3 Brazilian music genres are topping the charts

Brazilian music expert Leo Morel breaks down Brazil’s music market, from recent Brazilian music industry trends to the diversity of Brazilian music genres.

by Leo Morel of Chartmetric Blog

An Introduction to Brazilian Music Genres

Brazil, as the only Portuguese-speaking country in South America, has fostered a market reserve for music consumption. Brazilians primarily consume local repertoire, which means Sertanejo, the Brazilian equivalent of Country music in the United States, is currently the most popular music style there.

That said, some music styles have long been marginalized by the Brazilian cultural industry. Thanks to the diffusion of platforms like YouTube, genres like Funk Carioca and Pisadinha are now getting greater visibility. The following article aims to present an overview of Brazil’s music market, including its peculiarities, potentials, and challenges, introducing the reader to the vibrancy and diversity of today’s Brazilian music scene.

The Brazilian Music Market

Brazil is known for its rich musical diversity, which is largely the result of the influence of different cultures and ethnic groups that have helped shape the country’s identity. With an area of 3,287,357 sq mi (8,514,876 km²) and a population of 214M, Brazil is also known for its size. Though Brasília is the federal capital, the main cities in economic—and music industry—terms are São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. From Taylor Swift to Dua Lipa, these cities are likely to be in the Top 10 in terms of Spotify monthly listeners and YouTube views. In large part, this is because Brazil adopted streaming as a consumption model early on, and played a part in the recovery of the global recorded music market following the crash of physical sales at the turn of the century. According to the global phonographic industry ranking, Brazil is No. 11 when it comes to recorded music sales.

One of the factors that has contributed to the diffusion of streaming platforms and the adoption of streaming consumption in Brazil is the popularity of smartphones. According to data published by the Getúlio Vargas Foundation in 2022, the country has 242M smartphones and 110M notebooks and tablets, corresponding to 1.6 devices per inhabitant.

An important result of the rapid proliferation of music technology and social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok is that regional Brazilian music genres like Pisadinha have grown in urban areas while traditionally urban music styles like Funk Carioca and Rap have grown in Brazil’s countryside regions. This blending of regions and genres has helped Brazilian music diversity explode in recent years, as evidenced by the types of artists you’ll find at the top of Chartmetric Artist Rankings in Brazil: Brazilian Hip-Hop/Brazilian Funk artist WZ Beat (No. 1), Sertanejo legend Marília Mendonça (No. 2), Pop singer Anitta (No. 3), and Electronic artist Alok (No. 4).

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While Brazilian Pop singer and global superstar Anitta led Chartmetric Artist Rank in Brazil during most of 2022, she was surpassed by WZ Beat when his song “Beat Automotivo Tan Tan Tan Viral” went, well, viral. Marília Mendonça, the queen of Sertanejo, a uniquely Brazilian genre, started 2022 at top of the Chartmetric Artist Rankings before moving to the third position in July 2022 and settling into the No. 2 position in November 2022.

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Mendonça consistently tops Sertanejo charts, followed by Gusttavo Lima, Henrique & Juliano, and Jorge & Mateus. Notably, all four of these artists are in the Top 500 artists worldwide, demonstrating the outsized influence of Brazil’s music consumption on the global stage and the importance of the Sertanejo genre to Brazil.

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What Is Sertanejo?

Música Sertaneja or Sertanejo is a music style that has its origins in the 1920s Brazilian countryside. It’s akin to Country music in the United States, on account of similarities in musical elements and outfits, i.e., performers and audiences alike tend to wear cowboy hats and boots. During the last decades of the 20th century, Sertanejo incorporated elements of Pop music, and since the 1990s, it has become one of the most played genres on Brazilian radio. Since 2009, it’s even had its own category at the Latin Grammy Awards.

