We recently had a chat with the guys responsible for one of the world’s most spectacular venues, based in São Paulo.
Adam Beyer, Charlotte de Witte, Anjunadeep, Afterlife, and Eric Prydz‘s HOLO. Those are only a few of the artists, labels and events that have recently brought their shows to the biggest city of Brazil, São Paulo. And if there’s a point in common between all of them, is the place where they’ve made them a reality: ARCA. This place has a brief, yet very interesting story, and it’s become one of Brazil’s best places to host an event in. And behind the stage, there are two guys continuously dreaming bigger and bigger.
The Two Heads
Mario Sergio Albuquerque and Mauricio Soares are the founders of M-S Live, the group in charge of ARCA‘s event planning and execution. Founded in 2019, both have been able to contribute to a greater goal, given their past involvement with music, events, and real estate.
On one hand, Mario has an extensive and successful career in the electronic music world as the founder of clubs Laroc and AME and has worked on international projects such as Tomorrowland Brasil, Electric Zoo, Timewarp, and others. He’s also been a part of the stage designs of the Rock in Rio and Só Track Boa festivals, several Brazilian nightclubs, and is also the manager of the electronic music duo Cat Dealers, featured in DJ Mag’s TOP 100 ranking.
On the other hand, Mauricio built his career with time in the technology industry and real estate market. He worked as an innovation consultant for Nike, GM and Microsoft, and has more than a decade’s worth of experience in the entertainment and events industry, working on international events such as Skol Sensation, Tomorrowland Brasil, Electric Zoo and Milkshake, among others. He is also the manager of the electronic music duo BINARYH, a breakthrough act in the melodic techno scene.
Mario and Mauricio’s partnership has led them to work together on ambitious projects and goals. M-S Live works at the convergence between creativity, entertainment and technology, producing and promoting major electronic music events with some of the main brands and artists in the industry.
Our purpose is to bring together people, perspectives, languages and cultures in fantastic environments, creating experiences that provoke the senses and awaken consciousness.
-Mario Sergio Albuquerque, Mauricio Soares.
ARCA is found at the heart of the redeveloped Vila Leopoldina, a former industrial district of São Paulo that has seen a vast urban, cultural, and social transformation. Like London’s Printworks or Amsterdam’s Gashouder, the building is a large architectural place with the potential to be transformed in many different ways to suit various needs.
And needs has it had! During its short and recent story, the venue has been home to the São Paulo Fashion Week, Nike events, and uncountable sold-out musical experiences, such as Timewarp, Anjunadeep São Paulo, and Afterlife. It is also, quite importantly, one of only seven venues worldwide to host Eric Prydz’s HOLO show so far.
The guys also care about their environment. At M-S Live events, food and books are collected and donated to the Associação de Moradores do Ceasa, which contributes to the needy communities around ARCA. These actions enabled the creation of a library at the association’s headquarters, in addition to adding more than five tons of donated food, as of 2023.
Some Words From The Heads Themselves
We were lucky enough to have a chat with Mario and Mauricio. We talked about their involvement in ARCA, their past projects, their future aim, projections, and much more. Have a read below!
1) Had you two, Mario and Mauricio, worked together on projects in the past or is M-S Live your first time?
We worked together as colleagues for almost five years, in festivals such as the Brazilian editions of Tomorrowland and Electric Zoo, as well as touring labels like Elrow. The partnership came later, when we co-founded ARCA in 2018 – almost one year before we started M-S Live.
2) How did you come to the idea of setting up the venue? Did a steel factory feel like a good place to start?
It was the other way around… We were looking for a venue to rent just for one event. We wanted to promote Awakenings in São Paulo. However, once we crossed the gates of ARCA for the first time, it was like love at first sight. We immediately saw the potential in that monumental space, and the more we got to know about it, the more certain we were. In the end, the steel factory warehouse was the perfect spot – even the faceted walls covered in sound insulation material, originally meant to contain the extremely loud noise of heavy machinery, provide an acoustic quality to the venue that is unmatched in similar locations.
3) What’s your favourite event held on ARCA, and why?
We usually have a special affection for the most challenging ones… Eric Prydz with the HOLO show was a blast, something that we wanted to do for several years and finally happened in 2022. Also Afterlife, as their extraordinary production is a perfect match for ARCA.
