Despite an ever-fluctuating economy and what one leading promoter describes as the worst downturn he’s experienced, the country’s venue operators, event organisers and passionate music fans will find a way to overcome the challenges, as they have before. Christopher Barrett reports.
Among the many acts to have performed in Argentina this year are Foo Fighters, Katy Perry, Roger Waters, Phil Collins, Radiohead, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Lorde, MGMT, Franz Ferdinand and Joss Stone, suggesting the second largest economy in South America – Brazil being first – belie a situation that will get worse before it gets better.
One man behind the country’s biggest concerts for the past three years is veteran regional promoter Daniel Grinbank of DG Medios.
His company promoted three sold out Rolling Stones shows in 2016 at the 45,000-capacity Estadio Ciudad de La Plata, in La Plata, the capital of Buenos Aires province, located 33 miles outside the city.
A year later he promoted two shows by U2 at the venue and earlier this month staged two Roger Waters shows there.
More than a decde ago, Grinbank engineered the Stones’ landmark free show on Rio De Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach (in 2006), which was attended by an estimates two million people, and he has worked on all the band’s Argentine shows since their first in 1995.
Over the years he has weathered his fair share of economic storms, but says the current downturn is the worst he has seen, with the value of the peso at a record low and inflation having risen 32.4 per cent in the 12 months to September.
“We are going through the deepest economic crisis our country has known and so people are not spending on entertainment,” says Grinbank. “It has directly affected our industry, so our challenge is to manage how we work with this crisis going on.
“We decided to hold all the offers we’ve made until we know how deep this crisis will be.”
Since Mauricio Macri became president in December 2015, he has been battling to strengthen the economy, but has made little progress and was forced to go cap-in-hand to the International Monetary Fund, which paid it £57.1 billion this year. The US dollar is currently worth approximately 36 Pesos, in 2015 it was worth just 9.7.
The economic environment may be challenging but Argentina has no shortage of arenas and stadiums renowned for hosting concerts.
Along with Estadio River Plate (60,000), Estadio Ciudad de La Plata (53,000) and Estadio GEBA (25,000) in Buenos Aires, other outdoor field options include horse racing tracks the Hipódromo de Palermo (50,000) and Hipódromo de San Isidro (130,000), plus the park Ciudad del Rock (100,00).
Among key indoor venues in the capital are Luna Park (7,500), DirecTV Arena (9,300), exhibition centre Technopolis (12,000) and Gran Rex (3,300).
The country’s second city Cordiba boasts the Superdomo (10,300) arena and Mendoza has the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas (40,000).
Next year will see Buenos Aires able to offer visiting artistes a new state-of-the-art arena in the form of the snappily named Buenos Aires Arena (16,000). Managed by AEG Facilities, the venue is expected to open next summer and host around 100 events per year. It is owned by Buenos Aires Arena, a division of media giant La Nación.
Diego Finkelstein founded DF Entertainment in 2015, but launched Argentina’s biggest festival and arguably its most successful, a year earlier.
Taking place over three days, with a 100,000 capacity per day, Lollapalooza is held on the polo fields in the centre of the Hipódromo de San Isidro racecourse, which opened in 1935 and is situated on the northern outskirts of Buenos Aires.
The country may be going through a tumultuous time financially but that didn’t stop the event selling out again this year. Among the headliners were Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers, LCD Soundsystem, David Byrne, Imagine Dragons and Lana Del Rey.
Finkelstein recently announced the line-up for the sixth edition of the festival, which will take place over three nights in March. Among the artistes appearing at the five-stage festival will be Arctic Monkeys, Sam Smith, Kendrick Lamar and Twenty One Pilots. He says around 120,000 weekend and single day tickets were sold within the first three hours of going on sale.
“It is the biggest festival in our market, not only in terms audience attendance but also for the variety and quantity of international and local bands on the bill,” says Finkelstein.
Beyond Lollapalooza, DF Entertainment is one of the most active promoters in the region when it comes to shows by established international artistes.
Among the many concerts it promoted this year, in partnership with Live Nation Entertainment, were Phil Collins and The Pretenders at Campo de Polo, Foo Fighters and Queens Of The Stone Age at Velez Stadium, and Harry Styles at DirecTV Arena (9,300) in Buenos Aires, with the latter having sold-out a year in advance.
