The professional opinion: Pablo Soler
“Barcelona offers a well-known and recognized brand, it is an ideal city to host events like Primavera Sound”
We speak with Pablo Soler, Primavera Sound Director, the music festival that in 16 years has become a reference in Barcelona and an unavoidable event for lovers of indie and alternative pop rock bands.
In one sentence, could you define what your work in the Primavera Sound organization consists of? Tell us about the most complex challenge you have ever had to face.
I am the Managing Director, so I have the task of planning and controlling the budget, providing the necessary means to achieve the objective set by ourselves, as well as supervising the legal environment of our entire activity. As a project that seeks excellence, the Primavera Sound festivals in Barcelona and Porto need to be based on a structure that meets the highest standards of demand and rigor. The most important challenge that I have faced since I am holding this role is transforming the idea of a group of friends into a well-coordinated, efficient and profitable professional organization in an unstable fiscal environment during a period of economic recession.
Why did you choose Barcelona as the main location for the Primavera Sound and what are their strengths in the music industry and the festival scene?
The truth is that we chose Barcelona because we live here and we thought that in our city there was a place for an event with urban character and with a transversal view of the musical industry. Barcelona offers a well-known and recognized brand, appropriate infrastructures, good communications, a large range of hotels and top quality accommodation, endless restaurant services, beach and all kinds of leisure options for all ages… It is an ideal city to host this kind of events.
After 16 editions and a meteoric rise, the Primavera Sound has beaten all records and is, no doubt, a great reference for urban music festivals. What did the relocation of the festival to the Forum area in 2005 supposed? What does this space offer with regards to other areas in the city?
After the last edition at Poble Espanyol, in which tickets were sold out, the relocation of the festival to the Parc del Fòrum was a huge challenge in terms of the hiring quality demand, as the spaces were much larger and we needed to attract more audience. On the other hand, it gave us the opportunity to work in better-prepared facilities for our activity and to have some unique spaces that, in the future, would not only integrate into the Primavera Sound experience but would eventually define it. The external auditoriums, the bathing area or the Forum Auditorium are part of the festival’s personality.
The Forum Auditorium is the one with the greatest capacity in Barcelona and has some leading technical and acoustic characteristics. It has become “the concert hall of the festival”, which allows formats that are different from those in other venues. Some of the most special moments of each edition happen within its walls. What do both the organization and the artists value the most of this space?
The Forum Auditorium is a unique facility without precedent in a festival setting. It allows us to program shows that, by their nature, cannot fit properly in open-air stages or with a standing audience. It is not only a comfortable and beautiful auditorium, but also the technical and human resources meet all requirements.
The Forum urban planning has often been criticized by saying that it has been underused and some way disconnected from the city and its people. From the field of business tourism and congresses, the perception is that the urban fabric is strengthening and the citizenship is taking over these spaces. The Primavera Sound has the commitment to bring it closer to the city, so this is still more evident. What aspects do you think that could be improved in the relationship between the Forum and the city and what would you ask the authorities according to this?
It has always been important for us to maintain a good relationship with the urban area in which we carry out our activity. We understand that we generate an intensive use of the spaces and we strive to improve their dynamic each year. From our perspective, we believe that the authorities should manage the use of spaces properly in order to generate cultural wealth for the city without forgetting the neighbor’s needs.
The Primavera Sound continues to grow, not only in other cities (Porto) and publics (minimusic), but also in other locations in the city (“in Bars”, “in Neighbourhoods”, “in Clubs”, “in the Raval”…) and with the extension of the area (like Primavera Bits). You have also come up with initiatives focused on music professionals. Have you considered incorporating other spaces of the CCIB for new concepts?
The CCIB has exceptional facilities and, of course, we are open to expanding the ones we have in use when necessary.
As you have a good knowledge of festivals, how have these events evolved in recent years? What are the trends and how does Primavera Sound collect them?
Festivals have gained specific importance within the industry. The technological revolution has enabled and cheapened the dissemination of recorded music and what consumers value most is the “live” experience. The Primavera Sound tries to collect the most important of the current music scene, without being exhaustive, but with the ambition to compile the highlights of each moment. I think that our distinction has been the independence of our work that fans have soon understood.
Finally, what latest news would you highlight from the festival in order to convince someone to attend this edition and what are your recommendations for the 2017 programme?
This edition of the festival has more artists than ever and a new space on Sant Adrià del Besòs beach that will focus on electronic music: Bicep, John Talabot, Michael Mayer, Ben UFO, Joy Orbison, among others. We will also have a line-up filled with stars like Grace Jones, Solange, Bon Iver, The XX, Aphex Twin, Van Morrison or Arcade Fire or a solid middle class with Miguel, Marco Mac, Magnetic Fields or Metronomy, for example. A wide selection of emerging bands like Sampha, BADBADNOTGOOD or Gordi. And finally, we have prepared a series of surprises that will not leave anyone indifferent. It is certainly the most ambitious edition of our little story.