Tuesday, October 4

Abel Caballero, opening act by contract: things that happen in the business of concerts paid for with public money

The mayor of Vigo and president of the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP), Abel Caballero, reserves even by contract the right to intervene from the stage in each and every one of the massive concerts organized by his town hall. This follows from the documentation to which this newsroom has had access. In one of the contracts that elDiario.es has consulted, the following can be read: “The sponsor is obliged to present the concert by the mayor of Vigo.”

The C. Tangana concert for the Xacobeo gave out 500 free VIP passes to PP politicians and celebrities

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Vigo, the main city of Galicia, has one of the largest municipal spaces for holding open-air shows in all of Galicia: the Castrelos Park auditorium, located in the very center. Every summer, the city’s festivals are held there with concerts that bring together tens of thousands of people and which, moreover, are freely accessible. The City Council usually reserves part of its public funds to finance major musical events during the months of July and August. In the last decade -saving the stage of the pandemic-, the local government has made an unprecedented commitment to promoting this mass culture and has increased, in parallel, the budget and the number of summer shows. Of course, with irrevocable compensation such as advertising inserts in the media chosen by hand by the City Council itself without any competition and even the obligation, by contract, that the Vigo councilor go out to present each concert in the city. The volume of business is significant and the promoters do not object, at least publicly, to the demands of the Mayor’s Office.

Without going any further, just two months ago, the leader of The Police, Sting, gave a concert in the city that cost the public treasury 515,387 euros. In 2018, Maná did the same for 477,950 euros and, a year later, Lauryn Hill and 30 Seconds To Mars for 332,750 and 387,750 euros, respectively. And those were just the headliners. This summer, people from Vigo left 2,061,070 euros in concerts, just over 17% over the 2019 financial year. However, the cost of the concerts is not strictly that of the cache of the artists and their technical and human team . The usual thing in this type of contract is that they are made through opaque promotion tenders and without public competition that complicate their control both by the parties represented in the chambers and by citizens.

This newspaper has been able to access all the awards for this year’s concerts and, in some, the Vigo City Council shields Caballero’s appearances by contract as a kind of opening act before each event. The image is known in the imaginary of people from Vigo and Vigo. He has been doing it for years. The scene is repeated once or twice a week during the city’s festivities. The script is almost always the same. Short and emotional phrases that usually start mass applause and that go along the same lines as his viral television appearances: “We are going to see the best concert in the world”; “Without a doubt you are the best, I love you”; he explains that all the artists in the city give “the best concert of their life”; recreates jokes with the seafood that artists eat in Galicia; he blurts out a few sentences in macaronic English “for those who come from all over the planet”; and he always closes his speech with a “long live Vigo”.

The general feeling in the opposition parties to his Government regarding these appearances is that they are part of “a continuous electoral strategy”: “Vigo is only bringing artists from two or three production companies who meet the often unwritten conditions of the City Council and not cultural criteria. It is a personal use of the Administration”, argues Rubén Pérez, councilor of Marea de Vigo. For his part, the representative of the Galician Nationalist Bloc also follows this line of argument: “For Abel Caballero, the city is reduced to a big stage, in which he has to be the protagonist and the people the props. His almost pathological need to surround himself with large masses of people has a very clear political reading. Big events to try to hide a tiny government action. Because while he opens for concerts, or walks around television sets, or speaks in fake fake English, he manages to distract attention from reality, such as the fact that last year his absolute majority government left 120 million euros unspent euros from the municipal budget.

The Xunta also follows the model

Caballero’s appearances on the concert stages that he pays for from the budget of his city council are a singularity from Vigo, but other irregularities regarding mass music also affect other administrations such as the Xunta de Galicia. Last August, the Galician Government took C. Tangana to Vigo and on one side of the stage a VIP area was set up for more than 500 people who attended the show without going through the box office. In that privileged location, the Popular Party positions abounded with Alberto Núñez Feijóo, Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla or Alfonso Rueda at the head. For that party, the Xunta had put almost 300,000 euros on the table. Quite the opposite of what happened a few months earlier in A Coruña in another concert by C. Tangana, for which the City Council gave a small amount of support to the event that it would end up more than recovering thanks to the public participation that, by contract, was booked at ticket sales.

The concert paid for by the Galician Government of Alfonso Rueda guaranteed advertising inserts in the written and digital press, televisions and handpicked radios. elDiario.es has requested the financial breakdown and the technical justifications from the Galician Administration, but this has denied access.

The same happens with the concerts organized by the Vigo City Council. At the Bryan Adams concert, which Caballero’s government partially financed, the compensation included hundreds of advertisements with the council’s logo in selected media without apparent technical justification. For example, more than sixty advertisements on Televigo, a local television with hardly any audience and in which Caballero himself has a weekly program in the pure style of “Hello President”. Music thus becomes another way of showering money on the most related media with the excuse of advertising events that, on occasions, practically advertise themselves.

The Vigo City Council has declined to explain the arguments that support the role of opening act that Caballero reserves for himself in all events in the city. They have also declined to clarify what the technical criteria of the Government are to justify the advertising investment handpicked around these events.


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