The Blog

Could The Changing Music Industry Help International Diplomacy?

The music industry is changing fast. Artists need to tour because nobody buys records today and markets such as the US and UK produce a disproportionate number of popular artists appreciated all over the world.

It used to be quite rare for big international musicians from the USA or Europe to include Brazil on the tour itinerary, but now it's seen as a far more desirable destination. Artists can earn a lot here in Brazil, as concerts are expensive. Seeing an international band play a gig here can be as expensive as attending an opera in London. Ticket agencies have adopted easy payment strategies, allowing fans to break the ticket price over twelve monthly payments - so by the time you pay for the show, the band might be back in town again.

Promoters and taxes may be absorbing many of these costs, but it cannot be denied that artists see Brazil - and Latin America more generally - as a growth market for live entertainment.

Charlie Charlton is the Managing Director of Interceptor, a UK-based artist management company representing acts such as Britpop legends Suede. He thinks that Brazil is now very a very attractive destination for his acts: "Any market with a growing economy and population of 200 million should be of interest to a touring band. Outsiders have an awareness of the cultural and musical history of Brazil because of events, for example on Copacabana beach, that make news even on the other side of the planet. Our recent visits have shown the audiences to have an appetite for music from overseas of all genres and the levels of production and technical expertise locally are now on a par with any other major territory in the world," he said.

In the past decade the entire music industry has shifted to a touring model, where artists generate most of their revenue from performance and merchandise rather than just selling records. In the current climate, where music is streamed and shared online, the records themselves are almost little more than promotion for the shows, so a market like Brazil is attractive for bands that may have never played to a South American audience.

Daniel Hunt, principal songwriter, producer, and founder member of British electronic band Ladytron is now based in São Paulo. He believes that we are about to see an explosion of artists visiting Brazil: "In the past, you would rarely see, even commercially successful acts, appear live in Brazil or South America for a variety of reasons, mainly routing and label priority, in addition to misconceptions about safety. An example would be Blur who have just played for the first time in Brazil, despite being massively popular here for twenty years," he said.

Hunt has observed that most of the larger acts have visited for festivals or other heavily sponsored shows and sponsorship issues has caused the cancellation of some shows, but a trend is developing where smaller acts are now including Brazil on their tour schedule: "Smaller acts are coming to play shows in key cities and smaller festivals on small budgets, offering a far more sustainable model for those wanting to play in Brazil, and then enhancing the likelihood of this turning into a territory they can revisit for greater returns later on," he said.

Richard Turner is the UK Deputy Consul General in São Paulo and also the Deputy head of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) in Brazil. Turner believes that music can help the UK in a number of ways globally: "Brazil is a large market of almost 200m people and they love music. Classic British artists from a variety of genres such as The Beatles to Pink Floyd to Iron Maiden are treated with even more reverence in Brazil than they might receive back home. This does mean that there are enormous opportunities for soft diplomacy because when artists like One Direction visit Brazil - as they are in May 2014 for a stadium tour - the media will not only focus on the band, but where they come from. The UK was the featured country at Rock in Rio 2013 and this gave some great additional opportunities to artists such as Florence Welch and Muse. This is a great opportunity for VisitBritain to promote tourism to the UK as well as more familiarity with the UK, which in turn can help British business leaders working here with our team from UKTI."

The music industry is changing fast. Artists need to tour because nobody buys records today and markets such as the US and UK produce a disproportionate number of popular artists appreciated all over the world. This change in the music business has created a great opportunity for soft diplomacy across nations. Rock may not be able to prevent future wars, but how many holidays to the UK came about because of the Pink Floyd 'Animals' album cover? The answer is a lot more than you might initially think.

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