Spain Gears Up For A Return To Live — Everywhere But In Ibiza

While clubs are reopening in Madrid and Barcelona, the chances of a summer season in Ibiza, Spain’s clubbing hub for electronic dance music, are looking grim.

Spain Gears Up For A Return To Live — Everywhere But In Ibiza

MADRID — Spain’s summer music scene is gearing up for a strong return, but on the island of Ibiza the restart of live music after more than 14 months remains a less-certain prospect.

While clubs are reopening in Madrid and Barcelona — and some festivals are planned in July — the chances of a summer season in Ibiza, Spain’s clubbing hub for electronic dance music, are hanging in the balance. Promoters and venue owners are scrambling to find ways to avoid a second summer shutdown, or to somehow convince the authorities that they can prolong the season into the fall to make up some of the lost revenue of a late start.

“I’m quite frustrated that things seem to be going better almost everywhere in the world apart from Ibiza,” says Neil Evans, the artistic director at Amnesia, one of Ibiza’s biggest clubs.

For months, the regional authorities of the Balearic Islands, which include Ibiza, have tussled with club owners over whether and how to revive their party nights without risking another uptick in COVID-19 infections, which local officials fear could stain the long-term reputation of Ibiza. More than any other music market in Spain, the island relies on tourists, in particular from the U.K. and Ireland.

In early June, Spain reopened its borders to vaccinated visitors from the U.S. and most other non-European Union countries. The easing of travel restrictions also extended to cruise ships that will again be allowed to dock at Spanish ports.

For visitors from countries deemed to have a higher COVID-19 infection rate, the testing hurdle was also lowered to an antigen test rather than the more expensive PCR test. But Britain has so far kept Spain off its green list of countries from which no quarantine is required upon return, to the frustration of the Spanish islands that had hoped that their low infection rates would be viewed favorably by the British government. (In the first two weeks of June, the Balearic Islands registered 39 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 inhabitants, about one-third of Spain’s national average of 105 cases.)

The British decision felt “like a jar of cold water poured over our heads,” says José Luis Benitez, the vice president of Spain Nightlife, an association of Spanish club owners. “People of course are feeling tense with so much uncertainty, knowing that it takes one or two months to prepare a club.”

Different regions of Spain have put in place a patchwork of rules and timetables for the opening of clubs and bars, as well as music festivals and other concert venues.

In Madrid, whose regional politicians have defied the central government and kept most venues open during the pandemic, nightlife feels almost like it did before the pandemic, even if clubs and concert halls are forced to limit capacities to 75% and enforce some other rules, including the compulsory wearing of a face mask indoors. From July 6 to Aug. 29, Madrid will also stage Veranos de la Villa, a cultural festival that was scrapped last year and includes several music concerts by mostly Spanish artists like the band Cariño and Carmen Linares, a flamenco singer.

In Barcelona, Spain’s most-visited city and the regional capital of Catalonia, the reopening has been more tentative, reined in by cautious regional officials who also kept bars and restaurants shut far longer than in Madrid. Most clubs are not expected to operate again before the end of June, and some major music festivals like Sonar and Primavera Sound — whose headliners included Megan Thee Stallion, Tame Impala and Dua Lipa — have already decided to push back their events until after the summer, or even until 2022 in the case of Primavera Sound.

At least three festivals will be held this summer in Catalonia, starting July 8-10 in Barcelona with the Cruïlla festival, which features mostly local Spanish artists and plans to host 75,000 people over three days.

Even though the pandemic means that mostly Spanish artists are performing this summer, some Latin stars are also touring mainland Spain, including Nicky Jam and Camilo (eight dates in July and another six in September). Iron Maiden and Rufus Wainwright also have scheduled dates in Spain this summer.

But the situation remains murky for Ibiza, where entertainment is a 770 million euros business. Over its 22-week music season, DJs spin seven days a week at eight main clubs — including Amnesia, Privilege, DC10, Hï and Ushuaïa — along with dozens of sunset bars and after-party spots. In recent years, the island has also lured big name Latin stars like Bad Bunny and Natti Natasha.

