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From the stage to the living room: Brazilians go mad for live YouTube concerts

. Jun 21, 2020
During pandemic, Brazilians go mad for live YouTube concerts

“The one I want, doesn’t want me / The one who wants me, I don’t want / No-one will suffer alone / Everyone is going to suffer.” On a Wednesday evening in April — with Brazil’s pubs, nightclubs, and karaoke bars closed due to Covid-19 social isolation measures — millions logged on to YouTube to watch Brazilian country singer Marília Mendonça belt out her hit for jilted lovers everywhere “Todo Mundo Vai Sofrer” (Everyone Is Going To Suffer), among dozens of other ballads, live from her own living room.

With an unprecedented peak audience of 3.31 million users, Marília Mendonça’s home concert is the most viewed YouTube live music broadcast in history. Since airing, the video has received a stunning 54 million total views. Another of her live performances, from the beginning of May, peaked at 2.21 million concurrent viewers and a total of 20 million watches since.

</p> <p>In comparison to the typical production values of Marília Mendonça&#8217;s live shows, her record-breaking YouTube broadcast is something completely different entirely. Filmed inside her living room, the superstar singer with a thick contralto voice spends the vast majority of the three-and-a-half-hour concert sat on an armchair, in flip-flops, yet somehow belting out her array of hits on romance and betrayal, never missing a note.</p> <p>In fact, it is the simplicity and intimacy of the spectacle, along with the cathartic lyrics — mostly related to kicking out a cheating boyfriend, fiancé, or husband — are perhaps what drove the equivalent of the entire population of Uruguay to sit down and tune in live on their televisions, laptops, and smartphones.</p> <h2>Brazilian domination</h2> <p>Of course, Marília Mendonça is not the only artist in Brazil or abroad to make use of the coronavirus quarantines to broadcast live shows on YouTube. In April, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Paul McCartney, and others got together virtually to hold the &#8220;One World: Together at Home&#8221; benefit concert, but even that show didn&#8217;t come close to Marília Mendonça&#8217;s numbers.</p> <p>In fact, in the ranking of YouTube&#8217;s top ten live music broadcasts in history, all of the entries come from the last two months and <em>seven </em>are from Brazilian artists. The highest-placed non-Brazilian was Italian singer Andrea Bocelli, who broadcast a live concert from an empty Duomo in Milan on April 12. But his mark of 2.86 million concurrent viewers saw him pipped by Marília Mendonça and fellow Brazilian country act Jorge e Mateus, ranked in second.</p> <p><a href="https://brazilian.report/society/2019/05/25/k-pop-bts-brazil/">K-pop megastars BTS</a> have two entries on the list, but are languishing down in seventh and tenth position.</p> <p>Speaking to newspaper O Globo, YouTube&#8217;s Latin American music partnerships director Sandra Jimenez said the company has &#8220;no answer&#8221; to why Brazilian audiences have taken to live broadcasts in such a big way. But besides the spontaneous and informal manner of the concerts and the artists&#8217; huge existing pull in the country, she suggests that timing may be a factor. &#8220;These lives usually take place outside working hours or on the weekend, which boosts [the chance of setting] records. These live broadcasts are the new prime time for Brazilians.&#8221;</p> <p>Indeed, beyond the day of the week or start time, the fact that the most popular live shows occurred at the beginning of social isolation measures in Brazil suggests a novelty value. &#8220;They came right at the start of quarantine, and it encouraged people to stay at home,&#8221; says Ricardo Mello, consultant for the Brazilian Music and Arts Association.</p> <p>&#8220;Also, these artists have such a huge popular appeal in Brazil. Take U2, for instance, there are loads of U2 fans in the world, but they don&#8217;t necessarily have such a close and strong connection with the band,&#8221; he adds. Major Brazilian country acts have their own dedicated &#8220;fandoms&#8221; on social media. Marília Mendonça, for example, has over 5.2 million followers on Twitter and an incredible 32.2 million on Instagram.</p> <h2>A lucrative opportunity?</h2> <p>With several economic sectors desperately struggling thanks to the Great Lockdown, businesses spotted these live concerts as an ideal vehicle for advertising. Payment company Stone backed Marília Mendonça&#8217;s world-record-breaking show in early April, and since then every subsequent broadcast has been awash with ad breaks and product placement.</p> <p>The format of the shows has also become more elaborate. Fellow country singer Gusttavo Lima held a series of live shows entitled &#8220;Bar at Home,&#8221; which included a live band, guests, a barbecue, and copious amounts of beer, supplied by the concert&#8217;s sponsor, Brazilian brewing company Ambev.</p> <p>This particular show got the singer into hot water with ad regulators, however, as Brazilian rules state that alcohol commercials cannot include the actual consumption of alcoholic beverages.</p> <p>This rule affected any YouTube live shows which included sponsorship from drinks companies, and became subject to much ridicule after Brazilian samba legend Zeca Pagodinho went through his entire live show drinking only water. The singer, best known for sitting on a barstool during his shows, guzzling pint after pint of beer, was left tee-total. &#8220;I keep grabbing this glass thinking it&#8217;s beer,&#8221; he said. &#8220;What a pain. This is the first time this has happened to me.&#8221;</p> <h2>Criminal YouTube streamers</h2> <p>These online live shows have also served as useful vehicles for raising money and resources to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. A YouTube concert by pop duo <a href="https://www.letras.mus.br/sandy-e-junior-musicas/">Sandy e Júnior</a> raised some 1,000 tons of food, in partnership with retailer Casas Bahia.</p> <p>It hasn&#8217;t been all goodwill, however. Official live streams are often duplicated and pirated onto a variety of different YouTube channels in order to &#8220;steal&#8221; views, but this practice became a lot more sinister in mid-April, with reports that fake live streams were able to rob donations from the public watching at home.</p> <p>As most official streams included a permanent QR code for donations, pirated streams altered these codes as a way to redirect the audience&#8217;s contributions to their own bank accounts. This practice was brought to the attention of artists, recording companies, and YouTube itself, and the number of &#8220;fake lives&#8221; has since fallen significantly.

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Euan Marshall

Originally from Scotland, Euan Marshall is a journalist who ditched his kilt and bagpipes for a caipirinha and a football in 2011, when he traded Glasgow for São Paulo. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, he authored a comprehensive history of Brazilian soccer entitled “A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.”

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