Spicing Things Up – Western acts reign, but
local flavors taking big steps in Latin America
Author: Gil Kaufman
Date: September 01,2007
Much as they do across the globe, Aerosmith, the Police, Rod
Stewart and the cast of “High School Musical” were the
acts to beat in South America in the first half of 2007. With
plenty of local talent playing to thousands, or tens of thousands,
Western acts continued to be massive draws in Mexico, Brazil,
Puerto Rico and Chile through the
summer.          
           
Venues Today spoke to some of the region’s major promoters to
find out who came out on top and what acts are promising to keep
cash registers ringing throughout 2007 and into 2008.
 
Mexico           
Wherever she brings her wriggling hips, Colombian pop
crossover queen Shakira is guaranteed to sell thousands of tickets.
In late 2006, she kicked off the South American leg of her
“Tour Fijacion Oral” with eight sold out shows at the
20,000-plus Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City, moving on to
dates in Panama, Colombia, Chile, Argentina and
Peru.        
           
This year, Jose Muniz, vice president of major South American
booking agency OCESA, said one of the most anticipated outings is
by legendary Argentinean rockers Soda Stereo, who are reuniting
after a 10-year hiatus for what they are calling a one-time only
affair. The outing will kick off at the same place the band played
their final show, the 50,000-capacity Estadio River Plate in Buenos
Aires, where they sold out three dates in three days, with two more
added for early November. The tour will also hit Chile, Mexico and
Columbia. 
           
Muniz said the average ticket price for the Soda Stereo shows will
be around $35 and he expects the dates in Chile and Mexico to sell
out as well. 
           
While the anticipation for Soda Stereo is huge, Muniz said the
biggest success stories in the first half of 2007 have belonged to
American and European artists. Classic rockers Aerosmith played to
more than 40,000 fans in Mexico City at the Foro Sol and another
20,000 at the Arena VFG in Guadalajara with an average ticket price
between $45-$60 and a top price of $120 per ticket.
           
“We’re looking for the Police to do well in some
markets, but they’re not doing that well in Mexico City right
now,” he said of the reunited 80s rock trio. “But
it’s summer and everyone is out of the city. We expect that
they’ll sell out their two shows [at Foro Sol] and draw a
good audience.” The Police will follow on the heels of
standing room only stadium shows in three Mexican cities by former
Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters in the first half of 2007, as well
as two-night sell-outs in Mexico City by Coldplay, Il Divo, Ricky
Martin and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. 
           
While Muniz said he has not had much success with American hip-hop
and R&B, he’s confident that former Destiny’s Child
star Beyonce would do major arena business in Mexico, Brazil and
other major markets — if she were to tour. October will bring
arena dates from North American stars My Chemical Romance and Avril
Lavigne, as well as the Motorkr Festival, which will play to 50,000
at Foro Sol with a line-up that includes the Killers, Incubus, the
Dandy Warhols, the Bravery and
Molotov.      
           
Guillermo Para, general director of OCESA Mexico, said several
Latin acts are also expected to do big business later this year,
including Spain’s Heroes del Silencio, who have booked two
stadium shows in Mexico City in October, and two others in
Monterrey and Guadalajara, playing to almost 200,000 fans in all.
The group commonly referred to as the Mexican Radiohead,
Café Tacuba, are slated to play their first stadium show in
their home country in February at Foro Sol after playing two nights
at the Sports Palace in the past to 36,000
fans.     
           
Para said popular Mexican acts such as Timbiriche and Chayanne are
growing their audiences, too, but have not yet graduated to arenas,
though they are currently able to book multiple nights at the
9,400-capacityAuditorio
Nacional.        
 
Brazil  
To this day, one of the toughest South American markets for
any outside act to break into is Brazil, mainly because of the
language barrier, according to Haroldo Tzirulnik, president of
Brazilian promotions firm Faz Production. “It’s a very
particular market, very different from the other countries in South
America because we have different rhythms, different artists and as
promoters we have to separate the market between what we call
country music, Brazilian music and pop,” said Tzirulnik.
Country, which is similar to what Americans think of as country and
western, is huge in Brazil, with homegrown artists such as Bruno
and Marrone packing houses.    
           
According to Tzirulnik, as has traditionally been the case, the
biggest showcases for Brazilian talent continue to be the
approximately 1,300 local rodeos and fairs that take place all year
across the country. “If you are big, you have to do 100-120
shows a year,” he said. “And seventy percent will be
fairs and rodeos.” With crowds ranging from 5,000 to 70,000,
the gigs can be lucrative, though ticket prices are typically kept
somewhat low to attract an audience that includes fans whose gross
income sometimes averages around $200 a
month.          
           
“I manage the biggest rock and roll band in Brazil, Capital
Inicial,” said Tzirulnik. “They [recently played] Sao
Paulo and the average ticket price was $30. And for these fairs and
rodeos, the tickets are around $5-$10. It’s not like in the
U.S., where the ticket prices are rising every year. For Brazil,
there will never be a ticket price that averages $58 because people
wouldn’t be able to afford it.”
           
Like the rest of the world, Brazil’s music business has seen
a precipitous drop in album sales due to illegal downloading, which
Tzirulnik said has impacted touring revenue as well, even though
Western artists can still charge the same high prices they do
elsewhere.        
           