For 2019, Finkelstein says he is working on stadium concerts with international acts but its not yet able to reveal names.
“The biggest challenge nowaday as a promoter is having enough sensitivity and vision to know which are the right acts to book,” he says. “We choose quality before quantity, and we’re always focused on delivering the best possible experience for both artistes and the audiences.”
Along with promoting festivals and concerts, DF has interests in venues, this year acquiring, in partnership with IRSA Commercial Properties, the DirecTV Arena, which opened in October 2015.
“We’re also about to reopen the Hípico Club, in partnership with Mario Pergolini and MTS, which will hold up to 10,000 people. It means we are able to provide more great quality medium size venues,” says Finkelstein.
DirecTV Arena CEO Matias Lynch says that while tickets have taken longer to sell than in previous years, due to the economic situation, numbers have generally been strong. Among acts playing the venue this year are Harry Styles, Camila Cabello, Liam Gallagher and Morrissey.
“The DirecTV Arena is the biggest indoor arena in Buenos Aires and maintains a policy of offering affordable prices for a venue with great facilities and acoustic,” he says. “It also has an adaptable concert capacity, from 2,000 people upwards.”
One of Latin America’s leading regional promoters, Move Concerts, has promoted shows this year with Katy Perry, Radiohead, Noel Galllagher´s High Flying Birds, Joss Stone, Erasure, The Kooks, Simple Plan, as well as local acts such as La Beriso and Abel Pintos.
Move Concerts chief operating officer Sebastian Carlomagno says that 2019 is also shaping up to be a good year, with Ed Sheeran due to play at Campo Argentino De Polo (55,000) and Iron Maiden at the Velez Sarsfield Stadium (49,000) in Buenos Aires.
“Tickets for Ed Sheeran in February and Iron Maiden in October are already selling well,” he says. “We are closing other well-known artistes, but for obvious reasons we can’t reveal them yet.
“The challenge is to keep offering shows, at an international level, for an audience that is living through a period of purchase power adjustment and where the marketing budgets have dropped considerably.”
In the summer, Move launched an artiste-management arm in partnership with Abel Pintos and his agency 70MIL. One of Argentina’s most successful homegrown artistes, Pintos is the division’s first client. Last year he sold out two shows at the River Plate stadium.
Move’s heavy metal Maximus Festival, launched in 2016 and held at Tecnópolis, has seen performances by Rammstein, Marilyn Manson, Linkin Park and Slayer. This year saw the company promote the inaugural Soundhearts Festival at the same venue, headlined by Radiohead.
Carlomagno says the festival scene has something for everyone, with free and paid-for events staged throughout the country.
“Due to the economic situation here, the chance for fans to see lots of artistes on the same day and at the same place is very appealing,” he says. “However, due to the cyclic economic conditions in, much analysis must be done before making the huge investment required to produce a festival.”
Like all leading promoters, PopArt Music is practiced at producing shows in a challenging fiscal environment.
An ongoing priority for the company has been its Cirque Du Soleil show Séptimo Día – No Descansaré, which toured South America this year, played in four Argentine cities and sold more than 1.5 million tickets.
A major festival operator, this year saw PopArt stage the two-day Personal Fest at the Club Ciudad de Buenos Aires (20,000) and Córdoba’s La Plaza de La Música (8,000). Among artistes performing were Molotov, Cypress Hill, Death Cab For Cutie, Warpaint, Connan Mockasin, Mercury Rev and Gus Dapperton.
It also stages Sónar Buenos Aires at Tecnópolis (10,000), and free festival Movistar FRI (30,000) at Parque San Vicente in Mendoza.
“The festival market here is really strong,” says PopArt Music director Matias Loizaga. “Music fans in Argentina are very loyal and supportive of festivals and live shows.”
Among the many shows the company has worked on this year are Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at Estadio Malvinas (40,000) in Mendoza, The Chainsmokers at the Hipódromo de Palermo horse racing track in Buenos Aires, Juanes at Luna Park and Father John Misty at La Trastienda Club (700) in Buenos Aires, which is owned and operated by the company.
“All big international acts should perform in Argentina because fans here are really, really passionate,” says Loizaga. “Most artistes have a great experience playing for Argentinian crowds, they are widely believed to be the best audience in the world.”
As well as international talent, Pop Art is heavily involved with local artistes and has a roster of more than 300 acts and promotes hundreds of shows per year.
