Still the powerhouse of South America, where tours and festivals often form the financial anchor for dates in other countries across the region, Brazil’s promoters have to contend with many challenges, not least the country’s economic situation, but also significant political change. Christopher Barrett reports
With a population of more than 210 million, Brazil has no shortage of avid music fans and a thriving home-grown music scene.
While domestic talent dominates the market, with local pop siblings Sandy & Junior leading the field this year, there has long been a strong demand for international artistes.
The inaugural Rock in Rio (cap, 100,000) festival in 1985 put Brazil firmly on the map for international touring acts. Another landmark came in 2014 when the country’s hosting of the football World Cup left a host of new stadia.
Among acts touring this year is Ed Sheeran, Bon Jovi, Muse, BTS, Iron Maiden, Paul McCartney, Foo Fighters, Drake and Shawn Mendes.
However, the country’s economy is recovering at a sluggish pace, following a crippling two-year recession that started in 2015 and saw Brazil’s economy contract by almost seven per cent.
Since president Jair Bolsonaro took office in January he has so far failed to significantly increase the country’s rate of economic recovery – there are 12 million unemployed and the strength of its currency, the real, remains relatively weak.
Despite the challenges, Brazil’s many experienced live music executives are enjoying some remarkable successes, with stadium tours, huge festivals and strong-selling shows.
One of the country’s most prominent promoters is São Paulo-based Time 4 Fun (T4F), which in May 2016 acquired Planmusic. T4F also operates venues including the Credicard Hall (cap. 7,000) in Rio de Janeiro and the KM de Vantagens Hall (8,500) in Belo Horizonte.
Among its biggest projects this year is the South American leg of Paul McCartney’s Freshen Up tour, which sold more than 200,000 tickets across four concerts, including three in Brazil – two at the 55,000-capacity Allianz Parque stadium in São Paulo and one in Curitiba at Couto Pereira Stadium (70,000).
Other highlights include the Lollapalooza Festival (100,000), which took place from 5-7 April at Autódromo de Interlagos in São Paulo, featuring Arctic Monkeys, Bring Me The Horizon, St Vincent, The 1975 and Greta Van Fleet.
T4F also has the Popload Festival (20,000) in November at Memorial da América Latina in São Paulo, with headliners including Patti Smith, The Raconteurs and Hot Chip. Tickets are priced from 290 to 800 real ($76-210).
Other events include concerts by the Artic Monkeys at Jeunesse Arena (18,000) in Rio de Janeiro, Dido and Seu George at Citibank Hall, and Bring Me The Horizon and Snow Patrol at São Paulo’s Audio Club (3,000).
T4F artistic director Luiz Oscar Niemeyer says Brazil’s financial difficulties has made ticket pricing a sensitive issue and sponsorship for international tours hard to secure.
“Obviously that affects every business, including ours, however shows are still selling very well in São Paulo, which is our main market,” says Niemeyer. “In other cities, including Rio and secondary markets, we are struggling.”
Founded in 2017, Live Nation Brazil (LNB) hired former T4F chief entertainment officer Alexandre Faria to run the operation. An industry veteran, Faria began promoting in 1994 as an independent and later worked for Mercury Concerts and Latin American entertainment conglomerate Corporacion Interamericana de Entretenimiento (CIE).
Over the years he has worked with acts such as U2, Foo Fighters, Coldplay, Madonna and Metallica.
Based in São Paulo as LNB’s director and senior vice-president of talent-buying, Faria is enjoying a busy year.
“The economy is not doing great but people still want to go out and have fun,” he says. “If you have the correct tour in the correct market with tickets at the correct price, it will perform well.
“We have had a currency devaluation but the key is to find a balance between working with international and local acts. We are very focused on international shows but it’s important not to forget local culture.”
Among the promoter’s biggest shows this year have been two sold-out concerts at Allianz Parque by BTS. Its forthcoming shows include Muse and Bon Jovi at Allianz Parque, while the latter will also play the Pedreira Paulo Leminski (25,000) in Curitiba and Rock In Rio in September.
On the domestic side, Faria says LNB has had a remarkable year with highlight including Sandy & Junior selling more than 500,000 tickets for four shows at Allianz Parque, two at Jeunesse Arena in Rio and an 80,000-capacity concert at the Rock In Rio site – Parque Olímpico da Barra.
