When the theaters bolted in March 2020, no one imagined that the nightmare would last for so many months. The musicians they gave festivals on-line encouraging people to stay home and many workers in the sector they reinvented themselves temporarily -In the distribution of Amazon, in journalism freelance or in the hospitality industry. But some never woke up from that bad dream. The passing thing was restored to pandemic normality and the effects multiplied: in 2020 there were more than 25,000 concerts suspended and 1,000 million losses. There are gangs that have disappeared and rooms that continue with the blinds down and full of graffiti as a symptom of abandonment.
Concert halls have entered the ICU
With the epidemiological improvement, the return of live shows and the increase in capacity, comes the good news, but also the headaches. “2022 is going to be a maelstrom of concerts, a overbooking total “, recognizes Rafael de Arcos, director of the Indypendientes promoter. The festivals that have been postponed and the tours that have been extended from one year to the next cause an oversupply for a limited number of dates, venues and audience.
“We all want good dates in good spaces, and that is being quite tremendous,” explains Máximo Lario, manager of Dorian and La Cuarto Roja and promoter of the company Intromúsica. “There is a lot of desire, but also a monumental traffic jam: we come from a year and a half of delays and we have to fit all that programming,” he admits. That is why he sums up the situation in two words: illusion and challenge. And is not for less. At the moment, all his concerts have hung the poster of sold-out.
We all want the same good dates in the same good spaces, and it’s being pretty tremendous
– Dorian and The Red Room manager and promoter
But the uncertainty is still there and the pressure is greater: “So much programming needs artists who sell tickets and those are very few “, says Kim Esmerarte, manager of Vetusta Morla, promoter of festivals and president of the Federation of Music in Spain (Es Música). In his opinion “public is missing and you have to look for it as it is”. He is committed to promoting talents that “can sustain the economy of the sector.” That is to say, new musicians, from the provinces and who do not compete with the usual ones to play in the same places: “The pandemic has promoted local artists and they must be supported by the industry.”
A boom direct
The live boom “is going to affect the groups,” says Rafael de Arcos. “Maybe they will get dates, but instead of playing on a Friday or Saturday, they will perform on a Tuesday, which reduces the impact of work.” The main halls and large venues of the cities have everything busy until next summer. “We have an endemic problem of lack of space and it is very difficult to get a date in the next six or even twelve months,” says Joan Vich, manager of The Parrots and Ground Control promoter, which points out that, at least in Madrid, “There is only one Riviera and there is only one Wizink.” And that is a big problem.
The solution that the sector has found is to condition other venues that were not intended for concerts. But many of them are small and force to close two or three dates to reach the capacity that they previously achieved with one. “For people it will be wonderful because there will be concerts every day like in Berlin, but there will be some who play more money than before,” says Arcos with a realistic tone. He is not going to schedule a concert until April: “I don’t want to get into the crowd of 2022, you can’t bore people.”
I am feeling a relief but at the same time a brutal pressure. I have an incredible level of request for dates
– Club Director Moby Dick
For their part, the music venues that have survived are bollantes. Carolina Pasero, club director Moby Dick, in Madrid, it does not have openings until July 2022. “I am feeling relief but at the same time a brutal pressure. I have an incredible level of request for concert dates that I have never had,” he acknowledges. He believes that everything will work out, but he is afraid of the rise in the price of tickets that some promoters and bands have made: “People do not come from a time of fat cows,” he sums up.
The late entry problem
Another handicap is the tickets that were bought in 2020 and 2021 and that cannot be exchanged until 2022. “Many people have not returned them and are not aware of the accumulation of dates: they will have to choose and that will be to the detriment of the promoters, “says Rafael de Arcos. “I have concerts in October 2022 that I closed in 2020,” recognizes Vich.
There are also artists, especially international ones, who are pushing back their events this fall for next year. “They don’t want to risk any country failing on their European tour, now that the pandemic is running unevenly, and they believe that in 2022 everything will be a little safer,” explains Arcos, who schedules several foreign artists, mainly Russian.
The public needs “certainty” and renting a space does not guarantee that all seats will be occupied. “There are many factors that influence attendance at an event: rain, cold or coincides with a football match. In 2022 there is another factor: in a week where before there were three concerts, now there are seven “, says Rafael de Arcos, who does not deny that the competition in the music scene is real.
There are many factors that affect attendance. In 2022 there is another factor: in a week where before there were three concerts, now there are seven
Rafael de Arcos
– Promoter of Indypendientes
“People buy tickets at the last minute to make sure they will be able to go, and that is a huge risk for the sector,” admits Kim Esmerarte, from Es Música. In his opinion, this “last minute” in buying tickets is the consequence of a demonization of the sector. Live Nation took time to return the amount of the tickets or even compensated it with discounts and tickets for other dates so as not to lose the money. Many people complained and large companies have had to come up with solutions.
“Those who have real problems are the big promoters: they could not return the full amount of the tickets because it was a lot of money that had already been invested or spent on salaries,” says a source familiar with the sector. ElDiario.es He has tried to count on the testimony of Last Tour, which has not responded to the request, and of Live Nation Spain, but they have refused to give their version.
“When a concert is announced there have already been previous advertising expenses, advance payments, a pre-production, a production and then the event itself. The pandemic has caught many promoters in the middle of the process,” defends Kim Esmerarte on behalf of the sector . “We do not get like that when the Amazon package takes three months. It has to do with a lack of real understanding of how we work,” he laments.
All this is the consequence of working “without a mattress”, as Joan Vich says. “In my case we have not lost very high expenses, perhaps some advertising and posters,” he explains. “My biggest concerts are 1,500 people, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money beforehand. We had the tickets on deposit and we returned them.” But he recognizes that it is not so easy for everyone. The same thing happens to Rafael de Arcos: “I move in relatively modest caches. But the more you risk and the more money you put in, the bigger the host you stick to,” he illustrates. On the other hand, both are concerned with other things. Specifically the lack of staff.
Those who have real problems are the big promoters: they could not return the full amount of the tickets because it was a lot of money that they had already invested or spent
Much desire, little personal
“Drivers are missing, backliners, technical team, tour managers and living room people. This sector is so precarious that people have had to look for other jobs because they lived from day to day. But I think it will stabilize. If there is work, as is the case, new professionals will arrive or the old ones will return “, Joan Vich confides, who hopes that this shortage will be something” temporary “.
Kim Esmerarte believes that it is a “very serious problem” that the former Minister of Culture, José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, was alerted to. “If our human capital is diluted in other sectors, we do not have the capacity to reactivate ourselves,” they told him. But the manager proposes a solution: “Our country has a historical unemployment problem and this sector is an employer, it can host many people without work,” he says.
This sector is so precarious that people have had to look for other jobs because they lived from day to day
– Manager of The Parrots and promoter of Ground Control
Also Carolina, from the Moby Dick room, worries about facing the huge amount of work that awaits her in 2022 without help. “But the music sector always works in survival mode, so we will get ahead,” she confesses hopefully.
The aftertaste of optimism, despite all these difficulties, triumphs among all the professionals consulted. “There is an unusual activity and we needed it. 2022 is going to be a strange year, but very active,” says Joan Vich. “At the moment, ticket sales are flowing and the desire exceeds the excess supply”, shares Máximo Lario. “People have been locked up for two years and they really want concerts and parties. And we are here to give them to them,” Rafael de Arcos concludes.