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Luiz Niemeyer on Brazil’s hottest new festival

The legendary promoter tells IQ how he's replicating the hugely successful Hollywood Rock festival for his new event Music Is The Answer

By Lisa Henderson on 29 Mar 2023

Luiz Oscar Niemeyer, Bonus Track

Luiz Oscar Niemeyer, Bonus Track

Luiz Oscar Niemeyer, the promoter behind a number of the biggest live shows in Brazilian history, has told IQ about the evolution of his new festival Music Is The Answer.

The Brazilian veteran is renowned for organising concerts such as Paul McCartney’s 1990 concert at the Maracanã, which attracted 184,000 people, and The Rolling Stones’ historic performance to over 1.5 million people on Copacabana beach in 2006.

He is also responsible for the groundbreaking Hollywood Rock festival (1988–1993), which took place in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and drew world-class artists including Bob Dylan, Bon Jovi and Eurythmics.

“Nothing like Hollywood Rock has happened in Rio and São Paulo since then but we had massive success with this two-city model 20 years ago so we’re repeating it with Music Is The Answer (MITA),” Niemeyer tells IQ. 

Launched during the pandemic, MITA takes place in both Brazilian cities across two days at the end of May. The two-stage, daytime festival is slated to return for a second edition this year, headlined by Lana Del Rey and Florence + the Machine.

“We had massive success with this two-city model 20 years ago so we’re repeating it with MITA”

Niemeyer says the two-city model has been a crucial factor in securing artists from across the globe, as well as sponsorship deals.

“Rio is the door to Brazil – all the artists want to play it – but São Paulo is the main market and the biggest city, where all the companies are established. It’s a very important market for sponsorship and selling tickets because 20 million people live there.

“If we only did Rio, we wouldn’t have enough to offer the artists. If I offer them two cities and maybe a concert in the middle, I’ve got a nice package for them.”

Niemeyer says that MITA is the only festival offering such as package, which helps it stand out from a competitive festival market that includes Rock in Rio, Lollapalooza and Primavera.

“I would say we’re the third festival in Brazil right now… probably bigger than Primavera because we do two nights in two cities,” he explains. “Rock in Rio and Lolla are major festivals – they play for 100,000 people per night. We do have competition because our acts play those festivals but we have a different proposal. I think the artists now value what we’re doing and they want to play our festival. You can see that by the talent we managed to book.”

“I would say we’re the third festival in Brazil right now, behind Rock in Rio and Lolla”

A bigger investment in talent is one of the main changes for this year’s MITA, according to Niemeyer. While the debut edition offered five international acts – Gorillaz, Rufus du Soul, The Kooks, Two Door Cinema Club and Tom Misch – this year’s will deliver eight.

In addition to the aforementioned headliners, Haim, Flume, The Mars Volta, BadBadNotGood, Sabrina Carpenter and Jehnny Beth make up the international representation on the MITA 2023 bill.

The bigger budget is thanks, in part, to more sponsorship as well as the move to a bigger location in São Paulo – from Spark Arena (cap. 12,000) to Novo Anhangabaú (35,000).

The Rio edition, meanwhile, will once again take place at the 20,000-capacity Jockey Club as “it’s linked to the brand, image, spirit and philosophy of the festival”.

Niemeyer says that both festivals are almost sold out and that this edition will recoup losses from the debut edition, which was faced with additional challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We’re living in a very enthusiastic moment in our business”

“Last year, we had several problems,” he says. “We opened sales in late November 2021 and, in mid-December, Brazil suspended all outdoor activities because of this new variation. Also a lot of suppliers shut down over Covid and the remaining ones didn’t have the same labour force to fulfil the demands. There were several surprises for the first festival and we had to go above budget, ending up with a bigger loss than we expected.

“But now, there’s no pandemic anymore and everything’s under control. Our budget is according to new prices and we’re prepared to work with no surprises. This year, we’ll recoup losses from the first edition and from the third year on, we’re going to be very profitable.”

Though Brazil is reckoning with extraordinary exchange and interest rates, Niemeyer says business has been “booming” since the pandemic: “We’re living in a very enthusiastic moment in our business. People are eager to go out and have fun experiences. Coldplay did 10 or 11 stadium shows recently and sold out, Rock in Rio in September was a big success. Everything is doing well.”

Niemeyer is promoting MITA under his new company, Bonus Track, which was formed after he left T4F (Time for Fun), South America’s leading live entertainment company.

T4F bought Niemeyer’s company Planmusic in 2016 and later appointed him head of live music/entertainment activities on a five-year contract, which ran out during the pandemic.

In addition to launching MITA alongside local promoter Thirty Entertainment, Bonus Track manages the Teatro XP Investimentos theatre at the Jockey Club headquarters in Gávea. The company will also revive Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Canecão arena, which has been closed for 12 years.


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