Stage dive: Live music in Spain suffers major drop

Earnings down almost 30 percent in 12 months following VAT hike, say promoters

The Crystal Fighters perform at Sala But in Madrid.
The Crystal Fighters perform at Sala But in Madrid.Kike Para

More disastrous figures: net earnings from live music in Spain fell 28.63 percent between September 2012 and August 2013. The same period saw the loss of 1,200 direct jobs and the closure of 300 companies. After bringing in €206 million between September 2011 and August 2012, the sector made €147 million in the same period of 2012 and 2013, a fall that clearly shows the negative effect of the 21-percent VAT rate introduced on cultural performances in September 2012.

These are the findings of the fifth Annual Report on Live Music commissioned by the Music Promoters Association (APM), which were presented in Madrid on Monday. They paint an alarming picture, from which only the festivals escape. The most optimistic message to be heard at the news conference was that “we have established ourselves in the mire,” according to APM president Pascual Egea, who expressed his hope that the sector had now touched bottom.

Spain’s most successful festivals

ARENAL SOUND 280,000 (four days)

ROTOTOM SUNSPLASH 240,000 (eight days)

VIÑAROCK 200,000 (four days)

PRIMAVERA SOUND 170,000 (five days)

FIB 145,000 (four days)

SONAR 122,000 (three days)

BBK LIVE 105,000 (three days)

SOS 4.8 90,000 (two days)

LOW COST 75,000 (three days)

SONISPHERE 52,000 (two days)

For promoters, the cause of the mess in an area that they had hoped would be the salvation of the industry is clear: the massive 13-point VAT hike to 21 percent on music and other cultural performances in September 2012. Along with the 10 percent that goes to the SGAE royalties management agency, it means 31 percent of every ticket goes toward either tax obligations or royalties payments.

Like all the industries affected by the measure, music promoters want the hike to be removed not only because it is suffocating business but also because it is not even fulfilling the government’s aim of raising increased revenue. According to the APM, which groups together around 50 companies that organize more than 80 percent of the concerts held in Spain, revenues have decreased by around €29 million.

The APM says the VAT rate also means many big-name international performers are not including Spain on their tours. The clearest example is Neil Young, who missed Spain off his list of tour dates, but other names such as Robbie Williams and Tom Petty were also mentioned. Egea even ventured that Bob Dylan is likely to ignore Spain on his next tour.

According to the report, the most successful tour by a Spanish artist in 2013 was that of Melendi with 500,000 spectators over 70 dates, followed by Alejandro Sanz (250,000 over 22 dates) and Pablo Alborán (200,000 over 38).

The biggest-earning tour by an international artist was that of Argentinean Disney star, Violetta. Her 22 concerts attracted 160,000 spectators, more than 7,000 per date. Bon Jovi, which brought together 55,000 people for one concert in Madrid’s Vicente Calderón stadium, was second on the list.

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