With four higher schools of modern music and a deep-rooted jazz tradition, Barcelona is considered the Spanish capital of jazz, a title inconsistent with the limited supply of venues dedicated to this genre, and which starting next week will be reduced to one single room focused on the music of Coltrane, Miles Davis and Tete Montoliu. Because this September 28, if a miracle does not prevent it, the Milano Jazz Club will close its doors after two decades, swallowed up by the high rents of the city center, figures only within the reach of large chains such as the Italian food chain that will occupy the space of the legendary cocktail bar. The r&b band Yaketi Yak will be the last one to play in the basement of the Universitat round.
Against this backdrop, and with the desire to avoid similar cases in the future, Barcelona City Council approved this Tuesday a proposal to create a monitoring team in collaboration with the programming team of the Milan venue, the Associació de Músics de Jazz i Música Moderna de Catalunya (AMJM) and the Associació de Sales de Concerts de Catalunya (ASACC). The agreement has been presented by Barcelona en Comú, and has had the support of all groups except Vox. The draft also proposes updating the local sound map of the city’s live music spaces, creating a new urban planning figure to protect the city’s emblematic cultural venues, and urging the Generalitat to modify its catalog of activities, so that live music venues go from being considered “musical recreational activities” to “musical cultural activities”, a single word that hides within it the great change demanded by the sector: assuming that all live music, without surnames, is culture .
The closure of the Milano room was announced this August after months of fruitless negotiations with the property to reach a financial agreement to renew the rental contract, which expires at the end of this month. “It is not feasible to open anything, not even having money,” lamented Guim Cifré, the room’s programmer along with Clara Conill, given the administrative difficulties encountered in continuing the meeting. “If you have a young team that wants to open the room, they should help.”
Against them they have urban pressure, the difficulties in obtaining a license and the neighborhood rejection of the opening of new bars. “The majority of spaces where live music is performed are considered nightlife,” laments Lluís Torrents, president of ASACC, “and that means that they are threatened by many factors, from speculation, gentrification, the lack of urban planning regulations that protect us, the use plans that do not allow the opening of new rooms and the neighborhood pressure due to the inconveniences that may arise on the street.” This situation results in the fact that “there are fewer and fewer halls and spaces where musicians can present their work.”
The premises suffer from high rents and the difficulty of obtaining licenses, which endangers the ecosystem
“It is a constant opening and closing of venues, there is no continuity,” adds Guillem Arnedo, president of the AMJM as well as a musician who has played at Milano. “It’s not just something in Barcelona, it happens throughout Catalonia and throughout the state,” he points out, recalling the closures of venues such as the Hot Blues in Igualada or the Keyboard in Reus, as well as the fragile situation of the Sunset in Girona. A situation that contrasts “dramatically” with the fact that Barcelona has four higher music schools (Taller de Músics, Esmuc, the Conservatori del Liceu and the Conservatori Municipal de Música de Barcelona). “There are hundreds of musicians who study every year, who finish their studies and who need to play because jazz and many other musics need live music, this meeting point that halls and venues provide.” Arnedo has called for maintaining dialogue between local, regional and state administrations because “solutions can be found.”
Guim Cifré has taken the same line, demanding “a creative response” to his situation. “We have received many requests, but none with the support that a jazz club demands,” he remarked. Last week the Milano programmers met with representatives of the Barcelona City Council, but they miss “an involvement to avoid the closure of “one of the most important venues in Barcelona, Catalonia and at the state level.”
“Cities are not designed to have establishments like ours, the policy that is repeated is to expel the establishments”
For his part, Lluís Torrents recalled that ASACC has always defended that the solution lies in urban planning. “Cities are not designed to have venues like ours, the policy that is repeated is to expel from the cities all venues where there is live music because they are considered a source of problems.” A situation that is not repeated in other countries, where music of all kinds “is considered culture,” and these venues “are supported and protected.” Torrents has given France as an example, where the budget of these spaces has more than 60% public contribution “when in Catalonia we have between 1% and 3%.” “We don’t quite believe that music is culture.”
This lack of support pushes music venues to become “discos, cocktail bars, bars that allow us to have income to maintain these structures and pay the musicians properly. “Initiatives like this help put on the map that we have a problem and we must start working in this regard,” she stated in relation to the proposal approved this Tuesday. “Education is being greatly promoted, but if we do not promote live music, the possibility of accessing music in decent conditions for musicians and in sustainable conditions for venues, what will we do with the students?” Guillem Arnedo has sentenced.