WiZink Center seeking to mix live, virtual experience with innovative venture

Madrid’s WiZink Center has said its innovative plan to live stream concerts to music fans will also incorporate events opened up to groups of attendees in the arena.

In unveiling the project last week, the 17,453-capacity arena in the Spanish capital said the project already had the strong support of several artists, promoters and record labels, who have been collaborating to design the concert model that aims to cover the current lack of live performances due to COVID-19.

At the time, the project was said to be focusing on events held behind closed doors, but WiZink Center has now told TheStadiumBusiness.com that fans could also be present inside the arena as Spain seeks to relax restrictions related to the global pandemic.

A WiZink Center spokesperson said: “We will be celebrating live shows, and small audiences will be allowed inside the venue. The situation in Spain is kind of uncertain, as of yet. We are opening everything by phases, and the Government is driving the country through each different phase taking the sanitary numbers as the main guide, and tracking every single new case.

“Right now, we are in Phase 2, which allows us to open the venue for events with a capacity of around 1,700 people, seated. If everything goes well, as it apparently is going to be because the statistics have been really optimistic in the last couple of weeks, we will be in Phase 3 by the end of June, which means 50% of our capacity with all the audience seated.

“This being said, what we are planning is to open for small audiences, and to sell tickets to groups of people, not individuals. They will attend the concerts always seated and quite separated from other groups. And, little by little, we expect we will open to wider audiences.”

In terms of the measures being put in place to ensure a safe environment for visitors amid COVID-19, the spokesperson added: “The special measures we will put in place will include wider distance between queues in the access areas, hand-sanitising gel available in toilets and at the entrance, doors open to avoid people touching them, and a system inside to renew the air periodically, among others.”

The initial line-up of concerts and events under the plan is due to be announced by the end of this week, with the first event lined up for the beginning of July. Along with being a major concert venue, WiZink also hosts sports events and is the home arena of Liga ACB basketball clubs Real Madrid and Estudiantes.

Regarding the potential for the same technology to be harnessed for sport, the spokesperson said: “Concerning the sports events, we depend on the clubs’ decisions, who also depend on the federations and the sports authorities.

“For the moment, we will not hold any sporting events. Even if this technology of ours could be available for the sports events, they are completely different from concerts, as they are already used to being broadcast on live TV.”

The venue’s main sponsor, digital bank WiZink, is aiding the venture, while Impulsa Eventos e Instalaciones, operator of WiZink Center, has signed an agreement with telco Telefónica, which will serve as the technological partner to develop new production systems to stream live concerts, using techniques commonly used in sports events, but not frequent for concerts.

Performances will be recorded with a maximum of six television cameras that are usually intended for sporting events, to offer different perspectives of the stage. Fluge Audiovisuales has also signed on as a partner to ensure the staging of events replicates the traditional concert experience at WiZink Center.

The venture will seek to enhance the ‘at home’ concert experience for music fans. “The most important part of it is that they are going to be able to experience a real concert, a live concert, from home, and live,” the spokesperson said.

“Also, we will add some assets such as selecting the camera of their choice to see the concert, meet and greets with the artists and some other ideas. It all depends on the event, and the different artists.”

With Spain having been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, WiZink Center is hoping that its venture can aid the wider reopening of the Spanish events industry amid COVID-19, as well as potentially being used by arenas outside of the country.

The spokesperson added: “Of course it can. We are certain that this will be a first step in the industry, and even if we all hope live concerts will be celebrated again in the future as they have always been, the streaming will be a new option to take into account from now on.”