Q&A: Move Concerts boss details LatAm’s recovery
As markets across Latin America gradually reopen, Phil Rodriguez of Move Concerts – the biggest independent concert promoter in the region – says he’s optimistic about the region’s recovery.
Emerging from the most difficult year in live music history, Rodriguez expects the industry to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic “stronger and wiser”.
However, according to the Move Concerts boss, there are a number of obstacles that stand between Latam’s industry and a full recovery.
Below, Rodriguez outlines those obstacles, reflects on the lessons learnt from the pandemic, and addresses “the elephant in the room”…
IQ: How is Latin America’s return to business going?
PR: It’s a patchwork of different sets of rules and regulations per country so it has been a challenge to get them all aligned to have a proper tour of the region. But we’re finally getting there!
In which markets are you now able to fully operate?
Puerto Rico was able to start at full capacity (with proof of vaccination) as of August and business has been incredible. Not only have the shows been selling out, but single dates became multiples. That market came back STRONG.
What’s the deal with vaccine passports and capacity restrictions in Latam?
As noted, it’s a patchwork. Brazil is operating at 70% capacity with proof of vaccination and will open to 100% this week. Argentina will open at 100% capacity with proof of vaccination and with requirements for face masks from 16 November.
Uruguay is at 55% without vaccination and 70% with vaccination. Colombia will be at 100% capacity for vaccinated people from 16 November. Chile is currently held to 40% and in some cases 60% capacity – vaccinated and socially distanced. The expectation is to be open at 100% for the vaccinated by January 2022. Costa Rica will be at 100% as of March 2022 for the vaccinated.
“The lack of cancellation insurance for Covid is the elephant in the room for all of us”
Where has Move’s focus been since markets started to open up?
Rescheduling, booking new tours for the end of 2022 and 2023. Plus our management company and indie record label, Grand Move Records, which are both at full speed.
What opportunities do you see during this recovery period?
The chance to reinvent ourselves and look outside our comfort zone. We all had to do this during the pandemic. We should not get complacent once we return to some normalcy and forget that.
What are the challenges you’re facing right now?
The lack of cancellation insurance for Covid is the elephant in the room for all of us. The rest we can deal with but will still present a strong challenge such as inflation and devaluation of currencies – which have been hit hard by the pandemic – and the economic consequences of the lockdowns, etc.
How long do you think it’ll take for Latam to get back to pre-pandemic levels of business?
The Covid issue, in my opinion, has been both a health and political issue, unfortunately, and that has not helped us get a better picture of what is ahead of us. But if by the second half of 2022, we are not on a solid road to pre-pandemic levels, we will ALL have bigger problems to worry about. That said, I’m an optimist by nature and I think we’ll come out of this wiser and stronger!
“If by the second half of ’22, we are not on a solid road to pre-pandemic levels, we’ll all have bigger problems to worry about”
When and how do you see international acts coming back to Latin America?
In South America, we kick off with a-ha in March 2022 – Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.
Move hosted Latam’s first drive-thru show during the pandemic. Is that a format you’ll be returning to?
Not really…we do not see the need nor demand for this any longer as live concerts startup.
What about livestreaming – is there still demand in that area of the business?
This has essentially stopped. With the return of live shows – with reduced capacities – streaming has lost its initial appeal. I’m sure it will still be a good tool to have in our toolbox for use in the future but in a different form… more related to marketing or a special event, etc.
What one thing are you most proud of doing during the pandemic?
That we kept all our team in place and did not have to furlough or lay off anyone. We all took salary cuts and weathered the storm together.
Also, our office in Bogota took the initiative and created an internet site with different content – entertainment, cooking, lifestyle, etc – that raised over US$10,000 to support the local production crews and their families in the middle of the pandemic. That was a fabulous effort that made me very proud of our team there.
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Ocesa spearheads Colombia’s first drive-in shows
Colombian promoters Ocesa Colombia and Páramo Presenta have announced the country’s first drive-in concerts.
The shows, staged in partnership with Live Nation, will be held in the car park of the Salitre Mágico theme park in Bogota. Organisers expect the first concerts, which will include a range of artists and genres, to take place in early October, Páramo Presenta’s Sergio Pabón tells radio show La W.
Initially only open to cars, the shows will be opened up to motorbikes towards the end of the year, he adds.
In Colombia, concerts and other large events are excluded from a loosening of coronavirus restrictions scheduled for 30 September.