That was the case for sold out stadium shows by Roger Waters,
Evanescence and “High School Musical” in early 2007. As
an example, he said the average ticket price for the April
Aerosmith date in front of 60,000 fans in Sao Paulo at the Estadio
do Morumbi was around $100. It was a rare recent example of an
artist of that caliber coming to Brazil, though, he said, because
with the local currency, the real, trading at two for every
American dollar, the money available to acts is not always enough
to justify the expense of the trip.
           
As an example of the modest prices more typically charged,
Brazilian stars such as Yvette San Galo, a top selling artist who
can play arenas and stadiums for crowds of 10,000-50,000, might
have an average ticket price of $15 in shows outside of the major
cities of Rio and Sao Paulo. “The audiences can’t
afford more,” he said. “That’s why the top
artists in Brazil never stop touring, because the money you make
from CD royalties is dead and the money you make for airplay is
ridiculous.”   
           
Tzirulnik said a typical asking price for a band like Capital
Inicial might be $50,000 to play a rodeo that draws 10,000, while
Bruno and Marrone could pull $75,000 and San Galo $150,000. Another
emerging issue, besides the language barrier for artists who
don’t sing in Portuguese, is that with so much American
R&B on the radio in Brazil, local artists are getting less
airplay, while such acts as the Black Eyed Peas, Akon, Rhianna and
Beyonce — all in the Brazilian top 40 — don’t
play shows in the country. 
Puerto Rico    
If Jochi Davia, general manager of Puerto Rico’s
14,500-capacity Coliseo de Puerto Rico were to sum up in one word
the thing that has single-handedly set fire to the live music scene
in his country since the venue opened three years ago, it would be:
reggaeton. The wildly popular homegrown style of music —
which blends American hip-hop beats and Spanglish rapping with
South American rhythms —accounts for many of the best-selling
shows so far this year at the arena, which Davia said was the only
multipurpose indoor facility of its size in all of South
America. 
           
“We just had Ricky Martin for two shows and he did four sold
out shows earlier this year,” said Davia, of the run, which
played to nearly 55,000 fans. “Ricky is an international
star, but he’s a Puerto Rican superstar. It’s a very
fertile market for Ricky.” Tickets for the two August shows,
which were close to sell-outs and played to nearly 25,000 fans, had
an average price of $60. Surprisingly, Davia said that not only are
ticket prices in P.R. similar to prices in the U.S. — Andrea
Bocelli bagged a top ticket price of $350, the Rolling Stones
topped out at $450 — but in some cases they are actually
higher.          
           
Puerto Rican reggaeton artists have accounted for nearly a dozen
major shows so far this year, many of them playing multiple nights,
including Hector the Father, who sold more than 11,000 tickets to a
January show (he previously played a three-night stand at the
venue) and popular reggaeton act Wisin and Yandel, who played three
shows to 42,000 fans in March. Another strong run came in late
March with wildly popular Mexican rock band Mana, who played three
nights to 39,000-plus fans. 
           
In June, Bon Jovi played to a sell-out audience of 14,243 and in
2006 Guns N’ Roses and Def Leppard packed the house.
“I’m not a promoter, but I’m sure Bon Jovi got
whatever their market price is in the U.S. and possibly
more,” said Davia. “This is a market where 80s heavy
rock is very well liked.”     
Chile   
What’s been bad for America has actually been good for
Chile. With the dollar falling in value against many world
currencies for several years now, more American and European acts
have been dipping their toes in the waters of the country that
snakes down the Western edge of South
America.      
           
“A lot more artists are coming now because we can afford to
pay their guarantees now and economically more people can afford to
buy tickets now,” explained Carlos Geniso, general manager of
concert promoter DG Medios y Espectaculos, which books major
artists in Chile, Buenos Aires, Brazil and
Madrid.      
           
As a result, many of the biggest shows DG has promoted so far in
2007 have been by American and European artists such as British
rockers Coldplay, who played in front of more than 15,000 over
three sold out nights at the Espacio Riesco exhibition center in
Santiago in February. Waters also drew huge audiences, filling the
Estadio Nacional de Chile in March for a one-night gig in front of
45,000, with an average ticket price of $43 and a top ticket around
$120.          
           
That’s not to say that there isn’t a healthy market for
Latin artists in Chile. Mexican singer Marco Antonio Solis came in
April to the indoor Arena Santiago and pulled more than 10,500 fans
each night, while guitar playing Spaniard Alejandro Sanz sold more
than 25,000 tickets for a show at the Estadio Nacional in
March.      
           
The wildly popular annual Festival De Viña Del Mar (which
takes place over six nights in the city of the same name in
February) boasted a line-up topped by Welsh crooner Tom Jones
featuring Latin acts Gustavo Cerati, Anna Torroja, Fito Paez and Lo
Oreja De Van Gogh, drawing 15,000 fans per day. Expectations are
also high for a pair of November shows at Arena Santiago with
Panamanian singer/actor Miguel Bose, who is scheduled to play to
10,000 fans per night.
           
While other European artists have done well this year (including
Placebo, Tom Jones and former Cranberries singer Dolores
O’Riordan), the anticipation this year is focused on reunited
rock trio the Police, whose December 5 show at the Estadio Nacional
is expected to draw more than 65,000 with an average ticket price
of $68-$75 and a limited amount (350) top tier tickets priced at
$300.
 

Interviewed for this story: Jose Muniz, Guillermo Para, (212)
586-0222; Haroldo Tzirulnik, 011-55-11-3663-1919; Jochi Davila,
(787) 777-0800 x 2304; Carlos Geniso, 011-56-2-228-0025