Brazil spent $4 billion to build or renovate 12 stadiums in preparation for the 2014 World Cup, a move that, like the rest of the country’s soccer spending spree, generated more jeers than cheers. While a few of these stadiums will get some action during the 2016 Summer Olympics, proposals are being pushed forward to turn others into housing for the poor. There are rumors that a stadium in the Amazon city of Manaus could be turned into a prison.
But another more immediate — and obvious — idea is already in play: Use this extensive network of soccer stadiums as concert venues.
“Brazil now has a very good stadium infrastructure and this will have a positive impact on the live music business here,” says Brazilian promoter Luiz Oscar Niemeyer, who, through his company Planmusic Entertainment, has presented tours by artists including Stone Temple Pilots, The Rolling Stones, Miley Cyrus, and Rihanna in Brazil. “Secondary markets like Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Fortaleza, Brasilia, Recife, Salvador and Curitiba are already being offered to international acts. Some concerts have already happened in these new stadiums in regions where big concerts didn’t take place before.”
Niemeyer cites sold-out shows by Elton John and Beyonce in Belo Horizonte and Brasilia as proof that a massive audience lies waiting in cities other than well-traveled urban centers Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, with the potential to increase raise the ceiling of the already lucrative live music market in Brazil, valued at a reported $5.5 billion.
One of the top ten markets in the world for recorded music, Brazil has become a touring hotpspot for international artists, some of whom have been introduced to welcoming crowds by the Rock in Rio and Lollapalooza festivals. Tomorrowland, the Belgian electronic music festival, will be held in Brazil for the first time next May. For artists traveling from the United States and other countries, Brazil can serve as a starting point for an increasingly lucrative circuit.
“Brazil is an important element in making tours viable throughout the Latin American region,” says Rock in Rio founder Roberto Medina. In 1985, when he started that festival, Medina could find no suitable venues available. He built “City of Rock,” an entertainment complex that was converted for the 2007 Pan American Games, and in 2016 will be the site of the Olympic Village. After launching successful ongoing editions in Madrid and Lisbon, the ever-more massive festival returned to Rio in 2001. An American iteration, Rock in Rio USA, is set to debut in May 2015 in Las Vegas. “The construction of the new stadiums will … definitely promote an increase in attendance for big concerts.”
The touring landscape in Brazil has changed dramatically since Medina first brought international rockers to Rio, and Medina bets it will change more with the addition of new and refurbished stadiums throughout the country with comfortable seating, VIP areas, and Teflon-coated retractable roofs. But rather than simply monuments to the power of entertainment, be it sport or music, he sees the stadiums as one more indication of the strength of the Brazilian consumer market.
“I think that there have been artist tours that were not possible to carry out here in Brazil for financial reasons,” Medina says. “Now we not only have the stadiums, we have a national market that has welcomed 30 million new consumers in the last 15 years.”