Interview with Ibiza Rocks Founder Andy McKay

By Claire B

  • I’m interested about the changes. Ibiza Rocks has gone from live music to having daytime pool parties. Can you tell me why?

We are chasing energy, we’ve been doing it for the 20 odd years, 25 years that I’ve been in this game and we’ve been about chasing the energy, following where the energy, where the atmosphere is. We have these values of attitude, atmosphere and authenticity – they are our triple A values.

We chase energy for a living and in the case of the Ibiza Rocks Hotel we are fully committed to being a 20-somethings youth hotel. So they’re our core values right, and we’re saying that that’s who we are. We also launched ourselves as being all about guitar bands and live music. Now there comes a point where, you know, like I said when I was in my teens and early 20s I was going to bands and I was loving it. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity in 2005, 2003, 4, 5 when we launched Ibiza Rocks to book a load of bands and be at the crest of the wave of, you know, Babyshambles, Kaiser Chiefs, Artic Monkeys, Kasabian – it was amazing. We had this amazing run and I could do something that appealed to me personally because it reminded me of a time when I was, you know, I think we all adapt to what happened in our teens and 20s. It appealed massively to the audience that we launched Ibiza Rocks to in 2005. And it was amazing, an amazing run.

Now fast forward to 2017, 2018, the customer that is staying in our hotel is not excited about the same music that the customer was in 2005, 2006, 2007, their musical taste has evolved, as it should do and that’s happened absolutely, and you know, grime is a million miles away from the Artic Monkeys, and you know, we got huge success with Stormzy and … So what we’ve realised is that you have to be true. You have to stick to certain values and you have to be true to them. And if we are going to be true to the generation of 20-somethings, if we’re going to be true to our philosophy of chasing the energy and if we’re going to stick to our values of attitude, atmosphere and authenticity of what we are delivering, we have to deliver the soundtrack and the music and the event, that audience wants.

And when we came out with Craig David two years ago, it was very clear to me that the energy that we had been experiencing in the live gig was more present in that Craig David event than it was in some of the latterday live music concerts, you know, the energy. It’s not about me as a 47 year old man, that’s about the energy.

So that, combined with the fact that there were some political issues where putting the speakers that the bands needed, the monitors, the speakers, it was impossible, it was an impossibility to be legal, so that accelerated the process because we had a daytime party business that was starting to get very very successful last year.

It was where all the revenue was coming from and we have a night time live music business that is impossible to be legal that isn’t where the revenue is coming from and the jealousy of the very success that we were having in the day time, which was legal, was possibly going to get killed by the non-profitable vanity project that I was carrying out with the live bands that I liked.

  • So can you tell me a bit more about this legal/illegal thing and the issues with the Ayuntamiento in San Antonio.

There’s quite a lot of stuff happening at the moment. There’s a big thing with Sant José. It is virtually impossible for a visiting musician to perform legally on the island of Ibiza.

  • Because of the sound?

Because of the acoustic plan that is a requirement of any venue on the island. They have to submit an acoustic study, they have to define where every single speaker is, it has to be fed through a limiter and all the speakers have to be in the exact position and be the exact make and model and serial number that is in the acoustic plan. Which means that if you’re a band that is perhaps traveling with your Marshall amp, or you’ve got external speakers that you put on stage, you’re immediately in breach of your license.

  • Is that just in San Antonio or is it island wide?

Island wide. Balearic wide and possibly beyond. So nobody can be legal, unless maybe you’ve got the same band every day and you use all the equipment in the exact same position, but it costs three or four thousand euros to do the acoustic study and you can’t turn it round in a day.

  • When did that happen, when did that come in?

A few years ago, three or four years ago, I can’t remember exactly, but it’s been around for a few years.

  • But when you started it wasn’t in place.

No. So that meant that whilst we did live music we were always vulnerable to someone who wanted to give us a problem. By stopping doing the live bands, we are no longer vulnerable.

The success of the pool parties came with a dose of jealousy and that jealousy meant that we were vulnerable, and the problem, although I don’t think the jealousy was about the bands, the easiest way to cause us a problem was to attack us for not complying with the acoustic plan.

So that’s really what, that was the straw that made us ultimately decide that we had to, for the moment, stop doing the live bands, because we can’t afford to risk the entire license of the building on an activity that we cannot legalise and that does not make money.

