists. Streaming radio has also been an incredible tool for discovering new talent. But live shows are the best way to determine if you believe in an artist or not. I get input from seeing the support bands on our tours and attending conferences and festivals like The Great Escape.

And what about meeting new contacts in the business – are there any conferences, festivals or other events that you have attended that have been useful for networking?
As a young promoter, conferences were crucial to making connections and meeting in person all the agents you mail non-stop during the year. IFF, ILMC and The Great Escape are a must for me.

Are there any particular events or tours you are looking forward to this year or next?
Gracie Abrams. She is my most streamed artist of the year—something special about that album.

Do you have a mentor or people you can trust to bounce ideas off?
Nacho Cordoba. He is one of the best promoters in the business, and working with a boss who trusts you, listens to and respects you the way he does is something I am grateful for.

What’s your favourite venue to see new artists in?
It depends on the music genre. But, overall, I would pick Razzmatazz in Barcelona. They have three rooms, and you can see shows from 200 to 2,100 capacity.

And what about your favourite venue for established acts?
Club level, it would be La Riviera. It’s a very special venue for me. I have countless memories from my childhood of seeing shows there, and now I am lucky enough to promote shows there constantly. Arena level, Wizink Center, one of the best arenas in Europe.

“Burnouts and breakdowns from the workload and stress have become more frequent…we need to set up boundaries”

As a new boss, what one thing would you change to make the live entertainment industry a better place?
Work-life balance. This is a high-demand ecosystem with intense schedules and burnouts and breakdowns from the workload and stress have become more frequent. We need to set up boundaries and take care of each other. We are hyperconnected, and we should do better in prioritizing. Most of the time, problems are not that urgent or important. Also, the live entertainment industry must be an inclusive, representative, and equitable space for all its participants, and we all should work together to accomplish that.

What would you like to see yourself doing in five years time?
I feel comfortable with changes and challenges and hope to develop new projects and create new business models around entertainment. I think it is an exciting time to be in this business. Also, I am fascinated by how local culture reflects on our business and how that makes every market so unique and different. It would be great to be able to understand as many markets as possible and work alongside different promoters in the world.

 


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