As its popularity has grown, Sertanejo has evolved and sprouted other subgenres:

  • Sertanejo Universitário: characterized by themes like parties and love adventures, but not necessarily romance
  • Funknejo: a blending of Sertanejo and Funk Carioca
  • Queernejo: a subgenre that aims to bring LGBTQ+ representation into a Sertanejo environment historically dominated by white and straight men from Brazil’s interior

Sertanejo first became popular in the countryside regions of Brazilian States like Minas Gerais, Goiás, and Matogrosso do Sul. By the late ‘90s, it expanded into urban areas and capitals such as São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, turning into the country’s most consumed and profitable music style. Consequently, it has attracted the attention of investors from markets outside of the music industry. Such investors acquire, in advance, a certain number of live performances from artists in order to sell them to the entertainment market agents at a higher price for profit. Such is the case of the singer Gusttavo Lima, who sold 192 shows to the Four Even FIDC investment fund in 2022 for R$100 million (approximately $19 million USD).

The Sertanejo music scene also has connections with agribusiness, Brazil’s major productive sector, which includes soybean plantations, general agriculture, and cattle raising. This highly profitable sector permanently holds business fairs for livestock and agricultural product sales. Usually, these events take place once a year and last from three to 10 days, attracting great audiences. Importantly, these fairs offer live performances by Sertanejo artists to attract people from outside of the agribusiness segment. The Festa do Peão de Barretos, for example, usually receives 900K visitors annually.

Considering the connections that Sertanejo artists have with Brazil’s agribusiness agents and radio stations (despite the popularization of music streaming services in the country, radio still holds importance in Brazil’s music business), it’s easy to see why Sertanejo has a hegemony over other Brazilian music genres.

We don’t have to look much further than Brazil’s Spotify and YouTube charts for evidence of its dominance. According to a summary of Spotify’s Daily Top 50 in Brazil from Nov. 17, 2022, Sertanejo Universitário (College Sertanejo) tops the chart in terms of song count, followed by Funk Carioca and two other instances of Sertanejo. Jorge & Mateus and Gusttavo Lima each lead with a total of four songs, followed by Funk Carioca artist MC Ryan SP and Sertanejo duo Hugo & Guilherme with three songs each. We see a similar pattern on the Top YouTube Artists chart for Brazil from Nov. 17, 2022, as well.

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Despite the passing away of Marília Mendonça in November 2021, her music continues to be widely consumed by Brazilians, further demonstrating the staying power of Sertanejo. However, music genres such as Funk Carioca, Rap, and Pop are becoming more popular in the country, making frequent chart appearances on platforms like YouTube and Spotify. While these other Brazilian music genres may not match the popularity and recording revenue of Sertanejo now, the mainstreaming of Brazil’s Country music means that the genre will require some innovation and artistic differentiation in order to avoid homogeneity and retain the attention of future listeners.

What Is Funk Carioca?

Funk Carioca is also known as Favela Funk, Baile Funk, or Brazilian Funk. In Brazil, it’s also just called Funk, but the Rio de Janeiro-born genre blends Funk with Hip-Hop subgenres like Miami Bass and Gangsta Rap. Created in the 1980s, Funk Carioca originally adapted North American Miami Bass songs to Portuguese. DJ Marlboro became one of the main music producers at that time, and Brazilians used to listen and dance to Funk Carioca songs at the Baile Funk balls first held in the Rio de Janeiro slums. By the ‘90s, Baile Funk had given rise to big Brazilian artists like MC Cidinnho and Doca.

In the 2000s, subgenres sprouted up in São Paulo, due in large part to the size and population of the city. Funk Ostentação, for instance, is characterized by lyrical content dealing with wealth and ostentation. Today, Funk Carioca is one of the most popular Brazilian music genres, second only to Sertanejo, and the proliferation of inexpensive digital recording technologies has helped make that happen. Moreover, the dissemination of platforms such as YouTube and TikTok has given the traditionally marginalized genre more reach, contributing to its adoption by audiences in areas outside of Brazil’s urban centers and among economically favored social classes. As a result of this popularization of Brazilian Funk, artists are reaping demonstrable rewards on streaming and social media platforms.

