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Sinking Spain: Stars play at 50% discount

May 22, 2016 by norman lebrecht

23 comments.


The Iberian age of high fees and seat prices is over.

Tickets to this week’s Madrid concert of Anne-Sophie Mutter, Lynn Harrell and Yefim Bronfman have been cut to half-price and the hall is still unsold.

mutter & co discount

More details here.


Comments (23)

  1. Musician says:

    These over exposed artists should rethink their ad hoc collaboration. Are they supposed to be great based on name recognition? How many days of practice do you think they had before this concert? Two?

    1. Max Grimm says:

      I don’t know how many practice days they’ve had for the Madrid concerts but overall I think they’ve had enough time to prepare:
      https://www.carnegiehall.org/Calendar/2015/4/14/0800/PM/The-Mutter-Bronfman-Harrell-Trio/

    2. Anon says:

      Aren’t they playing together for a long time? I’m pretty sure they were touring last year as well.
      Also you are totally barking up the wrong tree.
      If there are other trios out there, who might through their more regular collaboration yield more refined results, then its not the fault of these artists that those trios are not hired.
      It’s the market and the ever shallow agents, who want to make a buck as safe and as risk free as possible. Complain about them. Complain about the audiences who don’t give a shit about music and all about stars and glamour factor.

      1. Anon says:

        I have to revise my last sentence. The audiences who care about the music are there in high numbers. It’s particularly in the crowd of the financial high rollers, those who have the pocket change for the premium ticket prices for the premium (read star ridden) events, where the music is irrelevant and the circus has become everything. The Salzburgs, Verbiers, Glyndebournes, Baden-Badens etc.

        1. L.F. says:

          Salzburg is now directed by Markus Hinterhäuser who has a proven record for innovative and even daring programming. It would not be fair to put him into the same pot as star-centered mainstream Verbier.

  2. Manu says:

    One of the positive aspects of the crisis.

  3. Carmen says:

    This is probably due in large part to Spain’s outrageous 21% IVA (added value tax) on all concert tickets. It was raised from 8% to 21%, the highest in Europe, in 2012.

    http://www.abc.es/20120713/cultura/abci-subida-cultura-201207131805.html

    Concert attendance in general (this includes all concert genres) has apparently waned by 30% because of the new IVA. The tax also affects theatre and cinema tickets. There is plenty of rallying against it by performers, producers, managers, etc.but so far nothing has been done to reduce it.

    Perhaps visiting artists, like Ms. Mutter and company, are not aware of this when establishing their fees in Spain.

    One clever Barcelona theatre company successfully circumvented the 21% IVA by selling carrots instead of tickets for theatre admission. http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/11/12/164027250/to-get-around-tax-hike-spanish-theater-sells-carrots-not-tickets

  4. Max Grimm says:

    The thread title and introduction are either a good example of lacking familiarity regarding the Spanish language or a good example of full familiarity regarding hyperbole.
    The linked site, Oferplan, is a coupon platform that features coupons and discounted gift certificates usable at local companies, with 13% to 98% discounts on “shows, theaters, restaurants, music, hotels, cinemas, routes, bars, festivals, museums, tickets, theme parks, and much more …“.
    Non-discounted tickets sold by INAEM (Instituto Nacional de las Artes Escénicas y de la Música) are priced at €40, €60, €80 & €110 and as of now, 1871 of 2324 available tickets have been sold.
    http://www.auditorionacional.mcu.es/programacion/programacion_de_salas_search?finicio=2016/5/24&ffin=2016/5/24&month_prog:int=5&year_prog:int=2016

    1. Emil Archambault says:

      “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”
      – Mark Twain.

  5. Robert King says:

    Fees have been tight and work much more scarce in Spain for several years now. Those artists who in past years requested sensible, modest fees continue to get work there, and mercifully the more outrageous fee demands of artists that one heard about in the past are apparently nowadays largely gone (and not a moment too soon). Music audiences vote very obviously – with their feet, and with their wallets. That said, 80% sold for this concert is not a bad position for the promoter to be in; but in the past, this would more likely have been 100% sold (and that probably done with advance subscriptions). Quite probably that final (missing) 20% is the promoter’s profit (which can all be lost on the next concert when the box doesn’t match advance predictions). Overall, after two really hard years, Spain is slowly coming back to artistic touring life again, but times are still very tough there for the performing arts.

    1. Nick says:

      One wonders how much of a reduction the normally very expensive Ms Mutter offered in this case. And how much longer can her solo fee remain at stellar levels elsewhere? Agents bear some of the blame – as do promoters for agreeing to pay.

