Vamos España: How Spain’s Local Identity Brings In Global Business

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Juan Luis Guerra performing at Cruïlla Barcelona in 2022. The festival is one example of how the Spanish live biz is back in full swing. Cruïlla neither had to change its ticket price nor capacity thanks to its mostly local audience, which constitutes a very enticing offer for local sponsors. (Picture by Xavi Torrent)

Live music set an all-time record in Spain in 2022, grossing €459 million ($494 million), according to the annual Music Yearbook published by the Spanish promoters
association APM. That’s an increase of almost 200% compared to 2021. Revenue far exceeded the previous record set in 2019, when the sector turned over €386 million ($415 million). Naturally, the Music Yearbook speaks of “the year of the great recovery, with offers skyrocketing and historic attendances.”

The 10 most popular national tours alone attracted more than two million spectators, with Fito & Fitipaldis leading the way. The Live Nation promoted tour moved 329,820 tickets across 27 concerts, followed by Alejandro Sanz, staged by Mow Management and GTS, who counted 287,948 attendees at 16 live shows, and Manuel Carrasco, who drew 260,809 fans to 19 dates, promoted by Riff Producciones.

All three companies are featured in the Top 5 of Pollstar’s promoters chart for the
year 2022, filtered by Spanish businesses. Live Nation is leading the way with a gross
of $59,610,958 and 711,753 reported tickets sold. Riff Producciones comes in second
with a $28,479,786 gross, followed by Doctor Music at $14,432,398. GTS Live ranks fourth with a gross of $14,170,445 and AEG Presents with $9,519,714 rounds out the Top

The biggest international tours, according to the APM report, are Marc Anthony’s “Pa’llá Voy Tour,” promoted by Live Nation, which shifted 163,124 tickets in June and July. Red Hot Chili Peppers’ global stadium tour, which kicked off at Seville Cartuja stadium, June 4, before heading to Barcelona’s Estadi Lluis Companys June 7, ranks second. Promoted by Live Nation subsidiary Planet Events, the tour sold 98,483 tickets across both concerts. Morat, a GTS Live client, and their “Si ayer fuera hoy” tour came in third, attracting 97,434 fans to their Spanish shows. That makes two Latin American acts among the Top 3 international tours in Spain, exemplifying how well both markets complement each other.

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Manuel Carrasco at the Estadio de La Cartuja in Seville, Spain, performing for a sold-out crowd of 74,000 on June 11, 2022. (Photo by Karlos Sanz)

Live Nation Spain’s César Andión, who heads the Spanish Wave talent export program, told Pollstar that the networks of agents, managers, promoters, and venues on both sides of the Atlantic “have always been strong, and culturally and economically
important. Now, with the boom and even revolution of Latin, Hispanic, Iberian acts flourishing across the globe, the increasing interest of the non-Latin American industry is making [the network] even stronger and richer.”

Morat is exhibit A. Under the management of Universal Music subsidiary GTS Live, the
Colombian band emerged as “the most influential Latin group worldwide, with a tour spanning over 120 concerts across the globe and one million tickets sold,” GTS Live director and corporate representative Maricuz Laguna told Pollstar. She said, “The Latin American market is key for our business. The population in Latin America exceeds 650 million inhabitants, to which we have to add the Spanish-speaking population of the United States. It is an immense market, and if an artist succeeds there, it marks a pivotal moment in their career that significantly boosts the volume of the business
generated around them. In the case of GTS, we are currently experiencing this with artists such as Morat, Aitana, Pablo Lopez, Lola Indigo and more experienced ones, like David Bisbal.”

One highlight from Morat’s visit to the U.S. earlier this year was two sold out nights at Miami’s James L. Knight Center Feb. 19 & 23 that sold 8,406 tickets and grossed $610,511, according to Pollstar Boxoffice reports.

One Spanish festival that has been booking Latin artists since its inception 13 years ago is Cruïlla. Past lineups featured genre icons like Calle 13, Tego Calderón, Gilberto Gil, and others. Cruïlla director Jordi Herreruela said it was part of the festival’s DNA: “Cruïlla is Catalan and means meeting point or crossroads. We are a mirror of the city of Barcelona, which welcomes people from everywhere, and we have a
huge Latin community all around Spain.”

Latin music also inspired Cruïlla 2022. There’s a song by Rubén Blades, ‘The Song of the End of the World’ (‘La canción del final del mundo’), about a nuclear war leaving humanity with five minutes to live. Blades sings the only course of action to make the most of this precious time was to dance. And what better music to dance to than salsa?
“The song came back to me during COVID, funny how the brain works,” Herreruela added.
“So, last year, I decided that we were going to do a festival to dance.” The bill featured fathers of Latin music like Rubén Blades, Juan Luis Guerra and others. Thousands of festivalgoers were dancing together, not solo with phones in hands, but as couples, holding hands, busting out moves, whether they were pros or amateurs.