Ibiza Bets On Trial Event To Persuade Officials

Island promoters are hoping that an outdoor trial event for up to 2,000 people on June 25 at Ibiza’s Hard Rock Hotel will change the minds of cautious local authorities. If the “Children of the 80s” party proves successful — which would mean that no new COVID-19 infection cluster could be traced back to the event — club owners say they could reopen outdoor venues in mid-July, and then indoor ones in August.

Ibiza’s trial comes three months after a 5,000-person indoor pilot rock concert by Love of Lesbian was held in Barcelona. Local politicians had agreed that the concert should be treated as a medical litmus test, under close supervision from health experts. Six people tested positive for COVID-19 after the concert, which was considered a positive result.

“We are now reaping the fruit of our efforts,” says Jordi Herreruela, the director of the Cruïlla festival. “The lesson is perhaps that instead of waiting for politicians to legislate, the right approach was to have trials as early as possible to generate activity, enthusiasm and show that things can work out after all.”

Still, among Ibiza’s club executives the frustration is palpable. Not a single club has announced its opening date, in light of the ongoing negotiations with politicians to green light any mass indoor event. But in a sign that the calendar planning has turned upside down, Amnesia is already selling tickets for a season-closing party on Oct. 23, featuring Jamie Jones, The Blessed Madonna and Adam Beyer. Some music industry executives question whether local officials see the pandemic as an opportunity to forge ahead with an upgrade of the archipelago’s tourism model.

Early last year, even before the pandemic swept across Europe, the Balearic Islands introduced legislation to ban pub crawls, party boats and happy hours — for up to five years — in order also to dissuade Britons and other tourists who have been coming to the islands for wild partying and drinking.  The local government decreed that establishments in the zones that sell alcohol would need to close between 9:30 p.m. and 8 a.m. Business owners violating the rules face fines of up to 600,000 euros ($727,000) and closure for up to three years.

“At the moment, we literally don’t know from one day to the next what to believe,” says Evans. “I don’t even know if the main scare is because nobody wants to receive the blame of a new [COVID-19] wave or whether some local people believe that clubbing is actually not so important for the island.” (With Ibiza still mothballed, Evans says Amnesia is focusing on events in Miami and Croatia, where it is holding a weekender July 1-5 at a 17th century fortress on the island of Pag.)

Some music artists who live on the island, like the DJ Sasha, have noted the dramatic change to the island without the club scene. Despite “a few secret parties” on the island, last year it “felt like Mother Nature was reclaiming the island,” Sasha told Billboard in May. “The water was clear. There was no litter or pollution.”

The regional tourism ministry of the Balearic Islands declined to speak to Billboard. In early June, Patricia Gómez, the region’s health minister, said that nightlife presented “a lot of risk,” which meant that no club, at this stage, could re-open.

Victor Agudo, the director general of Pacha, one of Ibiza’s main clubs, said that the Hard Rock trial was happening “late,” particularly for a club that normally employs about 300 people for its summer season.

Agudo says Pacha still hoped to break even this year, but “making a profit is a pipe dream.” For Pacha and most other clubs, the long wait is also creating problems for their visiting DJs, who would in any case be signing contracts that have a COVID-19 clause that allows the club to pull out if faced with another health emergency. Agudo says Pacha will make a final decision on reopening around mid-July.

“We have historic ties to many artists and DJs, and I think they understand this situation, and of course DJs are very flexible and are used to taking a flight to here, Mykonos, Tel Aviv or wherever,” Agudo says. At the same time, however, “there are a lot of DJs who in any case want to have the full experience of the club (performing in front of a large dancing crowd) or prefer not to play any music at all.”

Source : Billboard More   

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TikTok Isn’t ‘Out of the Woods’ With Biden’s Executive Order, But Creators Are Prepared This Time

Unlike Trump's threatened TikTok ban, Biden's announcement that it was implementing a process to investigate the app left creators and their management unfazed.