  6. david says:

    Spanish audiences have changed. Who wants to hear that?

    1. Sue says:

      Well, it’s about time!! What they were wearing before was so, well, yesterday!

    2. Anon says:

      To hear what? That they have changed? What is a “Spanish audience” anyway?

  7. L.F. says:

    Update: As of today Monday morning May 22th about 1930 seats are sold of an available 2330, meaning 83 percent..Its a safe bet that until tomorrow evening there will be at least another 7 percent sold, taking us to 90 percent or above, a good result for any concert or promoter. I have far more concerns about chamber music played in a hall of over 2000 seats which is clearly nonsense.

    This website http://oferplan.abc.es/category/entradas-conciertos/2327/ offers discounts to its subscribers for spectacles, concerts, cinema and even consumer products. One can also get Sol Gabetta and Kammerorchster Basel for 50 percent.

    1. cellist says:

      Harrell no longer plays his priceless Montagnana. He plays a modern instrument that can’t be heard beyond 20 rows. I know I have heard him. Great venue for a piano trio concert! Good luck hearing any kind of blend from the middle to back of this out sized auditorium. This will not be a fun concert for him or for anybody paying good money to hear him.

  8. Anon says:

    Going to auditorio nacional ticket sales website, one sees only a few tickets for tomorrow still available, and the prices are quite in the range that the promoters are asking for elsewhere in Europe. Maybe about 10% below German prices. So this article is (again) much ado about nothing maybe? Spain never was really a strong hub for classical music anyway.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      You do write such nonsense, anonbg. Spain has for years been a major profit centre for touring orchestras and smaller ensembles.

    2. Rodrigo says:

      Anon. That’s BS.

      Spain is one of Europe’s most avid consumers of classical music. Every region has at least one full time symphony orchestra, and every one is enthusiastically supported by their communities. Concerts of these orchs. (which are largely subsidized by tax money) have cheap tickets and have enormous, sold out audiences. Spanish audiences can’t get enough of classical music.

      The problem is that visiting artists like Mutter charge way out of the range of what Spain can pay, what Spanish players make, which isn’t very much. That has nothing to do with Spain’s passion for classical music, which in my observation as a foreigner living in Spain and working in the business, is possibly unsurpassed by any other EU nation.

    3. Robert King says:

      As Norman and Rodrigo comment, Spain is one of the most important countries in the world for classical music, with incredibly knowledgeable audiences and a huge culture of concert presentation and concert going. Spain now has its own symphony orchestras (or two) in every region, but still imports from outside the country large amounts of live classical music on every scale, from large-scale symphonic to chamber. The quality of students coming out of its conservatoires too continues to rise and rise. And (as all of us who have toured there for many years will joyfully attest) Spain has audiences with a passion and an enthusiasm for classical music that is the equal (often the better) of anywhere else in the world.

      1. Anon says:

        I’m afraid the cold bloody numbers do not support your POV. But after the Franco regime fell, there might have been a mighty rejuvenation and growth for the Spanish classical scene, which was starved under the nationalistic protectionism of the Franco era. I’ll give you that.

        1. Robert King says:

          Dear Anon
          Franco died in 1975, and even if you take the view that “modern” Spain was not fully established until 1982, that gives 34 years for the thirst for more widespread culture to be slaked. What are the “cold numbers” to which you refer? You surely can’t dispute the numbers of “home-based” orchestras that there are in Spain, and it is no easier to ignore the massive numbers of high-level classical concerts that have taken place over the last 30 years (in a growing number of concert halls – and some are superb halls). As further evidence, a brief check of the touring and concert schedules of European orchestras over (say) the last couple of decades would bear out the massive importance that Spain has held, and continues to hold, in the classical musical life of Europe, and the huge importance that those concerts hold in the concert and touring schedules of all those European orchestras. And then you only need to attend (or in my case, so happily perform in) some of those concerts, and talk to the audiences, to know what huge and widespread enthusiasm, and such support, there is for classical music in Spain. Your view seems not to bear out the facts as many of us in the business see them, so maybe readers would be genuinely interested to know on what evidence you base the rather more negative assertions you write above.

  9. Peter says:

    One trend that seems to be on the advance everywhere, is that people decide more and more spontaneous and plan less in advance for buying concert tickets.
    So it might a bit of that as well, making it harder for promoters to shoulder the risk of such high profile events upfront.
    Maybe one model to jointly share that risk is, for agents to give concessions in contracts by negotiation a two-stage-fee, that guarantees a (lower than before) base fee and an additional fee based on sales on top, allowing the promoter to survive as a business in the long term, if a concert doesn’t sell.


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