MC Ryan SP is currently one of the main Brazilian Funk artists in terms of popularity. Born in São Paulo, MC Ryan SP became popular on account of the success of songs like “Revoada Sem Você,” “Favela,” and “Vergonha Pra Mídia.” In 2022, he signed with Warner Music Group, and the release of songs like “Casei com a Putaria” has made him a Mainstream artist, according to Chartmetric Career Stage.

Comparing MC Ryan SP’s Chartmetric Artist Score with other artists in the genre, it is notable that all four Funk Carioca artists tend to be trending upward throughout 2022—especially MC Menor HR, who saw a rapid rise at the end of the year. In fact, MC Menor HR topped the Spotify Top 50 in Brazil on Nov. 17, 2022, and was No. 2 on the Top YouTube Artists chart as we saw in the previous section. So, while Funk Carioca artists may not have the same amount of overall dominance that Sertanejo artists do, it’s clear that they’re still able to top the charts and do so quickly.

What Is Pisadinha?

Pisadinha music is a variant of Forró, which is a traditional Brazilian music genre from the northeast. It encompasses influences of other genres like Arrocha and Brega. Pisadinha is known for its use of keyboards and electronic synthesizers and has become nationally popular on account of the success of artists like Os Barões da Pisadinha, João Gomes, and Zé Vaqueiro.

Formed in 2015 in the city of Heliópolis, in the state of Bahia, Os Barões da Pisadinha have become one of Brazil’s most played bands on radio and streaming platforms, especially since 2020. The success of songs like “Senta Danada” and “Tá Rocheada” has led the band to the Top 50 in terms of Chartmetric Artist Rank for Brazilian artists.

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Another talented Pisadinha artist is João Gomes. Born in the city of Serrita, in the state of Pernambuco, João Gomes became popular with the launch of his first album, Eu Tenho a Senha, in 2021. Songs such as “Meu pedaço de pecado” and “Aquelas coisas” have become national hits, resulting in João Gomes performing shows all over the country, including at major festivals such as Rock in Rio in 2022. All of that success has translated into his Superstar Career Stage on Chartmetric.

It’s not just Gomes who is finding success. YouTube and radio stations have helped the promotion of other Pisadinha artists like Zé Vaqueiro and Os Barões da Pisadinha in their native regions in Brazil’s northeast while TikTok and Instagram have contributed to the expansion of Pisadinha nationally. However, the genre still has a long way to go before it reaches the sort of supremacy that Sertanejo has.

In terms of global expansion potential, language can be considered a market barrier for pisadinha artists. Non-Portuguese-speaking listeners rarely consume the music from Brazil and from the other Portuguese-speaking nations such as Portugal and Cabo Verde. Most consumers consider understanding lyrics an essential part of their music choices. The production of Spanish-language songs or the cooperation with Latin-American artists can help to promote pisadinha artists abroad.

The Future of Brazilian Music Genres

While many Brazilian music genres are growing, Sertanejo and its subgenre offshoots still reign supreme in Brazil. Platforms like TikTok and Instagram are contributing to the diffusion of Funk and Rap in Brazil’s countryside regions; however, they still have yet to threaten Sertanejo’s hegemony due its entrenchment in Brazilian culture and business. 

That said, because Brazil is a huge country that consumes primarily local repertoire, any Brazilian music genre that appeals to external markets could have a shot at giving Sertanejo a run for its money by eclipsing the genre on the global stage. But that might be difficult in Latin America’s only Portuguese-speaking nation, which has fostered a market reserve that leaves Brazilian artists in a comfortable position at home. Brazilians rarely consume Spanish-language music and, consequently, Latin American artists in countries other than Brazil face remarkable difficulties when it comes to tapping into the Brazilian market. The sheer size of Brazil provides ample touring and promotional opportunities for Brazilian artists, so there’s no real need to look to external markets. That hasn’t stopped everyone though.

While Anitta is Brazilian, she sings largely in Spanish, as her native language of Portuguese has yet to be adopted by international audiences en masse. As such, singing in Spanish has helped Brazil’s Anitta go global, but she’s still the exception and not the rule. Brazil, and its rich history of music genres, is content to stay a local—and massive—music market for now.