Cultura Urbana, Spain's leading hip-hop and urban music festival, returns on May 16 to a new 16,000-capacity site in Madrid with an international line-up and a one-day 18-hour format. Control of the event has moved from indie label Boa Music to a music division of the country's biggest media holding company Grupo Prisa.
The Cultura Urbana festival has been bought from indie founder Boa Music by Planet Events, the tour promoter and booking agency that is owned 70% by Prisa and 30% by Rosa Lagarrigue Management (RLM), Spain's most active concert promoter in Latin America. Madrid-based RLM is also owned 70% by Prisa.
Boa Music retains a 20% stake in Cultura Urbana, and will remain as a music consultant for the next three years. Planet Events had an unspecified financial involvement in last year's Cultura Urbana held near Madrid, then bought the brand from Boa last November, and has a more active production role in the fifth outing for Cultura Urbana this year.
Rap and hip-hop acts performing this year include Common, Xzibit, DJ Craze and Qbert from the United States, Dizzee Rascal, Congo Natty and DJ Nonames from the United Kingdom, and Seyfu from France. Spanish stars include Tote King and Nach.
"The [financial] crisis is threatening the summer festival scene in Spain as elsewhere, but we have moved [into festival activity] now because this year it was more important than ever to re-create Cultura Urbana to show which festivals will remain in the future and which will fall by the wayside," says Sandra Rotondo, director of Planet Events.
"I think this festival has one of the strongest projections [for growth] of all those in Spain, because while indie and electronic music move towards an adult public, hip-hop continues to attract a younger audience," she adds. "Hip-hop took its time to reach Spain, but it doesn't stop growing. That's why [Grupo Prisa] did not want to miss the chance to enter the festival scene through the country's most important hip-hop festival."
Cultura Urbana has had three different venues in or near Madrid in its four-year history, and until now has been held over two days for eight hours a day because of limits on late-night noise. Last year some 30,000 people paid to enter the event.
"We plan to keep the 18-hour schedule in future years," says Rotondo. "This year's site allows music until 6am, but until now the venues have all been near built-up areas. It doesn't make sense for a hip-hop festival crowd to have to go home early and then come back the next day." She explains that the four festivals until now have been organized in conjunction with town councils, while this year's Cultura Urbana is a private initiative.
The festival's original director, Noelia Rodríguez, continues this year. "The mix of Planet Events production and promotion infrastructure, and Boa's rap know-how and festival experience, will give Cultura Urbana more projection [for growth]," she says.
"This is an important return to the city of Madrid," adds Rodríguez. "There is less sponsorship, but the bright point is that with fewer festivals [in Spain] this year should mean more people coming to Cultura Urbana."
Rotondo and Rodríguez say their plans for Cultura Urbana's future will involve more events each year, rather than a bigger festival.