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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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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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