The uproar recently surrounding the soul-crushing price of tickets to Lollapalooza Brasil is just a glimpse of Brazil's huge cost problem. For a country with so much poverty, many things are surprisingly and confusingly expensive here. That is until you get to know a bit about Brazil. In August the festival giant released their ticket prices for the two-day event headlined by Metallica, The XX, The Weeknd and Flume in Sao Paulo next year, starting at $800 Brazilian reals (over $300AU) or half that for one day.
When the average person in Brazil takes home just $2000R per month and minimum wage stands at $880R, quite obviously there was going to be a divide between who would be in the audience screaming along that day and who would miss out.
With the price rocketing up from $660R for this year’s Lollapalooza Brasil first-release, the average person here could buy a grand total of 2.5 tickets then starve themselves for the month.
Many of the most diehard music fans would have to miss out, or get saving fast, and thoughts of the country’s bourgeoisie enjoying music they didn’t care about hit a nerve with them.
They hit back, posting thousands of angry and disbelieving comments to Lollapalooza Brasil's Facebook page with debate raging between simple market economics and the glaring inequalities in Brazil.
Half-price tickets for students help a lot of desperate music fans, but if you’re not a student or don't pretend to be one then you’ll have to pay full price.
This isn’t just people from the favelas priced out, most public workers couldn’t throw that cash down for a festival on their meagre wages.
But the thing is, Brazil has 200 million people. Festival promotors can sit back comfortable knowing that after the backlash blows ever, there is a market of enough people with enough money that they will sellout or come close to it.
And that as some smug Facebook commenters put it was simple economics, “if you can’t afford it then just don’t go”. Spoken truly like someone who cared more about numbers than they ever did about music.
Others arrogantly said it ensured a good quality of person at the concert with one guy likening the event to a “status item” like a BMW or a Mercedes. The divide was truly and stupidly apparent.
These astronomical Brazilian festival ticket costs, which were also seen for Ultra Brasil in Rio last month, also come down to having to pay the big name artists with a not so strong currency.
Inflation this year peaked at nearly 11% in January down to 8.5% now, but next year's ticket price compared to this year's Lollapalooza has risen over 20%.
And then there's the “Brazil Cost” (Custo Brasil) of excessive taxes and bureaucratic inefficiencies which the country is well-known for. How they play out in running a festival I’m not exactly sure, but undoubtedly they do.
After having my phone pickpocketed in Rio earlier in my trip my family got me a new one back in Australia with the plan to send it over in the mail.
This stalled when my friend told me anything sent into the country gets slugged with a 66% tax, so my $1000AU iPhone was now going to cost me $660AU more just to receive the parcel. I had to find an Aussie coming over on a plane to carry it instead.
But it means Apple products, technology, cars, clothes, food, perfumes and anything foreign can be ridiculously expensive. Apple laptops here cost on average about 2.25 times more than what they do in Australia where the average income is at least five times higher.
My Macbook Air 11 inch 256gb in Brazil costs $9399R ($3807AU), while I bought it in Australia for $1699, meaning a difference of $2108AU. The iPhone 6S 128gb in Brazil is $4599R ($1864AU) but only $1379AU in Australia, a difference of $485AU or 35%.
Is it any wonder why there is such a huge market for stealing and buying stolen phones? Even Brazilians who detest thieving and robbery will go and buy a “second-hand” phone.
This protectionism baffles me as Brazil makes no equivalent technology and has no plans to from what I can tell, so who does it benefit except the coffers of government?
Brazilians tell me the policy is some sort of hangover from the country's decades as a military dictatorship and that they really need to ditch these artefacts of their past and start looking to the future.
In this day and age, internet connectivity is a must as creativity and innovation are spurred on through technology. That's where the money and the future lies. But when a young musical or scientific genius can’t afford a computer, what then?
Perhaps positively, foreign-made junk food is so expensive that I just don’t buy it. I do buy Brazilian chocolates though, can’t recommend Lacta Oreo enough ($6R/$2.50AU), but Lindt chocolate ($23R/$9.30AU) and Pringles ($14R/$5.60AU) are way too much.
If anything is a status item it's them because if you have cash to burn on Pringles and European chocolate then you’re doing alright. But when it’s essentials like Gillette shaving cream ($33R/$13.40AU) or Nivea sunscreen ($45R/$18.20AU) you just have to cop it.
But what about burgers, you can’t ignore burgers right?
A good burger in my suburb of Ipanema in Rio costs more than what I’d often pay in Sydney. My home city is famous for its high house prices and cost of living but usually you can pick up a decent burger for $10AU.
But in Rio, as if there is some sort of gourmet burger price cartel, every decent burger (I recommend B, de Burger) costs at least $30-40R, or about $12-16AU. This is often just for the burger, so add some chips and a beer and you'll be breaking $50R or $20AU.
As I’ve adjusted to Brazilian prices I now struggle paying this as often as I used to because if it’s expensive for me then what must it be like for most Brazilians? It's okay for the well off, a treat for some, while others are just shut out completely.
I can’t see how someone from the nearby favelas could spend on one burger what could feed a family. They just happen to live next door to one of Brazil’s most wealthy and definitely most visited areas, but the restaurant prices are not for them.
But the beach and mountains are free, a cold beer and bar meal are usually cheap ($20R/$8AU for the chicken, chips and beans above), so is fruit and steak, plus warm sunny days are in abundance.
You can save in Rio in other ways especially if you like being active and outdoors, and outside of Rio's south zone and big cities generally prices are cheaper too.
As for the 'Brazil cost', I am not an economics expert and I don’t know a solution. I can see the human and social problems from it though, surely some of the 200 million people here have an answer.
And for the record I'll be at Lollapalooza Brasil!