BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 19:07 GMT 20:07 UK
Can guitars look good on Ibiza's dancefloor?
By Simon Atkinson
Business reporter, BBC News

Bar M in Ibiza
Watching the stars, under the stars

The Arctic Monkeys will headline this summer's Glastonbury Festival in front of more than 100,000 people.

And the crowd in that Somerset field will - in all probability - be dancing along in their muddy wellies.

A few weeks later the band will be on stage again.

But this time it will be for an audience of 700 crammed into an Ibiza beach bar.

Dance Mecca

Even among the myriad European music festivals, the intimate crowd and unusual setting will make this gig a particularly special occasion.

And according to promoter Andy McKay, "it is also very unlikely to make any money".

Ibiza has built its reputation as a mecca of dance music - and be it rave, hardcore or house, its pilgrims have flocked to the island's super-clubs.

Until recently a high-profile appearance of four scruffy teenagers from South Yorkshire would have been more likely on Ibiza Uncovered - the notorious television documentary exposing of the antics of holidaying boozed-up Brits - than on stage.

Andy McKay
The costs are astronomical. We'll be delighted if we break even.
Andy McKay

But now The Arctic Monkeys, and a swathe of other bands including Kasabian, The Fratellis and CSS, will be very much part of the Balearic island's official scene.

Ibiza Rocks - the name given to the string of shows across the island's three month summer season - is Mr McKay's response to a growing demand for guitar-based indie music alongside the more traditional dance scene.

"In part, this is down to the MP3 generation," he says.

"People have a lot more eclectic musical tastes now - in part because they have so many different genres of music on their iPods and mix between them seamlessly."

Now in its third year, but easily the biggest yet, the gigs are designed, says Mr McKay, "to build the live music scene in Ibiza".

And it is, he says, a "passion-based project".

Brands and bands

With tickets costing between 30 and 40 euros (20-27), putting some of Britain's biggest bands in front of so few people is never going to be financially viable on ticket sales alone.

Andy McKay
Organisers want to serve up something different in Ibiza

So there is also money being pumped in from a television company recording the gigs for Channel Four.

And as is almost inevitable these days, where there is music, there is also the backing of a mobile phone firm.

The power of the brands in music was even apparent at the bar during the Ibiza Rocks launch party in London's Camden last week.

While a straight cranberry juice cost punters a couple of quid - it came free if infused with a generous glug of a particular brand of vodka.

"There's absolutely no way that this could be done without sponsorship," Mr McKay says.

"If you are flying crews of 20 people out to the island and putting them up in villas, it's not cheap.

"You need top equipment and the best line engineers so the costs are astronomical. We'll be delighted if we break even."

Realistic economics

If these bands are used to bigger venues, so too is Mr McKay, who founded the infamous Manumission club in Manchester in 1991 and took a 10,000 venue of the same name to Ibiza.

While admitting that he and wife Dawn make a nice living from the club, he says Ibiza Rocks ideally needs to turn a profit within a year or two.

Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner
Will fake tales of San Antonio echo through the room?

To do that will take more than the weekly gig (held on Tuesdays, allowing bands to fit in the show between European festivals on weekends).

"Some weeks we will have four gig nights and that will help with the economics of it all," Mr McKay says.

"But I can see a time when Ibiza will have live bands every night over the summer and hopefully then we can make some money."

Another way to bring in the euros would be to move to bigger venues - namely the super-clubs including Pacha and Space as well as Manumission

"That is one of the options in moving it forward," he says.

"Ultimately we will have to do something else with live music but we are very reluctant to stop doing small intimate concerts.

"Bands like Kasabian and the Arctic Monkeys rarely get the chance to come and play on a beach under the stars in front of just a few hundred people.

Arctic Monkeys
The View
The Fratellis
The Enemy
LCD Soundsystem

"We really want to keep that. The challenge is how can we afford to do it?"

Evolving island

If the events are not purely about earning cash, at least in the short term, there is a sense that the shift towards guitar-based music is part of Ibiza's adapt and survive history.

From a hippy hang out in the Sixties and early Seventies it became home to the New Romantics movement in the 1980s before the arrival of rave and house music, and so is clearly not afraid of change.

Of Ibiza's 1.67 million visitors last year, 587,500 were from the UK.

While not all come for the clubs, it is in Mr McKay's interests to offer those interested in nightlife what they are looking for.

Ibiza club night
Summer dance clubs still dominate Ibiza tourism

"Three years ago we were looking at Ibiza and feeling a bit pessimistic. I just felt there was nothing for the next generation," he says.

"The DJs were getting older. It was an older clubbing population and no one seemed to care that we had got these 16-years-olds saying 'It has got nothing to do with my life'."

Some dance fans have opposed the movement of guitar-driven music into "their" space.

"There was a lot of resistance in year one and a lot of people wanted to see us fail, but now most people are quite accepting and open to it," McKay says.

Indie music will definitely appeal to a lot of my friends who don't associate themselves with Ibiza
Marie Goodger, 27

"Dance music and parties are always going to be very important in Ibiza but we have broadened the market.

"DJs in other clubs are increasingly playing music that is more based around rock. Nobody can say it's not working."

'Exciting times'

Many fans are tipped to buy their tickets before they go on holiday - but some will be kept aside for spur-of-the moment tourist purchases and for those who live on the island.

"If you import an event like this to Ibiza but then don't let people who are on the island have a chance of going along, then you might as well not have bothered," says Mr McKay.

"It's an exciting time and is one of the few things on Ibiza that will be a sell-out.

The Fratellis are back in Ibiza after performing last year

"That makes us feel an awful lot more secure about the future."

Among those keen on the idea is Marie Goodger, 27, a regular UK gig goer who went to Ibiza last summer.

The idea of being able to see her favourite bands in small venues is attractive, she says, - especially with gigs finishing early enough to go on to a club, or just back for a rare early night.

"You don't necessarily always want a huge night, even on holiday, and it sounds like it will really complement the Ibiza culture," she says.

"The indie music will definitely appeal to a lot of my friends who don't associate themselves with Ibiza, and maybe broaden music tastes of the more traditonal Ibiza raver."

All that, and not a drop of mud in sight.

Ibiza: Still having it large?
24 Aug 04 |  Music

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific