RIO DE JANEIRO — A month after a flippant comment about Anitta’s butt tattoo sparked nationwide investigations into publicly funded music shows in Brazil, the number of cities under scrutiny has more than doubled and now involves a who’s who of Brazilian country music stars.
On Tuesday, state prosecutors were actively reviewing concert contracts in 70 cities across five states where officials are suspected of agreeing to pay inflated fees to lure musical artists to their cities this year.
The vast majority of shows involve artists from the sertanejo scene – the Brazilian version of country music – including Gusttavo LimaZeze de Camargo & LucianoWesley Safadao, Bruno & Marrone, Simone & Simariaand Ze Neto.
The investigations started after Zé Neto, of the duo Ze Neto & Cristianoinsulted Anitta’s buttock tattoo and criticized a Brazilian federal tax incentive law called Rouanet, which aims to foster cultural activities in the country.
Reactions on social media, initially from supporters of Anitta, turned the tide on the issue, exposing the relationship between local public money and the source of income for many sertanejo artists, including Zé Neto. So far, the number of cities where officials have been investigated — or whose broadcasts have been temporarily suspended or canceled by city officials — stands at 81. The list now includes 41 other towns in Mato Grosso, an inland state bordering the Amazon rainforest.
In Rio Grande do Sul, prosecutors ended up suspending an investigation into a show in the town of Bom Jesus, saying they found no irregularities in the hiring of Simone & Simaria for 380,000 reais ($73,000).
In Iguatu, a town in Ceará, the district attorney said the mayor misappropriated funds related to shows this month with Gusttavo Lima and Zezé di Camargo & Luciano. The mayor is accused of embezzling more than one million reais ($193,000) intended for the construction of a port and a religious temple to pay for musical events, according to Fabio Ottonithe prosecutor.
The surveys have cast a cloud over sertanejo, Brazil’s most popular musical genre, whose appeal has grown in recent years beyond the country’s heartland to include its largest cities.
Lima, one of Brazil’s highest-paid music stars across all genres, has widely denounced the use of public funds – without denying that he has accepted high fees from small towns – and said he was unfairly targeted by the investigations. ‘Everything he does is within the law,’ a Lima spokesperson said. Billboard. “His fee is x, so he bills x. He pays his taxes and issues his bills.
Wesley Safadão, the second most cited artist in contracts under review, will abide by anything decided by local contracting authorities, a spokesperson said. “Safadão and his team are hired to play their part, and they will do everything according to the law,” the representative said.
The review of outrageous fees using public funds comes as Brazil prepares for a contentious election in October between the far-right incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro – which many artists from the sertanejo support – against the leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silvawho is leading in the polls.
While officials say Billboard that it is too early to bring formal charges against any sertanejo artists involved in the alleged contracts, big artists like Lima – the most cited for outrageous fees per show – could be required to reimburse up to 20% of the income taken from a recent show or be temporarily banned from performing again, says Renato Toledoresearcher in administrative law at the University of São Paulo.
Regardless of the Rouanet law, state-funded music shows can be linked to a controversial congressional funding model called Emenda Pix created by Bolsonaro’s government, which allows elected officials to request money from the federal government and give it to cities with little or no accountability.
This lack of transparency, Toledo says, allows cities to generously use federal money to hire influential musicians — who could help support Bolsonaro’s re-election in exchange for hefty per-show fees.
“Disguised Political Campaigns”
With public pressure mounting, prosecutors in Mato Grosso increased the number of towns under investigation from 24 to 65, after Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo revealed that the state had spent more than 16 million reais ($3 million) for taxpayer-funded shows in 2022. The top-spending city is Coalinho, having earmarked 1.2 million reais ($230,000) for 15 concerts — mostly sertanejo, including one featuring Maiara and Maraisabut also gospel concerts — while 40% of its citizens live on a minimum wage of 1,212 reais per month ($234).
While prosecutors have previously investigated state-funded broadcasts, the Mato Grosso state attorney general, Jose Antonio Pereiraargues that such investigations require special attention during election years.
“We are in a polarized election year, so these shows can easily be disguised political campaigns,” Pereira said. Billboard. While artists’ fees “are naturally in line with their notoriety, you have to look at the financial capacity of the city and what is in its best interest…if I have a daycare problem, do I have to make a concert at 500,000 reais ($96,000)?”
Small-town mayors face potential consequences, Pereira says, including having to return money used for the show or being forced out of office if the show turns out to be politically motivated. (In cases where prosecutors uncover allegations of corruption, such as bribery, they can arrest mayors.)
The wave of surveys is already having its effect. Maranhão now requires its municipalities to declare the criteria used to define the value of a contract before booking shows without a public tender. And on June 13, a congressman from Mato Grosso introduced a federal bill that would require mayors to notify the prosecutor’s office of the shows at least 15 days before the event, so that lawyers can examine them for possible irregularities. .
“If this somehow makes authorities think twice about deciding how to allocate public funds,” Toledo says, then the sexist attack on Anitta’s buttock tattoo will have inspired concrete actions that will help strengthen institutions. democracies in Brazil.