4) ARCA is quite open and flexible to technology, and that’s one of your strongest marketing points. What can one find in ARCA that can’t be found anywhere else? What makes ARCA so special, tech-wise?
We don’t actually have a lot of technology pre-equipped in ARCA. It’s more like we have the perfect infrastructure and physical features to support the latest technology and the most sophisticated productions – such as a rigging capacity of approximately 30 tons, 16m high ceiling and nearly 9.000m2 of almost unobstructed internal area that can be accessed even by full-sized trucks.
5) Do you feel ARCA can help shine some light and fame on South America’s nightlife?
We are sure of it – and it’s already happening. We have people coming from all over the globe to our events. It’s a small, but growing group. Also, artists, agents and managers that come to ARCA say it’s one of the best venues in the world nowadays – and, without false modesty, we completely agree. It’s only a matter of time before we reach a level of recognition that is comparable to the main venues in Europe and the USA.
6) Are there any plans to update the venue, change it up a bit, add floors or an underground area, for example? Or are you happy with what ARCA offers today?
As of this moment, there are no plans for major updates. We’re very happy with the space and the versatility it provides – but we’re continuously improving ARCA, tweaking its features without changing the main characteristics. Since the inauguration in October 2018, we’ve built two major blocks of modern lavatories, one on each side of the venue, installed an industrial fire prevention system with over 900 pressurised sprinklers, installed a pre-rigging system, updated the service lighting grid with modern LED reflectors (which decreased our energy consumption by an average of 75%) and installed a CCTV monitoring system for security, among other things.
7) Do you plan on expanding your success to future projects all around Brasil? Or would you rather stay as just one successful São Paulo venue?
We want to expand, for sure – but not at the cost of a negative impact to ARCA. The “grand vision” is to create a network of independent, out-of-the-ordinary venues that span across Brazil and other South-American countries. However, we have to be thoughtful about when, how and where to expand – as well as who to associate with. Culture plays an important role in our business and we need to preserve it.
8) The opening of ARCA has been a key part of the change that the area of Vila Leopoldina has seen. Do you see this change as a good thing, is it a welcome change?
We see this transformation as a very positive thing – and we try to make it as inclusive as possible.
Vila Leopoldina used to be an industrial district – probably the most important within the municipality of São Paulo. It completely lost its original vocation in the last two decades and, while some parts of it were immediately targeted by new real estate incorporations, some others were forgotten, and became increasingly deteriorated over the years. ARCA is located in an area that belonged to the second group.
There’s an underprivileged community of about 1500 families living in three favelas around ARCA. Since we got here we always aimed at providing these people with job opportunities, as well as access to leisure and culture. We’re directly in touch with the community leadership, to whom we have donated over 5 tons of food and hundreds of books so far – supporting their dream of having a proper library in the community centre.
We’re fully aware that our activity promotes a certain level of gentrification and we’re not an NGO, but being conscious of the legacy we want to leave and collaborating with people and organisations that know well the region, its problems and complexities, is an essential step towards making our business more responsible and promoting a positive impact in our society.
9) Do you have any other areas in mind, were it in Brasil or other countries, in which this change of look could be well received?
Certainly. Brazil is a country with an amazing internal market and a huge untapped potential for events and culture. There are other interesting areas in other capitals, such as Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba and Belo Horizonte, just to name a few. Even São Paulo, the biggest city in South America, still has a relatively low number of venues available for a high number of events. Meeting that demand through the use of repurposed buildings, industrial or not – a concept known as adaptive reuse – is probably the most environmentally responsible and socially interesting thing to do.
10) Imagine ARCA 5 years in the future. What’s your dream goal with the venue, and do you think it’s possible to achieve it within 5 years?
We want ARCA to be widely recognized and acclaimed, by visitors, artists and other people in the industry as one of the best and most iconic venues for electronic music in the world. We want people to have the time of their lives when they are with us here. In five years, we want to have hosted most – if not all – of the most relevant electronic music acts and labels worldwide. Considering what we have achieved so far, even with two years of pandemic lockdown in the middle, I’d say it’s totally feasible.
After quite an extensive interview, nothing else is left to say, other than a huge thank you to Mario and Mauricio for taking the time to sit and open up about ARCA. The future sure seems bright for them, and much more so with a group who are willing to take on challenges and chances, hoping to give the best show that can possibly be given. We at EDMTunes are sure on the lookout for more milestones from São Paulo’s finest venue!