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The crowd at Primavera Sound in Barcelona. The festival has expanded to a total of six locations, including Madrid, Porto (Portugal),
São Paulo (Brazil), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Bogotá (Colombia), and Asunción (Paraguay). (Photo by Eric Pamies)

And if all of this wasn’t enough proof of the special connection between Spain and Latin America, there’s Primavera Sound, one of Spain’s biggest events, expanding to LATAM, taking place for the second time in Sâo Paulo, Brazil, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, and for the first time in Bogotá, Colombia, and Asunción, Paraguay in 2023. This year will also see the Madrilenian premiere of the festival. Arriving in the capital was “both a dream and a long-standing challenge,” Primavera Sound CEO Alfonso Lanza said, “We’ve been working with Madrid on the year-round tours for a long time, and we even had an edition in both cities of Primavera Club, the small version of the summer festival with cutting-edge artists. So the idea of going to Madrid was on our minds. That it can finally materialize makes us feel very proud.”

The first edition of Primavera Sound Madrid takes place at the “City of Rock,” Arganda del Rey, “a space specially designed for festivals,” according to Lanza, who said “the comfort for artists, public, and workers is ideal, that’s why we fell in love with this venue.”

Primavera Sound in Barcelona took place across two weekends last year, June 2-4 and June 9-11, connected by a full week of concerts. The team counted half-a-million visitors across 10 days. “Last year’s numbers,” Lanza said, “are so exceptional, because the circumstances were also exceptional: we came from two years of hiatus due to the pandemic, and we almost did three festivals at once, if you add the city shows between weekends.”

The two-weekend format was a one-off. This year’s edition returns to Barca’s Parc del Forum June 1-3, headlined by Blur, Halsey, Kendrick Lamar, Depeche Mode, Rosalía, Pet Shop Boys, New Order and Calvin Harris.

Morat are one of the many shining examples of Latin American acts that successfully tour Spain – and the rest of the world for that matter. (Picture courtesy of GTS Live)

Spain seems to be dealing well with post-pandemic effects, and doesn’t seem too fazed by the price hikes that have hit all of Europe. According to Laguna, Spain’s economic
indicators were pointing towards growth. “Forecasts are optimistic for our country, with employment figures steadily improving. Moreover, we will always be a country with a favorable climate that encourages an active street culture. Establishments such as restaurants and bars have been less affected by the [economic] circumstances.” Still, in order to maintain one’s audience, “the only option we have is to work harder, consider offering attractive deals when selling tickets, and provide various options for purchase – from higher-priced tickets that provide fans with a complete experience, including access to rehearsals, meet-and-greets, merchandize, etc., to the most affordable ones that only grant entry to the show – and to offer greater diversity. I’d point to the Umusic Hotel Teatro Albeniz, as an example.”

Laguna was referring to the brand-new Umusic Hotel at the historic, and completely renovated, Teatro Albeniz in Madrid, managed by GTS Live. The building opened with a performance of the Antonio Banderas-directed musical “Company.” David Bisbal sold out 20 nights in a row at the venue earlier this year. GTS Live plans on exporting this unique business model combining a luxury hotel with a historic music venue to other countries in Europe, the United States, Latin America, Brazil and the Middle East.

Another company embracing diversification is Proactiv Entertainment, ranked seventh on
Pollstar’s chart, which just announced that it sold a majority stake to Sony Music Masterworks. The company’s heart beats for family entertainment, including various Disney and Marvel IPs, WWE, Harlem Globetrotters, Monster Jam, and more, but Proactiv has also become a specialist for exhibitions, festivals, and concert tours. The company, for instance, promoted Maluma’s record-breaking concert at WiZink Center last year, April 5.

Word of Proactiv’s expertise has traveled far, leading to the opening of an office in Abu Dhabi, UAE, in 2016. Last year in November and December, Proactiv brought the musical “Lion King” to Etihad Arena, which became the highest selling show ever in Abu Dhabi. “Hamilton” is up next. CEO Nicolas Renna told Pollstar, that Proactiv “grossed more than double of what we did in 2019 last year, and the majority of our profit came from outside Spain. Spain represented 40% of our margin, 60% came from touring in UAE,” adding that the immense popularity of “Lion King” skewed the numbers a bit.

Today, around 30% of Proactiv’s revenues are generated through music. 2023 highlights include Tokyo Hotel’s Spanish dates, two Andrea Bocelli concerts at WiZink Center,
Sept. 20-21, a tour by Juan Luis Guerra, as well as “looking into opportunities with other Latin acts, as we’ve done in the past,” said Renna. Despite 2022 being the biggest year in company history, he is confident that,”2023 will be bigger,
if we do things right.”

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Juan Luis Guerra at a sold-out WiZink Center.

