South America Focus: With Mucha Pasión, Live Música Continues To Grow & Thrive

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GOING OUT IN STYLE: Daddy Yankee stopped by Estadio Nacional in Santiago, Chile, for his farewell run, “La Última Vuelta World Tour,” last year. The three shows co-promoted by Cárdenas Marketing Network and Bizarro Live Entertainment grossed $19.4 million. (Courtesy Bizarro Entertainment)

The Latin music industry in the United States saw record revenue in 2022, surpassing $1 billion, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Imagine what that figure is in the continents and regions where the music originated? The Latin explosion is quantifiable, and not only in the U.S. – it’s global, with artists selling out arenas and stadiums across the world, proudly wearing their roots on their sleeves and elevating the places they call home in the process. With some 430 million people, 12 countries and a GDP of more than $4 trillion, South America is a powerhouse and hardly monolithic. It’s produced a massive swath of sounds and superstars like Karol G, Shakira, Bizarrap, Mon Laferte and Cris MJ. And their nations are growing along with the new normal of high ticket demand and high-touch experiences with a modernized business approach and the much-needed development of venues that aren’t built for sports. Pollstar places the spotlight on South America, the fourth largest continent full of countries brimming with potential despite some economic challenges, and the nimble promoters who navigate financial uncertainty and manage to successfully produce shows that leave fans with peak experiences.

There really is no way to describe the live Latin music market other than to use the words of veteran promoter Phil Rodriguez, who describes himself as an “old dog” in the live entertainment industry.

“I mean, the Latin market’s insane,” Rodrigeuz, CEO of Move Concerts, tells Pollstar. “It’s just unstoppable. That’s just a reality that’s here.”

And it certainly feels like it has established itself in the industry after decades of Latin music slowly rearing its head into the Anglocentric mainstream with crossover artists such as Ritchie Valens, Gloria Estefan, Santana, Selena, Ricky Martin and Daddy Yankee over the years bringing the culture to the center stage. However, the most recent monumental shift was in 2017 with Luis Fonsi’s megahit “Despacito” and the rise of streaming platforms, and Latin music has since snowballed into becoming a global force in all facets of the entertainment industry.

“I don’t see it as a wave or trend. I think it’s here to stay,” Fonsi told Pollstar. “I love how it is evolving. We all know that music is cyclical, and I’m sure three or four years from now it might be a little different, but I think the important thing and common denominator is that Latin music and culture is being embraced by people who normally, 10 to 15 years ago, probably wouldn’t leave on a [Spanish-language] song on the radio for more than 10 seconds, in areas like middle America. Now, it’s more Top 40, more mainstream.”

Phil Rodriguez photo
MOVING TICKETS: Phil Rodriguez, CEO of Move Concerts, one of the top independent promoters in Latin America, says the Latin explosion, musically and in the live industry, is “insane” with artists hauling in “stadium grosses in arenas.” (Courtesy Move Concerts)

As artists such as Shakira, Karol G and Maria Becerra produce hits and make their way into music charts, so, too, do the nations they were born out of rise. South America is a region that has produced some of the most talented and successful acts, including J Balvin, Anitta, Bizarrap, MC Kevin, and local economies, too, are benefitting from Latin music’s meteoric rise. According to a report from the World Bank Group, South America is catching up with the pre-pandemic trends in gross domestic product (which is more than $4 trillion, according to the International Monetary Fund) growth, and the recovery has been driven by consumption. Some of that consumption may be tied to the ever-increasing demand for live entertainment, which is certainly thriving in South American countries including Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia.

“After having faced a pandemic, I believe anything is possible,” says Luz Ángela Castro, country manager for OCESA Colombia, one of the biggest promoters in the region. “Overcoming the challenges that time brought on is a great milestone that has vehemently demonstrated what entertainment means to people, and the importance of this industry for the economy and growth.

“The live entertainment industry has significance. … The need to connect, socialize, unite voices in unison, and have that meeting of souls around an artist and what it means, has undoubtedly fundamental power.”

The numbers certainly lend credence to her belief. According to box office reports submitted to Pollstar, Live Nation was the top earner in the continent with $192.37 million off 2.4 million tickets sold between Oct. 1, 2022, and Sept. 30, 2023; and OCESA, which was acquired by Live Nation in 2021, reported $11.6 million in grosses.

