Growing Portfolio, Enterting New Territories: Q’s With Proactiv CEO Nicolas Renna

Juan Luis Guerra Wizink Center
Juan Luis Guerra at WiZink Center Madrid, promoted by Proactiv. (Picture by Óscar Lafox)

Proactiv Entertainment seems to be on a roll. Following a record 2022 that was as profitable as it was challenging, 2023 already came with another milestone: the sale of a majority stake to Sony Music Masterworks.

Sony is acquiring the expertise of one of Spain’s most experienced promoters, probably the most experienced when it comes to family entertainment and exhibitions. What is more, on the music side, Proactiv is working with Spanish and Latin American artists, a genre firmly in the grip of Sony Music.

What this deal means for Proactiv becomes clear, when looking at the other companies in Sony Music Masterwork’s portfolio. It includes businesses with a reputation in cinema, theater, TV, exhibitions, production, promotion, and many more. This creates opportunities for a bright future, as Proactiv Entertainment CEO Nicolas Renna tell Pollstar.

See: Spanish Promoter Proactiv Sells Majority Stake To Sony Music Masterworks

Nicolas Renna, CEO of Proactiv.

Pollstar: Let’s begin with the big news: You sold a majority stake of you company to Sony Masterworks. Why?
Nicolas Renna: We’re really happy about this partnership with them because it’s going to help us grow our portfolio and enter new territories, among other things. Hopefully, we’re going to use the support from Sony Music Entertainment to not only grow the experiential business and our portfolio of IPs, but to bring more artists to perform in Spain, and to get into other territories outside our current bases in Spain and UAE.

You promote in the UAE?
We have an office in Abu Dhabi since 2016, yes. We just finished Monster Jam very successfully, with around 20,000 people over the weekend. And we did the “Lion King” musical in November and December, the highest selling show ever in Abu Dhabi. We are doing Pepper Pig in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. We just announced “Hamilton” coming to Abu Dhabi in January. We haven’t gotten into music yet, but our idea is to be very active in UAE.

It seems like such a giant leap from Spain to the UAE. Was there a particular reason you picked the UAE as your next market?
We got for our expertise in family entertainment, I think it was 2013. Spain was in a very different place, and we were looking out for opportunities. We started with small family shows in Doha, Qatar, and that eventually took us the UAE, where we found our second home. We feel very comfortable there, we are well-connected with the tourism authorities, and different government entities. We’ve delivered high-class events, so they are happy with us to continue doing that. For us, it was an easy transition. Of course, there are differences in mentality and language, but a similar approach to family culture and things like that.

Can you break down, how much family entertainment, exhibitions, and concerts contribute to your business?
We’ve gone from only family entertainment to then add exhibitions, and now music. Music sold quite a significant amount of tickets over the last year. In 2022, the majority of our profit came from outside Spain. Spain represented 40% of our margin, and 60% came from the UAE, but we still consider ourselves to be a Spanish company. We grew significantly in 2022, grossing more than double the amount we did in 2019. So, we’re very proud of that.

“Lion King” distorted the numbers a bit, of course, because it was a huge project and responsible for some 20% of our revenues. But, traditionally, from a zero-percent footprint of music, today around 30% of our numbers come from music. We did tours of the likes of Juan Luis Guerra, Malú, we work with Juanes, and many other Spanish artists like Dani Martín. We also did Maluma’s 360-concerts in Barcelona and Madrid, which broke the record of the highest-attended show in Madrid in March 2022, previously held by Metallica.

Our approach this year looks similar [as we] continue to grow our portfolio of artists in our country, particularly in music. We’re doing two sold-out Andrea Bocelli concerts in Madrid in September, we will do the Juan Luis Guerra tour again, we just finished Tokyo hotel touring Spain, and looking at other opportunities with Latin artists as we’ve been doing in the past.

