It has been almost two years since a group took the stage of the Musicbox concert hall in Menorca. When confinement due to the pandemic was decreed in March 2020, it closed its doors like all businesses in the country but has not yet reopened. With the current restrictions in force in the Balearic Islands, it does not compensate. “Weddings, churches and football games yes. But if we want to open it has to be with people sitting down, wearing a mask and not being able to serve drinks. With these restrictions for us it is impossible,” explains the owner, Jordi Ribas, to elDiario.es. Its room has a capacity of 300 people, but with the maximum of 75% and the space occupied by the chairs, a maximum of 150 people can enter. “But I have to pay the cache of the band and the planes. And the revenue from the entrance will be for the band. There is no type of help, they are sinking the sector,” he declares. On October 8, the Balearic Islands, along with other autonomous communities, have regained permission to dance.
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These conditions may change from one week to another depending on the autonomous community. Since last October 2, in Navarra concerts are allowed in rooms with a capacity of 100% and with the public standing. On the same date, new relaxed measures were also announced in Andalusia, although depending on the area. For example, in Granada, only municipalities with less than 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants can go to alert level 0. In the capital, 100% capacity is allowed in museums, cultural and sporting events and the opening of nightclubs until 6:00 a.m. during the week and 7:00 a.m. on weekends.
However, José Gustavo Cabrerizo, director of the Planta Baja concert hall in Granada, did not have them all with him when he heard the news. “I have seen it in the news, but until it is confirmed by the lawyers and such, I do not know,” he says via telephone. They started with performances at the end of the summer, abiding by the current restrictions and more or less they have managed to maintain a stable schedule despite the seats, the hours and the reduced capacity. “We adapt as we can. Some concerts have paid off economically, others have not,” he says. But not stopping the cultural activity was something important.
It shocks him that “it is possible to go tight in the subway or in the airplanes” but the public cannot be up in a concert. It is exactly the same paradox that Roberto Tierz, director of the Sidecar room in Barcelona, points out. The first performance that they suspended was that of Víctor Coyote, which was scheduled for October 12, 2020. Since then, silence. The place, which is divided into two floors, is licensed as a party room, show and restaurant. The upper part is open as a bar and they have organized a small concert. “Josele Santiago, the singer of Los Enemigos, was playing with the guitar for 17 people, which was what the capacity allowed us at that time,” he declares. He also clarifies that this type of reduced actions had “support from the Generalitat to help the rooms”. “They take over the artist’s cache and pay something for the technician or something like that. As a bar, these kinds of concerts don’t bring you almost anything, 17 beers, but it was a way to stay active,” he adds.
Precisely, the Government of Catalonia – pending ratification by the Superior Court of Justice – has announced that, as of November 8, nightlife will be able to open with 70% capacity. To enter it will be necessary to show the COVID passport, the results of a PCR done 72 hours before or an antigen test 48 hours before. The mask is mandatory at all times, except for eating or drinking and you can dance on the floor. According to the ASACC (Associació de Sales de Concerts de Catalunya) the concerts would be without chairs. Tierz assures that “for us it is vital that the concerts can be held with the public standing and with a capacity of at least 70%. Otherwise, they will continue to be financially unviable.”
The extension of the capacity restriction of the premises only favors the premises of large surface
Speaker of the Wurlitzer Chamber
From the Madrid venue Wurlitzer, they assure that “concerts have always been deficient with up to 100% of the capacity with respect to the rooms of the less commercial music circuit. So with 15, 20 or 30% of the capacity … “. At present, the public has to be supported at high tables or seated at low tables. It can be consumed at the tables and at the bar, although it is also mandatory to sit there. The regulations say that “we must try to respect the safety distance. Currently we have 96 people capacity, which is less than 30% of the real room and with the distance there is no way to accommodate more people. So the expansion of capacity, and it is not that it seems bad to us, it only favors the premises of great surface “, they affirm.