“We want fans to enjoy the music and have fun from their vehicles”
Ocesa Colombia’s Luz Ángela Castro says there will capacity for 290 vehicles, “with a minimum of two people in the car and a maximum of four”.
The promoters expect to announce dates and an initial line-up next month. “We have complied with what the public asks of us, and that is also what we want: That fans enjoy [the music] and have fun from their vehicles,” adds Ángela Castro. “Now the public must help us” by buying tickets, he says.
Ocesa Colombia’s Mexico-based parent company, Ocesa, was supposed to have been acquired by Live Nation this year. However, the deal was controversially called off in May after LN, reeling from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, said it could not agree revised terms with Ocesa owners CIE and Televisa Group.
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72% of Colombians to wait months before attending a concert
A recent survey carried out by communications agency BCW has found that almost three quarters of Colombians are planning on waiting months before returning to live events and other busy public spaces.
According to Colombian financial magazine Dinero, just over 72% of respondents said the fear of infection would put them off attending an event in the near future, with only 13.8% stating they would be happy to return to events within a matter of weeks.
The results come after large crowds of people gathered in some of Colombia’s cities for the first of three VAT-free days (días sin IVA) last month. The last of the VAT-free days, which allow the public to shop duty free across a range of products in a bid to restart the country’s economy, has been postponed in accordance with Covid-19 restrictions.
Events have been banned in COlombia since mid-March. It is estimated that more than 1.8 million workers have been affected by cancellations in the country.
“Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the events industry as it was the first sector to close down and the only one that the government has not taken into account when establishing public policy on reopening”
According to Satori Sochandamandou, president of the Colombian Association of Event Professionals (Asociación Colombiana de Profesionales en Eventos – Asocolwep), the sector generates COP 15 billion (€3.6m) a year, constituting 2.7% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
“Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the events industry as it was the first sector to close down and the only one that the government has not taken into account when establishing public policy on reopening,” Sochandamandou tells El Espectador.
“At the moment, we are not allowed to carry out any kind of social, cultural, private or public event at home or anywhere else.”
Asocolwep has drawn up a biosecurity protocol to help get events back up and running, based on a staggered reopening of venues, which would see those of 50-capacity or less opening up first and then starting to open bigger venues, with a gradual increase in capacity over the course of six months.
“We are sending a clear message,” says Sochandamandou. “We are in the preparatory stage, briefing all the suppliers on biosecurity issues in a responsible way, so that when things do reopen it can be done in accordance with the regulations, assuring not only the safety of our clients and guests, but also that of everyone who works day to day in this industry.”
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
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La Morada: Top artists back Move CO aid for laid-off crew
Move Concerts has partnered with Spin Agency, an advertising and branding company, to launch La Morada, a new online entertainment hub designed to raise money for Colombia’s chinomatics, or production crews, during the coronavirus epidemic.
La Morada (which means both a home and the colour purple in Spanish) is a ‘virtual house’ made up of ‘rooms’ each containing specific content, such as live music, comedy, yoga, psychology, meditation, fitness classes, cooking and video games. Launched on 17 April, over 300 hours of free content has been created for the initial lifespan of the project, which was originally programmed to run for one month, until 17 May, but has been extended to 17 June.
Artists who appear in La Morada – which include Latin music stars such as J Balvin, Juanes, Fonseca and Carlos Vives – have donated their time for free, providing performance footage or exclusive interviews. Other content includes virtual PlayStation football matches (Colombia vs Peru is a recent highlight), and production masterclasses with Teo Echevarria and guests.
While all content is available for free, viewers have the option to donate money to provide a cesta basica (‘basic basket’) containing essential groceries for a family, including food and hygiene products, for the chinomatics and their loved ones.
Nicolas Martinez, marketing director for Move Concerts Colombia and director/partner at Spin Agency, recalls Covid-19 first hitting Colombia: “As the reality sunk in, fear was all that I felt. Twenty twenty was supposed to be our best year ever. We had a calendar filled with brand events and concerts. Our budget goals were already accomplished and then, out of the blue, our world froze.
“Then I started thinking about our office in Bogota, which operates with 32 people, plus hundreds of direct and indirect hires around events: producers, stagehands, roadies, security, sound and light engineers, riggers, tour managers, and other jobs that are the real foundation of our business – the chinomatics.”
While all content is available for free, viewers have the option to donate money to provide a ‘basic basket’ containing essential groceries
He continues: “I found out that Teo Echevarria, our head of production and Maluma’s production manager, was linked to an association, IPEE [Industria de Produccion de Eventos y Espectaculos, a union for production personnel), that was compiling a database of all the chinomatics who were going through a difficult time, and who were not even able to purchase basic food products for themselves and their families.
