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Major musical events in Brazil featured slave labor and here’s everything wrong with it

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

For music and show enthusiasts, festivals are the union of all passions in one space, and year after year, these events increase in magnitude, with high adherence from the public. With the end of another successful Lollapalooza Brazil season, it is worth reflecting on how informed the public is regarding the accusations of slave labor that the festival faced in 2019, which fell into media oblivion. Despite its seriousness, it did not gather enough strength to question the quality of life of the music event staff.

Always aiming for profit?

Festivals like Lollapalooza, Rock in Rio, and The Town gather an average of 100 thousand people per day – and each edition lasts from 3 to 7 days of shows. Tickets to access these events are not what you would call “affordable,” as the price for a single day can range from 300 to 800 reais (without considering access packages for all days of the event).

Rock in Rio for example is considered one of the largest festivals in the world, estimated a revenue of US$158 million in its last edition, with an audience of 700 thousand people. In terms of consumption, 265 thousand people visited the event’s food court. In the same edition, international artists received million-dollar fees, including the highest in the festival’s history, for Justin Bieber, who received 26 million reais for his show.

It’s a costly expense for the fan, profitable for the artist, and a dream for the festival owner – but what about the 28 thousand employees who served all these people? And what about those responsible for setting up the stages? What is the quality of life like in these jobs?

In the example of Rock in Rio 2022, there were no reports of slave labor, which was not the case in the 2013 and 2015 editions.

main cases

In 2013, 93 people were rescued by inspectors on allegations of slave-like labor at Rock in Rio. At the time, they were working for the fast-food chain Bob’s. Among the workers found, many were from other states and didn’t receive any lodging or food assistance. Some stayed on the outskirts of Vila Autódromo, in an environment without basic sanitation, while others waited for days outside the City of Rock to obtain their festival credentials.

Besides the poor conditions in which they lived, they were all forced to pay 150 reais to obtain credentials and thus be able to sell beverages as street vendors. The workers were hired by a company called To East, which subcontracted to 3D Eventos.

The fast food Bob’s denied the accusations, offered to cooperate with the authorities to provide any clarification needed, and was penalized to pay 170 thousand reais in severance pay. As for the Rock in Rio organization, they claimed that the hiring of employees was the exclusive responsibility of the bars and snack bars, but they did contact the fast-food chain to take the necessary measures.

In an investigation by the media outlet Repórter Brasil, the tax auditor Cláudio Secchin, responsible for the operation, reported that 362 work permits were analyzed. However, many of these people left before the operation was completed.

And the accusations don’t stop at this edition. In 2015, 17 street vendors, all from São Paulo this time – who spent an average of 400 reais on the trip to Rio – were found to be housed in unhealthy conditions, with documents seized by the company that hired them.

The situation closely resembles the 2013 case: selling food products as street vendors, this time selling potato chips for the company Batata no Cone. They became indebted to the contracting company and were housed in a nearby favela to the festival space. The note issued by Rock in Rio claimed the same thing as the last one.

Once again, the production did not take responsibility for what happened, as they are not obliged to investigate the hiring done by other companies, even if they operate within the festival. The street vendors received 49 thousand reais from the company.

The most recent and probably the best-known case occurred in 2019 at the Lollapalooza festival in São Paulo. During an inspection, five people were found in the same conditions mentioned in previous cases, working in logistics or selling beverages.

The workers were hired by Yellow Stripe, a company subcontracted by Time For Fun. It was promised 130 reais per day, but ended up working extremely long and exhausting hours, and were forced to sleep at the racetrack to guard the beverages being unloaded.

In a statement, Time For Fun considered the situation an isolated case and stated that they would continue to reinforce the rules imposed by the company regarding hiring practices. Lollapalooza terminated its connections with Yellow Stripe and ensured compensation for those affected, but the festival continues to be accused of exploitation every year.


Lollapalooza: como um festival que já teve tantas denúncias de trabalho escravo pode continuar acontecendo?

♬ som original – 𝖛𝖔𝖑𝖚𝖒𝖊 𝖒𝖔𝖗𝖙𝖔 – 𝖛𝖔𝖑𝖚𝖒𝖊 𝖒𝖔𝖗𝖙𝖔

What does the law say?

The concept of slave labor is often linked to the idea of denying an individual’s freedom, but the practice goes much further than that. In Brazilian law, Article 149 of the Penal Code defines as a crime any practice that subjects someone to an exhaustive work schedule, working conditions that violate the dignity of the citizen, forced labor, or servitude due to debt.


Trabalho escravo e direitos trabalhistas. Veja o que diz a nossa Constituição e o Código Penal Brasileiro.

♬ som original – STF Oficial

There is a clear lack of effective enforcement against festivals, which often shifts the blame to other companies, arguing that these are isolated cases, thereby avoiding responsibility for the criminal practices that occurred during their events.

The attending public deserves to see their favorite artists without feeling that they are condemning employees to unhealthy living conditions. Taxpayers also deserve a good state of work so that they can continue to fulfill the dreams of thousands of people.


The article above was edited by Clarissa Palácio.

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Hi! I'm a journalism student, fascinated by pop culture, shows, books, and all types of art! <3