Beyoncé will not bring her world tour to Spain this summer. Nor will Leonard Cohen or Paul McCartney. After playing five concerts here in 2012, Bruce Springsteen will only give one this year. And that's "because he likes coming," say the people bringing him.
The big concert promoters have lost their muscle when it comes to attracting major pop stars to Spain, while smaller outfits cannot risk failure with an unknown artist.
Besides the general economic crisis, the main cause is the 13-point rise - from eight to 21 percent - in the value-added tax (VAT) rate on culture, which the government introduced last September. The aim was to boost the state's coffers, but the result has been plummeting ticket sales and, what's more, plummeting income for the administration that taxes them.
This summer - which is the most important time of the year for live music - promoters could see their earnings fall by up to 50 percent on last year.
The response from the sector is overwhelmingly united: the government must rectify the situation as soon as possible.
According to a study carried out by the two main industry associations, APM (music promoters) and Arte (agents and directors), which bring together 400 companies, earnings from ticket sales fell 28.2 percent between September and December of last year, 17 points above the yearly average. In March, just as the most important time for concerts begins, net earnings plummeted 42.19 percent.
Rather than helping it with stimulus measures, the industry believes the government has definitively condemned it. As Culture Minister José Ignacio Wert admitted last week, the VAT rise has "really" affected show attendances.
"The problem is, Spain is losing the race in a competitive market," says the president of Arte, Emilio Santamaría. "They are putting all the spokes in our wheel. They are forcing us to stay at home because we cannot lose any more now. We have adapted, lowered budgets... but we are completely drowning. You have to go back to what is logical. If the aim was to collect taxes, they have failed. Please change course."
The amount of VAT collected has, logically, increased in recent months. But the sum of all the taxes that the government has taken from the music industry has fallen 2.7 million euros, say those affected. How can that be? More than 100 music promotion companies have been forced to close or shed staff as a consequence of the VAT increase. As a result, income tax contributions are down and Social Security spending is up because of unemployment.
Spain has become a favorite destination for concert tourism in the last few years and the economic impact that a live-music event can have for a city can reach 65.3 million euros in the case of the Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona. "All events bring great economic and social benefits to their city. Hotels, merchandising, restaurants, transport... and that is proportional to the audience it manages to get together," says APM president Pascual Egea.
Promoter Doctor Music, which has been in the business for 30 years, has seen its earnings drop 30 percent as a result of the VAT hike. It has put projects on hold and managed to hang on with the help of the cushion it built up in the good times. "The VAT rate would have to be super-reduced [four percent]; that way, tax revenues will increase," says company founder Neo Sala. "Admit it: in the entire package of measures, one slipped in that was a mistake. It doesn't matter - wise men always admit when they're wrong. In the Netherlands, France and Portugal the same thing happened and they took a step back."