Neo Sala on ‘phenomenal’ demand for Springsteen
Doctor Music has made history in Spain after selling 350,000 tickets for Bruce Springsteen’s 2023/24 shows in the country.
“I have never seen demand for tickets so strong during my 40 years as a concert promoter… it’s absolutely phenomenal,” Doctor Music founder and CEO Neo Sala told IQ.
In the space of 14 months, Doctor Music will have promoted seven shows in Spain for Springsteen and the E Street Band.
In April this year, the Boss performed two shows at the Estadi Olímpic in Barcelona, having sold 100,000 tickets in a few hours. “No other act in the history of Spanish concerts has sold so many tickets that fast,” Sala told IQ at the time.
This week, Doctor Music made history again, selling 250,000 tickets for Springsteen’s five 2024 concerts in Spain; two more at the Estadi Olímpic and three at the Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid. According to Sala, this marks a new record for the number of tickets sold in a week.
“It’s an honour and a great satisfaction,” Sala tells IQ. “It’s always an absolute pleasure to work with Bruce and his team and selling that many tickets – which means making many concertgoers happy – makes it even better,” adds Sala.
“No other act in the history of Spanish concerts has sold so many tickets that fast”
The legendary promoter, who founded Doctor Music in 1982, estimates that he has promoted close to 50 concerts for Springsteen since they joined forces in 1992. “And Bruce’s show is better than ever which is incredible considering his age,” he adds.
The 74-year-old’s upcoming Spain shows are part of a 22-date stadium run that kicks off on 5 May at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, and finishes back in the UK at London’s Wembley Stadium on 25 July.
It will also visit Northern Ireland, Ireland, France, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway.
More than 1.6 million tickets were sold for the 2023 European leg, which concluded in late July with a sold-out show at the 70,000-cap Monza Circuit in Italy. The run visited 14 countries in Europe, including multi-night stands in Barcelona, Dublin, Paris, Amsterdam, Gothenburg, Oslo, London and Copenhagen.
In September, Springsteen postponed the remainder of his 2023 North American tour with the E Street Band on doctor’s advice as he continues his recovery from peptic ulcer disease. The tour, which grossed $142.6m in the first half of 2023, is due to resume at Phoenix’s Footprint Center in the US on 19 March next year.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
FEAT hopes DSA will clamp down on ticket touts
The Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT) is looking to the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) to clamp down on illegal ticket resale after once again taking aim at Google’s influence on the secondary ticketing market.
The DSA introduced new measures from August requiring large search engines to clamp down on illegal product listing, including working with risk-affected parties to carry out assessments of ‘systemic risks’ relating to illegal content.
FEAT, which is dedicated to the promotion of face-value ticket resale across the continent, says it is estimated that Google is responsible for driving two-thirds of traffic to Viagogo. Viagogo was banned from advertising on Google globally in July 2019 after the latter came under fire from lawmakers for allegedly accepting advertising money from sites listing tickets fraudulently. The ban was quietly lifted four months later.
At FEAT’s AGM in Barcelona last week, members agreed that by failing to properly consider the continued prevalence of illegal ticket resale advertising, large search engines may already be in breach of their new responsibilities. FEAT is also looking to adjust ticket T&Cs to enable event organisers to de-list resale ticket listings more aggressively via the DSA’s notice and action mechanisms once the regulation comes into force more widely.
“With new Europe-wide regulations coming into effect for predatory resale platforms in the New Year, we united at a critical moment”
“With new Europe-wide regulations coming into effect for predatory resale platforms in the New Year, we united at a critical moment,” says FEAT founding director and Doctor Music founder and CEO Neo Sala.
The organisation is also planning the next phase of its Make Tickets Fair! campaign,which was launched earlier this year by a coalition of live industry organisations and professionals from across Europe launched with the intention of helping music fans avoid being ripped off on the secondary ticketing market.
“During the meeting we agreed exciting plans to use the DSA to get illegal ticket resale listings taken down, as well as ramp up the ‘Make Tickets Fair!’ campaign to help educate music fans on safe ticketing,” adds Sala.
Launched in 2019, FEAT has welcomed new member Kiki Ressler, MD of German booking and touring company KKT, which represents 64 artists including Die Toten Hosen and Die Ärzte.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Execs point finger at Google over ticket resale
Live music professionals have raised further questions about Google’s influence on the secondary ticketing market.
