Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the island’s original house music explosion, dance music insiders are predicting a return to clubbing mecca Ibiza’s glory days.
“Based on the numbers coming through the door so far, it’s going to be the best year ever,” says Danny Whittle, brand director of Pacha, the only club already open for this summer’s season. “We are getting the sort of volume that we would normally expect in late June.”
The Spanish-owned Balearic island, located in the Mediterranean, has had a reputation as a party haven since the hippie era. Dance music arrived on the island in 1988, leading to more than a decade of booming business, during which many of the world’s biggest clubs-including Privilege, Space, Eden and Amnesia-set up on the island. But more recently, it has been in decline, mirroring the drop in dance music sales experienced in many markets.
Figures from Inestur, the Balearic Islands Tourism Authority, show foreign arrivals on Ibiza fell 1.7% annually on average between 2001 and 2007. But, as the 2008 season prepares to kick off, arrivals by air are up 3.4% year-on-year, with arrivals from the United Kingdom (up 49%) and Germany (up 13.4%) leading the way. Whittle says advance bookings at Hotel Pacha are up 15% and reservations for the club’s VIP area up 25% year-on-year.
Now a wave of optimism is sweeping the island’s clubland, despite tough new legislation aimed at curbing Ibiza’s 24-hour party image.
In January, local authority the Consell Insular de Ibiza passed laws forcing discotheques to close between 6 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and making unlicensed “villa parties” illegal. “Leading a normal life on some parts of the island in the summer is very difficult,” says councillor Paquita Ribas, who helped draft the legislation. “Noise pollution is a serious problem for a significant percentage of the local population and the fact that it could be nonstop, 24 hours per day, simply had to go.”
Steve Hulme, international manager of Pacha Recordings, the club’s label offshoot, says the clubbing community is responding positively to the new laws.
“Initially people were crying foul,” he says. “But it has had the effect of forcing clubs to program incredible talent [as] they now have a limited time to program. That has meant more premier-league DJs being locked in for more dates than ever before.”
Highlights of the 2008 season include Dutch trance icon Tiesto’s first Ibiza residency at Privilege; house music A-listers like Paul Oakenfold, Basement Jaxx and Swedish House Mafia at Pacha; Pete Tong at Eden; and Ministry of Sound and We Love at Space.
Superclub Manumission’s Ibiza Rocks open-air alternative rock shows also return for a fourth year, featuring the Fratellis and the Enemy. Tong’s inaugural International Music Summit, held May 28-30, is another breakthrough for the island, with panels and showcases aimed at reviving the dance music industry.
“The event is wholly focused on Ibiza’s role as an important hub for new music,” Tong says. “It has been for years, but has never really been recognized as such.”
Additional reporting by Lars Brandle in London