check live music

The FIB promoters were recently left without a structure they needed to set up the stages. The company was seen with the water to the neck. “There is neither material nor personnel,” says Javier Montava, the manager of the largest event production and assembly company in the country, Babalú Group. They are the ones who in the end are going to be in charge of doing the service to the FIB. “They are our main client and I am not going to let them down,” commits Montava, who has already had to give up several clients due to the shortage in the sector. The musical summer has just started and the festivals are bordering on the ‘sold out’, but the ‘boom’ of events after the pandemic is causing alarm bells to go off due to the lack of personnel and material to meet the high demand.

No one in the sector is willing to openly admit it, but they don’t deny it either: live music is in check this summer and the opening of some festivals could be in danger. Javier Montava speaks even with his silence: «There are things that I prefer not to say out loud because I live from this». Right now his company, based in Muro d’Alcoi, has just finished setting up the MadCool festival in Madrid and is making a clear x-ray of the panorama in the sector.

«They want to do the concerts that have not been possible in three years, but in one, and there is not enough material or personnel. The pandemic has hit our businesses hard. It was the first thing to be cut and it was the last thing to come back. Many people who were specialized, many assembly, sound, production technicians have left it, they were professionals who in these three years have left the sector, have looked for another job and are not going to return.

With the shortage of skilled labor the problems begin. Then there is the material; there are so many shows scheduled this summer that companies like Montava’s are forced to give up some jobs due to the impossibility of reaching everything.

«You suddenly see that you do not arrive. Specifically, if there is a contract involved, we do it, but we have had to stop serving companies with which we had made a verbal commitment because a priori you say yes, but later you realize that you do not arrive, that you do not your schedule fits and you have to give up a job for that, “he says.

The situation is so bad right now that fear has skyrocketed among festival producers and the production companies themselves. This shortage of resources and personnel could lead to accidents or the cancellation of an event. The Big Sound Festival has been ‘sold out’ for weeks. The festival that takes place next weekend in the City of Arts and Sciences is “safe”. But the production director acknowledges that the fear is that any mishap will arise. “There are serious problems this year. Among the suppliers there is a lot of saturation, there are many festivals, the material and the personnel are at stake because if there is any setback it could mean that things do not arrive and that you cannot mount”, explains David Moriñigo, director of production of the Big Sound.

Given this situation, the fall of several scenarios in recent months is interpreted as a warning signal for some or as a coincidence for others. In May a woman was injured when part of a metal structure of a stage fell on her in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento de Valencia. In June it also happened at the Galician festival O Son do Camiño, seriously injuring two workers who were working on the assembly of the main stage. That is the biggest fear of production directors at festivals. David Moriñigo believes that any inconvenience in another event could affect his. “Everyone has their agenda scheduled and if something happens they stop serving the rest, and after having had to postpone the festivals due to the pandemic, this is a complicated situation for us,” he adds.

Luckily for Moriñigo, at Big Sound a year ago they reserved the material for the stages. They have everything closed with the suppliers and as they say “the big thing” they have done it. «Now the problem comes when you start asking for extras, which you didn’t have reserved, for example, if an artist asks for a bigger dressing room and you have to ask for more modules. That is impossible right now and that is what is happening to us, because between the construction sector and ours we are without materials, without any service, there are no construction sites, no fences, there is no material”.

The president of the Association of Promoters (PROMFEST), Joanvi Díez, also says it with a small mouth: «There is a rumor that someone will be left without doing things». Díez speaks of this ‘boom’ of festivals and events to which the public administration has also joined with summer concerts, events and even festivals. «All the market scenarios are taken care of, also sound, lighting, teams of people, as there is an oversupply there is no infrastructure, there is not enough to cover everything, lack of technical personnel and infrastructure to hold certain last minute events such as the that they program in the city councils and in the towns”, explains the person in charge.

Diez is clear: the bubble is going to burst, sooner or later. He recounts how the personnel in the sector are saturated, anxious, pressured by the fear of accidents and not arriving. The situation is taking its toll. He prefers to be optimistic and think that this summer everything will turn out well, although he believes that the companies will come out battered, out of business and that some could even fall by the wayside.

After the businessmen themselves have sounded the alarm and are warning of their situation in the face of what is to come, the question is what will happen next? In the optimistic version of the president of the PROMFEST association, the market will remain because it is flexible and will readjust to the circumstances, even if resources have to be paid at a higher price.

However, the position of promoters, producers and assembly companies is not the same. The pandemic forced them to do without templates, to lower the level of posters at festivals and now they are suffering the consequences plunged into a fever of events this summer. At this point in the game there are few moves left on the board to avoid check and avoid checkmate.