In a session at Primavera Pro in Barcelona yesterday (1 June), Neo Sala (Doctor Music), ticket resale specialist Nicole Jacobsen (previously tickets.de), Sam Shemtob (FEAT) and Scumeck Sabottka (MCT-Agentur) discussed how search engines host advertisements from unauthorised ticket resale platforms such as Viagogo, which appear at the top of the search page, above organic listings for official ticket sellers.
The panel noted how the advertising policies of search engines do not permit advertising that deceives users – either by excluding relevant information or providing misleading information – but suggested Google did not appear to be adequately enforcing this policy.
“We see a close parallel between the situation now with the live events industry, to that in the noughties with the record business,” said FEAT director Neo Sala, founder & CEO of Spain’s Doctor Music. “I think we all remember when you’d Google a song name and ‘mp3’ and you’d be met with piracy links as the first, second, third results. Today, try Googling ‘Harry Styles tickets’ and you’ll see a link to unauthorised, overpriced tickets right at the top. The live industry needs to ask Google to take the same sensible steps as they did with the record industry and start guiding fans to trusted, official sources.”
Viagogo was banned from advertising on Google globally in July 2019 after the latter came under fire from lawmakers for allegedly accepting advertising money from sites listing tickets fraudulently. The ban was quietly lifted four months later.
“In this environment of strengthening legislation, search engines ought to start asking what kind of companies they are”
The panel said that, during Google’s brief ban on advertising from Viagogo in 2019, global traffic to the site fell by two thirds, which it claimed highlighted the extent of its influence.
A coalition of live industry organisations and professionals from across Europe launched the Make Tickets Fair! campaign earlier this year with the intention of helping music fans avoid being ripped off on the secondary ticketing market. The panel also touched on the development of the initiative.
“Across Europe, countries including Belgium, France, Ireland and others have outlawed unauthorised ticket resale,” added FEAT (Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing) director Sam Shemtob. “The European Court of Justice meanwhile has ruled that event tickets are a contract for services, subject to terms and conditions of the event promoter; and the incoming Digital Services Act promises to tighten consumer protections in e-commerce further.
“In this environment of strengthening legislation, search engines ought to start asking what kind of companies they are. Do they want to enable the activities of ticket scalpers, and support the anti-consumer and anti-artist practices of unauthorised resale platforms? Or, do they want to stand up for their users and guide them toward legitimate tickets for the events they want to attend? We hope companies like Google will choose the latter option.”
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Live orgs unite for Make Tickets Fair! campaign
A coalition of live industry organisations and professionals from across Europe is launching the Make Tickets Fair! campaign to help music fans avoid being ripped off on the secondary ticketing market.
The group comprises agents including UTA’s Jules de Lattre and One Fiinix Live’s Jon Ollier, as well as organisations including German live entertainment association BDKV, the European Music Managers Alliance, European Arenas Association, FanFair Alliance, Swiss consumer association FRC, Pearle – Live Performance Europe, PRODISS, the Sports Rights Owners Coalition and Victim of Viagogo.
Further details of the initiative will be revealed tomorrow at Eurosonic, at a panel hosted by pressure group FEAT and Dutch venues association VNPF. Speakers include De Lattre, Henk Schuit (Eventim Nederland), Sam Shemtob (FEAT) and Silke Lalvani (Pearle – Live Performance Europe).
“It’s vital that this campaign is successful, and that means becoming front-of-mind with agents, managers and promoters when they are planning shows – so safe resale information goes out with all communications, including on ticket pages,” says De Lattre.
“The current ticket resale market is, frankly, broken and the time for the industry to come together and act is long overdue”
“We are delighted to be part of the campaign Make Tickets Fair! to bring awareness to all audiences about how and where to safely buy their event tickets,” says Silke Lalvani, head of public affairs at Pearle. “It is crucial that the live performance sector as a whole collaborates on stopping illegal ticket resale to make sure that fans have a great experience at live shows and other events.”
A new industry-facing website has launched, providing free resources and advice for event organisers, with the goal of getting more agents, promoters, venues and indeed artists, involved ahead of consumer launch. It also offers a clear overview of ticket resale laws country by country.
“The current ticket resale market is, frankly, broken and the time for the industry to come together and act is long overdue,” adds Neo Sala, FEAT director and founder & CEO of Spain’s Doctor Music. “As the first Europe-wide campaign of its kind, Make Tickets Fair! has huge potential to help fans and rebuild trust in live music. To achieve this, cross-industry collaboration is essential, and we look forward to getting as many members of the live business on board as possible.”
FEAT sets out objectives and welcomes new members
The Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT) has pledged to continue campaigning for a Europe-wide ban on ticket resale above face-value.
