A Most Favorable Climate For Live – Business In Spain Is ‘Muy Fenomenal’

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Stay Homas, a trio from Barcelona, performing at Cap Roig Festival 2023. Last year’s edition had an occupancy rate of 94% across a total of 23 shows, according to promoter Clipper’s Music Group. This year’s edition returns to the Calella de Palafrugell, right on the Mediterranean coast, July 12 to Aug. 16. (Photo by Jose Irún)

There’s nothing but good news coming from Spain’s live industry in 2024. Whether you’re speaking to independent promoters, festival, and venue operatorsm major promoters, or just looking at ticket sales generated by the artists on Pollstar’s Spain charts, it’s all growth, boom, records. Those are the words thrown around by everyone. Not casually, though. There’s a great appreciation for the willingness of artists to tour, and the willingness of fans to show up. And show up they do. Across the board.

According to Chris Ortiz, CEO of Riff Music, one of the last independent promoters in the country, “Every city has gone up exponentially. Just yesterday, I was talking to a promoter friend from Granada, a city of about 400,000 people, about how, in September, we had Joaquin Sabina in the Bullring for two sold-out nights. During that time, there were concerts in an outdoor auditorium of the Alhambra Palace, there was a show in the sports hall with 8,000 people, there was a festival right outside of the city with about 20,000 people. All those shows, 10 years ago, would have been the annual amount of live events in Granada. And here we are, having 10 or 12 shows on one weekend.“

It’s not just the volume of ticket sales that’s cause for optimism, but the fact that a lot of the ticket buyers are young. Ortiz said, “We used to be worried about not getting younger people to shows, but the crowds are getting much younger. And, on average, they’re going to a lot more shows than they used to a few years ago. People who used to go to maybe two, three shows a year, are now going to eight or 10, and it’s catching on.”

Malú Concert In Barcelona
Malú performs at Gran Teatre Del Liceu during the Festival de Guitarra de Barcelona, Feb. 13, 2024. (Photo by Xavi Torrent/Redferns)

Riff Music, which leads Pollstar’s Spain promoter chart by ticket sales reported between April 1, 2023, and March 31, 2024, is not just a promoter. The company manages many of the artists it represents on tour, including Melendi, Manuel Carrasco and Malú. It is the bespoke service a nimble company like Riff can offer that gives it a competitive edge in an industry where global deals and worldwide representation dominate.

Ortiz explained: “With these acts, it’s such a personalized service: you’re involved in the design of the shows, selecting band members, helping with a number of things; plus, you’re touring with them. My partner and I are at least at 80% of our artists’ shows. It is a service that a large company is not able to provide, at least not as efficiently as we’re able to, because in order to do that you need to have the time to spend with the artist.”

Headquartered in Cordoba, Andalusia, Riff Music counts 18 full-time staff in the office, plus 12 working externally, mostly directly with the artists. This dedication pays off. Manuel Carrasco holds the Spanish concert attendance record, and Melendi is doing record business.

“And by record, I mean, he’s probably doing three times the volume he’s ever done,” said Ortiz. “His tour is probably going to be one of the largest ticket-selling tours by any Spanish act this year. He’s selling out everywhere we go: Valladolid, Seville, Zaragoza, Valencia, you name it.”

Another record, cumulative in nature, was set by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band on the Spanish leg of their worldwide stadium tour. The Boss had already sold out the
Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys in Barcelona, concerts that left promoter Neo Sala, founder and CEO of Doctor Music, speechless. “I have no words to describe what I saw,” he
told Pollstar after the concerts, adding, “the second show was, for me, the best rock concert I have ever seen in my 40 years in the live music industry.”

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band during one of last year’s sold-out shows at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys in Barcelona. (Picture courtesy Doctor Music)

Doctor Music promoted five more Bruce Springsteen shows this year – three in Madrid and two in Barcelona, which, adding last year’s shows, totaled more than 350,000 tickets sold in a 14-month period. “An absolute record in Spain,” said Sala, whose itinerary for the remainder of 2024 includes shows by Robbie Williams, Bryan Adams, Pretenders, Nick Carter, Within Temptation and more. “Life is good, and business is good, too. I still consider myself very blessed to be a concert promoter,” he said.