“This really is a truly remarkable tour, it is making ticket sales history in Brazil. The show is amazing,” says Faria.
Looking ahead, Faria says, “We expect our shows to sell a little bit more than a million tickets in 2020, which I believe puts Live Nation in the leading position in this market.”
Mercury Concerts was founded by Jose Muniz in 1991, nine years later it was acquired by CIE and its promoting division OCESA Presents. Muniz remained at the company until 2007 when it was renamed T4F.
He relaunched Mercury in 2014 and promotes an average of around 50 shows per year.
Among Muniz’s responsibilities is booking the main stage for Rock in Rio, which runs from 27 September to 6 October and will see performances from Bon Jovi, Muse, Foo Fighters, Drake, Imagine Dragons, Dave Matthews Band, Black Eyed Peas, Weezer and Nickelback.
“Rock in Rio has sold more than 700,000 tickets this year and in September Mercury has the first edition of Rockfest [35,000] in São Paulo with Scorpions, Whitesnake, Hellloween and Europe. It is almost sold out,” says Muniz.
Other projects include the Itaipava De Sound A Sol concert series, which will see acts such as Black Eyed Peas, Weezer and Seal perform at the at Ibirapuera Gymnasium (10,000) in São Paulo.
Muniz says the economic challenges are nothing new and that having to offer students a 50 per cent discount, high taxation and currency devaluation are ongoing problems for the local live music business.
Move Concerts has been promoting shows in Brazil since 2014 and this year will work on 20 major concerts by international artistes.
The biggest tours for Move in Brazil this year are Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes and Iron Maiden. Sheeran has played three sold out concerts, two at the Allianz Parque and a night at Jeunesse Arena, while Shawn Mendes will play two dates at Allianz Parque in a 27,500-capacity seated configuration, and one at the Jeunesse Arena.
In October Iron Maiden will perform at the Morumbi Stadium (60,000) in São Paulo and Gremio Arena (55,000) in Porto Alegre.
“Brazil is one of the strongest markets for Iron Maiden. They are a stadium level artist here and have been for years,” says Move partner William Crunfli. “These dates look set to be a new record for them in terms of total ticket sales and grosses.”
While 90 per cent of Move’s activity is with international acts, domestic talent is an increasing focus. “The domestic market looks to be growing and there are some newcomers popping up,” says Crunfli. “They do not yet represent big ticket sales but achieving that is our aim.”
However, as well as the requirement to make 40 per cent of each show’s ticket inventory available to students at a hefty discount, he says. “The other ongoing challenge is the lack of a proper indoor arena in São Paulo. It’s unbelievable that a city of this size does not have a proper indoor arena.”
With a capacity of 100,000 and more than 200 artistes playing across 16 stages, the seven-day Rock In Rio is South America’s biggest festival. It is estimated to contribute around 1.7 billion real ($425m) to the Rio de Janeiro economy annually.
This year’s tickets sold-out in 15 days and the event attracts music fans from well beyond Brazil.
“Rock In Rio became a symbol of freedom for a whole generation when Brazil was leaving behind the military regime,” says the event’s founder and president Roberto Medina. “It was a turning point for the show business industry in the Brazilian market and has been a big mobiliser of social and environmental causes.”
Live Nation Entertainment recently extended its stake in Rock In Rio to a reported 60 per cent, which Medina says he welcomes.
“We share the same ambitions and we are sure we will do a lot together for the live entertainment market in Latin America, as well as other markets,” he says.
With its headquarters in Curitiba, Top Link Music promotes around 90 shows per year, with around 50 per cent of them being by international acts. The company, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, largely deals with rock and heavy metal.
Among shows this year are Saxon at Tropical Butantã (2,500) in São Paulo, Nazareth at Tork N Roll (2,500) in Curitiba and Tom Brasil (3,000) in São Paulo and Dee Snider at the same venue. Top Link also manages Brazilian rock bands Angra, Malta and Massacration.
Top Link director Paulo Baron say the market for domestic acts at home and abroad is burgeoning across all genres. He cites Sepultura, Angra, Viper, Krisiun and Nervosa as some of the many Brazilian rock acts that are making an impact outside Brazil.
“We constantly have shows of all musical styles but due to the financial crisis that has been raging for a long time, not all the shows are getting 100 per cent attendance,” he says. “That is due more to a lack of money than a lack of interest.”
