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Arena Market: Argentina

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Argentina is facing its worst economic crisis since the turn of the millennium when unemployment exceeded 20%, and a staggering half of the population slid below the poverty line.

This time, the 100%-plus inflation of the Argentine peso has resulted in an entirely new bank note – the 2,000-peso bill – and rekindled right-wing proposals to dump the currency entirely and attempt to adopt the US dollar, which has already crept into many transactions, including those for real estate.

No great surprise, then, that the musical talent on view in Argentina is currently mostly of the local or regional kind – when the peso weakens, European- and US-derived tours become distinctly unviable. In this context, the stadium heroics of Coldplay last year – when the band sold out an unprecedented ten-night run at the 65,000-cap Estadio River Plate in Buenos Aires, snatching the ten-year-old venue record from Roger Waters – seem even more remarkable.

However, as Ignacio Taier, chief operating officer of Cordoba-based promoter and venue owner Grupo Q points out, on the day Taylor Swift announced two River Plate shows on the Eras Tour, “with inflation like this, people know there is no point saving, so they spend their money on having a good time.”

In fact, the shows were so successful that the government of Argentina applied new taxes on concerts by acts who charge in foreign currency – an additional 30% on tickets, a levy described as the “Coldplay dollar” by local media.

“With inflation like this, people know there is no point saving, so they spend their money on having a good time.”

At the Movistar Arena Buenos Aires, this year’s sights are strikingly local: veteran Argentinian acts such as Babasónicos, Catupecu Machu, Las Pastillas del Abuelo, La Beriso, and Los Nocheros pack the calendar, along with regional legends including Brazil’s Caetano Veloso and Mexican superstar Luis Miguel, who plays an impressive ten nights in August. Later in the year, though, acts from further afield such as Måneksin, Gojira, and Mastodon are coming, with Laura Pausini due next February.

Setting aside Argentina’s woes, the Movistar is the multipurpose arena Buenos Aires has waited years for. Operated by ASM Global, it holds 15,000 and forms an increasingly vibrant network that also encompasses modern venues in Uruguay, Colombia, Chile, and Brazil, where Live Nation/Oak View Group/GL Events’ São Paulo Arena will complete the set.

In the second city of Cordoba, Grupo Q this year put a roof on its Quality Arena to create an 8,000-capacity indoor venue (or 4,200 seated). Combined with its 1,500/3,500-cap Quality Espacio venue and 300/400-cap Quality Teatro, the complex represents, in Taier’s words, “the largest and most versatile events centre in our region.”

Taier acknowledges that this year isn’t an easy one in Argentina. But, as Argentinian live operators are entitled to do, he points out that they are used to operating in such conditions. “Since we have three venues and we are also promoters, here and in other people’s venues, we are in a better position to go forward, even when things are difficult. We have 62 events right now for this year, and I would say that ten to 15 of them at least are international events. That’s a good number, especially talking about Cordoba, which is not Buenos Aires.”

“Since we have three venues and we are also promoters, here and in other people’s venues, we are in a better position to go forward, even when things are difficult”

Nonetheless, local stars are making hay. La Beriso and fellow Argentinian boyband CNCO, as well as Uruguayan stars Jorge Drexler and El Cuarteto de Nos, are among those playing the new arena this year. The Quality complex is also a rare venue that offers its own hotel on site, with 13 apartments for visiting touring parties.

In the same city, the 21-year-old Orfeo Superdomo, with its capacity of up to 14,000, staged numerous high-profile shows over the years, including Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, and Michael Bublé, but it is now closed, having never returned after the pandemic. Its owner is reported to have applied for its demolition.

Other venues in Buenos Aires include the 91-year-old, 8,400-capacity, art-deco Estadio Luna Park in the downtown San Nicolás neighbourhood near the waterfront. Part of Argentina’s history – and the very place where Eva ‘Evita’ Duarte met future president Juan Perón in 1944 – the arena continues to receive plenty of shows including, this summer, Steve Vai, Jurassic Park En Concierto, Jaime Roos, and 5 Seconds of Summer.

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