Second on the list was Cárdenas Marketing Network (CMN), which has promoted high-grossing shows from artists such as Daddy Yankee, Bad Bunny, Ana Gabriel, Feid and Luis Miguel, who performed 10 sold-out shows at Movistar Arena in Santiago, Chile, between Aug. 21-Sept. 6, selling nearly 122,000 tickets and grossing $14,595,229, according to Pollstar Boxoffice. Miguel was just as impressive in Buenos Aires, Argentina, during the summer, selling 104,964 tickets and grossing $19,465,242 during a 10-show run at Movistar Arena. Such figures are a testament to South Americans’ insatiable demand for their favorite artists.

“People in Latin America enjoy any concert more than those in the United States,” says Henry Cárdenas, founder and CEO of CMN. “I’m not trying to put down the consumer in the United States, but it’s a fast-paced life that we live here. If you have a concert at 8 p.m., you don’t show up at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. People going to Arena [in Los Angeles] show up like an hour before a show. In Latin America, they start at 3 p.m. and tailgate.

“It’s just that the United States has so much more content and so many more opportunities when it comes to entertainment. But in South America, when they go to a concert that they paid $100 for, they’re going to make sure those $100 are being enjoyed all night long.”

Henry Cardenas CMN
HIGH-QUALITY PRODUCTIONS: Henry Cárdenas, CEO and founder of Cárdenas Marketing Network, said a big reason artists are drawing larger crowds in South America is because performers are giving the consumer the same shows that fans in Los Angeles see. (Courtesy CMN)

With such a consumer and music touring continually featured on charts, it’s no wonder companies are starting to take notice in South America, and it’s only going to benefit that market moving forward, especially when it comes to branding and sponsorships.

“The naming sponsorships, something Movistar has done multiple times now, really shows you that you have the brands recognizing the value,” says Wesley Cullen, Oak View Group’s vice president of international venue development and former Coliseo de Puerto Rico manager (Oak View Group is the parent company of Pollstar). “You start to get more proofs of concept to give people more confidence to place these bets and take these risks, being from the entrepreneurs that are leading the charge to the banks that are doing the financing, the brands that are supporting it and everyone coming through.”

Nelson Albareda, CEO of independent Latin entertainment company Loud And Live, said that the market can compete with the best of them, and it can continue to grow as entertainment companies and governments evolve.

“I think what we’re bringing is the process and the marketing mentality of a U.S. promoter to South America,” says Albareda. “The promoters that have always been there have stepped up their game, and by working in the way a U.S. promoter does, I think there’s still a lot of big opportunities in the region to continue to grow. What we’ve seen is a very lucrative market, one that shows that touring works in the region as well as it does in any other market.”

Latin artists aren’t the only ones thriving in South America. Streaming platforms have essentially eliminated borders and expanded the reach of not only Latin music but all genres, creating a more eclectic taste within the region.

Post Malone
SHOWING LOVE FOR LATIN AMERICA: Post Malone pauses to express his love for the Chilean fans who bought tickets to his show at Bicentenario La Florida Stadium in Santiago. (Courtesy DG Medios)

“It’s important to have space for everyone and every segment so that any artist can participate in the market,” says DG Medios Founder and CEO Carlos Geniso, who has promoted shows for Beastie Boys, Radiohead and The Rolling Stones. Live Nation acquired a majority stake in the Chilean promoter in 2019. “… We program shows for every city for all preferences. We’ve worked with pop, K-pop and rock and try to satisfy the needs of every fan in the market.”

Geniso and others have managed to keep the live industry moving forward despite the various barriers in each nation. Argentina, which benefited from the 2019 opening of Movistar Arena in Buenos Aires, is one market brimming with potential but full of economic uncertainty as the nation deals with high inflation and political strife. The live industry is eagerly awaiting the results of Argentina’s presidential election, which will inform promoters as they route tours in 2024 and beyond.

“I’ve never seen it as bad as it is now. You have somewhere around 60% of the population below the poverty line and problems getting hard currency dollars out of the country because they’re broke,” said Rodrigeuz, who has been in the business for more than four decades. “We have a couple of stadium shows that we needed to announce but decided to wait ‘til the elections are over to see if we get some sort of read of what the exchange rates are going to be and what policies may be implemented. It’s really a deciding moment for Argentina and where it can go. It’s extremely sad because Argentina in the ’50s was among the top three economies in the Western Hemisphere and one of the top in the world with a very strong middle class, great educational system and great medical system.”