At its first in-person general meeting since the pandemic, FEAT also unveiled plans for an international consumer awareness initiative geared at educating fans on the risks of buying tickets from uncapped secondary ticketing sites. The messaging and strategy is currently in development, with FEAT facilitating a working group made up of organisations across Europe, including BDKV, the European Music Managers Alliance, the European Arenas Association, FanFair Alliance, FRC, Pearle – Live Performance Europe.
In addition, the organisation welcomed new members Chris Ortiz, director of Cordova-based Riff Producciones, and Iñigo Argomaniz, CEO of Get In, based in San Sebastián.
“There’s a renewed energy to tackle touting, and we have been invigorated by positive changes in national and EU legislation over the last year”
“It’s great to finally meet again in person and welcome more new faces among us,” says FEAT director Neo Sala, founder and CEO of Doctor Music, who hosted the meeting. “There’s a renewed energy to tackle touting, and we have been invigorated by positive changes in national and EU legislation over the last year – demonstrated not least in MCT-Agentur and Rammstein’s recent injunction against Viagogo in Germany.”
Held in Barcelona, the meeting saw the board refocus its priorities after the past year’s successful campaign for tougher regulation of online marketplaces in the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA). The landmark DSA includes measures to ensure professional sellers are identifiable, prevent certain manipulative sales tactics, and require regular reporting to improve transparency for consumers.
Spanish promoters react to sweeping restrictions
Spain’s live music sector is reckoning with a whole host of new restrictions imposed by the Spanish government and its various communities.
Earlier this week, prime minister Pedro Sánchez and his cabinet declared a six-month state of emergency, set to remain in force until 9 May, with periodic reviews.
The decree will allow Spain’s regional governments to order an overnight curfew to run from 11 pm to 6 am, or to begin and finish an hour earlier or later.
Yesterday (29 October), Catalonia went one step further, ordering the suspension of cultural activities for 15 days, starting from today.
“After some months of lockdown, postponing or cancelling all shows, we had a slight restart with many restrictions and reduced capacities,” says Albert Salmerón of Producciones Animadas.
“And now with the current situation, we have to postpone again the new shows we were programming following all the health and safety rules of the new normality. This means that we will have to keep our companies without any income for a very long time. This is a terrible situation and it’s essential that the Spanish government makes a plan to save the live music industry providing enough budget to cover costs of this lockdown and of the cancellations of shows.
“The expectations were not good but now they are even worse”
Juan Antonio of rock and metal promoter Madness Live agrees, adding that the new measures present a “very hard situation”.
“The expectations were not good but now they are even worse. For Madness Live and so many other companies in the music industry in Spain, which only work with international artists, it’s almost impossible to do anything. Since 11 March we were not able to organise any concert and unless the situation changes drastically, we think it would take much longer,” says Antonio.
“In the end, I think the governments will have to allow us to work coexisting with the virus… How? I don’t know. Maybe when the vaccine is out there for the most vulnerable part of the population, with the fasts tests or a cure. But until then, many employments will be – are being – destroyed, many venues will close and many promoter/booking/management offices will close. Unfortunately, the light at the end of this long tunnel is still far for us.”
Robert Grima, president at Live Nation Spain, however, is determined to charge ahead, working around the restrictions.
“The curfew does not affect the current situation for shows with reduced capacities at seated clubs and theatres, and therefore we will keep working on shows at that level. I am optimistic as concerts and events have not been a point of transmission and we are working with health authorities for test shows to certificate and create protocols to get back to the business asap,” says Grima.
“Unfortunately, the light at the end of this long tunnel is still far for us”
Neo Sala, founder and CEO at Doctor Music, suggested the new restrictions may even have a “positive effect”.
“The current state of emergency is much softer than the one applied last spring as it does not allow the government to lock down the population at home. It does not make any difference as “real concerts” – those with full capacities and no social distancing were not allowed anyway, even without the state of emergency.
“In fact, in the long term, it could have a positive effect for the live music industry as the more contained the people have been, the more hunger there will be for live entertainment when the Covid crisis is over. Our team is going through this situation together and with good spirit, ready to rock as soon as we can,” Sala concludes.
Es Música, the national federation, estimated that the losses in the live music sector due to the pandemic could exceed €1.2m after a year. While The International Monetary Fund recently said that Spain will be one of the developed countries worst affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
Neo Sala presented with lifetime achievement award
Neo Sala, founder and CEO of promoter Doctor Music, has been presented with an award by the Spanish music industry to recognise his four-decade career in the live business.
