Behind the Scenes With Alexandre Faria, New Head of Live Nation in Brazil: Interview

Courtesy of Billboard Brazil
Alexandre Faria

Director and senior vice president of talent acquisitions: As a layman, that may not mean much. But the fact is that Alexandre Faria is the new almighty in Brazilian Live Nation. He's worked for Mercury and T4F before, and now he's responsible for the artistic deals for the global leader in entertainment and is going to act on the huge tours that come to South America.

Live Nation has been acting in Brazil for quite a while, but until now, it didn't have an office in the country, leading them to bring concerts in partnership with other big producers like T4F itself, where Alexandre came from.

"For 2018 concerts, Live Nation starts walking with its own legs," Faria said.

Of course, we tried to get some names out of his mouth, and it was a tough mission. All he could say was "confidential." But Billboard Brazil got to talk to Faria about his career, Live Nation's mission in Brazil, his experiences with kind artists like Eddie Vedder and Chris Martin and how hard it is to bring famous artists to Brazil.

You took charge of Live Nation with many concerts scheduled. How's the transition going? 

There was a partnership between Live Nation and T4F that came to an end in March, with Justin Bieber's concert. From there, it began working with different producers. It brought Sting, Ariana Grande and there's Coldplay, Bruno Mars, U2 and John Mayer. Depeche Mode in 2018. From there, it will be walking with its own legs in Brazil.

For how long have you been working in entertainment? Tell us a little bit about your journey.

I started in 1992, 1993, doing parties and small gatherings. In university, I created a company with two partners, but still focused on small events. It started to get big, and we acted as managers to some Brazilian artists, like Leo Jaime. The first international concerts happened in 1994, 1995, the ones that we could afford like The Wailers, Suicidal Tendencies, Agent Orange, <a href="/artist/7679011/tsol/chart">TSOL</a> and Sepultura.

1997 was a very tough year for the business and I was tired of so much responsibility, wanted to switch things a little and started working with the band Nativus [that became Natiruts, one of the biggest names in Brazilian reggae]. They had two managers in Brasília and we did some of their gigs in São Paulo, Rio and Espírito Santo. Shows to a thousand people, tops. Their two songs, "Beija-Flor" and "Liberdade Pra Dentro Da Cabeça," became huge hits and we started doing gigs for 8,000 people. My life changed.

But I was still being a manager, facing the risks and I didn't want that. In 1999, I talked to Mercury and went to São Paulo. Didn't stay there for too long. In 2000, I started working for CIE to take care of Marina Lima's tour and some international concerts. In 2007, I became the director and CIE had already become T4F. We did U2, Madonna, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, all that. In 2011, I was in charge of the promotion of concerts for T4F in Latin America. And now, I took the challenge to initiate Live Nation's operation in South America.

How did you begin? Was that what you wanted or it happened naturally? 

Music has always been present at home. My mother got married so young, at 17, and when I was born, she was 18. She used to play piano to Roupa Nova, in their first formation. My dad is an economist. He would show me records of Pink Floyd, The Who, Elis Regina, Raul Seixas, a lot of music. And I started to like it. When I was 11, I'd go to record stores to look for LPs, discovered stuff. So, since I was young, I was close to music in a very intense way.

But you could've become a musician, instead of a business guy … 
Oh, I didn't because I wasn't good. My mother is a piano teacher, I took five years of classic piano. It's a sacrifice. When I see someone playing and reading music, I admire it. Piano is the master of the instruments, you may not know the music, but you read it and play it. I didn't have that gift, didn't have the discipline to learn. I took a short cut and learned how to play the guitar.

There's the responsibility to take care of everything … 

I don't know if I had all the responsibility. When you're 20, you're impetuous, you think you can do it all, that everything's going to be alright. Now, at 44, I see that I was irresponsible. I'd do everything right, but the word "responsible" doesn't apply.  

Did you also work on backstage as a producer? 

It's curious, I've always taken care of getting the artists. I had people to take care of finances, marketing and production. I'd always focus on signing with the artist and managing the tour. It's part of the job that I'm close to until now, somehow.

How do you explain some big festivals that we had in Brazil that no longer exist like Close-UP Planet, TIM Festival, Planeta Terra? 

I don't know if I believe in a festival that is attached to a brand's name. I think it defines it. A festival that is lead by a sponsor isn't made to last too long. The brand's strategies change! A festival must be bigger than a brand strategy. Of course, the festivals need sponsors and that relationship should be healthy. But events need their own soul and sponsors must be part of it, not the opposite.

You worked closely on Planeta Terra's case. Was that why it ended? 

The festival is impacted by the economic crisis, not related to the festival itself, but to the sponsor. Terra was suffering because it was an internet website, which lead to other media outlets not talking about the festival the way they should. That messed things up. In 2013, for example, we had Blur, Lana Del Rey, Travis, Beck, The Roots, national artists -- it was awesome. But we suffered with the lack of journalistic coverage.

To talk a little bit more about the present, how do you define your function working for Live Nation? 

My work now is to take care of the company as a whole, not  only the artistic area. The main function is to make Live Nation's business to grown in South America. We'll be working with tours and events. 

We're living in a moment when people listen to everything. How does that influence you when you have to come up with names for a festival line up?

I can talk about Lollapalooza Brasil, that I experienced vividly from 2013 to 2017 and I believe in that format. Lolla has four buttresses: rock (and its variables), hip-hop, pop and electronic. I believe in the success of an event that's capable of mixing those genres. Obviously, blues is an older style and must be in smaller places, more comfortable. Lolla is made for a younger crowd, from 16 to 25/26 years old. 

