Musical bubbles

More than two decades have gone by since that Rolling Stones concert in Malaga port marked a turning point in the organisation of big musical events on the Costa del Sol.

It's true that before that visit, numerous towns in the province, especially Marbella, had hosted shows by top artists such as Michael Jackson and Prince. Top level concerts were nothing new for the summers on the Costa del Sol.

What made that historic concert of 1998 in the port different from the rest, though, was the direct intervention of public institutions to fund an event of this magnitude.

Only those of us who have been around a long time will recall the financial fiasco of 1989, when Malaga city hall turned musical promoter, bringing in some of the most sparkling stars of the moment. George Michael, Duran Duran and Paul Simon created a huge hole in the municipal coffers and put public institutions off playing at concert promoters until almost a decade later, when the Costa del Sol Tourist Board stepped into the field once more.

The Rolling Stones concert was memorable, but its financial consequences were disastrous. Since then the authorities concentrated on doing their own job and, apart from the occasional sponsorship, the world of concerts was left to rules of market supply and demand.

And so, in 2005, the Mijas racecourse played host to stars such as Elton John and Rod Stewart and, more recently, Marbella once again took the lead in the organisation of big musical events in an old quarry under the Starlite brand, a private initiative.

The success of Starlite appears to have woken high-flying musical ambitions in other Costa del Sol resorts, prepared to take on Marbella in a battle for the position of symbol of the summer. No one can say that it's a hidden objective. In an interview with SUR, the mayor of Fuengirola, Ana Mula, explicitly admitted her aim for the festival of concerts organised in her town to eclipse other musical destinations. She has achieved just that this year with Jennifer Lopez and an event where the promoters only have to concern themselves with selling tickets and paying the artist's fee; the town hall is footing the bill for the rest.

Once again public funding has jumped into the concert arena. They would do well to set some clear rules of the game to make sure that the competition among local councils is as fair as possible. And also to avoid the creation of giant bubbles that, as usual, end up being paid for by all of us.