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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.

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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:

Doctor Music Festival 2019

 


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Spain: 69% of resold tickets are touted for profit

Nearly three quarters of tickets placed on secondary sites in Spain are there to be sold for profit, new data reveals, as momentum builds towards regulating the Spanish resale market.

Ticketea, a Madrid-based self-service ticketer, on Monday held a press conference to present the results of a survey of 12,000 people which discovered more than one in four (26%) Spaniards has resold an event ticket online. Of those 26%, 69% of respondents admitted to “speculating” on the ticket’s price, turning a profit by reselling it for more than face value.

The Ticketea survey comes as public sentiment in Spain shifts increasingly towards legislating to regulate the secondary market, inflamed by several high-profile controversies over ticket touting. Bruce Springsteen promoter Doctor Music is taking legal action – still ongoing – against several sites it accuses of “defrauding” consumers, while in February Berry Producciones and popular singer Alejandro Sanz sued Viagogo and established the Anti-Resale Alliance, an anti-touting association along the lines of FanFair in the UK.

While a majority (55%) of those surveyed are against an outright ban on resale, as is being introduced in Italy, 67% say secondary ticketing should be a “controlled practice, regulated by the law”. Of those 67%, more than three quarters say the price of resold tickets should be capped at no more than 10% above face value.

“They hurt the fans, and they take advantage of the talent of the artists and the risk assumed by promoters”

Speaking at the press conference – also attended by Doctor Music’s Neo Sala and Springsteen fan club president Joan Colet, who is hoping to gain 500,000 signatures on a petition to criminalise for-profit resale – Ticketea CEO Javier Andres said: “The current situation with ticket resale in Spain is not caused by fans selling a ticket because they can no longer attend a concert; the problem is speculators who buy large numbers of tickets and resell them for a premium of as much as 1,000%…

“They hurt the fans, and they take advantage of the talent of the artists and the risk assumed by promoters and organisers of events.”

Other insights from the survey include that around one in three people have bought a resold ticket, of which 30% paid above face value, and that 94% of consumers would like to see the introduction of a window of time in which tickets can be legally resold – cutting out brokers who harvest tickets in bulk and immediately list them on secondary sites.

Spanish culture minister Íñigo Méndez de Vigo pledged on 8 March to “regulate” the online ticket resale market, although he ruled out an outright ban, saying it would be like “putting doors on a field” (“ponerle puertas al campo“) – ie impossible. No concrete measures have yet been announced.

 


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