Rock in Rio: Roberta Medina and the challenges of organizing the event

Rock in Rio: Roberta Medina and the challenges of organizing the event

Crossing the Atlantic, the vice president of one of the biggest music festivals in the world helped to internationalize the brand and now has more time to enjoy life

Leonor Macedo Publicity, Ariel Martini

Published October 2019

Roberta Medina has learned to rest on planes since, on solid ground, the life of Rock in Rio’s vice president is quite busy. “I had trouble sleeping while traveling. I would get to my destination feeling very tired and needing to work. Now I can sleep within a few minutes, right after the plane takes off,” she affirms.

It’s a simple tactic: hooded jacket in order to not feel cold and to block the light, pillow to stabilize the neck, and that’s it. Guaranteed hours of sleep and replenished energy to realize one of the biggest music festivals in the world. This year, the event will be held in Rio de Janeiro from September 27 to October 6, with LATAM Airlines Brasil as its official airline.

Rock in Rio: Roberta Medina and the challenges of organizing the event

It took years of practice on flights connecting Rio, Lisbon, Madrid, Las Vegas, and other cities that have hosted Rock in Rio. Since its first edition, in 1985, there have been 19 editions: seven in Brazil, eight in Portugal, three in Spain, and one in the United States. Not to mention this year’s event, in which over 250 acts will perform for 700,000 people.

The idea to bring to Latin America famous bands and artists that didn’t usually visit the continent in the 1980s came from Roberto Medina, Roberta’s father. At the time, the numbers were already grandiose. They assembled a 53,820 ft2 [5,000 m2] stage where names like Iron Maiden, Whitesnake, George Benson, James Taylor, AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, Gilberto Gil, Paralamas do Sucesso, Alceu Valença, and Queen performed. The historical show by Freddie Mercury’s band was adapted to the big screen, in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, released last year.

Roberta grew up in the middle of all this and started working as a Rock in Rio producer at a very young age, in her early 20s. And she was one of the people responsible for turning what was once just a project into an international company. "In 2003, we started to alternate between Brazil and Portugal, where the festival was held for the first time in 2004," she recalls. After that, it was held regularly in Europe before returning to its roots, in Rio de Janeiro.

Rock in Rio: Roberta Medina and the challenges of organizing the event

"Organizing an event of this size is not an easy task. You need a specific, gigantic venue, local sponsors, partnerships with city halls, in addition to a very committed team," explains Roberta. "We have around 30 permanent employees in Lisbon and 50 in Rio. In the months before the festival, we operate with 100 employees. And during the days of the event, we have over 25,000 contributors."

Dividing time between work and family

In the middle of her busy life, Roberta met Ricardo Acto, from Portugal, and they got married in 2011. They had Lua and Theo, now 6 and 2, and decided to stay in Lisbon permanently because Lua has started school.

The executive gave up her nomadic lifestyle and now tries to divide her time between work and family, without putting aside her individuality. "Life is not just work. You need to find balance, and it’s very hard. If balance were easy, it wouldn’t be a circus attraction," she jokes.

Rock in Rio: Roberta Medina and the challenges of organizing the event

And she tries to employ this balance in her company. "I know I’m privileged; the freedom of being a partner, having my space, time for friends, working from home. But this culture is also passed down to my contributors," says Roberta. "Here it’s all about responsibility. Everyone knows what they need to do."

If she has to work late at the office, she spends the next day with her children, working from home or showing up at their school unexpectedly to pick them up. She usually goes out to dinner with her husband and friends. And she keeps organizing grandiose events. "When my kids ask me what I do for a living, I say that I organize parties and I’m always trying to build a better world."

Rock in Rio introduces course for executives and book about the festival

With all this baggage accumulated over years of festivals, the executives from Roberta’s team are constantly invited to give lectures on management, marketing, and engineering, among other themes. 

That’s why the Rock in Rio Learning Experience Unit was born, a business unit whose objective is to employ the Rock in Rio capabilities to provide transforming experiences in the area of education, combining it with entertainment.

Rock in Rio: Roberta Medina and the challenges of organizing the event

This year, the third Brazilian edition of Rock in Rio Academy by HSM will take place – a one-day course to share the brand’s business model with executives, leaders, and entrepreneurs of all areas. The 500 attendees will be able to visit the behind the scenes of the festival and will be given a ticket for the event.

"The course will be held at the Olympic Park, the same venue for Rock in Rio 2019. Due to our limited capacity in the VIP area, this time the Academy will be available via streaming, which is way more democratic and has a more accessible price for anyone who wants to participate anywhere in the world," explains Roberta. Even online, the participants will be able to ask questions and interact with the lecturers.

In addition, this year, the book "A Arte de Sonhar e Fazer Acontecer" will be released. It discusses the Rock in Rio case and how the festival is organized.

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