“We also run the leading YouTube Argentinian entertainment channel with almost two million subscribers,” says Loizaga.
As well as promoting some of the biggest international stars in Argentina, Buenos Aires-based Ozono Producciones, which is run by former T4F MD Fernando Moya, has been busy taking Argentinean shows including Fuerza Bruta to stages around the world.
“We just signed a joint venture with T4F to produce music shows in Argentina and we are about to sign a blockbuster concert for next year,” says Moya.
Around 80 per cent of the artistes the company works with are from Argentina and that its booking and management agency arm represents five young artistes he says have the potential to break out beyond the domestic market – LOUTA, Angela Torres, Valentín Oliva (Wos), Dakillah and Victoria Bernardi.
“They are sponsored by very big brands, for example Dakillah is sponsored by Nike and was the subject of an advertising campaign that involved huge images of her placed all over the city,” says Moya.
Aside from offering plenty of stadium and arenas, Moya says the capital has no shortage of more intimate venues.
“Buenos Aires has great small venues to perform at, including the Niceto Club [1,000], Teatro Opera [2,000], Teatro Gran Rex [3,000], Vorterix [1,500], La Trastienda and NDA Ateneo ,” he says.
Moya echoes Loizaga’s assertion that there are few audiences in the world more responsive to live music than Argentinian fans. “We are very enthusiastic people who really love music and make sure every artiste feels that at the shows,” he says.
Adapting to change
Among the stand-out concerts that Tribulaciones Group has promoted this year was Franz Ferdinand at Museum Live in Buenos Aires (1,900).
Despite the economic challenges, Tribulaciones president Mario De Cristófaro says he is making the best of the opportunities in the market.
“Due to the economic crisis we are currently experiencing it is very difficult to plan shows in the short term,” says De Cristófaro. “However, I am planning concerts on a smaller scale including Pussy Riot and Julia Holter, and I am currently negotiating the new edition of a music festival with Icelandic artistes called Sounds of Iceland, with acts such as Soley and Mammút.”
Looking ahead, De Cristófaro says that soaring inflation and the plummeting value of the peso, combined with music fans having diminished disposable income, means there is real concern across the industry.
“We have seen a sharp drop in the sale of tickets,” he says. “Consequently, in 2019 there will surely be a strong decline in international shows, except for some festivals, managed by larger producers, with sponsors.”
Clearly it is not just promoters that are feeling the pinch as consumers tighten their belts.
Orfeo Superdomo director Juan Manual Rodriguez Vargas says the exchange rate uncertainty and economic depression has made it a difficult year for the venue.
However, it has hosted 24 concerts this year and among the most successful were two sell-out shows by local pop singer Luciano Pereyra.
“When playing Argentina, international artistes have to consider that there is a depressed average income here and that makes tickets prices difficult to afford for local fans,” he says.
Owned by Grupo Dinosaurio, the venue benefits from being linked to one of thebiggest shopping centres in Cordoba, the Dinosaurio Mall, with ample parking on site and an adjacent hotel.
“We are in the centre of the country, which makes it easier logistically and more affordable to include when an artiste is touring neighbouring countries such as Chile, Brazil and Uruguay,” says Vargas.
Juan Manuel López, MD of promoter 6 Pasos, says that the economic challenges has made it a very difficult year and that 2019 is not shaping up to be a whole lot better.
“Foreign artistes should understand that the purchasing power of the Argentinean people is different now, before an average ticket price of 2,850 peso [$100] was possible, but now that is impossible,” he says.
With the exchange rate making it so challenging to work with international artistes, López says his company is primarily focusing on Latin American acts such as Marco Antonio Solis and CNCO.
Despite the economic whirlwind that is battering the local live industry, López remains confident that Argentina will continue to be an important element of any tour of the region by major interntional acts.
“The Latin American region usually adds about 10 shows to a world tour and Argentina, even in a bad economic period, still feels important within the region after Brazil and Mexico,” he says. “Also, the Argentinean public is very effusive and always leaves artistes with a good impression.”
DF Entertainment’s Finkelstein also asserts that Argentina is one of the strongest markets in South America, no matter what the economic conditions.
“When an act plans a tour in our region, Argentina is a must,” he says. “Our audience is known worldwide as one of the most passionate, which is just one of the many reasons why artistes love to come to our country.”