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.
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