Promoter Jose Muniz, who sold Brazilian-based Mercury Concerts to OCESA/CIE in 2000, also expressed concern for the country “with its escalating inflation and all of the difficulties for wiring funds abroad toward artists fees. There is a hope that after the election, there will be some improvement and things would go back to a level of normality.”

Despite the struggles of Argentina, Movistar Arena in Buenos Aires managed to rank No. 2 on Pollstar’s Top 10 South American Arenas list with $30 million in grosses and more than 245,000 tickets sold between Oct. 1, 2022, and Sept. 30, 2023. Surrounding countries also benefit from artists visiting Argentina as many of them add Brazil and Chile to their routing because freight can be driven instead of flown, saving money in the process.

Chile’s own Movistar Arena in Santiago made a killing at the box office in the past year with nearly 1.6 million tickets sold and grosses exceeding $91 million, making it South America’s top arena. The world-class venue is a popular destination for artists and one that promoters love to work with. Bizarro Live Entertainment, a Chilean-based promoter that produced a successful nine-show run for Romeo Santos at the Movistar Arena earlier this year, saw exponential growth in 2022 and sold more tickets this year — even with the Pan American Games in town blocking dates.

“2022, internally, was like a bomb, and you’d think we’d have a bit of rest in 2023, but we didn’t,” said Gianpiero Sampieri, marketing manager for Bizarro. “We had the Pan American Games that blocked a month at Movistar Arena and Estadio Nacional, and that has negative implications on the year. But we were able to move around dates, which actually makes 2024 look stronger than this year.”

Daniel Hiller, CEO of BeLive Entertainment group that has a stake in Chile’s Movistar Arena, shares the same optimism.

©Jaime Valenzuela Photography
¡FUTBOL! With an affinity for soccer, South American nations have an abundance of stadiums. The Rolling Stones stopped by Estadio Nacional in Chile in 2016 and grossed more than $6.1 million off 62,412 tickets sold. (Courtesy DG Medios)

“Chile stands out as a distinct market compared to the rest of South America, primarily due to its different purchasing power,” he says. “The country boasts good access to credit coupled with low inflation, facilitating the purchase of tickets for events. Additionally, Chile has evolved into the global capital of urban music, experiencing robust growth in the musical genre within the country. This growth extends to maintaining other music genres with positive reception, a trend not observed in the rest of South America, where economic contraction is leading audiences to become more selective when attending concerts.”

Another country that has greatly benefited from arena development is Colombia, which is arguably one of the best exporters of talent in the world having produced artists such as Karol G, Shakira, Juanes, Feid, Carlos Vives, J Balvin and Maluma. The reopening of Movistar Arena in Bogotá following renovations has reinvigorated the music scene not only in the area but also in the country. Another arena, Coliseo Medplus, opened last year and a venue in Medellín is on the way.

“You got private development leading an arena in Medellín, which to me is another San Juan,” Cullen says. “It’s not the same size, but it has its own idiosyncrasies and is culturally rich in music and the way artists influence the city.”

Castro adds that the country “has been changing and gaining ground in the region for about 14 years, in line with the socioeconomic and cultural changes in the country. Today, Colombia is an obligatory stop on major international tours. For many artists in these 14 years, Colombia was a first-time market, but the response of the public, the geographical location, the professionalization of the industry and its players, the evolution of law and rules have allowed the expansion and growth of the live entertainment industry. This is obviously subject to public demand, for current artists, local artists and support for emerging talent.”

Despite the growth, the market forecast for Colombia isn’t rosy. Albareda says it has the same potential as Argentina but has “the biggest political and economic uncertainty.”

A nation that should see growth when it comes to the live industry is Brazil, whose economy has rebounded since the pandemic. One company emblematic of such development is that of 30e, a promoter that launched amid COVID-19 shutdowns and has since become one of the top ticket-sellers on the continent. They started with a team of four people in 2020 and are currently staffing about 80 employees. They have a few big shows in December with Paul McCartney playing eight dates. CEO Pepeu Correa believes his company is leading by taking the baton from the previous generation of promoters and approaching the business as American promoters do, focusing on the quality of the experience.

