‘The Best Rock Concert I have Ever Seen’: Q’ With Doctor Music’s Neo Sala

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Bruce Springsteen performed two concerts at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys in Barcelona, Spain, April 28 & 30, as part of his 2023 tour. The concerts were promoted by AEG Presents/Concerts West in association with Live Nation, Last Tour and Doctor Music. (Photo by Jesús A. Martínez)

Pollstar caught up with Spanish live music icon Neo Sala to talk about the current state of play at his company, Doctor Music, which kicked off 2023 in style with two Bruce Springsteen concerts at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys in Barcelona, Spain, April 28 & 30, promoted alongside AEG Presents/Concerts West in association with Live Nation, Last Tour. In Sala’s own words, it was the best rock concert in his career as a promoter.

Pollstar: We last spoke in 2019, when you were forced to cancel the long-anticipated return of Doctor Music Festival. So much has happened since then, lockdowns, a war, a looming recession. So, I hope you don’t mind me beginning with a rather heavy question, and ask: What’s your state of mind at this point in time, from the perspective of a live events promoter, but also a human being?
Neo Sala: I like what I do as a concert promoter, and I have been doing this since I started to do it as a hobby in high school when I was only 15 years old. I had no other job in all my life so I only have one perspective and, in general terms, it is optimistic. The two years of COVID gave us time to think about the important things in life, and we now value many things that we always took for granted before, like simply being able to freely wander around and meet up with other people, enjoy a restaurant or live event, etc.

It also showed something modern humans had forgot, which is that we are vulnerable, and therefore should enjoy the joy of living in the present moment, instead of focusing on future things that may never happen. This has translated to many people wanting to enjoy live, and a huge desire to go out, travel, and, of course, see live concerts, which is creating the huge demand for tickets the live industry is experiencing right now almost everywhere in the world.

You just promoted Bruce Springsteen’s two nights at the Estadi Olímpic. How was it?
I’m speechless. I have no words to describe what I saw. I thought the first concert, which was the opening night for the European tour, could not get any better, but I was wrong, and the second show was, for me, the best rock concert I have ever seen in my 40 years in the live music industry.

See: CTS Eventim Enters Spain By Acquiring Majority Of Doctor Music

Rolling Stones' "Sixty Stones Europe 2022" Tour Opening Night
Ronnie Wood celebrates his birthday onstage during Rolling Stones’ “Sixty” European Tour, on opening night at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium Madrid, June 1, 2022. Doctor Music promoted the show. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

What other past and upcoming shows promoted by Doctor Music would you like to highlight?
We promote many shows, and not all of them are in large arenas or stadiums, but the obvious ones to mention in 2023 are Robbie Williams, and Rammstein. Obviously two very different styles, but both share the same level of uniqueness and very fine quality.

After speculating for a long time, how the great return of live would play out in 2022, many of the established promoters reported record sales – a feat accomplished under great effort. How was Doctor Music’s 2022, and how do you think 2023 will compare?
In 2022 we already started to see the light at the end of the tunnel as we got the Rolling Stones playing Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid in June, and also Bryan Adams playing arenas. So in spite of COVID not yet formally over, we had a decent year. And 2023 it getting even better, not only because of the Springsteen shows, but also because, in Spain, life is now back to normal, and almost nobody is talking about COVID anymore.

The great effort I just mentioned put a strain on everyones mental and physical health. How do we make sure that the word sustainability also includes the sustainability of everyone’s health going forward?
It is difficult, perhaps impossible I’m afraid, to “make sure” of something like this. My personal recipe for it is to stay away from social media and be cautious with traditional media. Their business is to catch and trap our attention, and to do so they bombard us mainly with negative news and catastrophic predictions, and this creates all sorts of psychological fears and anxieties that seriously damage the mental health of the people.

Doctor Music
Neo Sala, founder and CEO of Doctor Music.

What’s the economic climate like in Spain right now. The UK and Europe have been hit with price increases across the board, but especially in the energy department. Has this influenced the ticket buying power of fans?
Luckily not yet, but, of course, we need to keep our eyes opened and be sensitive to the evolution of economy.

How do you cope with the increased costs of putting on concerts?
Unfortunately, there is only one way to do this: increase ticket prices, although we have tried to keep this increase to the minimum.

What’s one of the important lessons you learned across your 40-plus year career that has helped you in these turbulent times?
To be patient and understand we are not in charge of what is going to happen.

Name one Spanish artist everyone should have on their radar right now?
There are so many good Spanish artists right now but I would point out Guitarricadelafuente, a consolidated folk-indie artist that has already reached the international scene but is still trending upwards.

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