The Rock in Rio music festival is slated to hit the Las Vegas strip in May 2015, Rock in Rio founder Roberto Medina revealed exclusively to Billboard Monday.
Medina predicts that the four-day Rock in Rio Las Vegas he says is planned for early May 2015 will bring an audience of 80,000 people each day. He said that a future Vegas date envisioned for 2017 could expand to six days. While Medina did not disclose more specific details, he said that the festival will be held on Vegas’ main resort drag, “not separated” from the city center.
The news about the festival’s first U.S. edition follows the announcement Friday that the growing entertainment conglomerate SFX had signed an option agreement to acquire a 50 percent interest in a newly formed entity which will own the assets and operation of the festival franchise. Rock in Rio has been staged 13 times over 28 years in Madrid and Lisbon in addition to Rio to more than 7 million people. The 2013 Rock in Rio, held in the festival’s home city in September, was attended by 595,000 people over seven days.
“It’s bigger in terms of public, in terms of sponsorship, in terms of social media,” Medina said, in comparing Rock in Rio to established U.S. festivals. “Not a little bit bigger, a lot bigger.”
The Department of Tourism of Rio de Janeiro (RioTur) put the festival’s economic impact on the city at over $400 million U.S. dollars.
There’s nothing on the planet like Rock in Rio,” SFX Entertainment Chairman and CEO Robert Sillerman said in an interview with Billboard. Last week, the growing entertainment conglomerate announced it had finalized its purchase of German promoter i-Motion for some $21 million in cash and stock. SFX growing portfolio now includes such events as Tomorrowland, Mysteryland, Sensation, Electric Zoo, Disco Donnie Presents, Life in Color, Nature One, Mayday and Ruhr-in-Love. The company also owns digital platform Beatport among other properties. "As electronic music is expanding and gaining importance and prevalence, I’m sure it will play a greater role [in Rock in Rio],” Sillerman added.
With the creation of the new entity for Rock in Rio, SFX takes over as Medina’s main partner, replacing IMX, a company owned by Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista and IMG Worldwide. IMX will retain a minority share in Rock in Rio, Medina confirmed.
Medina, who recently bought a residence in New York, said that with SFX, he found the U.S. partner he was searching for. “I have to learn about the American market,” acknowledged Medina, who is well known in Brazil as the owner of leading advertising agency ArtPlan as well as for Rock in Rio. “I think that our credentials and our history justify that we are present there.”
Medina called Rock in Rio’s commercial structure “more advanced” than that of American festivals.
“In Brazil, we have a commercial investment of $50 million dollars,” he said, adding that this year’s Rock in Rio had 650 licensed products, from a Swiss Army knife to a special Rock in Rio-themed edition of a Volkswagen Fox. Rio’s City of Rock, where the festival takes place, featured a Ferris wheel sponsored by a Brazilian bank, a Heineken zip-line, and the Trident Turbo Drop ride among its attractions.
“Here [in Brazil] we need the participation of the advertising and business world in order to create a product of the highest quality,” said Medina, who founded Rock in Rio in 1985, at the end of the country’s two-decade military dictatorship. “I needed to have very strong sponsorship in order to do what I dreamed of doing.”
Medina, who has called Rock in Rio the five star hotel of music festivals, said that the event’s commercial structure was the key to its success in Madrid and Lisbon.
“In each country that I went to, Spain and Portugal, I was able to change somewhat the mentality toward investment by sponsors,” he added. “We can be much more of a platform, not just a festival.” He added that he believes that Rock in Rio’s business model could be applied to other SFX properties.
Medina said that the partnership with SFX will attract a more sophisticated audience of electronic music fans to Rock in Rio, but that the essence of the festival will remain the same.
“I think it’s good to combine electronic music with Rock in Rio,” he said. “[But] Rock in Rio has had it’s own structure since 1985. It has live music, that is not going to change, and the philosophy behind it will never change.”