Larissa Correia of Liminal agency talks COVID-19 in Latin America, and how the industry will need to change to keep the scene alive there.
We cling to the idea that some things will come back in March or April next year. The vaccine is super important for that. I live in São Paulo and here we dropped the number of cases in the last two weeks. Restaurants, bars and everything else are reopening. However, we don't know if after this the numbers will soar again. It's still a dangerous and fragile situation.
So anything involving events with large capacities is still suspended. There is no plan for that so far. We have strategies for phases one through five, but phase five can only happen when phase four lasts a certain amount of time with the same number of cases or lower. We'll only know when we get there.
There have been livestreams and online parties. But this isn't sustainable. The scene is striving to make efforts, but the industry is dead. Only the scene remains alive. You see DJs playing online, but what about everyone else? The producers, the lighting and sound people, the cleaning staff, the drivers, all the people working in the back offices…
I kept my employees until this month because I believed it would be fair to keep them as long as there was money in the company. We paid the salaries using everything we had and simply ran out of money. From this month on we don't have any budget and thus we don't have a team (except me, my partner Gideon and Gonzalo, our booker) anymore. We're waiting and contacting everyone, from promoters to artists, trying to understand what their plans are.
Since we have a lot of countries in Latin America, we have to talk to everyone separately because each country has different government actions. That's basically the job at the moment. Unfortunately, the region has been left out of the discussion for years, not just now. But now it's worse because we are facing a worse economic situation than Europe or the US, including recessions in some countries. Many of the main issues we've had here have been dismissed.
The exchange rate for instance has always been a huge economic problem for all the countries in Latin America. We work with American currency and the USD is always floating here. Every month we have a different price, so when we deal in US Dollars, we always take a risk, because it could increase or decrease very suddenly. Most of the time it just increases. It's a risky business and it's more expensive: when you do the exchange it always ends up more expensive than you would pay in the US or Europe. Also, we have banking limitations over here because we don't have access to the same resources such as PayPal or TransferWise, not to mention that financial and fiscal rules are different in each country. Everything amounts to a very bad environment for doing business here.
For years we've been dependent on international artists and not many of them and their agencies take any of this under consideration or even realise those issues exist when dealing with us. It would be interesting to see what happens when the public finally changes its perspective and takes a good look at our regional talent. But it's not easy to sell it when all we see is international artists and brands being highlighted, especially in platforms such as Resident Advisor and other global magazines.
This becomes more serious when you consider how much the prevalent macho culture makes it all harder for women or non-binary people who wish to make a living in our business. These names end up not being as strong in our local markets as they don't sell tickets. It's always been this vicious cycle, and it's super hard to fight. I am conscious that I make most money with already well paid artists outside of South America in my own turf, but I wish change would come faster, so I could promote more local talents, especially those belonging to minorities who actually need more support.
The pandemic is making it all even worse. Currently in Brazil, we are entering the biggest recession in history. One dollar is 6 reais, for example. It's absurd! This will affect future deals to the point that it'll be unfeasible to make them. If an artist costs $5,000, we can no longer pay $5,000. We can pay $3,500, because of devaluation of our currency. This is the main problem for all countries in the vicinity, not only Brazil.
We believe that the industry will come back at a certain point. It will take time, but we hope it will return, with the vaccine and better treatments for COVID-19. But we also need to adapt the international artists to the current market, to the new reality of it. This is my responsibility: to bring that reality to the international artists and make them understand that some patience will be needed.
Obviously there are still high-profile events in South America that can pay hefty amounts of money, but if international artists really want to support and reach the real scene in these parts, they need to understand that ticket prices for the customer also need to be affordable or they will keep performing only for rich people of the high society in vastly unequal nations. This also applies to global brands and festivals who have arrived by maintaining an unequal or downright predatory relationship with our local communities.
We can't just repeat what the market has been doing for several years, the high fees and luxury requirements, those outlandish requests. We all need to change. Also, we need to make each scene stronger, to highlight them. That's the biggest challenge we have right now. It's time to not just take from us, but also to give something back. That's what needs to change, rather urgently.