TikTok Isn’t ‘Out of the Woods’ With Biden’s Executive Order, But Creators Are Prepared This Time

Last August, when then-President Donald Trump issued a wide-ranging executive order that sought to ban TikTok from the U.S., creators across the country went into full-on panic mode. TikTokers who were just starting to eke out an impressive following on the platform posted videos pleading their followers to head to their Instagram and YouTube accounts in case the short-form video app disappeared overnight, while agencies and managers who work with TikTokers fielded a frenzy of messages from worried creators asking what they should do.

But on June 9, after the Biden administration announced it was formally revoking Trump’s executive order targeting TikTok and, instead, implementing a process to investigate the app — and others with ties to “foreign adversaries,” including China — for data and privacy concerns, creators and their management weren’t fazed this time around.

“It’s kind of been out of sight, out of mind, the idea that TikTok would get banned,” said Maxwell Mitcheson, the vice president and head of talent at TalentX, a management firm that works with several of TikTok’s top creators. “As long as ByteDance and TikTok have been operating and continue to operate in an aboveboard manner … they’ll be fine.”

Representatives for TikTok did not respond to requests for comment on how President Biden’s executive order would impact the company.

Even with Trump’s executive order targeting TikTok gone, the massively popular social media platform isn’t completely “out of the woods” yet, according to Robert Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin who specializes in cybersecurity. TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is still engaged in a legal battle with the U.S. government over the divestiture of TikTok’s U.S. assets — a years-long saga that first began in 2019, when the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies for possible national security risks, began investigating ByteDance over its 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly, the precursor to what is now TikTok.

Though the sale of TikTok to Oracle and Walmart has since stalled under the Biden administration after it was first announced last September, the back-and-forth between ByteDance and the U.S. government is expected to continue in the courts now that TikTok will be subject to separate investigations by CFIUS and the Secretary of Commerce. And the cloud of regulatory review may continue to make it difficult for TikTok to fully move forward with its expansion efforts at the “corporate transaction level” in the U.S., according to Chesney. “Until the CFIUS divestment order is resolved in some fashion,” Chesney said, “the shadow will continue to hang over the company.”

The specifics of Biden’s executive order also leave enough wiggle room for TikTok to be subject to regulatory measures, even if the CFIUS review ends with TikTok in the clear, as the U.S. puts up a more combative stance toward China. In addition to subjecting any applications with ties to “foreign adversaries” to review by the commerce secretary, entities who “engage in serious human rights abuse or otherwise facilitate such abuse” and control or manage apps could be subject to unspecified “consequences,” according to the executive order. (Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for China’s U.S. embassy, decried the order in a statement last week as “U.S. abusing its national power under the pretext of national security to suppress and coerce non-American companies.”)

But agencies and managers who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter said that on the creator-front, they haven’t felt any dampening of support from TikTok as it awaits a conclusion to this drawn-out saga. Last September, TikTok’s then-interim CEO Vanessa Pappas sought to reassure creators that TikTok, which has more than 100 million users in the U.S., was being built for the “long run” and, in April, the company installed as its new chief executive to replace Kevin Mayer, who resigned last August amid the threat of a ban.

“They did a great job to make sure that the creator community understood what was going on and their position, that they were full-steam ahead,” Brian Mandler, the co-founder of The Network Effect agency, said. The agency’s other co-founder, Brian Nelson, said that if anything, the company continued to grow despite the uncertainty of its future in the U.S. “If you really look at what was happening, then and now, they have not skipped a beat,” Nelson said. “They just kept developing; they kept moving on.”

For creators, the threat of a ban under the Trump administration became an effective wake-up call that having a following on TikTok wasn’t enough to guarantee success as a creator. Nelson said that as soon as his clients get to half a million followers — or even lower — they “start pushing people to Instagram,” YouTube and Snapchat because “they want to be safe.” And the lesson about diversifying their followings will continue to stay front of mind for creators, regardless of what ultimately happens to TikTok.

“They feel like nothing’s permanent, so they’re always kind of waking up with this idea that tomorrow, they’re gonna have nothing,” Adam Ferguson, the co-founder of Ellify Talent Agency, said. “No one wants to wake up every morning thinking that their job is going to end tomorrow.”

This story was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.

Source : Billboard More   

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