“I think we’re the new generation that is full of energy,” he says. “We have a responsibility with the artists and their managers to deliver the best and to develop the best strategy for future artists in Brazil. Maybe our economy isn’t the same as the U.S., but we have 200 million people [in Brazil]. That’s insane. Because we speak Portuguese, we have a bubble here, and a lot of local artists sell tickets and have a good experience.”

2023 30E EVANESCENCE Photo credit 30E @stephansolon
BIG TIMERS: 30e, a Brazilian-based promoter that was founded in 2020, helped Evanescence play its largest headliner ever in front of 40,000 fans at São Paulo’s Allianz Parque in October. The company projects to sell about 6 million tickets in 2024, which is more than double this year’s total. (Courtesy 30e)

30e has done things the Brazilian way, or as they call it, jeitinho brasileiro, being flexible and making adjustments along the way. The company projects it will sell 6 million tickets in 2024, which would be more than double the number from this year.

“We sometimes have troubles and problems, but we can solve them all. We always say that everything in the end always works out,” says the company’s Live Music Manager Fabiana Brait. “It’s difficult to have an artist come here and never want to come back because of the audience and how we receive.”

Some artists may be more inclined to visit Brazil as it continues to develop its infrastructure.

OVG, Live Nation and GL Events are teaming up to open a 20,000-capacity arena in São Paulo, a city where stadium Allianz Parque reigns supreme.

“São Paulo is one of the top five cities in the world and doesn’t have an indoor arena,” Cullen says. “It has phenomenal venues of other sizes. For a city with over 20 million people and a developing market, OVG saw that opportunity to make that investment. If you look at what is happening with the shows that already do go down there, the market is a strong fanbase, they love entertainment and to go out, and the artists that go there love to go.”

Promoters hope that the building of such arenas may inspire other nations to follow suit, especially Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.

“It’s getting sophisticated [in South America] and there’s not much of a difference between the U.S. [in terms of business], but not having many arenas is a big challenge,” says Cárdenas. “I think at some point, there will be more buildings. I know I heard someone was looking into Peru, but Bolivia needs one. We always use the soccer stadium, but those can be challenging when it comes to logistics, security and weather.”

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BRINGING STARS TO SOUTH AMERICA: Veteran promoter Carlos Geniso, founder and CEO of DG Medios, has brought some of the biggest stars to Latin America including The Rolling Stones, Roger Waters, Paul McCartney, Rosalía and Katy Perry. (Courtesy DG Medios)

Such developments excite Cláudio Macedo, CEO of Allianz Parque. He adds, “I believe the next three to five years will bring about a significant shift, offering a vastly different landscape with even higher quality facilities and a more diverse range of options compared to what we currently have in the region. This evolution promises to enhance the overall live entertainment experience for both artists and audiences, making it an amazing time for those involved in the industry.”

Another circuit with obstacles is that of festivals. While there are major events such as Primavera Sound, Estéreo Picnic, Rock in Rio, Lollapalooza and Viña del Mar in Chile and Colombia’s Festival Cordillera, Munoz said some of the festivals may “not survive, but the ones moving forward will definitely need to bet and invest in the new artists.”

Rodriguez echoed that sentiment and added, “My feeling about festivals is that I’m very leery of them. Not only because of the risk but the way the landscape is more mainstream, it’s a whole different vibe. Festivals down there are extremely risky.”

Castro isn’t ready to give up on the music festival just yet because she believes such events “are the maximum manifestation of the power of live music for the public, for the sponsors, for the artists and for the promoters, not to mention the impact for the city that hosts them.”

If there’s one thing everyone can agree on about South America is that it is a market with much potential with fans who have an unrivaled passion for música en vivo. Rodriguez can attest to South America’s love for music and believes that passion is what brings artists to the region and drives the business.

“It’s a young market with a young demographic,” says Rodriguez. “Some people ask about tickets sold and grosses, but none of us stand on the stage. It’s the artist on that stage who looks out and receives that love. As silly as it sounds, for the artist, it’s an important thing to feel. … It’s undeniable. It’s growing. The Latin music business is global and it’s exploding. If you go to Europe, you’re going to see Latinos in places you never thought they’d be in, and they’re helping drive a lot of this.”