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Robert Grima: ‘We need the whole ecosystem to succeed’

As the worst year in the history of the live music business finally nears its end, IQ caught up with several industry leaders ahead of the new year, asking for their predictions for 2021, as well as the lessons they can take forward from 2020.

Here, Robert Grima, president of Live Nation Spain, speaks about the logistics of putting on 18 shows this summer while the pandemic raged, and why the industry must no longer take the live experience for granted when concerts return…

IQ: This year has been difficult, to put it mildly, but have there been any positive aspects you are taking forward from this annus horribilis?
RG: Yes, 2020 has also been a year of reflection and, especially, of cooperation in the live music sector. The sector has come together to give visibility to live music events as part of the culture and lives of many people, showing our professionalism and effectiveness and the efforts of promoters to give continuity to the sector, despite the circumstances.

How has news of the coronavirus vaccine news changed the conversations you are having with artists, management, promoters, festivals, etc.?
We as a global company are totally focused to getting back to the shows we all know and love, and there is a great focus on many ideas and protocols that will help us improve the service to fans and deliver a quick return.

Livestreamed shows have shown that fans will pay to see their favourite acts remotely. How do you imagine this technology might develop when regular touring activity resumes?
The impact of livestreamed shows in Spain has been similar to in other countries. Livestreaming has proved to be a good complement to live, and additionally can be a marketing add for our artists through these times.

It is a model that, in the future, can coexist with the live show as an additional offer for the fan in some cases, but the experience of a live show is unique and irreplaceable.

“Once we are all able to come back there is going to be incredible pent-up demand waiting on the other side”

What advice or encouragement can you give to those who were hoping to break through in 2020, knowing that the market is going to be overcrowded with onsales when the industry gets back to work?
Live is one of the best ways for artists to grow their engagement with fans, and once we are all able to come back there is going to be incredible pent-up demand waiting on the other side.

I would encourage them to focus on playing live, not stopping, even if it means performing with reduced capacity for longer, because it has been proven that fans respond and artists enjoy it. And it’s the best way for artist to maintain and grow their engagement with fans.

Despite the high numbers of Covid-19 cases in Spain, you were still able to host some Crew Nation events. How did you achieve this, and what challenges did you have to overcome?
Yes, we hosted 18 Crew Nation Presents shows in La Riviera over the summer with the aim of supporting and giving visibility to crews that work in live events. The shows were a great success. Artists love playing live, and the fans got to go to shows in a summer when, in many places, live music was on pause. Additionally, and really importantly, the crew were supported by the events at a really hard time, looking after the whole ecosystem of live.

This was all made possible because we collaborated closely with the local authorities and adapted protocols to the new regulations, which have been effective and used throughout the series.

As Spain/Portugal are often either the first or last dates of European tours, do you think the Spanish market’s return to business will be different to other territories around the world?
No, it does not have to be different. Fans continue to await concerts with the same enthusiasm, and Spain will continue to be an attractive country for artists. I actually believe that there will be a boost in the live sector once we get back.

“I hope that from next year we all can be in the moment and grateful for every show we get to be a part of”

The way various rival firms have cooperated and collaborated for the common good during the pandemic has been impressive. What hopes do you have that closer industry bonds can continue post-Covid-19?
My hope is that once and for all we can cooperate together in all moments, not only in difficult ones. What we have really seen is that the live industry is an ecosystem and we need all of it to succeed.

What do you think the biggest challenges are going to be for Live 2.0, and how do you think industry leaders can best guide the business as things reopen?
We have spent the summer working hard with local authorities to guarantee artists, fans and crews that the concerts are taking place in a safe environment. This is what promoters and artists across the world will be focusing on, and what we have proven so far to be possible. The parameters may continue to change but we will, as always, work with local authorities and health advisers to get as many artists in front of their fans as possible.

With the Crew Nation Presents shows we demonstrated that not only promoters are taking the new restrictions seriously, but that the fans are, too. I think that’s the best sign of things to come once we can fully reopen.

Finally, are there any bad habits the industry had that you are hoping might disappear when normality returns?
It’s easy to get swept up in the day to day, and I hope that from next year we all can be in the moment and grateful for every show we get to be a part of. Let’s not ever take live music for granted.


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