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Ibiza clubs – a showcase for audio

If there is one destination that is synonymous with clubbing, it’s Ibiza. But what does the island’s club audio market look like?

If there is one destination that is synonymous with clubbing, it’s Ibiza. But what does the island’s club audio market look like? James McGrath reports

(Click here for part 2 of this feature, which asks how Ibiza club installs differ from those elsewhere.)

Picture the scene: you’ve just tucked away the last of your crème brûlée – topping off a fabulous three-course meal at Ibiza’s Cipriani restaurant – when you look to your left and see Orlando Bloom throwing a punch at Justin Bieber while Leonardo DiCaprio eggs him on. No, this isn’t a dream: the person many people love to hate is getting his come-uppance.

This actually happened back in July – showing that Ibiza really is a place of fantasy where things that are out of the ordinary can and do happen. But the White Isle is rather more than a location for celebrity fisticuffs: there are also wondrous venues where super-DJs play music that entrances revellers till sunrise and beyond.

Tickets for club nights cost around €50 on average, but can command prices as high as €80 depending on the night and the club. With partygoers paying such a premium, it’s important that they consider it was money well spent and so repeat the experience time and again.

So how does a club owner decide on the best system for the venue? And how do sound systems come to be installed and maintained?

Once the party season kicks off, the installers move onto the island. “We work with several installers, all of which are based on the island for the season and so are in a position to provide on-the-ground support to their customers,” comments Ann Andrews of Funktion-One.

“At the beginning of the season we ask manufacturers to get involved with us to get the best results,” explains Hugo Quintanilla of island-based rental and installation company Pro Audio Ibiza.

Each year, the island celebrates the season’s opening in May and closing in September with numerous parties in all its hottest clubs. Such celebrations require added oomph to ensure every person at the party not only hears the music, but also feels it; so rental companies frequently supplement the installed audio equipment with additional kit. “Opening and closing are mostly supported with extra equipment as they handle double the crowd most of the times,” says Quintanilla.

Olly Wayman of rental company Audio Hire Ibiza/DMT Audio Visual emphasises the different requirements of DJs which can compound the need for fast access to extra equipment: “Different DJs require different equipment, including monitors, mixers and sound processors. During the Radio One weekend we could park a bus in our warehouse because that much kit is required for special events.”

Simeon Friend of local integrator the Shop Ibiza – the company responsible for the Pioneer club install at Booom! – points out that it does very much have to be a team effort to ensure the clubs are up to spec in time for the biggest parties of the season. “Local suppliers work well together and we very often pool equipment together to create larger systems,” he says. “Alternatively, bigger systems can come from the mainland of Spain.”

With such emphasis on audio, and the allure of 2.8 million visitors annually, there is a huge opportunity for audio manufacturers to showcase their systems.

“Ibiza is a very volatile marketplace, and many factors other than good sound come in to play which dictate the lifespan of a sound system in a club. Ibiza is seen as a showroom for many big brands of audio equipment. All the companies want their brand in the biggest and best clubs on the island,” explains Wayman.

It’s no surprise then that strong competition between venues and the perennial search for the best system leads to yearly audio upgrades.

“Every club in Ibiza upgrades their PA set-up each year. Many have deals with PA brands who like to tweak their systems during the off-season months,” comments Friend.

Quintanilla concurs: “Ibiza has a lot of competition and each club wants to have the best for the crowd’s enjoyment. That’s why they look to renew installs every year and clubs elsewhere don’t.”

By contrast, Andrews says that there is still a market for solid systems that go the distance: “A good average would be five to 10 years. If a club has paid money for their permanent installation they will want it to have longevity. We have systems which have been installed for as long as 10 years and are still going strong. Obviously, if a club expands or has been re-modelled there may be a need to reconfigure or add to the sound system to accommodate the changes made to the club.”

There’s a reason why Andrews says that longevity is desired if a club has paid for its installed system. Reveals Wayman: “Without mentioning any names, some companies tend to give away installs to the clubs to get their products placed over here.” [Editor’s note: We didn’t ask which these companies or clubs are, and any mention of a club or brand in this article should not be read as implying that it is involved in this practice.] This leads to two problems, he says. First, “it devalues the product. If you didn’t pay for your install, you’ll be less hesitant about throwing it out when the next one comes along.” Second, and more importantly, “[club owners] don’t really care what a free system sounds like, because after all, it was free.”

It could be argued that brands offering their systems for nothing, or heavily discounting them, is a plus point for installers, as it ensures the island is alive not only with music, but also with the fitting and refitting of audio systems. But for manufacturers, this practice must surely damage potential profit margins.

Click here for part 2 of this feature, which asks how Ibiza club installs differ from those elsewhere.