  • You said there “for the moment”. So do you think maybe if things change if they get a bit more relaxed and the market changes …

I’m sure that, things have to change because you can’t have laws long term that criminalise live music, which is basically where we are at. We’re at a situation where I don’t know how it’s possible for a traveling musician to legally perform anywhere on the island, anywhere, indoors or outdoors.

It’s not just an outdoor issue. It’s just a ludicrous situation so, in time that must be solved, and when that is solved, then we will be able to come back and put in a mix of some live bands. But regardless of that, the energy is in the pool parties, the atmosphere is here.

Last year was our most successful ever year, this year is selling better than last year and we’ve responded to give the 20-something customer that we’re most interested in, give them a version of what we think they want, and deliver an upgraded experience in the way that they, you know, it’s all about sharing and social media and imagery and this is responding to the energy that we, we’re addicts, we’re chasing the energy. That’s what we’re feeding off, and this provides it, so …

  • And you’ve made a few refurbishments this year to the space as well to accommodate the new …

Yeah, I think the change is probably more dramatic than the original change when we dropped the stage in, because this is the first year that we’ve truly gone from hotel courtyard to venue. So we’re now a proper working venue and we’re running more events than we’ve ever run and I’m sure that the number of events will only increase, and the hours … we can’t run past 11pm now. If you want to run past 11pm now you have to run quieter. So it doesn’t make sense, everything leans towards the daytime, the daytime is the biggest growth area on the island and why wouldn’t we want to be, why wouldn’t we want to be in that market. It’s also far more profitable.

  • So how do you see, I know you’ve spoken before about San Antonio as a tourist destination and a lot of the changes and restrictions that have been put in in San An, how do you see the future of tourism in San Antonio, because you’re part of that aren’t you?

I’m fairly positive about it, I mean, I think the future of San Antonio is the future of the island and I think that San Antonio has its place and it needs to be healthy. It’s certainly becoming the daytime capital of the island and I think that’s not going to change, so the pre-midnight daytime, whether that be sunset at Café del Mar, or Mambo or Ocean Beach, or us, or Benimusa Zoo Project, daytime activity is huge in San Antonio.

The after midnight activity, I’m very hopeful that you’ll see a reinvigorated Eden and Es Paradis, you know, some of the problems in the West End may drive more people to those clubs, but it’s, I passionately believe that 20-somethings are a massively important asset to the ecosystem of the island. And I think that San Antonio has been placed to provide that market. I am not cynical about that. I think that’s THE most valuable market that comes to this island and I think there’s a lot of criticism about that age group, but I do think that all the success that the island is currently enjoying is driven because the people that are filling all the boats and the VIPs in the main, these are people that fell in love with the island in their 20s, so if we don’t give people the opportunity to fall in love with Ibiza in their 20s, they’ll fall in love with somewhere else in their 20s, and they won’t be here in their 30s and 40s and 50s and whatever.

So my whole attitude is not, it’s not about stopping youth, it’s about keeping them coming for the life cycle and maybe San Antonio needs to take its fairer share of people that started their life in San Antonio, so you’ve caught them but then you let them leave and go somewhere else and my question would be how does San Antonio keep its fair share of the people that they helped to fall in love with the island?

And a solution to that is not sopping the 20-somethings, the solution is working harder to get them to come back in their later 20s with their girlfriends, in their early 30s with their wives and young families, and the life cycle of that person, how can San Antonio deliver a more balanced experience of that? That’s the question.

  • And do you think San Antonio is starting to offer that more balanced …?

Yeah, I do. I’m not saying that every decision is correct but I do think that that is the direction of travel and I do think that the zone of San Antonio offers a lot already. And I do think that enforced change or any change provokes, there’s a good way to react and a bad way to react, and I think there are opportunities from everything, whether it’s good or bad and I think San Antonio is in a really healthy place. Don’t get me wrong I do believe that it’s important that political mistakes aren’t made that damage the prospects of the ecosystem of the island, but I’m not negative about where San Antonio is going, I’m very positive about it and I think its going to have a healthy, good future.

  • Yeah, that’s why I wanted to ask you about it. Thank you.

Postcript: As the interview finishes, we’re aware that in the background the DJ is whipping up the packed venue and Andy checks the decibel metre that he has on his phone, as he is concerned that they might be breaching the imposed sound limit. To his relief he discovers that they are ridiculously legal at that moment in time and he laughs. It’s not funny really, but this is the reality within which the venue now has to operate!