Is Las Vegas ready for a musical Disneyland?
Roberto Medina is betting so, and judging by the enthusiasm in his voice, he sounds like a kid upon entering said amusement park.
Medina is the founder of Rock in Rio, one of the biggest musical festival brands in the world that originated in Brazil in 1985 and currently encompasses events in three countries.
Recently, Rock in Rio announced plans to come to Vegas in May 2015, with a four-day run of shows to take place on two consecutive weekends.
Medina hopes to attract 85,000 people a day for 12-hours of music in a yet-to-be-revealed location that will be “within walking distance” of The Strip.
The site will be be turned into the “Rock City” festival grounds, which will be include various streets with attractions, food and music of different cultures.
“It’s a theme park for music,” Medina says, speaking through an interpreter translating his Portugese into English. “It’s a different proposal. It’s something extremely sophisticated, and I believe it will take the American market by surprise.”
Medina promises “a major roster” of acts who will perform on multiple stages, including the massive Rock in Rio main stage, which will be brought in for the event.
At last year’s flagship festival in Rio de Janeiro in September, headliners included Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Metallica, Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi, with dozens of other acts on the bill.
“I’m not aware of any other project in the world that does anything similar in terms of the investment in the bands that are headlining our concerts,” Medina says.
In addition, there will be an electronic music stage where DJs will perform.
The event will be produced in conjunction with SFX Entertainment, the multi-pronged media company that promotes festivals like Electric Zoo, Voodoo Experience and Tomorrowland and which bought a 50 percent stake in Rock in Rio last year.
SFX focuses on electronic dance music events and culture, and SFX founder Robert Sillerman equates the Rock in Rio atmosphere to that of an EDM festival, where the music is but part of the appeal and the goal is to create a more immersive, interactive experience with various attractions and things to do other than simply watching artists perform.
“Most American festivals, other than the EDM ones, are fundamentally venues for performance,” Sillerman says. “Rock in Rio is an absolute experience. When Americans, in particular, see what Roberto has created, it’s just a completely different music festival.”
Sillerman says the festival’s schematics have already been conceptualized and that now the event is in the implementation stage.
“It’s been designed. It’s ready to go,” he says. “There’s a large, great site. It is an immense undertaking.”
Medina and Sillerman indicate that MGM Resorts is also a playing significant role in the event, though the company is not specifying just what this entails at this point.
“As the leader in entertainment in Las Vegas, we have had a number of very exciting conversations with the Rock in Rio team,” says Jenn Michaels, senior vice president of public relations for MGM Mirage, in an email response. “While those discussions are continuing and we don’t have any specifics to share about our involvement at this time, we do believe that Rock in Rio will be an extraordinary addition to the city’s entertainment line-up.”
Rock in Rio’s debut in Vegas will coincide with the 30th anniversary of the festival.
At the time of its founding, getting an event of its magnitude off the ground was a formidable task in Brazil, then a poor country coming out of a military dictatorship.
Ticket prices had to be kept relatively low for people to be able to afford them, and yet, the costs of putting on an event of the size envisioned by Medina were substantially higher because there was little infrastructure in place in terms of power, supplies and staging.
And so Medina, who has a background in advertising and still owns one of the major ad agencies in Brazil, has relied on sponsorships over the years to help defray costs and make the event profitable.
He notes that Rock in Rio can now garner up to $50 million in sponsorships annually.
The event has become a cultural institution in Brazil, where the most recent Rock in Rio sold out all 600,000 tickets in four hours, with Medina saying that an additional 2.2 million people were waiting to buy tickets at the time capacity was reached.
Medina’s not tempering his ambitions as he enters the U.S. market, saying that he will officially announce the event in the coming months with a media event at Times Square, where “we will have a 2o-minute-long presentation with major international artists” and which will be broadcast live on Brazilian television.
He says that interest is already strong for the Vegas installment of Rock in Rio, noting that 120,000 people visited the website for the event in the three days after a series of advertisements for the festival ran in various newspapers on Tuesday.
“It makes me extremely proud to be able to export this to the country that exports everything,” Medina says. “I want to have a brand in the U.S. as strong as it is in Brazil. This is my dream.”
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476.