Why Are International Shows So Expensive in Brazil?

Rolling Stones in Copacabana Beach

Ok, so this was actually a free concert in Copacabana. But most artists aren’t as generous. Credit: Agência Estado

A few months into my time in São Paulo, I started to look at upcoming concerts. I saw that Tony Bennett was coming, and that the cheapest tickets cost R$500, or 250 U.S. dollars. I know he’s Tony Bennett, but seriously?

I’ve since learned that sticker shock is to be expected when looking at concerts for international artists. Just a sample of upcoming shows and their prices: David Guetta, R$165 to R$355 (72 to 154 USD); Cypress Hill R$80 to R$240 (35 to 104 USD); Summer Break Festival with Dave Matthews Band and Incubus, R$140 to R$650 (61 to 282 USD). These tickets would be a splurge for the average American, but for the average Brazilian, these are a real luxury.

In Brazil, concerts, theater and other cultural events typically have what is called meia entrada (literally half entrance), a half price break for students and seniors reflected in the lowest prices listed. Regular priced tickets are called inteira, or full. According to Matraca Cultural, it’s quite common for people to falsify student IDs, and judging from the prices for international shows, I can see why.

Even Devendra Banhart, who while popular in indie music circles is certainly not as well known as the previously mentioned artists, is charging between R$100 and R$200 (45 to 91 USD) for his upcoming show in São Paulo. Meanwhile tickets for his London show this past June were only £20, or 32 USD.

In comparison, Brazilian singer Ivete Sangalo, arguably the most popular artist in the country, is charging between R$35 and R$90 (16 to 41 USD) for her upcoming 20th anniversary concert in the newly inaugurated Fonte Nova stadium in Salvador. There’s also a luxurious VIP lounge available for R$800 (366 USD), but for the most part, the ticket prices seem much more reasonable and attainable for the average Brazilian.

Outrageous prices for international artists weren’t always the norm, though. In 2010, O Globo examined how ticket prices have risen astronomically in Brazil, attributing the rise to inflation and the increased strength of the dollar compared to the real. For example Rush played Maracanã stadium in 2002, with prices between R$60 and R$80, or about R$110 and R148 (62 and 84 USD) when adjusted for inflation. In 2010 they returned to Brazil with tickets at R$220 to R$500 (124 and 282 USD). With all due respect to Rush, 124 dollars as the cheapest option is ridiculous.

According to Cultura e Mercado, concert producers claim that high taxes and high costs of transporting and renting equipment are to blame for the high ticket prices, and they often fluctuate with the value of the dollar. In addition, because over half of concert tickets are sold at meia entrada prices, producers hike up prices to cover the costs of shows.

International concert agent and promoter Paola Bescher was quoted by Terra saying, “The quantity of shows continues to be strong, but…now it’s more difficult [to sell tickets], they sell more slowly, they sell less.” She emphasizes that the current state is unsustainable. Something will have to change soon because at this rate, it seems doubtful that concert tickets can go any higher and still make a profit.


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