Produced by Prime Social Group in conjunction with local partners at De Lis Group and Sutton Club, the three-day festival drew thousands of college students studying abroad in Spain and surrounding European environs to a variety of clubs in the Catalan capital.
The Chainsmokers got the party started with a rowdy sold-out show at 5,000-capacity club Razzmatazz, while Marshmello finished off the festivities with a trap music throwdown at Up and Down.
Fresh off Abroadfest's "most diverse" edition, Prime Social co-founder Zach Ruben caught up with Billboard Dance to reflect on the festival's origins and future expansion.
How did your own study-abroad experience help give rise to Abroadfest?
My friends from Wisconsin all decided to study abroad the same semester our junior year, and we all ended up different cities. I kind of ended up in Barcelona on my own. A lot of the other students did have their friends there, so I basically befriended the club promoters in the market and they became the guys I would hang out with on the weekends, not only in the clubs but showing me around town and the local spots. They engrained me more in the local culture than just what the American abroad culture was like. And they gave me my first real inspiration in club promotions. I saw their hustle and how much fun it was.
How did Abroadfest get its start?
As a senior at Wisconsin, I kind of took the reins and became responsible for the Halloween parties, spring parties, and everything in between. I was bringing clubs DJs from New York and was like why don't we start booking the same acts in Barcelona since it's the same kids studying abroad there. So we started with D.Berrie and The Chainsmokers back when they were under 2,000 dollars, sending them along a little network I had going with promoters in Rome and Florence I'd befriended in my travels. Meanwhile I was booking bigger acts like LMFAO and Steve Aoki, so my Barcelona partners wanted to do the same there.
I learned that there weren't a whole lot of shows taking place in Barcelona outside of the summer seasons. And we had a good partnership with Club Opium at the time, so we started doing about four or five shows a semester in Barcelona and one or two in Florence and Rome, then later added Prague. We had a little network of the promoters in each market that promoted to the international students studying abroad.
But it was when we booked Afrojack in March 2011 that we saw how kids would come into Barcelona for the weekend from other cities they were studying abroad in. It was one of those big breakthrough shows that people were buzzing about and really changed the scene. We officially launched Abroadfest in 2013 with Kaskade and Nicky Romero.
What do you attribute Abroadfest's growth to?
It started as just a multi-headline show at Opium on a Thursday of a long weekend, and it's now a six event weekend packed with more than 20 artists on the bill this year. For the growth, it's not only the shows but all of the extra things we added to the events, the production, the performers, and the cultural stuff. We promoted a whole lot of cultural and sight seeing activities throughout Barcelona and had partnerships with some great brands like Study Abroad Apartments. I think that's really where the growth is coming from.
We've seen the amount of travel throughout Europe increase, but also people from the States coming over for their spring break. We're competing with Mexico, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, and Panama City as a real spring break destination. A few years ago it was unheard to fly to Europe for a week or weekend, but I think that's changing and making Abroadfest a viable destination for spring breakers and vacationers.
We’re also really see growth in secondary European markets. A lot of people came in from Prague this year, as well as Madrid and Seville. Obviously Florence and Rome are the main staples, and Paris had a lot of people this year as well.
Do you foresee Abroadfest expanding to other European markets in the future?
We hope to expand it to one or two other markets next year. Nothing crazy -- we'd start like we did in Barcelona with just one or two shows through the weekend and really emphasize the culture that the city we're in offers with different tours and the sightseeing that's a part of the whole weekend experience. It's cool because Abroadfest isn't so much reliant on the artists. Obviously having The Chainsmokers as a headliner is huge, but you know we sold out the lineup last year without any talent being announced.
We probably would of done the same this year, so it's more about the culture and I think all the kids that study throughout Europe kind of reuniting together for a weekend and partying together and experiencing a different city together they've never been to. We're trying to be like going to camp, where your friends from all over all converge into place for a summer and you get to share different experiences you wouldn't get elsewhere.