By Michela DellaMonica, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — The Rock in Rio mega music festival began in Brazil in 1985 by Roberto Medina, an innovative publicist with a grand ambition to create an epic music event. Now after exporting the brand to Lisbon for the last ten years as well as a few stops in Madrid, Rock in Rio will expand to Las Vegas in 2015 for what should be another chapter in music festival history.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
The main stage of the Rock in Rio 2013 festival in Barra da Tijuca, photo by Alexandre Macieira/Riotur.

In its pioneering form, Rock in Rio was designed to create an opportunity for celebration, commentary, and questions that reflected the issues of the day. Emerging from nearly twenty years of military dictatorship, the festival supported a new generation of artists reviving national music in the 1980s.

After a few groundbreaking shows in Rio, the Rock in Rio brand expanded into Lisbon, Portugal beginning in 2004, celebrating its 10th anniversary this past year. Following in Lisbon’s footsteps, Rock in Rio Madrid began in 2008 and devoted full attention to music diversity. The idea of gathering different music genres reached a new level, as well as the marketing of the brand.

Merchandising associate Clarissa Bemvindo spoke to The Rio Times about her experience working the festivals. “Each year the concept of retail and consumer products has grown with inventory surpassing expected amounts. We want to provide each festival goer a unique shopping experience as well as a day full of music and entertainment.”

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
In 2015, Rock in Rio will expand to Las Vegas for what could be another round of music festival history, photo by Alexandre Macieira/RioTur.

The first Rock in Rio spread over ten days (January 11–20, 1985), hosted at the City of Rock in Barra da Tijuca resulted in an audience of more than 1.3 million people. The line up was amazing, a true Hall of Fame of the who’s who: Queen, AC/DC, James Taylor, George Benson, Rod Stewart, Yes, Ozzy Osbourne, and Iron Maiden, plus some of Brazil’s top national stars, like Gilberto Gil, Pepeu Gomes, and Barão Vermelho, among others.

From this moment, Brazil entered the arena for global concerts and globally recognized bands on tour. The second Rock in Rio took place six years later in 1991 at Maracanã Stadium which hosted Guns N’ Roses’ first visit to Brazil.

Though the festival’s name might seem to play favor to one genre, Run DMC were headliners as well. That one of the biggest bands of the era and also one of the greatest icons in the rap scene shared a bill demonstrated that Rock in Rio was a festival of variety and not just rock music.

The third Rock in Rio was held in 2001 back in the City of Rock (Barra da Tijuca). This edition opened the conversation for important issues beyond music, as it introduced its charitable outreach called “For a Better World,” with a portion of profits dedicated to charities and programs that promote better education, health, and ecology.

The combination of iconic performances and well planned event management has won over a lot of fans. “Each year I’ve gone to Rock in Rio it has gotten bigger and better,” says Fabiana Nicole, a Rio de Janeiro resident who has attended three shows. “Everything is organized and very well put together and the entertainment attractions besides the music is lots of fun.”

The extension of the brand to Lisbon and Madrid and now Las Vegas is testament to the success of the festival. The Las Vegas press reported that the festival is scheduled for May 8-9th and May 15-16th, and that organizers expect more than 300,000 people to attend.


  1. I believe Vegas will be a great venue for this. What will be interesting is how, or if, they will be different than Perry’s Lollapalooza extravaganzas. I believe I’d bring bands from America to the Vegas audience that do well in Rio (Rush, Stones). I’d introduce new bands that play what’s burgeoning there style wise and not just necessarily rely on what the radio plays up here. I’d bring Brazilian superstars to America that could carry an uptempo vibe, such as Amon Tobin.


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