Manuel Saucedo, general manager of Madrid’s WiZink Center, said, “Leisure in general, and live music in particular, have been reinforced after the pandemic. We all want to go out, be together again and recover lost time, so music has reacted to this and we have all rescheduled the postponed concerts, and programming new tours. Artists and promoters were also eager to come back.” In 2022, the building hosted concerts by C. Tangana, Dua Lipa, Alicia Keys, Camilo, Harry Styles, Backstreet Boys, Black Crowes, and Maluma, who set a new attendance record at WiZink Center, with 17,400 in attendance. The 2023 schedule includes Hans Zimmer, Roger Waters, Joaquin Sabina and Alejandro Sanz´s comeback, Maroon 5, four gigs by Romeo Santos, Arctic Monkeys, and Andrea Bocelli. “In terms of sports,” Saucedo added, “we are hosting the Under 19 Women´s Basketball World Cup in July.”

Clearly, the Spanish industry is back in business, however, as Cruïlla director Herreruela noted, it is also transforming. “The big players are buying festivals, promoters, integrating venues, ticketing, booking agencies. Independent promoters will probably have some difficulties in the future.” As globals players offer global touring deals, it becomes increasingly difficult for independents to get their fair share of international tours coming through their country.

Chris Ortiz, president of Riff Producciones, agreed: “It is definitely getting much more difficult to survive as an independent. We used to get a lot more international
acts.” One way of staying competitive was “to reach agreements with other independents in other countries and make joint offers.”

Surely the best way of keeping the independent sector alive and thriving is to realize
the incredible value it brings to the table. Local promoters, Ortiz continued, “really
understand the pulse of their cities, which helps optimize your promotion. You can
count on those guys. There might be a local holiday, or a competing event that you didn’t know about. Wherever we partner with local people, we get much better [results], from venue and promotion deals, to publicity to sponsors. There’s a lot of possibilities [when you can bring in] local sponsors.”

Red Hot Chili Peppers Opening Concert Of Their International Tour
More than 50,000 people during the opening concert of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ European stadium tour at the Estadio de La Cartuja in Seville, June 4, 2022. (Photo By Joaquin Corchero/Europa Press via Getty Images)

Herreruela couldn’t agree more. “There is a local identity that could be missed in a global structure. I’m quite focussed on explaining that this local identity is a big business. [The corporates] may not respect it because of its heritage, but they will understand that it’s a huge market,” he said.

His own festival is a case in point of what happens if you maintain a local point of view in a globalized industry. Cruïlla’s audience is mostly local, which is important if you want to involve local sponsors. “If you are a brand, and you are working in Spain, you will not get the same feedback from investing in an international festival, where half the audience travels back to their home countries after the event. Our local audience is attractive for local sponsors, because it makes up their day-to-day clientele,” Herreruela explained. Thus, Cruïlla has been growing its sponsorship income, allowing it to maintain its ticket price in spite of every part of the business having gotten more expensive. The festival’s capacity is still 25,000 per day on a site that could hold 100,000. This year’s lineup features Placebo, The Offspring, Sigur Rós, Alt-J, Tash Sultana and many more, plus an extensive comedy and art program.

Aside from counting on a homegrown audience, promoters can also rely on homegrown
talent. Riff Producciones sold almost half of the tickets reported for tours of Manuel
Carrasco and Melendi. Carrasco’s show at Seville’s Cartuja stadium alone sold over 74,000 tickets. Carrasco will kick off his 2023 tour at the same stadium, at a slightly lower capacity due to the new production, but on two nights. Melendi embarks on his 20th anniversary tour at the end of this year, “about 12 shows, which are 8,000 to 10,000 tickets per show,” according to Ortiz, who is optimistic that 2023 could surpass Riff’s record year 2022.

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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)

That’s not to say international artists don’t generate business for Spanish companies,
as well. Doctor Music, ranked third on our Spanish promoters chart, was part of the team promoting the Rolling Stones’ “SIXTY” tour at Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid in June 2022. It was a joint production by AEG Presents/Concerts West in association with Live Nation, Last Tour, and Doctor Music to be exact. Doctor Music founder and CEO Neo Sala told Pollstar, “In spite of COVID not being formally over, we had a decent 2022, and this year is looking even better, also because life in Spain life is back to normal and almost nobody is talking about COVID anymore.”

This year, his team already handled Bryan Adams’ arena dates at WiZink Center in Madrid (Feb. 1) and Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona (Feb 2), as well as Bruce Springsteen’s two Spanish shows at the Estadi Olímpic in Barcelona, April 28 & 30. Speaking about the two concerts by the Boss, Sala said, “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.”

For Simon Jones, SVP international touring at AEG Presents, the Rolling Stones tour was a definite highlight of 2022. Another one was the sold-out BLACKPINK show at Barcelona’s Palau Sant Jordi in December. “Spain is one of the strongest K-pop markets in Europe and the show was an absolute standout from the past year,” Jones said. He concluded, “The Spanish market is a big focus for the AEG Presents European business. It’s a priority touring market for us, with strong growth opportunities in certain genres. We always look to include Spain in our pan-European tours.”

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