Rough start to the festival boom: “After two years of the pandemic, people have gone crazy”

  • This summer there are more tours and fewer professionals than ever, industry sources indicate

  • “Our greatest fear is that with so much tension and rush, there are things that are left in the background, such as occupational hazards,” warn PEATE

  • After more than two years unemployed, many technicians have moved on to other professions and experienced professionals are now scarce

For missing, everything is missing to put on a show, but what is left over is desire and, for the first time in a long time, an audience. After two years of the pandemic, people want to enjoy cultural events. It was already seen at the Madrid Book Fair and the music festivals are being “crazy”. In her more than 18 years as event manager, Isabel Morón had never seen “anything like it,” she says. Although, “it’s about time,” she adds.

“Like the hospitality our sector has had a very bad time, since it was completely paralyzed“, she regrets. She herself, after a few months in ERE, was fired from the company where she worked as an event service manager. She and half of the staff. After several months unemployed, in August, she was hired again by another company in the sector, See Tickets, and is working “like never before”, especially with music festivals.

A crashed boot with widespread problems

It doesn’t matter if they are calls with 25 years of history like Viña Rock, 20 like Azkena in Vitoria or new events like Cala Mijas in Malaga, there is a desire for the festival and “almost everything is already sold out”, Isabel assures NIUS. An unprecedented demand that, on the ground, sometimes translates into saturated capacity, very long queues to get something to drink in 40 degrees in the sun or sudden cancellations like that of the Fan Fan Fest in Madrid, two days before its start.

These types of incidents have marked the beginning of the festival season which, beyond what some might consider anecdotal episodes, presents a series of generalized problems. “There is a lack of iron, equipment and professionals“, summarizes Efe Paco López, president of the Association of Technical Representatives of the Show (ARTE).

His words find an echo among those responsible for other appointments surveyed as a result of the accumulation in recent days of bad news linked to festivalsespecially that of collapse of the structure of the main stage of O Son do Camiño, in Santiago de Compostela, which injured several workers. “I do not dare to assess that these problems are directly related to the lack of personnel, because right now we do not know what has happened in Galicia. It would be hasty,” says López, a position endorsed by almost all those asked about the accident.

Tensions, rush and shortage of experienced staff

Be that as it may, the president of ARTE notes that “there are more tours and less technical professionals than ever after many of them moved to other sectors due to the pandemic“, which has strained the live music industry.

In PEATE, Platform of Technical Associations of shows and Events, they lack the specific number of people who have abandoned these trades, but they do recognize the problematic combination of a “massification” of musical proposals with a lack of experienced personnel, who have tried to be replaced by new and therefore “less skilled” workers. “Our greatest fear is that with so much tension and rush, there are things that are left in the background such as occupational hazards.“, its president, Juan Cid, warily points out, before acknowledging that “at the moment it does not seem” to be the case.

After the “wasteland” of the pandemic, four tours at the same time

At the foot of the road he is living it Álvaro Vilches, who is “tour manager” of Jorge Drexler, Quique González, Depedro and works in the Fetén Fetén office. “For a ‘tour manager’ it is not normal to have four tours at the same time like me now”, he highlights after living until a few months ago “the wasteland of the pandemic”.

“We’ve gone from that point where we started to diversify our working life, which is the euphemism for saying that we did removals or anything else, to an excess in which every time someone fails you in a commitment it is a huge brown”, he adds about the demand for personnel.

A sector that continues without a collective agreement or salary table

The covid-19 crisis did not serve to improve the regulation of the sector and attract professionals. “We have not achieved a collective agreement, nor a salary table,” he denounces, which in his opinion “can lead to offers to young people in very low conditions for long-hour jobsweekends, long trips, etc.”.

“That’s why we don’t have 20-year-olds wanting to join,” he comments before a lack of generational change that is added “to that of materials, with giant suppliers that this very week don’t have a spotlight or an in-ears system to rent”. “It’s a collective stress”, he confesses.

The O Son do Camiño accident, from which three of the injured are still recovering in hospital, has had other consequences that have shaken the circuit like a domino, since that same stage should have passed later by Viveiro’s Resurrection Fest (Lugo). “There are few of those characteristics that are so huge and they don’t stop,” they acknowledge from the organization after managing to solve that issue.

Lack of material throughout Europe

“It is not only in Spain; throughout Europe there are many events and problems to obtain material, more than normal due to the greater offer of events“, says Albert Salmerón, president of the Association of Music Promoters, something that Javier Arnaiz, co-director of Mad Cool in Madrid, agrees with.

He adds that the anticipation to close contracts in a scenario like this has been fundamental. They also repeat it from Mallorca Live Festival, which has been characterized in its latest editions by taking care with care other of the most criticized aspects of some of the latest festivals: the attention in the bars.

Queues of more than half an hour at 40 degrees and without shade

Neither Primavera Sound in Barcelona nor Tomavistas in Madrid have been spared from criticism, nor has the Capital Fest in Talavera de la Reina (Toledo), where temperatures reached 40 degrees, with insufficient spaces for shade and waits of more than half an hour for the drink Even the firefighters had to intervene.

“We, to serve some 28,000 people, have some 200 square meters of service and more than 200 waiters. But power without control is useless if there is also no good management“, points out Diego Jiménez, production director of Mallorca Live Festival. Because its dimensions grew and required “a very professional management”, since 2019 they decided to hire the Planeta Sonoro team for its 25 years at the service of another festival such as Sonorama de Aranda de Duero (Burgos), “which went from nothing to being one of the most important”. “And it was totally noticeable in the results”, he stresses, before insisting that, despite the additional costs that this generates in the first moment, “saving on services is a mistake”.

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Rough start to the festival boom: “After two years of the pandemic, people have gone crazy”