And as far as the music artists are concerned, can you break down how many of them are Spanish and how many international?
In terms of the number of concerts, I would say probably 65% Spanish artists, and 35% international. In terms of revenue, I would say it’s the other way around. 65% international, and 35% local. The likes of Juan Luis Guerra, and Maluma were very successful, and they grossed more than the Spanish artists, because the demand for Maluma is higher than the demand for certain Spanish artists, bust also because the ticket prices are higher. The show they put on is [produced on] quite a higher scale than many of the local bands.

@nabscab maluma DSC 0170
Maluma’s attendance-record-setting show at Madrid’s WiZink Center, promoted by Proactiv.

All sounds like 2022 has been a record year.
Yeah, it was the biggest year ever, for sure. But if we do things right 2023 will be bigger. 2022 was over-programmed. We programmed beyond our capabilities, and beyond what the market could afford, and I think many promoters will tell you the same thing. In Spain, the main capitals, Barcelona, Madrid, performed well, but outside that it was tough. Juan Luis [Guerra], Maluma, Malú, and others performed way better in Madrid than the rest of the world. Maluma sold-out Madrid easily. Valencia did not sell out. It’s the same artist, the same tour, [the cities are] so close together. Juan Luis Guerra sold out WiZink Center in Madrid as well, with little to no effort. And then the same thing in Valencia. It took all the effort to get to 8,000 tickets, or 80% capacity. The last time we were there in 2019, he sold 11,000. It happened for most of the artists, except a few, like Rosalía, who were just killing it in 2022.

Coming out of the lockdowns, promoters mostly worried whether fans would return to shows and buy tickets. Turns out the biggest problem in 2022 was too much choice.
You had all the rescheduled tours that were supposed to happen in 2020 and 2021, like Maluma, plus the tours that were originally going to happen in 2022, like Juan Luis Guerra. You had the Marc Anthony tour that was sold out, hundreds of thousands of tickets sold around Spain. It’s not necessarily that people don’t have money. You can’t be in two places at the same time. I remember, one week in Madrid, there were three concerts, one stadium and two arena concerts at the same time. Even if you would have liked to see them all, you couldn’t have. And this year, they’re going ballistic with the stadium shows. There’s 12 stadium shows in Barcelona alone. That’s 720,000 tickets for 12 concerts.

What are some of the reason 2023 could be even more profitable?
On the family entertainment side of the of the business, we’ve got a tour with the Harlem Globetrotters, ten cities, and we’re selling more than ever before. It’s their third time touring Spain, it’s not a new brand, but it’s returning and consistently doing good business for us. The same holds true for Disney On Ice. The exhibitions are doing very well. There’s an appetite in Spain for both, family entertainment and exhibitions, traditionally our biggest business.

Family shows are also visiting stadiums these days.
Yes, we do Monster Jam in stadiums. We are planning on going back into stadiums in 2024. There are just not that many properties that you can do in a stadium, but when the new Real Madrid stadium opens at the end of this year, we intend to use it.

Any other business highlights for 2023 you would like to point out?
We just signed a lease for a venue in Barcelona for five years, where we will present immersive experiences and exhibitions. That’s going to drive a lot of attention in the future. It is just going to be renovated before we announce the name and location soon. The idea is that it is going to be our hub for immersive experience in Barcelona. We’re also signing a long-term lease in Madrid, to use [the buildings] back-to-back. That will give us a lot of opportunities in the future. And, of course, working together with the Sony Music companies on bringing their content to Spain and the Middle East.

Any other territories outside of Spain you have an eye on?
It’s too early to say, but if we do it, is has to happen the same way it did in the UAE, a market we slowly became comfortable with, and only started taking risks after understanding the culture and market. So far, we co-promote in markets like Portugal, Argentina, or Belgium where we have some very good friends. Maybe in two years time we can consider opening another office.

In the meantime, we’ll work with Sony’s near-unlimited contacts and high-end connections. They also represent practically 90% of all Latin artists. The only artist that is relevant and not with Sony is Juan Luis [Guerra], and we already work with him.

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