“To date, the database has a listing of more than 3,000 people.”
Using IPEE’s data, the Move and Spin teams came up with a project that would keep staff busy while generating some basic assistance for crew and their families.
Fernando Escobar, talent director for Move Concerts Colombia, who is also general manager for La Morada, adds: “We are essentially running a TV station that airs on a digital platform and social media with a programming grid that extends 7am to 11pm daily. This is non-stop.”
To date, La Morada, which is sponsored by Aval Group, has donated over 900 food baskets (out of a goal of 1,500 before the project ends) and been viewed by 600,000 viewers across all platforms (web plus Instagram and social media).
Uncertainty for promoters as Covid-19 spreads in Latam
Promoters in Latin America are facing much uncertainty as shows are shut down, curfews imposed and currency values decline due to the worsening spread of coronavirus
The first case of Covid-19 was reported in Latin America in late February, in the Brazilian city of São Paulo. The virus has now spread to many other countries in the region, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
In the region’s biggest touring markets, quarantines are in place in Argentina, Colombia and parts of Brazil. In Chile, the government has imposed a curfew between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m, with over one million residents of its capital, Santiago, put under lockdown today (26 March).
This week, the Mexican government placed a ban on all public and private gatherings of over 100 people for the next month, as the country moved into phase two of the epidemic.
“It is still way too early to gauge the full impact in the mid and long term,” says Phil Rodriguez, CEO of Move Concerts, which has offices in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru and Puerto Rico, as well as its Miami headquarters. “The first impact is that shows and festivals have been cancelled or rescheduled.”
“For now, we are rescheduling shows from September onwards assuming that is a safe bet, but this could change.”
Major festivals in Latin America affected by the virus include the Lollapalooza festival franchise, which has been rescheduled for 23 to 26 November in Argentina, 27 to 29 November in Chile and 4 to 6 December in Brazil. Estéreo Picnic, due to take place in the Colombian capital of Bogotá in March, has now moved to the start of December.
“For now, we are rescheduling shows from September onwards assuming that is a safe bet, but this could change”
Rodriguez notes that promoters’ associations in all markets have been meeting and reaching out to governments for assistance in various forms, such as “ low interest credit lines, moratorium on taxes and extensions on the time period for reimbursements on cancelled shows.”
Asked what can be expected over the next few months, Rodriguez simply replies: “I wish I knew”.
“This is a continually changing scenario that can change at any minute and has so many parts involved that any speculation is sheer conjecture,” says the Move Concerts boss. “I think we all need a few more weeks to get a better handle on the longer term picture.”
Guillermo Parra, director of international events at Ocesa, the largest promoter in Latin America, agrees that the upcoming weeks “will be crucial”.
Live Nation announced its plan to acquire a controlling stake in Ocesa Entertainment, the world’s fifth-largest promoter and the parent company of Ticketmaster Mexico, in July last year. The promoter puts around 3,100 shows a year and operates 14 venues across Mexico.
“At the moment, all gatherings have been banned – from movie theaters to concerts – until 19 April,” says Parra, “but I honestly think this will go on for longer.”
“When we wake from the virus nightmare, the economic reality will begin”
In Chile, a market which has seen heavy disruption over the past few months due to wide-spread anti-government protests, promoters are rescheduling shows to June, subject to venue availability and touring schedules, says Carlos Geniso, president of DG Medios.
On 18 March, Chilean president Sebastian Piñera declared a “state of catastrophe” for 90 days in the whole country, including a ban on gatherings in public spaces and the establishing of a quarantine and curfew. After Brazil, the country is currently one of the worst affected in the region, with 1,142 confirmed cases.
“We are trying to move as much we can to the last quarter calendar of 2020,” says Geniso, adding that the income loss for thousands of people working in the country’s live industry “will be great for a long period of time”.
The economic impact of the virus is of great concern for all in Latin America. Rodriguez states that Brazil and Colombia have been hit particularly hard by the virus, not just in terms of numbers – Brazil has reported 2,201 cases and Colombia has 378 – but rather because “the exchange rate with the dollar has skyrocketed”.
One dollar is equivalent to 5.05 Brazilian reales, up from BRL4.45 at the end of February, whereas 4,066 Colombian pesos now equal $1, increasing from COP3,460 a month ago.