Sala, who founded Doctor Music in 1982, was given by the award by Albert Salmerón, president of the Association of Music Promoters (APM), at the sixth Premios Fest awards in Bilbao yesterday (30 October).
Nearly 40 years after its founding, Doctor Music, still led by Sala, remains one of Europe’s leading independent promoters, working with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Adele, Katy Perry, REM, Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes and Greta Van Fleet. It also launched Spain’s first-ever major music festival, Doctor Music Festival, in the mid-1990s.
“Neo has played a fundamental role in the formation of the national music scene”
Last May, the company sold a majority stake to Germany’s CTS Eventim, becoming Eventim’s first controlled promoter in the Spanish market.
According to APM, Sala is “the greatest exponent of the music industry in our country”. “Neo has played a fundamental role in the formation of the national musical and cultural scene, helping Spain to become a must-stop destination for any world-class tour,” says the association.
The Premios Fest (‘Fest Awards’) take place annually ahead of the BIME Live conference. Other 2019 winners included Bilbao BBK Live, which picked up best large festival, and Cruïlla Festival, which won the innovation award.
How grey policies killed Doctor Music Festival
The recent cancellation of Doctor Music Festival, aka the Festival of the Cow, which was scheduled to take place this summer, was a bitter pill to swallow.
The circumstances that brought about the cancellation of the event are surreal to say the least, and would appear more befitting of a Kafkaesque state than a Spanish administration that claims to be concerned with popular culture and the development of rural areas.
Doctor Music Festival was due to take place in July 2019 in Escalarre, in the Pallars Sobirà region of Catalonia, set among an idyllic valley in the Catalan Pyrenees.
This vast meadow, which spans over 100 hectares and is surrounded by high mountain peaks and natural parks, had already played host, some 20 years ago, to three of the festival’s previous editions, which are forever engrained in the history of Europe’s live music scene. In 1996, 1997 and 1998, the region saw three special editions take place, bringing together tens of thousands of people for unforgettable events featuring the likes of David Bowie, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, and hundreds of other legendary names.
This year, the festival was going to make its comeback with the Reincarnation Edition, which looked set to put the Pallars region back on the international music map.
Someone, somewhere, sat in a grey office in a grey building, found a way to extinguish the magic
The 2019 line-up included names such as Rosalía, the Strokes, the Chemical Brothers, Smashing Pumpkins, Greta Van Fleet, King Crimson, Underworld and Christine and the Queens, along with cutting-edge DJs such as Black Coffee, Damian Lazarus, Luciano, Jamie Jones and many more. It was going to be a three-day/four-night extravaganza of music, friendship and nature. A special communion between people, music and the stars.
The event had been designed following the most rigorous of standards when it comes to sustainability, recycling, zero-waste policies, locally sourced produce and harmony with the natural surroundings. The end goal was to leave the valley exactly as it was before the festival took place, or maybe even better. And then bureaucracy happened…
Someone, somewhere, sat in a grey office in a grey building, found a way to extinguish the magic. Thanks to the board of directors at the Agència Catalana de l’Aigua (Catalan Water Agency), and spurred on by a small local group of urban ecologists of questionable reputation – “eco-opportunists” is perhaps a more fitting term – it was ruled that the open valley was at risk of flooding – despite never having previously suffered flooding as far as any existing records show, and despite the final remnants of snow on the surrounding mountains having melted two months ago. And just like that, the dream was over.
It was a small victory for bureaucracy. Despite protests from the valley’s local residents and mayors, who continued to emphasise the positive economic, touristic and cultural impact the festival would have on the local agricultural communities and residents, the decision remained unchanged. The powers that be had already decided that the local countryside was better used as a “theme park” for city folk to escape to on weekends, where they can enjoy a fleeting illusion of their eco-friendliness, or of being “at one with nature”.
The powers that be decided that the local countryside was better used as a theme park for city folk to escape to on weekends
The harmonious development of rural communities, encouraging nature-friendly human activities and working to bring wealth and cultural enrichment to areas that have otherwise been overlooked by these administrations clearly weren’t as important as their desire to demonstrate who ruled the roost.
Their argument was based around the possibility of a flood occurring in Escalarre… maybe. At some point. Perhaps.
What happened next is already common knowledge. We tried to relocate the festival to the Catalunya-Barcelona Formula 1 Circuit in Montmeló, but the general public were not convinced by this swap from lush green valley to urban racetrack. The spirit of the cow had been mortally wounded (at least for the time being) and the magic behind this celebration of music, peace nature and friendship was over.
