‘It Is Crucial To Teach New Generations That Online Formats Are Not Enough’: Q’s With Manuel Saucedo, General Manager, WiZink Center Madrid

Manuel Saucedo, general manager of Spain’s busiest arena.

All the big acts passing through the Spanish capital of Madrid perform at WiZink Center – unless they want to book a stadium. But even that’s changed, according to the building’s GM Manuel Saucedo, who said that some artists, who could fill a stadium, choose to do multiple nights at a state-of-the art arena like WiZink Center these days.

In this interview, he also touched on current trends, challenges, and plans to build more venues in Spain, based on the model of WiZink Center.

Pollstar: How’s life, and how’s business, Mr. Saucedo?
Life is smiling on us, thanks! But we remain sad about what is happening elsewhere, where the daily soundtrack is full of bullets and bombs. Business? It is stable and at its top in terms of capacity and tickets sales. We can always improve fans’ experience tough. We really want our venue to be appreciated for its quality, in all senses of the word.

What are some recent successes and upcoming shows you’d like to highlight?
We are delighted that bands and artists specifically ask to have WiZink Center as a stop on their tours. We have become an international reference, and we are really proud of it! Also, we are glad that productions can get in and out our venue every day easily, and with no complications, thanks to our really professional staff, and to the equipment that we have invested in.

I would highlight the increased interest in VIP areas and boxes, we are getting a lot more requests from companies. In terms of shows, the most outstanding ones in recent days have probably been three shows in a row by Eladio Carrion, Hans Zimmer, Depeche Mode, and Olivia Rodrigo, while still awaiting Camilo, Marc Anthony, Maná, Emilia, or Travis Scott in the coming weeks.

Do you observe an increase in events taking place at WiZink Center in particular, and wider Madrid/Spain in general?
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, which is really good news for us, as we optimize dates and efforts. This is really interesting, because there are lots of artists that prefer to perform several days rather than only once in a stadium, even if the new Bernabeu is trending this year.

Aitana last performed a sold-out show at WiZink Center in December, moving 15,426 tickets at a $1,010,332 gross, according to Pollstar’s Boxoffice.

How often is your new space, La Sala, being booked? Is it as hard to get availability at La Sala, as it is to get availability at WiZink Center’s main bowl?
La Sala, with a capacity of 800 spectators, is a really interesting experience. We bet everything on a great sound quality, with Clair Brothers equipment, and a great soundproofing. And we we right, judging by the high demand that we have. In the first year of activity, we had close to 100 concerts. Also, it is important to highlight that even if our big bowl and La Sala are only 20 meters away from each other, soundproofing is 100% efficient and we can host two Concerts at the same time.

What trends do you observe in the live entertainment world, like genres becoming more popular, more or less stadium shows, more (mini-)residencies, less legacy artists touring, etc. Anything that stands out to you?
It is very positive to have new latin and urban genres emerging, bringing youth to live Events. It is crucial to teach new generations that online formats are not enough, and they have to experience live. Social media and streaming platforms are great partners for concerts, as they promote artists that are still not on radios or tv shows, and maybe are never going to be.

U2’s Vegas residence at the Sphere has shaken up the industry. It is not a trend yet, but we are already receiving a lot of requests on this matter. Is it good? I really don’t know if concentrating live music in certain cities is positive. It is for our venue and our city, that’s for sure; but I don’t know if it is for music in general or for smaller venues.

What strides have you been making in terms of sustainability?
It is very important to have sustainability on your mind when you organise live events. We have made huge steps in terms of energy, installing 1,000 solar panels on our roof, and isolating the venue with thermal insulation. But the wider industry has to help us with plastics. The use of plastic or semi- plastic glasses is a huge problem, despite recycling. We are working on reusable glass, but it is also made of plastic. We hope the industry will come up with some solution.

La Sala, the new 800-capacity club attached to WiZink Center. Thanks to well thought-out soundproofing, concerts can take place inside both auditoriums simultaneously.

Does Madrid have enough performance spaces? Could the city do with another performance venue in your estimation?
Another WiZink? It wouldn’t be the same, because it couldn’t be in the center of the city. But Madrid is so interesting and trendy, and that could justify another venue, maybe of more capacity. However, the biggest need would be for a smaller space, with a 5,000 to 6,000 capacity.

Are there any other cities in Spain that could do with another large-scale live entertainment arena?
We are working on building venues in other Spanish cities. It is a very ambitious project that we are developing thanks to our experience at WiZink Center. We hope we will have more news soon.

Does the new Bernabeu change the game for you? Is it a competitor at all, or are you operating in a different segment of the market anyways?
It is very important for Madrid to have a new big stadium as Bernabeu, even if we already had Atletico de Madrid´s stadium, Civitas Metropolitano, and the space for festivals used by Mad Cool. These kinds of spaces are different from us. Their activity will obviously affect ours, but we don’t think it will be by much.

Experience at these spaces is different than the one you have inside a venue, which gives you proximity, quality in sound, and more.

Apparently, Bernabeu wants to host smaller concerts, as well, but let’s first see if the experience is positive. It is also located in the center of the city, but it is not soundproof, so it is causing a lot of problems with neighbours.

Anything you’d like to add?
As a venue, we are proud to become a more and more important as player in the live event industry, as a meeting point between artists and fans. We really like our role.

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