In Mexico, Parra states that, between the virus and declining oil prices, “the Mexican peso has been crushed”. The Mexican currency fell to a record low against the dollar earlier this week, with $1 selling for over 25 pesos on Monday.
“When we wake from the virus nightmare, the economic reality will begin,” says Parra.
Slipknot’s Knotfest to make UK debut
Knotfest, the festival brand created by metal legends Slipknot, is launching in the UK for the first time next year.
The Live Nation-promoted Knotfest UK, which will take place on 22 August 2020 at the 65,000-capacity National Bowl in Milton Keynes, around 80 kilometres northwest of London, is the second European edition of the festival, adding to Knotfest Meets Hellfest which debuted last summer in France.
Slipknot will headline the festival, in their first return to the National Bowl since their performance at Ozzfest in 2001. Full line-up details and onsite activities will be announced in early 2020.
Since launching in 2012, Knotfest has expanded into six countries
Since launching in 2012, Knotfest has expanded into six countries, with events in the USA Colombia, Mexico and Japan, as well as France and, now, the UK. The inaugural cruise-based Slipknot at Sea is set to take place in conjunction with music cruise specialist Sixthman in August 2020.
Prior to Knotfest UK, Slipknot will be embarking on a European arena tour in January, with appearances at London’s O2 Arena (20,000-cap.), Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome (17,000-cap.), the Accorhotels Arena (20,300-cap.) in Paris, Berlin’s Mercedes-Benz Arena (17,000-cap.) and Stockholm’s Ericsson Globe (16,000-cap.), among others.
Members of Slipknot’s official fan club, Outside The 9, will have access to a pre-sale on 19 December at 10 a.m. GMT. Fans can join and get their passcode here.
Buenos Aires Arena renamed to Movistar Arena
Telecommunications giant Movistar has signed a naming-rights deal with ASM Global-operated Buenos Aires Arena (15,000-cap.).
The arena is the third South American venue to take Movistar’s name, following similar partnerships with arenas in Santiago, Chile and Bogotá, Colombia.
Argentine singer Tini Stoessel marked the opening of the new arena on 1 November, which was free-to-enter for all Movistar customers that registered for tickets via Club Movistar.
Other acts to have performed at the arena include Spanish musicians Serrat and Sabina and Puerto Rican singer Chayanne, with upcoming shows by Abel Pintos, Keane, Ricardo Montaner, Andrés Calamaro, Shawn Mendes and J Balvin.
“This alliance is a milestone for our company”
Originally slated to be operated by AEG Facilities, the arena later came under ASM Global’s management, which was formed as the result of a merger between AEG Facilities and SMG. The venue is owned by Buenos Aires Arena SA, an entity controlled by La Nación, Argentina’s biggest media company.
“We are proud to be able to partner with this new concept of shows in Argentina,” comments Federico Rava, executive president of Movistar owner Telefónica Argentina. According to Rava, the new partnership “combines the best live entertainment with a unique experience for those present, exclusive benefits for Movistar clients and access to the latest technology and connectivity during the shows.”
“This alliance is a milestone for our company. We are very excited to welcome Movistar as our main sponsor, which will enhance the experience of spectators attending shows at Movistar Arena,” adds the arena’s president Natalia Mouhapé.
Henry Cárdenas acquires new Arena Bogotá
Henry Cárdenas, president and executive director of US-based promoter Cárdenas Marketing Network (CMN), has acquired Arena Bogotá, a 24,000-seat entertainment and sports venue under construction in Bogota, Colombia.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though Colombia-born Cárdenas says he has made a “multimillion-dollar investment” in the arena, which will occupy a million-square-foot (93,000m²) site on Calle 80 (80th Street) in the Colombian capital.
Founded in 2002 and based in Chicago and Miami, CMN produces tours by Latin stars including Marc Anthony, Bad Bunny, Maluma, Nicky Jam, Chayanne, Becky G and Sech, as well as ¡Viva Latino! Live, the package tour based on the Spotify playlist of the same name. Cárdenas also leads Cárdenas Entertainment and Marketing Group (CEMG), founded in 2018 to manage the Arena Bogotá project.
According to Cárdenas, Arena Bogotá will have a number of unique features, including a 131’ (40m)-high roof which can support 110 tons – allowing for bigger production than is currently possible in Colombia – and over 40,000sqft (3,700m²) of storage space, allowing ten trucks to load in simultaneously (more than anywhere else in Latin America).