Dynamo Productions works solely with international acts and primarily with rock and heavy metal acts, among them are Finnish heavy metal acts Artica Sonata and Nightwish. The later typically attracts audiences of between 5,000 and 8,000.
The company’s Eric de Haas has been promoting across Latin America for three decades, with the focus on Finnish acts is tied into his company’s partnership, forged this year, with Finland’s Till Dawn They Count (TDTC).
The deal has seen the opening of a TDTC Brazilian office, with future tours also featuring Norwegian black metal group Emperor.
The promoter says working on mid-range shows is tough due to the number of international acts on the road and increasing competition from the festival market.
“Generally we finalise tour dates ahead of the big festival announcements and when a big festival confirms its dates and artistes, it can often be on the same weekend and in the same city as one of our shows,” he says.
São Paulo-based M P Tour Management (MPTM) promotes throughout South America and in April partnered with German agent Michel Schuh of Solar Penguin in Frankfurt to launch MP Tour Management Europe, an artiste booking and management company.
Locally, MP’s activities primarily consist of alternative rock, punk and metal shows in venues with capacities from 600 to 1,200. Tickets generally range between 57 and 115 real ($15-$30).
Among the acts it works with are The Exploited, who played a string of dates at venues including Fabrique Club (1,200) in São Paulo and Mister Rock Bar (1,200) in Belo Horizonte. It is also worked on shows by Nuclear Assault and Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg.
MP’s Matthias Prill says business at his level is tough due to factors such as the economic and political situation, what he sees as a saturated market and a fluctuating exchange rates that makes it difficult to make accurate long-term projections.
“Ever-changing tax and general business regulations put additional unnecessary obstacles in the way,” he says. “The current situation is the worst I have witnessed in thirty years.”
Rio-based promoter Top Cat Produções Artísticas works with an equal split of domestic and international acts. Among this year’s shows are Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited, Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy and tribute Rumours of Fleetwood Mac, with the latter playing venues including the Espaço das Américas and Vivo Rio (8,450) in Rio, with tickets priced from 200BR ($52).
Top Cat founder Stephen Altit says the economic situation has meant people have become more cautious about spending money on concerts, so he focuses on bands that primarily appeal to relatively affluent people who are aged over 50.
“This audience is still happy to pay to see their favourite artistes from the past,” he says.
Altit has become a little frustrated that not all international artiste agents and managers are sensitive to the situation in Brazil.
“Some demands are absolutely unnecessary and can make contracts unviable,” he says. “The mentality needs to change. It’s not easy to sell-out a 5,000-seat venue today, you have to have a strong strategy to bring the audience in and the name of the artiste alone is not enough — it is down to the location, quality of the facilities and ticket price.”
While São Paulo is lacking in arenas, the country as a whole has a good selection, the largest being Rio’s Jeunesse Arena.
It opened in 2007 for the year’s Pan American Games and has since hosted acts including Paul McCartney, Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande and Bruno Mars. The venue is operated by GL Events and sponsored by American cosmetics firm Jeunesse Global.
Arena MD Silvia Albuquerque says the venue typically hosts around 30 concerts annually and this year’s best-selling shows include Arctic Monkeys and Sandy & Junior. An 18,000 concert capacity is achievable with a 360º stage setup and GL has invested in a curtaining system that enables the building to stage shows with a capacity of 3,000 upwards.
“The entertainment market has been impacted by the country’s crisis, some events sell well but others not so well,” says Albuquerque. “Promoters need to make a high marketing investment to achieve goods results
Other key arena-level venues are the T4F-operated Credicard Hall in Rio and KM de Vantagens Hall in Belo Horizonte. T4F’s Rutger Scharloo says the Credicard Hall typically hosts around 120 shows per year while the KM de Vantagens Hall has around 100.
He cites research by global accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers that predicts the Brazilian entertainment market will generate revenues of US$ 43.7 billion by 2021.
“The same survey shows that the live show segment is expected to grow an average of five per cent per year until 2021,” he says.
Another key venue is the Pepsi on Stage (7,200), located in Porto Alegre in the southern state of Rio Grande do Su. It opened in 2006 and is owned by Alexandre Lopes and Cláudio Favero. Among acts performing there are Cypress Hill, Thirty Seconds To Mars and Slash.