Questioned about trends in Spain’s live sector, he said, “Mini-residencies and touring artists playing multiple nights in the same cities have definitely become more popular.
In terms of musical genres, it is obvious that Latin music is bigger than ever and keeps on growing. On the audience side, I’m concerned that the new generations now prioritize [screens] over face-to-face communication and in-person experiences. Many pay for an expensive ticket, and spend much of the concert taking photos and videos, while interacting on social networks, and talking to each other. The attention they pay to the performance plummets, and their memories of the concert will be much more perishable. A shame.”

Sala has thought about launching a festival, “with no smartphones allowed. But I’m afraid that, at this moment, this would not be accepted by the vast majority of the audience. It’s an idea for the far future, if one day people get fed up with being connected 24/7.” Had he not been forced to scrap plans to bring back the legendary Doctor Music Festival, Spain’s first green-field festival that last took place in 2000, he could have introduced that policy there.

Doctor Music Festival was originally scheduled to return to its original site, Valle d’Aneu in the Spanish Pyrenees, in 2019, but local authorities foiled those plans. And now, it’s too late. “We feel there are now too many festivals in Spain, so at this moment we do not contemplate bringing it back. However, we can never say never,” Sala said.

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Scene from Primavera Sound 2024: the audience seen from the festival’s main stage at Parc del Fòrum in Barcelona.

Spain, indeed, offers an abundance of festivals. One of its most popular, Primavera Sound, celebrated its 2024 edition May 29- June 2, welcoming 268,000 festivalgoers if you count everyone at the three main festival days at Barcelona’s Parc del Fórum, as well as guests at the shows of Primavera a la Ciutat, the week-long program taking place across the city, and the free opening day and the closing party. This year’s lineup featured Lana Del Rey, The Last Dinner Party, Pulp, The National, Vampire Weekend, Justice, Peggy Gou, Clipse, Disclosure, and more, and culminated in a day of pure girl power headlined by SZA, PJ Harvey, Mitski, Charli XCX, Bikini Kill, Róisín Murphy, and Romy.

For seven years now, Live Nation’s Mad Cool in Madrid has been challenging Primavera Sound for the title of Spain’s flagship festival. Live Nation Spain president Pino
Sagliocco was looking forward to July 10-13, when Dua Lipa, Pearl Jam, Måneskin, and The Killers will headline this year’s edition, and also added, “our new festival O Gozo Festival in Galicia is developing well.”

For Clipper’s Music Group, festivals are among the fastest-growing business segment. “Cap Roig Festival continues to be a benchmark in the southern European music scene, with the 2023 edition exceeding a 94% occupancy rate, and 12 of the 23 concerts sold out,” according to Clipper’s chair Juli Guiu Marquina. “In addition,” he continued, “last year, we organized Les Nits de Barcelona in the gardens of the Pedralbes Palace for the first time, which has quickly established itself as an unmissable event on the city’s cultural calendar.”

Clipper’s also recently acquired White Summer, a fashion and music event on Spain’s Costa Brava, and is looking forward to the next edition of the Occident Summerfest, which takes place right on the border of Spain and France, reflecting and celebrating the unique culture of that area with its lineup. National repertoire, as well as Latin American talent, has gained in importance for every promoter we spoke with. As it gets increasingly expensive to compete for, and succeed in getting, international tours, there’s a financial incentive as well as a cultural one.

Rosalia Concert In Granada
Bullrings are beautiful concert locations all over Spain. This is the one in Granada, showing the crowd before Rosalía’s concert during the Motomami tour, July 12, 2022. (Photo by Carlos Gil Andreu/Redferns)

“Local repertoire wasn’t really something we had planned for,” said Ortiz, “but due to our experience having done a lot of exclusive national tours for national and international acts, working in every single province of the country, as well as our experience in Latin America, we’ve been getting stronger in that area.”