And it gives you the opportunity to bring new names … 

Yes. The guy that was famous in 1990 may not be famous to the younger crowd … so there's no point in bringing him. Only if he's refreshed, made himself relevant. When someone goes to Lollapalooza, that person is opened to the unknown. And that person realizes music is moving forward.

That's the mission. Someone who's sitting on a chair just like mine has the mission to make things fresh, to show that music is constantly evolving. "Isn't The Weeknd pop?" Yes, but he also talks to the hip-hop crowd. It's modern. It's electronic hip hop! What is <a href="/artist/302247/florence-machine/chart">Florence + The Machine</a>? Indie? Pop? There are no boundaries. She's wonderful performing live.

Does that make your work more difficult? 

It makes it easier! You bring worlds together, there's no prejudice. This year, we had on the same night Metallica, <a href="/artist/419474/xx/chart">The XX</a> and Rancid. While Metallica was playing, Martin Garrix was on another stage. It's so cool to see that spirit of peace and harmonious interaction.

A lot of people said that bringing Metallica to Lollapalooza was betraying the festival's essence. And it was the biggest crowd ever registered. How was that for you? 

I think it's part of the process. There will never be a unanimity, there will always be an artist missing. The goal has been reached, people know what Lollapalooza is. 

There are big concerts coming … 

Yes, U2 will break records in Morumbi Stadium. It will be the first artist to perform four nights there.

How do you explain that? A concert that isn't cheap, selling out tickets in the middle of an economic crisis? 

I don't have the absolute truth, but there are some theories. The entertainment industry works fine in the middle of crisis compared to the tourism. In a crisis, people don't buy cars, apartments, delay an expensive trip, but they have to live. People still go to restaurants, to concerts. Comparing how much you spend going on a trip and going to a concert, there's a huge difference. 

To what extent were you surprised about U2 selling out four nights? 

I always believe in U2. I worked on the 360º tour and now we're working on the Joshua Tree tour. I saw how fast they sold out the tickets for 360º and now it happened as fast as before. U2 has a history of great shows in Brazil; it's no surprise.

Representing pop, there's Bruno Mars coming. 

His concert hasn't sold out yet, but he's a name with great numbers as well. In the United States, he started selling tickets to all of his dates at the same time and sold 1 million tickets in a day. He's proving to be a blockbuster.

For 2018, what's in your radar? Fans have been requesting names like Drake. 

We're working nonstop! Drake is on the radar. We have a problem with hip-hop: Young Americans love it and consume it so they're at a level in the United States that impairs bringing them to Brazil. Unless they start looking at South America as an investment. "I'll stop asking for 3X and ask for half X so I'll go to Brazil!"

Not every artist sees us as an investment, especially in the hip-hop world, where it's all about the money and showing off. It's not easy. Drake went to London, and people didn't believe it much. He sold out eight concerts at O2 Arena. Eight! I met with his agent and he told me: "Drake has always had to prove himself in life". Drake used to work on a Nickelodeon show and now he's a rapper. He's not <a href="/artist/304305/jay-z/chart">JAY-Z</a>, who's from Brooklyn. He's not Snoop Dogg, who's from Los Angeles. He's a dude from Canada. He's been proving himself, more and more. I saw a concert from his previous tour and I didn't like it. On this tour, he's changed so much, there's a band … it's amazing. 

Hip-hop is going through a great phase, ruling the charts. How does a negotiation like that work? 

It's arm wrestling. He has to ask less to come here, but at the same time, he wants to earn as much as he can on this moment. Usually, when we look for an artist like that, he wants to charge four times more than what he's worth and it invalidates the deal. I'm talking about Future, Travis Scott, Big Sean, all of them. Drake is on another level, we expect him to ask for that. With Adele, he's the biggest-selling ticket artist in the world. 

You mentioned Adele: She almost came to Brazil. What happened? 

She had the time to come to South America in March 2017. But she ended up going to Australia. Many times, we compete with other territories as well. It was her team's option. With that Zica virus thing going on in Brazil, it got in the way. Adele had never been tested physically on a tour this big, and she thought she wouldn't handle it. I've been to tour with many artists and they get to a point where they're exhausted. You don't remember your hotel room number or the country you're in. You don't even know where you are. Airplane, show, airplane, show … 

Back to 2018, we want names. 

Confidential! 

But how's the planning? 
I'm heating up my seat, but there are big tours coming our way, we're drawing the next steps.

What about this Latin phenomenon? Do you consider exploring that? 

That's something new to us. I've always been very close to Latin artists. I've done three or four tours of Maná and Alejandro Sanz, and they always did good. I see reggaetón artists playing on the radio, but they have to prove themselves about their talent performing live. I don't know if that success will convert into selling tickets here.

Maluma already came, but not for solo concerts. 

I did Demi Lovato on Villa Mix Festival, and he also played. I can guarantee that people weren't there to see him. But we're paying attention. 

Brazilians are going with the flow, like Anitta …

Anitta is a talent. I think she has everything to be the Brazilian more well-known abroad, like Shakira is the most known Colombian abroad.

Personally, do you meet the artists you bring? 

Things have to happen naturally. If the artist is open to that, I'll get to know him, thank him for coming, that stuff.

Which one has impressed you the most? 

Eddie Vedder. His speech matches who he truly is. He's worried about things. On his last tour in Brazil, he wanted to know more about what happened in Mariana, what was affected by it. He donated part of the revenue to his victims. He's what he says he is. Chris Martin is very outgoing, amazing. He's so calm. You don't feel the weight of success on him. There's no mark, he does what he likes.

Does that end up helping in the process too? 

I will tell you something: Things for Coldplay always work out. There's an aura of positivity there. It's impressive.