The room has been closed for 18 months, although the programming office has not stopped at any time. “We were idling, so since the fateful March 2020 we have been postponing the concerts without knowing when, how and under what conditions we were going to be able to reopen.” It is the same strategy that they took from the Sidecar: “we are giving dates for the future and when the date arrives we postpone it. Now we are giving dates for December, which we assume that by then we will be open and if not, then we will have to postpone them”, Tierz comments.
From the stage
The restrictions have not only affected or affect concert halls. The bands also saw their live performances froze, unable to present their work to the public and without earning a single euro. Dani Cantó is responsible, along with Ana Uslenghi, of the Snap! Clap !. They have bands like Adiós Amores, Stephen Please or Kiwis and during these months they have tried to schedule all the possible performances, but it has not been easy. “All the festival movements and major initiatives bet on the great artists. We, being a small label that works with a lot with a small artist, wanted to move our artists, so if no one puts on the concert, we do it ourselves,” she explains. “We made a map with different rooms, their conditions and capacities. They were all with chairs, of course. But of course, the computation was very fucking, because such a room allows 50 people but asks me for 200 euros; This one is 70 but asks me for 300. And what is earned in the concert hall we give everything to the artist “.
These problems have consequences that go directly to the public. Cantó comments that he has to cover travel expenses and the band has to earn some money, but since it is not generated, the price of tickets ends up going up. “I think people are aware that it has to be this way because the money is needed, although it is true that the public is getting tired of paying 15 or 20 euros to be in a chair. And it is an important brake for the young public. We have fought a lot so that people between 18 and 24 years old go to concerts, but if now we set prices of 15 euros, when they have no money and are drinking cans in the street, then that’s it. A generation is being left blank that does not go to have culture, there are people who have never been to concerts, “he says.
The public is getting tired of paying 15 to be in a chair. We have fought a lot to get them to go to concerts, but now we set prices of 15 euros, when they have no money and are drinking cans in the street, then that’s it.
– Responsible for the Snap! Clap!
Sandra Garcia is road manager of the Mafalda group and member of the Valencian cultural cooperative Gola Seca and explains that: “the bands are very afraid to go out to theaters because the public does not respond the same while sitting down.” “In fact, as an audience myself, I think twice,” he adds. He believes that the moment the chairs disappear the circuit will move more, but the sector has another problem and that is that it is closely linked to alcohol. “If you have a seated audience but have access to a bar, it is almost better than if you leave the audience standing but it does not have a bar.”
Cantó agrees with the approach. “We have fallen just for sinners because it is understood that in a concert people can get out of control. And in Barcelona, precisely, in very few concerts they get involved because the public does not dance. But hey, we are already late if what we want is to disconnect the music of alcohol “. For him there has been no desire to experiment with the format of the concerts, something that could have helped the sector to remain active. “I can watch a concert sitting down, it depends on the music. Because in an electronic concert, for example, I want to die,” he says. In his experience, “bands want to act because if you don’t play, how are you going to tell a festival later that you want to play there. The halls are needed for all that wheel”.
If women were already invisible, after the pandemic they are much more so
– Concert agent of the Mafalda group
García wants to point out a very important consequence that has derived from this whole situation and that is not considered too much: gender inequality within the sector. “That there are posters in which there are only men is the order of the day, but when these crises come, obviously some are crushed more than others. And in that case, if women were already invisible, after that they are. much more. Before they would organize a festival and say well, I’m going to put in a couple or three women so that they won’t tell me anything, on a quota plan. But now, with the excuse of ‘on top of that, I do it’ they don’t want to lose money. Unless it is a political issue, like when we played at the Communist Party in Madrid, where there was a high gender quota, they pass it through the lining. It has always been like that, but now more. ” And for Dani Cantó, there has also been a setback in this and other social issues related to live music. “Any possibility of change such as creating safe spaces, programming diverse people, other audiences or young bands is hanging by a thread. Everything the girls had achieved to recover the dance floor and generate collectives, out”.