Festivals, in particular, profit from a healthy dose of local acts on the bill, as it helps them shape their identity. In that sense, Marquina explained, “local talent is not only important, but essential. We remain committed to supporting our artists, giving them the visibility they deserve and celebrating the cultural richness of our region.”

Aside from Latin’s worldwide growth, which finds no more fertile ground than Spain for obvious reasons, one of the most prominent trends is what Marquina described as “the
unstoppable rise of urban music. This genre has taken an undisputed leading role in the music scene, attracting a young and diverse audience.”

The operators of two of Spain’s most popular live entertainment venues agree. Carme Lanuza oversees Barcelona’s Anella Olímpica, comprising the Palau Sant Jordi, the Sant Jordi Club and the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, which, together, counted more than 2.1 million visitors in 2023. She said, “urban and Latin music are the most in-demand musical styles among fans, and these genres make up a large part of the sell-out concerts.”

Manuel Saucedo, general manager of WiZink Center Madrid, said, “New Latin and urban genres are bringing the youth to live events. It is crucial to teach new generations that online formats are not enough, and they have to experience live.”

La Sala, the new 800-capacity club attached to WiZink Center in Madrid.

WiZink Center generates the bulk of its business inside the main auditorium, which has a maximum capacity of 17,000, and where the program of shows consists of an equal amount of international and national acts. Saucedo said, “we are observing an increase in the big configurations. A lot of bands and artists are ready to sell out 17,000 tickets for a show, or even more than one, which is really good news for us. There are lots of artists that prefer to perform several days [in an arena] rather than only once in a stadium, even if the new Santiago Bernabeu is trending this year.

“U2´s Vegas residence at Sphere has shaken up the industry. It is not yet a trend, but we are receiving a lot of requests. I really don’t know if concentrating live music in certain cities is positive. It is for our venue and our city, but I don’t know if it is for music in general, and for smaller venues in particular.”

To make sure the next generation of talent has space to perform, WiZink Center opened the 800-capacity La Sala last summer. In the first year, La Sala hosted close to 100
concerts. Artists who recently played there include singer-songwriters Nat Simons from Madrid and David DeMaria from Cadiz, and progressive rock outfit Atraco, also from

Sitting at the heart of the country’s newcomer scene is César Andión, head of The Spanish Wave talent program at Live Nation Spain. According to him, the future of music
is safe. “There are more people than ever attending live shows, buying and listening to music, and discovering new talent all the time,” he said, adding, “I see many headlining acts of today that, three years ago, were middle-of-the-bill festival acts or performing at small-to-medium venues. I also see many young acts that have jumped from arenas to stadiums, for example, Karol G performing four stadium shows in Spain, when she has barely played here before. That’s massive!”

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Eva Ruiz preforming at The Great Escape 2024 in Brighton, England.
The concert by the singer, songwriter and actress from Lanzarote in the Canary
Islands, was part of a series of showcases promoted by The Spanish Wave. (Photo by Cindel Oranday)

Some of the artists The Spanish Wave works with, and are already touring outside of Spain regularly, are Hinds, Marina Herlop, Nuria Graham, Depresión Sonora, Queralt Lahoz, Delaporte, Marta Knight, Eva Ruiz, and Belako. They come from all over Spain, as Andión explained: “I’m loving the Canarian talent these days; that connection is growing
stronger. The young talent coming from the islands like Eva Ruiz and Dyatlov is excellent, and has a unique cultural background as it’s always been strongly connected to Latin America, but also Africa and Europe.

“Also, the Basque urban scene, which historically has been a rock region, and Madrid’s new breed of city post-punk, like Depresión Sonora, Alcalá Norte, and Carolina Durante looks exciting. Murcia has an amazing scene that is giving us some of the most successful Spanish acts of the moment like Arde Bogotá. And, of course, Catalonia and Andalucía are hubs of amazing creativity.”

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