“I am very proud to be able to become the entertainment ambassador in my native country, and to be able to welcome everyone to Arena Bogotá, which will be the home to all Colombians, businessmen and promoters, artists and live music events, business conventions and sports that our country deserves,” says Cárdenas.
“It’s about time that Colombia had a building that was able to offer more and better shows”
“For the first year of operations we plan to perform between 130 and 140 shows, which means about three events per week, including family events, corporate, live music, sports – for example, motocross, Olympic sports, indoor soccer, boxing, volleyball, tennis, basketball, et cetera – esports, parades and equine events, among others.
Cárdenas says there is no space in Latin America comparable to Arena Bogotá. “There are some similarities with Arena Mexico [16,500-cap.], but even so there are none that have the qualities and grandiosity of Arena Bogotá.
“As a way to compare the relative size, we can look to the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, which includes 17,000 seats, whereas Arena Bogotá will have 24,000. This great space gives us the flexibility to perform events and shows that we otherwise may not have been able to do.”
A percentage of the arena’s profits will go the Maestro Cares Foundation, founded by Cárdenas and Marc Anthony, to support charitable projects in Colombia.
“It’s about time that Colombia had a building that was able to offer more and better shows,” concludes Cárdenas. “In the second half of 2020, we will have access to a dream venue to enjoy shows like Marc Anthony, Carlos Vives, Maluma, Nicky Jam, Bad Bunny, Becky G, Silvestre Dangond, Wisin and Yandel, Ricardo Arjona, Maná and Romeo Santos, among others, with our family and friends.
Venezuela border tensions following rival concerts
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuela Aid Live went head to head with the Venezuelan government’s Hands Off Venezuela on Friday, embodying the continuing power struggle between president Nicolás Maduro and self-declared, internationally recognised interim president Juan Guaidó.
The Virgin Group founder announced plans earlier this month to host a charity concert to raise funds for humanitarian aid for Venezuelans and increase international awareness of the crisis in the country. The concert was backed by opposition leader and self-declared interim president, Guaidó. In response, Venezuelan president Maduro organised his own, rival concert, in support of his now widely unrecognised government.
The concerts took place on either end of the Tienditas bridge, which connects Venezuela and Colombia. Venezuela Aid Live was held in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta, whereas the government-backed event took place on the Venezuelan side of the bridge.
More than 30 artists played at Branson’s event, which was attended and supported by the presidents of Chile, Colombia and Paraguay. Venezuelan singer Reymar Perdomo opened the concert with ‘Me Fui’, which has become an “angry hymn” for expatriate Venezuelans.
Fellow Venezuelan expat, Danny Ocean, performed ‘Dembow’ and reggaeton hit ‘Me Rehúso’. Other notable performances came from Mexican Paulina Rubio, Colombian Carlos Vives and Argentinian Diego Torres.
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) February 23, 2019
Luis Fonsi performed his famous reggaeton song ‘Despacito’, announcing afterwards: “Please, people of Venezuela, know that you are not alone.”
On the other side of the bridge, around 1,000 people attended Maduro’s concert, including members of the national army. Performances came from Venezuelan artists, including singer César “El Magnate” and rock group Yugular.
Branson’s concert was organised to raise money for humanitarian aid for Venezuelans, as the country continues to suffer severe food and medicine shortages. On the day following the concerts, trucks carrying US humanitarian aid attempted to cross the border into Venezuela from Cúcuta.
The Venezuelan National Guard blocked the entry of the aid vans, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at civilians attempting to cross the border. At least three aid trucks near the Colombian border were burned.
LatAm associations draft gender equality declaration
Musicians’ unions across Latin America have drafted and signed a declaration pledging to work towards gender parity in their memberships.
At an event hosted by the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) in Bogota, Colombia, before Christmas, local artists’ union Ormúsica, as well as its counterparts in Uruguay (Audem and Fudem), Argentina (Sadem), Peru (SIMCCAP), Panama (Sitmas), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Sindmusi), Mexico (SUTM), Cuba (UNEAC) and Costa Rica (UTM), put their names to a document committing to achieving a 50-50 gender split among their members, with 30% women by 2025.
The declaration, entitled Declaración sobre equidad de género en el sector musical sindical (Declaration on gender equality in the musical union sector), also commits the signatories to undertaking an annual census of their memberships to assess the progress made towards gender equality.
In a statement, FIM, which represents some 70 musicians’ unions globally, thanked Ormúsica “for their warm welcome to a successful event”.