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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
Ibiza: Still having it large?
By Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Ibiza club night
Ibiza is the world capital of summer dance clubs
Ibiza's world-famous club and party scene is in a state of flux as the island reinvents itself to try to shed its sex-and-alcohol image.

Visitor numbers are down and major party organisers are changing tack - but one superstar DJ dismisses any talk of a crisis.

It has been a "difficult" year for the island's long-established dance clubs, according to one of the industry's most experienced operators.

In what the Spanish Tourist Office describes as a "refocusing" exercise, it is looking to attract more families and less of the "lager louts" beloved of UK tabloids and satellite reality TV.

Nineties-style corporate "superclubs" are out of favour, according to one key player, and a diverse new underground is flourishing with live acts and unknown DJs.

After more than a decade at the heart of a multi-million pound industry, Ibiza is experiencing - if not murder on the dance floor - then a revolution of sorts.

BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show with Sara Cox live from Pacha Beach Bar
Clubbers are still going to Ibiza "in their droves"
Manumission, Ibiza's most lavish party organiser, which celebrated its 10th birthday this summer, has felt the winds of change.

Co-owner Andy McKay said: "It has been weird. The island has definitely been quieter.

"I think there's a change in youth attitude and the natural evolution of what people want to do in terms of entertainment.

"The big-name DJ is drawing less people than it was a few years ago, and I see it as a positive thing.

"You have to ask whether the corporate money and sponsorship has propped up the scene for longer than it could have naturally lasted, and whether because of corporate money the season was stifled."

Judge Jules
Judge Jules said "not much had changed" in the Ibiza market
Ministry of Sound is also going "back to grass roots", according to Ian Mackley, the company's international head of events.

This year, in an attempt to change direction, MoS did not put on a party at the island's famous Pacha club for the first time, said Mr Mackley.

"This year in San Antonio has been more sedate," he said. "There's a concerted effort to get rid of this image - no one wants a lager lout crowd.

"It's a very different audience, much younger, and we wanted to take it in a different direction. But people are still going in their droves."

The celebrity contingent was still out in force in 2004, with high-profile sightings of P Diddy, Kelis and Paris Hilton among others.

Manumission has had its best year - despite staging fewer parties - by changing tack in what Mr McKay called an "exciting period for dance music".

More than a fifth of Balearic visitors are under 30
More than 590,000 UK visitors went to Ibiza and Formentera last year
Tourists to Spain spent 36.8m euros in 2003
Source: Spanish Tourist Office
This year Manumission - organiser of the world's biggest club night in the resort of San Antonio - featured a live rock group, Electric Six, for the first time - something unthinkable a few years earlier.

Mr McKay predicted many club nights would go under, while a minority would thrive. "It's time for change," he said. "The audience is looking for change. There's a big shift towards live music.

"We are seeing a natural rebalance. Disco never died and neither will house music, but it won't be selling Mitsubishi cars and washing powder again."

But BBC Radio 1 DJ Judge Jules said it was "remarkably inaccurate" to suggest Ibiza's core market was fundamentally changing.

"Ibiza retains a very strong youth appeal, with all the key club nights reporting a strong season," he said. "Not much has changed at all in terms of the complexion of the market."

Disco never died and neither will house music, but it won't be selling Mitsubishi cars and washing powder again
Andy McKay, Manumission
He cited the "phenomenal success" of club nights Cream and Judgement Sundays, and DJs Erick Morillo and Roger Sanchez.

Judge Jules also questioned the Spanish Tourist Office's move to remarket the Balearic island as more family-oriented.

"Some elements of the Ibiza tourist authority like to think that the island has the potential to market itself towards families, when in reality just about every other Spanish resort has vastly better facilities for younger visitors," he said.

Drug use up at dance resorts
30 Nov 03  |  Merseyside
Britons import drug problem to Ibiza
06 Aug 02  |  4x4 Reports
Clampdown on Ibiza nightlife
12 Jul 01  |  Europe
Country profile: Spain
14 Jul 04  |  Country profiles


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