Live music in Spain owes a lot to Doctor Music Festival, but there is no greater debt than that owed by political parties to the citizens who vote for them.
I hope they bear that in mind when it’s election time and they start promising the citizens of Spain a wonderful and colourful country. The colour they are referring to… might just be grey.
Doctor Music Festival forced to move by flood threat
Spain’s Doctor Music Festival (DMF) has been obliged to change sites for its comeback edition this summer, after the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) warned that the event’s original site in the Pyrenees was at risk of flooding.
Neo Sala, the founder of promoter Doctor Music, confirmed today that Doctor Music 2019 will take place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya Formula 1 track in Montmeló, near Barcelona, from 12 to 14 July. The festival was originally planned to take place over four days at Escalarre, in the Àneu valley, from 11 to 14 July, with the change meaning that Smashing Pumpkins will play on 14 July rather than the 11th, as originally planned.
Smashing Pumpkins will now play before Sunday’s headliner, the Strokes, after agreeing to “accommodate the date and time change for the sake of the festival, their fans and the other bands”.
Doctor Music Festival took place in Escalarre in 1996, 1997 and 1998. Festival organisers said they considered the ACA’s warning to be an exaggerated interpretation of the theoretical risk of flooding, in a valley that hasn’t flooded in summer for as long as records exist.
In a press conference to announce the change of venue, Sala talked of ecologists and “eco-opportunists”, criticising those who felt the valley was “theirs, and untouchable”.
“In the festival’s opinion, there has been a very over-exaggerated and destructive interpretation of the regulations surroundings theoretical flood risks in the valley, which has never before flooded in summer (at least as far as current data shows),” says DMF in a statement.
“We have found Montmeló, which is a fantastic place”
“The stringency levels which have been applied in this case far surpass the norm and we have therefore been forced to abandon the originally planned location in order to ensure that all artistic commitments made are complied with, and make sure that the festival goes ahead as per originally designed for this new edition.”
All of the artists confirmed for DMF 2019 will still perform, with the exception of Chris Robinson Brotherhood and the Prodigy, who cancelled all their live dates following the death of Keith Flint.
All tickets remain valid, though a refund policy has been implemented for those who no longer wish to attend. Ticket prices have also dropped, in reflection of the new three-day nature of the event, and promoters will reimburse those who already bought passes at the old, more expensive rate. Full information is available from www.doctormusicfestival.com.
Sala said he hasn’t considered the future of DMF beyond the 2019 event. “We are not even thinking about it,” he said. “We have found Montmeló, which is a fantastic place. And we are concentrating on having the best possible festival in Montmeló.”
Doctor Music today also announced new names for the festival, including Empire of the Sun, Johnny Marr, Texas, Kamasi Washington and Luciano. Swiss DJ Luciano will play in Force Field, an open-air stage dedicated to electronic music curated by DJ Damian Lazarus.
Sala also spoke on DMF’s impressive technical specs. The main stage will be 162m (531’) wide – apparently the largest concert or festival stage ever used in the south of Europe – and is designed by Ray Winkler of Stufish Architects, which has worked on stage design for the likes of the Rolling Stones and U2.
The festival’s lighting is being overseen by Patrick Woodroffe, director of Woodroffe Bassett Design, who designed recent tours by AC/DC, the Rolling Stones, Adele and Black Sabbath.
Doctor Music Festival 2019 announces first acts
Spain’s Doctor Music Festival has announced its first wave of artists for next year’s ‘reincarnation edition’, including several who will perform multiple times throughout the festival.
Both King Crimson and Underworld will perform three sets apiece, giving fans more than one opportunity to see headliners and “reduce the anxiety generated […] by the worry of missing any of the key concerts”, according to festival promoter Neo Sala.
Sala explains: “I do not want people to have the feeling that they will miss something – the famous FOMO [fear of missing out] effect that you get in those big events will be reduced at Doctor Music Festival.”
Other performers include the Strokes (who return to the road in 2019 after a two-year hiatus), Smashing Pumpkins, Greta Van Fleet, Primal Scream, the Prodigy, Sisters of Mercy and Eyellusion’s Frank Zappa hologram.
The full line-up for the festival – which takes place from 11 to 14 July 2019 at a 350-acre site in Escalarre, surrounded by the Catalan Pyrenees – will be announced early next year.
A poster showing the first wave of acts in full is below: