A music scene called Tecno Brega making use of an alternative business model has emerged in the city of Belem in Brazil. This parallel music industry has been active for years and has achieved great success. Several hundred new Tecno Brega records are produced and released every year by local artists, with both the production and distribution taking place outside of the mainstream music industry. The tecno brega model is simple: the music lies outside the realm of traditional copyright and is used as a method of marketing events. Every weekend the “sound system” parties attract thousands of people to the outskirts of Belem to listen to the Tecno Brega music. The parties are advertised by the distribution of the music itself. The numbers are incomplete, but the Belem scene alone brings in yearly revenues of several million US dollars.
The Tecno Brega music is “born free” in the sense that copyright protection is not a part of the business model developed by its creators. The CDs sold are utilized as marketing material– advertisements for the highly popular weekly “sound system” parties. The Tecno Brega CDs are sold by local street vendors as per arrangements with the local recording studios. At a mere US$1.50, the CDs are highly affordable by the local population, thus providing greater access to the music at a grassroots level.
The goal is not for artists to make money on conventional CD sales. Instead, the price charged works exclusively as an incentive for the local vendors to sell the CDs and in effect market the tecno brega parties. The artists thus make money through innovative business models related to the sound system parties. One such example consists of artists recording their live concert sets at the parties in real time and then selling the recordings at the conclusion of the event. This enables the audience to go home with a souvenir of the concert they have just attended. Another technique utilized by the artists is to acknowledge the presence of various people and neighborhoods in the course of the live presentations. Hearing such acknowledgment is greatly valuable to the audience– naturally people want to hear a “shout out” to them, their friends, or their neighborhood. As a result, thousands of people buy copies of the live CDs to have a permanent memoir of this form of homage.