To say that Ibiza in 2018 made interesting viewing would be the understatement of the century. Commercially, this summer's Balearic dance season was disappointing. Musically, however, it will be remembered as one of the most inspiring on record. With so many moving parts in play, next summer's plots and subplots will be even more intriguing. If you're curious to know how 2019 will play out, read on.
The mass of new noise and licensing regulations drawn up in Ibiza over the last five years was intended to help the island's resident population achieve a better standard of living. Which makes sense, after all, Ibiza is more than just the summer home of the electronic music scene - it's also home to thousands of families trying to live normal lives in a tourist hotspot. Nevertheless, the new legislation is so restrictive to trade that if all the new laws were actually enforced the island would likely suffer the biggest economic crisis in its history. There's no doubt the new regulations were composed with the best of intentions, but as we've seen this summer the economy has been adversely affected. With tourism numbers and club attendances now in decline, people are getting extremely nervous. And it's not just the English promoters and the Italian DJs, but also the local business owners. In 2019, anticipate a push back, as the notion that killing the economy isn’t the best way to help the local population is finally embraced.
We prophesied the rise of Ibiza's daytime economy back in 2016, and in the next few years we fully expect the daytime market to overtake the island's more traditional post-midnight economy. Astonishing as it is, 10 years ago Ushuaïa, Destino and Ocean Beach didn't exist, while Ibiza Rocks Hotel and Cova Santa weren't being utilised as electronic dance music venues. Today, these outdoor, daytime clubs are locked into a period of growth, while the afterdark economy becomes less important with every passing season. Indeed, Ibiza's daytime economy has been on a massive surge for the best part of a decade, yet until now partying outdoors always felt like an addendum to partying afterdark. Next summer expect the day to dominate the night, with parties at Ushuaïa, Ibiza Rocks and Ocean Beach outgunning the post-midnight rave scene.
Back in the '90s, whenever Ibiza suffered a dip year, the clubbers of the era would migrate towards the big nights. In others words, Manumission, Cream and Clockwork Orange got busier, while the smaller nights stood empty. With next summer expected to be another tough year for Ibiza's post-midnight venues, those ravers who do choose to party after dark will choose to stick to what they know. Which is why, in 2019, you should anticipate the likes of Resistance, elrow and Black Coffee standing out against the milieu of a troubled market.
Themed hotels are most definitely a growth industry here in Ibiza. A slew of concept driven hotels opened this summer, including the flamingo pink Paradiso Ibiza Art Hotel in San Antonio bay and the mojito-flavoured Cubanito Ibiza Suites near Cala Gracio beach. You'll also find another new destination hotel, called te Wi-Ki-Woo, situated at the very end of the Sunset Strip in San Antonio town. And don't forget the aptly named Tropicana Hotel in Playa d'en Bossa, which resembles a psychedelic vision from Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Expect even more 4 star makeovers next summer, as Ibiza's basic hotels seek to remarket their image to a more affluent clientele base who are prepared to pay extra for Instagram ready backdrops.
EDM music has been on the decline for at least three or four years. The genre is no longer considered the primary gateway onto the world's best dancefloors as the young clubbers who embraced the movement at its inception point have long since matured. In Ibiza, the EDM sound still draws a crowd, largely thanks its European clientele base, but even so the long-term prognosis here is one of decline. Rather than go down with the ship, the captains of the EDM movement are already seeking out new horizons. David Guetta could be heard dropping tunes by Adriatique and Maceo Plex this summer. He also joined Solardo for a surprise b2b at Hï. Expect the great EDM rebrand to move into high gear in 2019 as the custodians of the genre continue to realign their output to a marketplace that no longer cares for their wares.
No one knows exactly what will happen to Sankeys in 2019, but it seems entirely logical to assume that the Playa d'en Bossa venue won't be operating under the guidance of its current owners. Presently there are a number of giddy rumours circulating the island, hinting at what might happen next. The worst concerns a bulldozer. That's right, according to the grapevine Sankeys will be razed to make room for a cluster of new apartment blocks. A slightly more exciting rumour supports the notion of a full club rebrand. With new club licenses currently outlawed this option seems more likely. But who would have the money and the out of this world status to make it work? Either way, expect a big announcement over the coming months.
Apart from Hï, who had a solid summer, 2018 was a tough year for the island's traditional superclubs, with falling foot traffic a concern for promoters and clubs alike. Based on what we saw this season, It seems logical to assume that the age of Ibiza's post-midnight venues being busy seven nights a week is now over. We may have seen our first glimpse of the future at Amnesia, where, for the first time in over a decade, the San Rafael dance mecca was shut on Sundays. A little way down the road, at Privilege and Ibiza Underground, three to four events per week was the rostered norm. Moving forward, the big question now for Ibiza's post-midnight venues is whether sustaining a full weekly party programme is financially viable.
Ocean Beach have been smashing it for years now and this summer their VIP sections have been busier than ever. Why? Because they're delivering an accessible, aspirational product that young party heads can afford and simply can't get enough of. Like it or not, expect the affordable daybed and bottle service culture - which is still in its infancy - to explode in 2019, with daytime venues like Ocean Beach and Ibiza Rocks Hotel leading the charge and everyone else following suit. These venues have essentially taken an old school, elitist product and rebranded it as premium standard without the stigma attached. In terms of pricing, it's a completely different animal to the 5 star VIP economy at Pacha, Lío and Ushuaïa, which is tailored to the international jetset. Instead, venues like Ibiza Rocks and Ocean Beach are catering for real people who want to upgrade their clubbing experience without having to remortgage the house.
The clubbing nostalgia business is about to take off here in Ibiza. The Clockwork Orange crew have been evoking memories of '90s Ibiza for years and next summer former Cream boss Nick Ferguson is set to launch his One More Time holiday experience, featuring DJs, brands, artwork, decor and themes from that era, aimed specifically at island workers who were active between 2000 and 2010. And don't be surprised if Manumission re-enter clubland in 2019. The likelihood that everyone's favourite immersive club carnival will reincarnate next summer is much greater than it has been at any previous point in the past 10 years. So watch this space…
Playa d'en Bossa used to be the cool place to hang for young ravers in their early 20s, but following the closure of Space and the demise of Sankeys, the area is becoming more popular with a slightly older, more international crowd. On the other hand, San Antonio has been very aggressive about attracting youth to the island in recent years, with venues such as Ocean Beach and Ibiza Rocks Hotel and club brands like Defected going out of their way to charm dance music's next generation. Elsewhere on the island, Ibiza's obsession with an older, 5 star audience is starting to bite, while San Antonio is bucking the trend and showing signs of growth. Most importantly, perhaps, the top tier DJs and promoters who shunned San Antonio a few years ago are now happy to perform in the town, a factor which is persuading clubbers to party locally, rather than bussing out of town. Next summer, expect San Antonio to retake the British youth market completely and begin marketing itself to a more international clientele base.
Johnny Lee is freelance journalist and our Ibiza correspondent